Billi Gordon went from being a drag queen to getting a doctorate in neuroscience. Through it all, he was married to a man who loved him for who he was. Here’s everything you need to know about their story.
In the 1980s, same-sex marriage was not yet widely accepted in America. However, for Billi Gordon, true love prevailed, and he made sure to tie the knot with the love of his life.
From when they decided to wed up until his death in 2018, Gordon’s spouse stuck by him through it all. They made the perfect team and supported each other in all their engagements.
ABOUT BILLI GORDON
Gordon was born Wilbert Anthony Gordon Jr. in Dowagiac, Michigan, on September 2, 1954. According to his LinkedIn profile, he grew up “dirt poor” across the city dump.
Although he wasn’t religious, he entered a Roman Catholic monastery. While he was there, he was told he had a calling, but it wasn’t at the monastery, nor was it religious. However, it would be “righteous.”
HIS ROAD TO HOLLYWOOD
Thanks to this advice, he decided to leave and study at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. By the mid-1970s, however, he decided to quit school and moved to Los Angeles.
While making ends meet in LA, his weight fluctuated from 300 pounds to nearly 1000 pounds. He worked as an escort, a model, and was a print model for numerous humorous greeting cards.
HIS DRAG QUEEN CAREER
He appeared in several movies such as “The Party Animal” and “Coming to America” and shows like “Women in Prison” and “Married… With Children.” In 2013, he also aired a documentary about his life titled “Billi.”
Throughout his career, Gordon was known as a drag queen. The greeting cards he made showed a voluptuous black woman; his roles had him playing a woman, and so did his Japanese commercials and European print billboards.
MORE THAN JUST AN AUTHOR
Aside from his career in the entertainment industry, he was also an author of serval books. He wrote the cookbook “You’ve Had Worse Things In Your Mouth.”
However, it was more than just a cookbook as he touched on racial stereotypes and middle-class culture. On the cover of his cookbook, he is seen appearing in drag.
SWITCHING TO NEUROSCIENCE
By the mid-1990s, he decided to return to the University of Michigan. By 1997, he graduated and got a degree before choosing to study again.
After a successful career in the entertainment industry, he later earned a doctorate in neuroscience. He studied obesity-related diseases and investigated the pathophysiology of stress as an antecedent to disease.
HIS GROWING HEALTH ISSUES
While Gordon had a colorful career, his life was also riddled with health issues. In 2009, he stood over 6 feet tall and weighed 701 pounds.
For most of Gordon’s life, he paid no attention to his large size, as he used it to entertain others before pursuing a different career in neuroscience. This brought about consequences that his body refused him to forget.
A LIMITED LIFE
By 2009, a large mass had been growing in his upper right thigh for several years. It ended up spreading between his legs, nearly reaching his feet.
The same way he could not control his weight, the things he could do narrowed down as well. He could not fit into his red Mustang convertible, and the only street clothes that fit him were scrubs.
CHOOSING TO CHANGE HIS LIFE
Even weight-loss surgery could not help Gordon, as he was too heavy for it. At one point, his knees buckled, causing him to fall to the floor due to the weight of the mass growing on his leg.
After realizing he needed to take action as no MRI machine could hold his weight to determine what was wrong, he put himself on a strict diet. He decided to only take in 1800 calories a day, a mostly liquid protein diet.
WHAT IT ALL TAUGHT HIM
Speaking about the difficult time in his life, he admitted that he was grateful that he had the growth on his leg. This was why:
“Because it has taught me humility, and it’s taught me gratitude for things I otherwise took for granted – sitting in my car or walking down the street.”
HIS LOYAL HUSBAND
Throughout his life, there was one person who stuck by him through it all: his husband. Not a lot is known about his husband, who decided to live life privately.
While taking care of Gordon, he admitted that he did not expect him to get thinner, just lighter. He once opened up about his greatest hope for his husband, which was “to lose weight that would free him.”
MARRIED FOR 30 YEARS
His husband also admitted that Gordon could not go to places he needed and wanted to go because of his condition. Instead, his life consisted of television, computers, and a room.
The pair got married in 1988 and stayed married until Gordon’s death. The actor once revealed that in “Gay marriage years,” the time they’d been married could easily be over 500 years.
BILLI GORDON’S DEATH
Following his prolonged illness and several setbacks, Gordon passed away at age 63 in 2018. A fundraiser was put up for his funeral, as his family admitted that his health issues put a drain on their savings.
People from all walks of life paid tribute to Gordon’s life, including his colleagues in the neuroscience industry. In the book “The Upward Spiral,” Alex Korb wrote that Gordon was the “most interesting person” he had ever met.
RIP Billi Gordon, 63.— Rhett (@dialmformovies) March 13, 2018
Steals the scene in COMING TO AMERICA when Eddie Murphy briefly mistakes him for his arranged bride-to-be.
"Pardon me, step aside, coming through, excuse me!, out of the way!". pic.twitter.com/Nvcx5X7WpN
He noted how life carried him from poverty to being a drag queen to neuroscience, across genders, and beyond challenges that many will never have to face. In the end, he shared that Gordon’s spirit would be with him always.