Fat Chance

For some gay guys, too much is never enough

Gustavo Lozano, of Hollywood, is a trim 175 pounds. And he's handsome. The gay man is also unapologetically devoted to big men. Making them feel good makes him feel good, he explains.

Often, he adds, they are suspicious of him: Why would he want them?

Because he adores chubs. "I've always loved big men," says Lozano, who grew up in Colombia. "Every time I'd watch the movies, I'd say, 'Oh, I need to come to America!'"

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Lozano likes chubs so much that in July he threw a party for them in Fort Lauderdale. The weekend-long event, which Lozano called Chubs in Paradise, drew 28 men from out of town. They gathered at Cheston House, a clothing-optional, 14-room men's resort not far from the beach, where they had a wiener roast on Saturday and a brunch buffet on Sunday. In between, the chubs and chasers hit the local gay bars and lounged by the Cheston House pool.

Lozano immigrated to Florida 12 years ago. Soon afterward he met Ron Van Sciver, who weighs 319 pounds. They've been together ever since. Van Sciver, age 59, is like a protective daddy bear, and 43-year-old Lozano is his cub. When Lozano's English fails him, Van Sciver takes over. When Lozano suggested a retreat for chubs in Fort Lauderdale, a city brimming with GQ-beautiful gay men, Van Sciver supported him whole hog.

What exactly does Lozano like about big men? He looks tickled just thinking about it. "Oh, God, their faces!" he says, tightening his hands into fists. "The big belly!"

Hearing this, Van Sciver glances down at his own considerable belly and laughs.

Lozano is a hairdresser at Estuardo's Hair Studio in Fort Lauderdale, where his co-workers have trouble understanding his preference. They tell him he could and should get himself a bona fide hottie, he says, but they don't understand: skinny men bore him.

There are whole pageants dedicated to this substratum of gay life, where titles such as "Mr. Chubby International" and "Mr. Chaser International" are conferred.

Some chasers say owning up to a fat fetish is like coming out of the closet a second time. Chubbies and chasers are often ridiculed within the gay community, where svelte figures and boyish good looks are prized. In the Seventies, some gay bars and sex clubs barred fat men. But it was around the same time when the first group for chubs and chasers, Girth & Mirth, was formed. And today the predilection of chasers seems to have become acceptable, if not celebrated, in some quarters.

References to this largely underground phenomenon occasionally slip into the mainstream of pop culture, however, as when Adam Sandler's character was dubbed a chubby chaser in the recent movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Playwright Terrence McNally actually went further in his 1975 stage hit The Ritz, which was made into a 1976 film, and has just been revived on Broadway. The Ritz is essentially an ode to chubby chasing. In it the hefty Gaetano Proclo is hiding from a hit man in a New York bathhouse, where he fends off the advances of a scrawny character named Claude Perkins, who is wild for fat men. When Perkins spots Proclo, he clutches his chest like a man struck by cupid's arrow. Alas, the crush is one-sided, despite Perkins's offers of éclairs, brownies, and chocolate bars.

John Lee, a 41-year-old chub from Orlando, came to Fort Lauderdale for Chubs in Paradise. His friends give him a hard time for attending such events, Lee says, which they claim are just sex parties. "Any event is going to get pretty frisky," he says.

Things got pretty frisky at Chubs in Paradise, partygoers say. Every night the clothes came off and the big boys were in the pool. Lee, who stands six feet one inch tall and weighs 341 pounds, says he got lots of action. That was not unusual for him; he is generally quite sexually active, he says, estimating he's had 350 sexual partners in the past year or so. He is also open to coupling with another chub, he says, as long as the man has a cute face and a great personality. He says the heaviest guy he ever played with was roughly 380 pounds.

Everyone in his family is large, Lee says. They love fatty Southern fare like chicken fried steak with gravy and biscuits — and they all have coronary problems. Lee is at peace with his girth, he says, and is reassured when chasers fixate on it. "They wouldn't look at a muscled man any more than they would look at a woman," he says.

Seven years ago Lee dropped 70 pounds. He was dating a hunky Colombian lifeguard at the time, he says, and he blew it. "As my weight decreased slowly, it seemed like his interest decreased."

Biggercity.com, a dating Website for chubs and chasers, asked its users in July: Would you leave your guy if he got fatter or thinner? Of 3370 votes, the site says, 59 percent answered no, I love him no matter his size, and 5.7 percent said yes, I would not like his new size. Many of the rest were not sure how they'd react, the site says.

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