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April 11, 2019

Wesley’s World—Part 3: Home Sweet Home

In the conclusion of this three-part series, we get a rare glimpse into the GayVN Performer of the Year from the person who knows him better than anyone. Above, Wesley Woods at the 2019 GayVN Awards; photo by Rick Garcia. To read more, find part 1 here and and part two here. If Wesley Woods’ life were made into a movie, the first scene would take place in the doctor’s office where his mother found out she was pregnant. Why? Because the circumstances surrounding it are equally heartwarming and hysterical, you wouldn’t believe it was true. But it is. “When I was pregnant with Wesley, I found out on Halloween. I was horribly sick. And I was dressed like a witch for my office party,” she says (at which point her son loudly interjects, “She was having a witch!”). “And I had to take my lunch break to go to the doctor. I thought I had the flu, and he was like, ‘No, you’re pregnant.’ I sat there in my witch’s costume with my painted green face, and he said, ‘He’ll be here in June.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God … there’s no way. I’m not ready for this.’ And I was terrified.” Not because it was Halloween, but because she was afraid the timing and circumstances weren’t optimal. “I was alone, but I was used to that feeling of being alone. So it was a journey, and I just took it on. I was gonna love this little baby. I don’t know how to explain it—there was just something in me where I knew life was going to be different for them. They were never going to know loneliness. And at some point, I thought I was probably going to smother the shit out of them,” she laughs (the first sign that when it comes to cussing, it’s like mother, like son). “There had just been so much hurt in my life that I thought, ‘They’re not going to experience that.’ But of course, everybody has that in life; I was so silly to think that.” Mission accomplished. That “little witch” grew up to be one of the gay adulty industry’s biggest stars—and one of its most endearing, honest and relatable ones. He owes those traits to his family. And while it wasn’t the career path she probably envisioned for her son, Wesley Woods’ mom is genuinely proud of him. This is just as much her story and success as it is his. Where the Heart IsOne week after winning the GayVN Awards for Performer of the Year and Best Actor, Wesley Woods finds himself with a rare break in his typically hectic schedule. He happily escapes to his childhood home in a small Texas town. “I had planned it so at the end of GayVN and AVN week, I could come home and re-group, re-focus and see my family—that’s always really great for me. It’s powerful and transformative, so I’m lucky. I‘ve been eating, I’ve been sleeping, I’ve been playing with my dog. And we’re having a slumber party tonight with me and my nephews; they’re going to come down after they get out of school and we’re going go fishing and play in the woods, just watch movies here later tonight. I just wanna love on them a little bit.” Befitting of his innate warmth and generosity, Woods has allowed a rare glimpse into his life through the one person who knows him better than anyone. As he relaxes by the kitchen, his mother prepares some of his favorites: snickerdoodles, along with chicken and dumplings. “Anything chicken, because it was a cheap way to raise kids,” she says. “You have three boys that are hungry all the time, chicken’s the way to do it.” Like many families, food is a bond that has brought them all closer. But whenever Wesley gives her a heads-up on when he might be home, his mom always knows better. “I always wait because his plans can change rapidly. He’s not much on schedules in his adult life, and I’m very OCD—everything happens on a schedule for me. And he’s really grown into more of a free spirit—or maybe that’s how he was when he was little, he was just desperately trying to get out from under my schedules.” It’s here that her son interrupts again—one of many throughout the interview that speaks to the lovable rapport the two share (if you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were an all-star comedy duo): “I don’t even know what time my airplane takes off sometimes.” Counters his mom with passionate disbelief: “Who doesn’t know that? What do you mean, you don’t know what time your flight is?! Don’t you have to have transportation? The weather could be bad. Is it cancelled? I mean, what are you doing?!” After collecting herself, she continues: “So anyway, I don’t go to the grocery store until I actually know that his plane has landed at the airport.” In addition to the chicken and baking ingredients, she needs lots and lots of milk. And not just any milk, but whole milk. “It’s the best! All that other’s just political crap,” she laughs. “I can’t do soy milk,” Wesley adds. “It’s bad for your glands and will give you titties.” Counters his mom without missing a beat: “Maybe I should drink soy milk.” “Seriously,” he continues. “Soy milk is bad for men. You’ll start getting male breasts. Google it. I mean, whole milk, you’re getting vitamins and all sorts of crap in it, too, to stay away from the titties: cud, pud…” “Oh, Wesley!” “I just like it. It’s thick, it’s cold, it’s my favorite.” “We use like real butter here, too,” laughs his mom. “We’ve had so many different people he’s brought home over the years from all the different areas of the States, and it’s just funny to see what their eating habits are. They come here and they’re probably thinking, ‘Dear God!’ I won’t say names, but I had to learn how to cook … vegan.” She says the word with confusion and a touch of skepticism, like she had never heard it before. “I was like, ‘What does that mean, vegan?’ I said to Wesley, ‘He’s coming to a ranch! He’s going to be in shock!’ Our oldest son is a hunter; he kills and eats his meat, and if he has excess, he gives it to people that need food. So when the vegan was coming out here, my husband and I were just cracking up. One night we’re on the back porch having a nice glass of wine, and we just started laughing, like, ‘What is that vegan gonna do when he lays down in that bed?! There’s a bobcat, a coyote, several deer, fish, ducks—all over the walls there. It’s a ranch!’ I’m like, ‘He will probably never come back!’” It's an environment that her son knows requires a certain kind of special. “I’ve always had nice guys over, but I’m just a lot … and my family’s a lot. It takes someone who is very comfortable either being in the presence of a lot, or can keep up with us being a lot.” Adds his mother: “And I’m not much on narcissism. I can’t stand anyone that thinks more of themselves than any other human on planet Earth. I don’t care where you are, what you’ve done … let’s all sit down and shut up. I’m just not into it. You’re not going to make it here if you have an aura in which you think you live.” But that usually isn’t a problem (it wasn’t with the vegan). In fact, it’s usually the opposite. Woods’ mom—who has always had an open-door policy—even sent one of her son’s friends back home with some food in case the impending weather was as bad as predicted. “It was so cold and icy, and he had to drive back to Dallas. I was worried about him, so I bought him a pizza to put in his car in case he had car trouble—at least he’d have a pizza!” she laughs. It's fitting that her Southern hospitality is accompanied by an inviting Southern accent—although it wasn’t one she always had. Born in Los Angeles, she was only there for six years (both of her parents were born and raised in Southern California). “They came to Texas on Christmas when I was six, and my dad fell in love with it. He fell in love with the slower pace of life, he fell in love with nature. He called the company he was working for and said, ‘If there are ever any openings over here, I want to be here.’ And there was one an hour away from where we were in Texas. So we never went back.” Unfortunately, Slowpoke—the giant pet turtle she shared with her brother—didn’t make the trip. “So it was tragedy already,” she recalls—leaving little doubt as to where her son got his sense of humor. Like Wesley, his mother never misses an opportunity to laugh. She credits part of that with the diverse, small town she grew up in (about an hour away from her current home). “I think that’s where a lot of my humor came from. I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh, and just growing up in that area back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, it was just a different time. We lived out remotely—just like I raised the boys—and played outside. We’d all go out and find a treehouse somewhere and light cigarettes and smoke. We were rebels without a cause way back when. I’ve had a really colorful life.” But she was dealt hands that no young child should have to deal with. Her father was murdered when she was 12, and her mother struggled with mental illness. “You are kind of just out there by yourself. And my faith—my relationship with God—helped me. I talked to Him all the time, and I still do.” Instead of allowing herself to be consumed by anger and hurt, she forgave—a remarkable sign of maturity from a young child. “That was one of the main things that shaped me. From that, I learned how precious life is. And then the birth of my boys filled that gaping hole that was in my heart.” She also had to take care of her younger siblings. “I just had a lot of responsibility. I had to grow up really fast. I think that’s probably why I’m so cuckoo. And it’s also why I’m so open to allowing people to live their truths. I just love the differences that everybody brings to the table. We all evolve; I’m not the same girl I was in my 20s, 30s, nor 40s…I’m in my mid-50s now. I’ve seen a lot of life, I’ve raised a lot of life, and I just think at the end of the day, it’s all