Former Tallahassee mayor on marriage, scandal
Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and his wife, R. Jai, are the focus of a…
Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and his wife, R. Jai, are the focus of a lengthy GQ article that delves into the trials their marriage faced as he ran for Florida governor and after he was later found unresponsive in a Miami hotel room with a male escort and drugs.
“How Andrew Gillum’s Marriage Survived a Night of Scandal” is the headline atop the nearly 5,000-word piece, written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Wesley Lowery as part of the style magazine’s “Modern Lovers” issue.
The feature, including a splashy photo spread, is just the latest sign of the Gillums’ return to the spotlight after exiting public life following the March 13, 2020, incident in a room at the Mondrian South Beach hotel.
Last fall, they both re-emerged for an emotional interview on Tamron Hall’s syndicated talk show in which he came out as bisexual.
More:Andrew Gillum breaks silence about that night in a South Beach hotel in interview with Tamron Hall
The GQ article includes glimpses into happy moments from their life — their meeting at Florida A&M University, their first kiss outside a Bennigan’s restaurant — and tougher ones, including the former mayor’s descent into depression and alcoholism following his razor-thin 2018 gubernatorial election loss.
The Gillums told GQ their marriage survived through couples therapy and “radical honesty” during talks that happened at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think that the pandemic probably saved our marriage,” R. Jai Gillum said.
There’s also new reporting on that night in Miami, including conflicting accounts by the former mayor and Travis Dyson, the male escort found with Gillum in the hotel room.
Police were called to the 11th floor hotel room around 1 a.m., finding Gillum, who’d passed out on the bathroom floor, too inebriated to speak. Paramedics were working on Dyson, who had apparently overdosed. A third man in the room had called 911.
No charges were ever filed, despite the fact that baggies of suspected methamphetamine were found in the room. But the scandal put at least a temporary end to Gillum’s political ambitions. Hours after he left the hotel, photos leaked of Gillum naked and passed out next to a pool of vomit.
Gillum has said he and Dyson met months prior to the hotel incident and that he wandered up to the hotel room after a day of drinking on Miami Beach. He said he had too much to drink that night but denied taking meth.
Dyson, however, told GQ that he and the former mayor connected on the gay hookup app Grindr a week or two earlier and after that met multiple times for paid sexual encounters.
“He said Andrew passed out after taking ‘G,’ an ecstasy-type drug often used by gay men to enhance their sex drives, which when combined with alcohol can knock people out,” the article reads. “He said that on that night and others, both he and Andrew used G and other drugs.”
The Tallahassee Democrat contacted a spokesman for Gillum, who did not immediately comment on the article.
Gillum told GQ that Dyson offered him a drink that night and suggested it might have been laced with something. He said he had no recollection of any “tryst” in the hotel or even meeting the third man.
“So at this point I’m like, ‘This is a set up,’ ” Gillum said.
But Dyson said the third man showed up at the room for a separate appointment with him. He said that the man and Gillum had never met before.
Dyson acknowledged taking photos and videos of a passed-out Gillum, but he denied leaking them. He said the scandal took a toll on his own life, leading to separation from his fiance and forcing him to bow out of a nursing program. He said he makes money now selling porn online.
A member of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told GQ someone sent him a screenshot of the photo of Gillum unconscious. He in turn contacted Jacob Engels, a conservative Florida blogger, who posted it online. Neither of them revealed to GQ the source of the photo but indicated it wasn’t Dyson.
GQ also reported that the Miami Beach Police Department closed its investigation into how the police report was leaked in the immediate aftermath of the incident to conservative commentator Candace Owens, who posted it on her Twitter feed. The department could not find the source.
The article points out that what really happened that night “remains unclear.” The Gillums canceled follow-up interviews with the magazine after learning that Lowery contacted Dyson. They also declined to talk on the record about Dyson’s account, GQ reported.
Gillum, meanwhile, said he’s not considering any run for office. But he didn’t close the door to one.
“No,” he told the magazine, “and that’s not to say not ever.”
The article details the celebrity help Gillum got in the aftermath of the scandal. Van Jones of CNN connected the couple with life coach Iyanla Vanzant, and director Tyler Perry served as a prayer partner, getting them in touch with Judy Smith, famed damage-control specialist. Even former President Bill Clinton gave him a recent pep talk.
“As you know,” Gillum said Clinton told him, “I’ve been there.”
Contact Jeff Burlew at [email protected] or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
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