HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
MARCH 18. 2005 19
arts cower story
He may be gay, but he's a hundred percent cowboy
COWBOY, continued from Page 1
sages in his life. He breaks his leg during a
bull ride, his beloved horse dies and
Mikulenka's comes out to his family. Just
like all good cowboys he's got a tall tale or
two to tell about borrowed cowboy boots,
broken bones and the price for his own 15
minutes of fame.
Gene Mikulenka was raised by a rodeo
family in Hallettsville, Texas. He has four
older siblings and one younger one. "I
was raised on the rodeo since about age
five. My dad rode bulls," he says.
Born on August 13, he coyly demurs
when asked what year "A real cowboy
never reveals his true age!" he laughs.
"The first bar 1 went to was Numbers,
the original one. The first time I went it
was like a big light went off," he remembers, but Mikulenka remained semi-closeted for many years after.
He was a successful Houston runway and
print model in the 1980s after completing
three years at Victoria College and the
University of Houston. He also gained recognition in national advertising as a hand
model. The only people who knew he was
gay were "the men I was going out with."
Certainly Mikulenka's family did not
know. Staunch traditionalists, his mother
and step-father (his father died when he
was 17), now both deceased would not have
approved. "I loved them so much. My mom
died on Mothers day. The doctors had
always said not to do anything that would
upset her heart, so I didn't," he says.
He recalls an oft' told tale of when he
first learned what the word gay meant. "I
was 17, working as a waiter at this little
place. One day a couple of guys came into
the restaurant and asked me if I was
gay," he recalls. "Well I thought the word
gay meant that you smoked pot, that you
were cool. So 1 told them I had done it a
couple of weeks ago on a bridge with my
friend, but I wasn't going to do it anymore because it hurt my throat."
A friendly waitress informed him that
the word meant that you were queer. That
word he knew.
The good and bad
of a life on film
Mikulenka looks back on the experience of having his life documented for a
film as "a good thing and a bad thing."
The director, Kyle Henry, had been
searching for a cowboy who competed in
both the gay and straight rodeos and one
who did well. Mikulenka was featured in
Out magazine around the same time a
lengthy Houston Chronicle article ran.
The director contacted him through a
friend, and Mikulenka decided he had
f) MORE INFO
'Real American Cowboy1
9 p.m. March 21 and 28
Aurora Picture Show
some soul searching he needed to do.
Leary already at the idea, would he be able
to deal with the repercussions that would
come from such a high profile experience?
"I didn't want to out any of my
friends, or have it be guilt by association," he says. "Then there's my family"
Finally he decided he could no longer live
a lie and accepted the film.
He could have had no idea that the constant filming would capture a devastating
broken leg and most importantly, the death
of his beloved horse, Marta, to colic. To this
day Mikulenka still finds it near impossible
to watch the scenes where Marta dies.
"That was the worst part," he says.
Another aspect that Mikulenka shares
exclusively with The Houston Voice, is that
with his new-found fame, came a stalker.
"I was stalked for almost six months,"
Mikulenka says. "He walked up to me at
the premiere and said, 'You're a famous
cowboy now Your life is about to change.'
It was creepy. My friends standing with
me still remember him, how he walked
away and would turn around and stare
with these dead eyes."
Mikulenka moved three times to try
and out maneuver the stalker.
"He always knew where I was. what I
was wearing," he says. "Finally, I was at
Crossroads having coffee and he walked in.
I just freaked. I went over and told a policeman inside about what had been happening. The cop took him outside and spoke
with the guy Never heard from him again."
Mikulenka has no regrets about
"American Cowboy." He says that while
he understood the focus was on him
being a "gay cowboy," he wishes the film
had portrayed a more accurate reflection
of his competing.
Gene Mikulenka's fifth Houston
Livestock Show and Rodeo win came
Thursday in pole bending.
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