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Fight over Betty Boop earns Tampa duo status as first gay couple on NBC's The Marriage Ref



Marriageref-salinero Hard to remember the last time Betty Boop caused a problem in any marriage.

But it turns out that a fight over a life-size statute of the campy 1930s-era cartoon character has earned a Tampa duo the distinction of becoming the first -- and so far, only -- gay couple to appear on Jerry Seinfeld's unscripted comedy show for NBC, The Marriage Ref.

As David Salinero tells it, husband Michael Wigh has decorated every inch of their Tampa home except for the spot in their kitchen occupied by Ms. Boop. But even he admits it was a challenge to argue to the show's celebrity panel -- 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, comic Kathy Griffin and Broadway star Nathan Lane - that he should be allowed to keep the statue in its place.

"I think it adds a lot of character and fun to the house..he just thinks it's tacky," said Salinero, 44, a managing editor at PricewaterhouseCoopers who met Wigh seven years ago when he moved to Tampa from New York.

He married corporate trainer Wigh, 46, in 2008, during the short window when California allowed gay marriages. A YouTube video of their wedding led to a call from Marriage ref producers eight months ago..

Viewers will learn the couple's fate when the show airs Thursday. Celebrities are shown cute, pre-taped videos laying out the conflict and each person's side of the story, then they kick around comments and the host, Tom Papa "makes the call" on who wins.

Salinero couldn't say how Papa ruled, though he and Wigh flew up to New York last week to tape the segment (they didn't appear onstage, even though they were in Manhattan, so they don't know what the panelists said). But he has promised to abide by the ref's decision, which was revealed to them on camera.

"We didn't even know until we were in New York that we were the first gay couple," said Salinero, noting that judges Griffin and Lane have a huge gay fan base. "When we found out it was Nathan Lane and Kathy Griffin (judging) we though it might be a gay-themed night."

And even though some bloggers have already snarked about the stereotype of having a gay couple fight over something campy as a Betty Boop statue, Salinero hopes viewers will learn they are no different than the heterosexual folks who appear on the show.

And in some cases -- like, say, the wife who won't sleep with her husband until he cleans up his horribly messy den -- Salinero and Wigh's fight seems almost quaint.

"The fact that we were going to be a gay couple appearing on such a widely seen and publicized show was more of an impetus for us to do it," said Salinero, who remembered coming out in the 1980s, when there were few role models for openly gay people anywhere. "After the show we got to meet Jerry Seinfeld, (who) said he was committed to having same sex couples on...(showing) we're just another average couple that has typical silly arguments. The more exposure of that, to me, the better."

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:07pm]


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