just about love and respecting everybody for who they are and where they are.” And, her son interjects again, having fun. “I think tragedy brings people close together,” he says. “Out of something tragic that my mom had to experience, it propelled us and trajected us onto this path. People are so surprised that we can be so open and honest, but I think it’s because of that loss that we have been able to be who we are.” A Safe PlaceWhen asked to share stories about her son, Wesley Woods’ mom laughs as she considers the possibilities. (“I’ve always been crazy,” he warns before she starts speaking, “so don’t be surprised by these!”) “He did not sleep all night until he was 2-and-a-half years old. He was colicky, and he needed all the attention anyone could offer,” she shares (as he immediately shouts “Yep!”). “And he was always funny. He loved to just giggle and be silly, and potty training him was fun. I always had to make it crazy, so we have pictures and lots of memories of making poop…wait, am I saying too much? I don’t want to offend you right now,” she laughs. “Poop snakes. That was one of our things with potty training him.” He also apparently had a little bit of a temper (to be fair, at an age when most kids do). “He couldn’t get a snow cone when he was 2 years old, and I was trying to feed his baby brother. He got really pissed off and got a plastic bat—like one of those plastic ball sets you have as a young boy—and he went over to his fish tank where all his favorite little fishes were living, and he swung the bat and busted it. And the 10-gallon fish tank went all over my living room floor, and there were his fish,” she laughs. “He was a handful.” It's just one of many stories that bring a smile to her face. “I could just sit here and talk to you all day. Just great memories, challenging memories…we’ve been through a lot, but we always find our way. We give each other enough space and separate when we need to; we don’t have to agree on everything now as adults. Love is unconditional, and that’s never going to waver no matter what happens. It’s just a real simple way of life.” But it wasn’t quite as simple when her son started to discover his sexuality. “He was always very active in high school, always had a lot of friends out here at the ranch. And I guess around his senior year, that summer I noticed that he was sleeping more. He was withdrawing when he was here at the house, he was missing curfews—and this kid never disobeyed a rule, ever. He was like the perfect student; he was what people termed in our community as ‘The Golden Boy.’” “…which I hated,” interrupts Woods, “because they were making fun.” “…yeah, he hated that. Anyway, he began to miss curfews, and it was just so out of character. And goofy me, I just didn’t know. It’s just not anything I leaned toward. So I took him to the doctor and had him drug tested, because I thought, ‘Oh, he’s on something. He’s doing drugs. Something’s wrong. This is not my (Wesley). He’s just not being himself.’ But in fact, he was not on drugs. The doctor was like, ‘That’s not it. He’s perfect, there’s nothing to be worried about.’” Still, she continued to feel that something was off. So one afternoon in the summer of 2004, she sat her son down and asked him to be honest with her. He was. “And I was shocked. I just didn’t see it. At first, I didn’t know what to say, and I probably reacted wrong. I don’t know…the generation that I grew up in, the first thought I had was concern—concern for what he would be treated like. As a mother, I was worried—and I wasn’t educated enough to understand health issues. I just had such an overwhelming rush of thoughts—some negative, some probably homophobic, if I’m honest. I just couldn’t process it all, and we had a hard summer.” But that didn’t stop her from knowing the right thing to do—and say. “I just sat him down and said, ‘Love is never going to separate us. I don’t care. We’re going to talk through this and get through this.’ So over the 15 years coming up, we’ve come a long way. We’ve evolved. We never quit talking, and I’ve always—with all three of my boys—been very open. I’ve always wanted a safe place for them to come where they can talk about anything.” Including puberty, as she tried to make learning about the birds and the bees less awkward “I just found quirky little funny ways to talk about everything. And that wasn’t going to change. We were going to walk this out together, and we have. But it was hard. I know that I probably reacted wrong in certain aspects of it, and it hurts me now to know that I hurt him, if I did; I don’t know. We don’t get into details of it because we don’t look backwards. We’re just ‘moment’ people—we’re in the moment.” Woods once again joins the conversation: “I’ve talked a lot about how you just have to move forward, be in the moment, love now. It’s the only thing that’s real. The past can shape you, but it doesn’t have to be the focal point of where