(This story was published in 2003).
By: Jim Allen
Anyone who’s visited the Outsports message board's “Amazing Race” thread knows that I’m a big fan of the show. The program gets lumped in to the dreaded “Reality TV” genre, but in fact, it’s really a contest that involves 12 teams of two people each that are connected to each other by marriage, friendship, dating or, well, hostility. Over four continents, 29 cites and 40,000 miles of travel the teams race, the goal a $1 million prize.
For this years fourth edition, one team consisted of two gay men from Los Angeles, Reichen Lemkuhl (pictured left) and Chip Arndt. Having been in relationship for four years and subsequently getting “married,” the two men were open to the viewers, if not the other teams for most of the race, about their relationship. Whenever they were identified, it was “Reichen & Chip, Married,” something that CBS did without very much prompting from the two.
Reichen, a big fan of Outsports, agreed to an interview. I was excited, and very nervous to say the least, but after some screwups on my part, I finally got to talk to Reichen about the race and his future.
Reichen was born in Cincinnati. His parents divorced, but when his mom remarried, he moved with her to Boston. From the age of 8 until he was 18, he grew up in the Boston area. Reichen had a typical sports upbringing: “T-ball, baseball and soccer.” In high school he gravitated towards more individual sports like “track, tennis and golf.” After high school, through the auspices of openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, Reichen won a coveted spot at the Air Force Academy. While at the Academy, he played “intramural water polo, because my grades weren’t good enough for varsity sports!”
While at the Air Force Academy, Reichen began to explore his sexuality and eventually came out as a gay man to a small circle of friends. Despite a few scary moments, he managed to leave the Air Force with an Honorable Discharge. During this time, he met Chip Arndt, Ivy League through-and-through and for four years, the pair had been in a relationship. Reichen was spotted by a casting agent for “The Amazing Race” and after an arduous interview process, they were selected to be one of the 12 teams that would get to go to exotic locales, be sleep-deprived, yell at cab drivers and possibly win a million bucks.
To say that “The Amazing Race” is physically demanding on the participants is a vast understatement. There’s running, climbing, swimming and other tasks that require the participants be in good shape. Whereas some of the teams look like the only workout they get is lifting pizza or a beer to their mouths, Reichen and Chip definitely took the opposite route. “We got cast at the end of October and we worked out every day until we left for the Race,” Reichen said. Their routine was as follows:
Alternating routines focusing on the chest and triceps, back and biceps, legs and shoulders.
For cardio, running, bike riding and swimming was done three days a week.
Anyone who’s seen the pictures of Reichen knows that he has an eight-pack. Ab work was done every day, focusing on a different part of the abs.
One point that is true is that during The Amazing Race some things are unavoidable: bunching at airports, bad luck with cab drivers and so on. “You can overcome the bad luck by being in shape,” Reichen said and that was proven when he and Chip got lost in the side streets of Allepey India, trying to find a chicken farm. Reichen was driving the bicycle carrying the chickens that they needed to deposit there and it was surely his great stamina that allowed them to get lost in side streets and still have the drive to make it.
Surely the grossest task the racers had to go through was also in India. The teams had to choose which team member would be dragged behind a team of bulls in a muddy field the length of a football field. Reichen was the “lucky” member for his team and he described it as “disgusting.” But even worse, the teams only have 12 hours between the end of one pit stop and the start of the next leg. Of that 12 hours, about two of it is doing the interviews that are used as inserts, an hour for the communal meal and two-three hours doing laundry, calling travel agencies, planning the next days travel, etc. Given the odd hours that the teams leave (often 2 or 3 a.m.), the six-seven hours of sleep they get doesn’t amount to much. “People think we get 12 hours of sleep, but that’s not true, we’re so sleep deprived” Reichen said, laughing.
Going in to the final stretch of the Race, Reichen and Chip were neck-and-neck with the team of Kelly and Jon. By planning ahead, Reichen and Chip got seats four rows ahead of Kelly and Jon on the flight from Hawaii to the final destination of Phoenix. This allowed them enough leeway to complete the tasks in Phoenix and beat Kelly and Jon to the finish line at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe by about 10 minutes.
I asked Reichen why, after they had made so many mistakes along the way, they ran a flawless final leg. “Because we learned after the first leg that you don’t have to be first; as long as you’re not in last, you’re fine, so by that final leg we were more relaxed and we believed that it was important to eat right, get enough sleep and take care of ourselves.”
Unfortunately, after winning the million dollars, Reichen and Chip had a six-month wait until the show aired this summer and fall. All the contestants sign contracts as thick as phonebooks, contracts that are ironclad. Reichen and Chip were liable for $15 million if they let slip that they had won. This enforced silence caused strains in their relationship that ultimately lead to the final dissolution of their marriage a few weeks ago.
“Chip and I had four years of marriage and while we still love each other, it just didn’t work out,” Reichen said. “I think we are role models” he asserts, and it was certainly a landmark of sorts to see two gay men described as “married” on national television. Too bad their passionate kiss after they won was not included in the final show.
Reichen and Chip continue to fly all over the country attending Air Force football games; when we talked, he was excited to be going to Washington DC for the Navy game (which AF lost, 28-25). He’s has a budding acting career, with a small cameo on “Frasier” just the start. In October, Reichen fulfilled a dream by appearing in a short cameo run as a waiter on the long-running soap “The Young and The Restless.” As we saw on “The Amazing Race” and “Frasier,” the camera loves him and I wish him the best of luck.