The bond between post-adolescent gay and porn star is more intimate than, say, the teenage infatuation with more conventional celebrities. A trip to Party City for a complete set of his chiseled likeness on balloons, plates, and napkins will be for naught. He is not the screenshot of Lil Nas X as your phone background, nor the photo of Zac Efron left taped to your wall to stare at you as you sleep. He is a private obsession: never bookmarked, only obsessively Googled in an incognito tab. Yet he has always been there for you when you needed him most, from post break-up cries to trips on the LIRR where you’re the only one on the train car.
Save a spotty WiFi connection, Kyle Dean was always there for me… for the seven to 15 minutes I needed him.
Until he tragically died on opening night of my college mainstage theatre swan song.
We were both 21 at the time: he, an All-American gay-for-pay stud, and I, a gay-for-free theatre geek in a conservatory-style drama program. I was surely as surprised as any to be cast as a member of the chorus in Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a rousing romp of a play that I most appreciated for being the best kinds of stupid and horny. Nevertheless, in theatre, as in porn, size doesn’t matter; it’s how you use it.
With an hour to kill before curtain and bored to tears by the thought of any more lazy vocalises, I figured a quick trip to Kyle Dean Land could not hurt. Before passing judgment, respect the fact that we all have a different process. Google killed my boner with 9,270,000 results in .59 seconds.
Adult Film Star Kyle Dean: Dead at 21.
I was agog; I was aghast.
When my castmates discovered their fallen comrade in the dressing room, I was eyes wet, head down, 18th-century Elizabethan beat running down my face, serving full death-in-the-family fantasy.
“Are you OK?”
“No, I’m not OK!” I replied. “My favorite porn star just died.”
It’s a story that still deeply saddens me. Kyle Dean, born Brandon Jason Chrisan, made his debut in straight porn at age eighteen, and then he quickly became a prolific gay porn icon. His cock and ass equally intriguing to the top and bottom coursing through my veins at any given moment, I fell in love with Kyle for his undeniable onscreen charm. He was boy-next-door, varsity athlete, and untouchable stud all at once. In his free time, he liked to play football.
Though Kyle died in September 2018, his obituary was not made public until late October of that year. Staring at my phone, now just half an hour before curtain, I could not believe his demise was not national news on every major outlet. While details surrounding his death remain unclear, his family and friends confirmed his passing as a suspected overdose.
How could this happen to someone the same age as me? How could no one care? And how could I ever cum to him again knowing he was dead? (That’s advice for another column.)
Life rarely provides time to grieve. I had last experienced death when my grandma’s lung collapsed while I was in tech rehearsal for an upstate summer stock children’s theatre. I hurried on a bus to see her in the hospital, and I made it back in time the next morning to perform for elementary schoolers who could not care less. Even then, I was able to detach. After all, Kyle Dean was there for me.
I did not expect to be confronting my own mortality as I settled into places backstage, but I am a professional and, baby, the show must go on. Yes, the show was a hit, and despite my trauma it’s an experience I look back on fondly. If anyone was looking down on me, I’d like to think it was the ghost of Kyle Dean.