you’re at—and if you’re doing that, then you’re not living in the moment. A lot of people are trying to go forward or backward, and not just being present.” Remembering that no one’s journey is the same has become a vital lesson to both mother and son. “Sometimes as parents—especially moms—we carry this baby, we give birth to this human, we feed them, we diaper them, we potty train them, we teach them how to put socks on and tie their shoes…there’s such a journey. And I don’t know how it comes to be, but you have—not an expectation, but you think their life is going to be one way, and we should not do that. If I ever talk to young mothers now, I stress that you just have to understand that they’re going to grow up and be who they are, what they were created to do on planet Earth. So get out of their way, and love them for whoever, wherever. I have three very different boys, and I’m equally proud and equally love all three of them. And with (Wesley) and our journey, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself.” “And as you know,” adds her son, “I push the boundaries!” That prompts a laugh from his mother: “He does push boundaries! And he’s open. I appreciate that, because I what to know where he’s at and what he’s doing. I mean, I’m not like a stalker…” “Yes she is.” “…shut up! I don’t know, I’m weird. I guess because of my younger years, I tend to hang on to them pretty tight, because they’re my world—absolutely my world.” And her son loves it: “My mom, she’s one of my biggest influences in comedy and how we talked about things growing up. That still transcends into who I am and what I’m trying to offer other people, you know? And this platform has just allowed me to talk about it maybe in a different way, a different faith, and reach different people. But really, it’s nothing more than the kind of conversations we’ve always had growing up. We’ve always been silly and goofy about it. And having a mom that was very young—and also with that background—allowed conversations to flow. And maybe some things were too close for comfort, because me and my mom are extremely close. But it’s beautiful nonetheless, because it’s allowed me comfortability in expressing it for other people to enjoy.” Adds his mother: “I feel sometimes like a sounding board, where maybe he can get stuff out that he just needs to say or talk about—and it’s safe here, it goes nowhere else. We can talk about it and process it tougher. Then he gets on an airplane and goes back home and does what he needs to do.” Pride and JoyComing out is usually the most uncomfortable conversation a gay person can have with family. But ever the instigator, Woods found a way to top it. “I do tell her—and I joke about it on stage—that if my parents didn’t love me this much, I wouldn’t have gotten into porn,” says Woods, who is also a standup comic. “So it’s kind of her fault.” His mom laughs thinking about it. “I can remember where I was sitting when he told me here at the ranch. With him, it’s always like, ‘Okay, what’s next?!’ When he told me about it, I was like, ‘Really give this some thought.’ Especially now. It’s not just paper magazines like it was back in the day when I grew up; now it’s the internet and I don’t even know what else—I’m not up on all the stuff. I just told him, as a mom, ‘If this is the direction you go, I’ll support you. It’s your life. I’m going to follow you wherever you go, but I want you to be real sure. I want you to really look at it and make a good decision.’ And he hung up, and I think he started the next day. I was like, ‘Wow! He processed that quick!’” she laughs. (Corrects her son: “It was like a week later!”) They talk about his work … well, most of it. “Some things, I don’t need to know,” says his mom. “He just kind of knows when I’ve heard enough of what happens on set. But with people like Chi Chi (LaRue) and Tony (Dimarco) and different ones that he’s met, I’m going to meet all these people. I want to know who he surrounds himself with, and I’ve just met so many great people. We’re all doing what we’re supposed to be doing when we got to Earth. I know that sounds crazy, but I just believe that. And it’s just sad to me that there’s so much judgment and prejudice. It’s a sad time that we live in, and I think social media has made it worse.” Wesley will call her before a set, and sometimes during. “It’s just a conversation about going to work, what I’m doing—kind of checking in and saying ‘Okay, call me later!’ It’s like you would with anyone going to work; it’s like I have a meeting at 3 p.m., but mine’s a little bit different. But I still talk to her about it, because if I can’t talk to her about it—start to open up about what I’m experiencing here—I feel that there wouldn’t be an outlet for me to do that with anyone.” It has also made things a little more interesting around her small town. “Our oldest son played in the NFL; (Wesley) has all of his accolades with porn and chasing his dreams; and our youngest son works for a defense contractor here, and he’s also very involved with his church—he does a lot of work with the homeless community. So all three are very diverse, but they have a common thread amongst them—they have the same belief patterns. But with so many people, they’re always focused on (Wesley), and sometimes it’s irritating, because I don’t see his profession. And maybe they all think I’m a cuckoo bird or naïve, but his profession is his profession; it’s his job, it’s what he does to make a paycheck, it’s his life. And again, in the South sometimes, I feel like you walk into places and the first question is, ‘How’s (Wesley)?’ But they say it like he’s terminally ill with cancer,” she laughs. “And I’m sure half of the people who are asking me are probably following him on social media. I’m like, ‘I don’t know, how does he look?’ But it’s hard because he’s my baby, so I’m very protective. You’re not going to say anything against him. I have to watch myself, because I’m very protective of my boys. It’s hard because he’s still (Wesley), and the people that really know him know that. Most of the town knew he was going to do something and be big at whatever he chose to do; he’s just always been that way.” And she means it. Her son made headlines when he was 3 years old. “He was doing a performance in our local Cotton Jubilee in this little small county, and he was on the front page of the paper blowing kisses to the crowd. He’s just always had a natural pull for people. He’s got that charisma, I guess. It’s hard sometimes as a mom, but this is another part of it—I really don’t give two shits. I’m not one that worries about what people say. I live my life, and they can live their lives. I just wish more people were open to letting people be who they are, where they are, when they are. There has to be change; there has to be betterment for everybody. It just breaks my heart to see some of the kids that are struggling. And I just hope that (Wesley) uses his platform for people to see that we’re all just people doing our thing.” And she would say the same of her other children, no matter what the medium or the message. “With the three of them, ever since they were born—and the oldest one is my stepson—I encouraged them to be and chase after what they wanted to do. That’s your platform to make the world a better place to live, because in truth, each one of us should take responsibility for what’s going on around us and open our eyes to see what we can do to help someone. Whatever and however you get there, if you have a platform, use it. And I’m so proud of all of them. It’s like I got an award myself, because they’re very good men, they’re very good people; they’re caring and loving to humans and animals. It makes me feel good. It’s like, God, all those nights doing laundry till 2:30 in the morning only to get up at 5 to get to work—it’s worth it. It was worth all the stuff extra I did. I’m very proud of all three of them.” So proud that she immediately found video clips of Wesley’s GayVN Award acceptance speeches online—before he even had time to call her about the good news. “My mom is very aware of the industry now, and she sees the business side of it and how it’s kind of beautiful. Porn has really changed my life. It’s made me so much better for myself and for other people, for my family, and made them better. It’s just fascinating to think of. We’re all in this together.” But it has also necessitated that his mom be slightly more cautious when using the internet. “We always joke about that. I’m like, I don’t need to see another wiener in my life,” she laughs. “Sometimes you Google stuff, and then because I don’t understand the internet or all the laws, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, does someone know I’m on a porn site?!’ So I try and click off of it. But yeah, you have to be very careful what you Google when your kid’s a porn star. I see the man he is today, but I also still see that little boy when he’s talking, and I just love it.” The Best MedicineIf it wasn’t already apparent, mother and son share a quick wit and a sometimes-sharp tongue. “My sisters and I were always very loud,” says his mom. “We just find the humor in the craziness of things.” Laughter, like food, is another common bond that has brought them all closer. “Our family has always laughed,” says Wesley. “Even as a little kid, I remember having birthday parties, and my mom will tell you this—what was most important to me was making sure that everyone was there. I just wanted my family there; I didn’t care about what we were doing. And that’s true still to this day. I don’t know very many people whose family literally get legit excited and all get together because they know it’s going to be a shit show—a fun, hilarious time.” Parties and gatherings are a common occurrence at the ranch. Woods’ mom still has an adult Easter egg hunt where she dresses up (“like an Easter bunny, not like a Playboy bunny”) and hides eggs with prizes in the backyard. “It’s comical to see all these people—big guys, women, whatever—all in their late 20s with Easter baskets. I blow the whistle and they take off like there’s millions of dollars of gold in the backyard. It gets really physical, but it’s all in good fun.” And every year, the family hosts Christmas. “I have six brothers and sisters, and they are all married with kids. It’s a big group of people, and we have everyone out here,” says his mom. “And every year, we try to do a different theme with different crazy games. We just laugh and have fun. And when they were younger, they always liked to dance, so we honest to God would have like Soul Train lines—just get in a line and go down, everyone doing their best move. We just have fun. It’s the craziness of all of us combined, not just one person. And we have a lot of crazy.” Her son has said it before: He likes to call his family “high-class white trash.” “I hate that!” laughs his mom. “What is that?!” “But last night, I think she had a realization that maybe we were a little trashy when we were sitting here eating and gossiping a little bit.” His mom considers the thought for a second. “We just giggle and laugh about everything. I’m like, ‘Are you talking about trashy because when I was single and trying to raise y’all, we ate the same pizza for three meals?’” she laughs. “Is that trashy?! He’s like, ‘No!’ Anyway, that’s probably something I need to deal with. Whatever. It’s his story, not mine. I laugh and shake my head at it.” But her son isn’t finished presenting his case: “Well you know, on my birth certificate it says that my parents worked at the food store, so…” “I don’t know who wrote that! They were giving me too many drugs to get you out. I don’t know what the hell was happening!” “It’s all in good fun,” shares Wesley. “Everyone in the family knows that I like pushing boundaries. I like the shock value.” “He’s always been a shock-factor human being. He loves to make someone’s jaw drop. Had I not gotten pregnant at a young age…” ponders his mom before laughing. “Well, I don’t necessarily think I would have been in porn, because I’ve never been that comfortable. I haven’t ever watched his porn, nor will I. I really have not watched any porn in my life, I don’t guess. Maybe I’m a cuckoo.” “She’s a walking porn star. She just doesn’t know it.” “Whatever!” His mother has frequently made it into his standup act, which she traveled to see last year. “We had such a fun night and I was so proud, cause he’s doing what he wants to do, and he’s brave and he’s walking his truth. That’s all I want. I want him to live his life and live it unapologetically.” In turn, her son is trying to get her to do the same by exploring her own creativity. “I guess he’s probably tired of me trying to get everybody else’s life in sync. I have a lot of quirky things, like with stories that I would just come up with off the cuff. My mind goes 100 miles an hour, and if they were going through something, I would try to turn it into a story and have a character. Then it would just take off and that story would go for months and have different adventures, and it was all just make-believe. But it was funny, and we could add humor to it. So he’s really encouraged me to write one of the stories that I raised him on, and I started working on it and having the art done on it. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it once I’m finished, but at least it will be on paper and out of my head. I just have a lot of crazy silly things that I think he would like for me to put down and share.” But focusing on herself has proved challenging. “My husband and I, now that we’re empty nesters, our main focus is the next generation of men. We have three grandsons and we love to travel, love to drink good wine. As a matter of fact, we just got back from a trip so that we could get home because (Wesley) was going to be in the area and I want to see him anytime I can. So then when he’s here, it’s all abut the grocery store and how many gallons of milk I can get in the back of my car—and snickerdoodles, and chicken and dumplings! I don’t know, I’ve always been this way. I’m so about my family. Every now and then I’m kind of like, ‘Maybe I’ll do something for me when I have time.’” But for now, she’ll head back to her kitchen duties. She has a big tray of cookies in the oven, and a pot of chicken and dumplings on the stove. There’s only half a gallon of milk left in the fridge, so she needs to head back to the grocery store. Her grandchildren will be there in a few hours for that night of fun. “We’re going to have a pizza party, and we’re going to go out to the treehouse in the back of the woods and get on all the ATVs and play, take the fishing poles down. We’re just going to do our family time. That’s the only thing we know.”

 
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