Vos: Erik Hyman and Max Mutchnick


October 31, 2008 | By: Devan Sipher

MAX MUTCHNICK has “shpilkes.” Mr. Mutchnick, who used the Yiddish word to describe his restless energy, didn’t become a creator and executive producer of the sitcom “Will & Grace” by being a blushing wallflower.

“I’m a big personality,” said the impulsive Mr. Mutchnick, 42, who melds borscht belt shtick and urbane wit in his writing and his life.

So it was unusual for him to be intimidated by Erik Hyman, an entertainment law associate at the Los Angeles firm Loeb & Loeb. “He’s out of my league,” was Mr. Mutchnick’s initial impression. “I’m Mel Brooks, and he isAnne Bancroft. He’s this sophisticated, elegant guy, and I’m the kind of guy who would have a piece of toilet paper stuck to my heel.”

He hid his attraction to Mr. Hyman by avoiding him when they crossed paths at social gatherings.

“He was super cute but not very friendly,” said Mr. Hyman, 40, who was dubious when a female friend suggested fixing them up in October 2006. “Sometimes, straight girls try to set up the only two gay guys they know.”

At the time, Mr. Hyman was recovering after a period of “sadness and loss,” he said, referring to the years following the death of his longtime partner, the photographer Herb Ritts.

Mr. Mutchnick was also alone, but for a different reason. “My career has been the centerpiece of my life,” he said. Then in 2006, the final episode of “Will & Grace” was broadcast, and Mr. Mutchnick found himself envying Will Truman, his fictional counterpart, who had committed to a life partner and started a family. “Will had gotten ahead of me,” he said. “I was watching the character have an experience I knew nothing about.”

So he was motivated to embrace something new as Mr. Hyman contemplated having dinner with him. Before a date could be arranged, the two men found themselves attending the same Los Angeles AIDS benefit, but it was more Keystone Kops than kismet.

As Mr. Hyman nervously extended his hand to say hello, he toppled a table of water bottles. He was crawling on his hands and knees gathering up the mess as Mr. Mutchnick rushed by, oblivious.

“Max didn’t say hello, and he didn’t help me pick up the plastic bottles,” said Mr. Hyman, who resolved they would never date.

When Mr. Mutchnick belatedly recognized Mr. Hyman, he shot out of his seat and offered a profuse apology.

The first words out of Mr. Hyman’s mouth were, “Would you like to have dinner?”

One dinner was all it took, though Mr. Mutchnick’s doubt catapulted him into monologue mode. “When there’s nobody saying anything,” Mr. Hyman said, “he will fill those moments with words.”

But when Mr. Mutchnick nervously asked how the evening was going, Mr. Hyman calmly reassured him, saying, “It’s going very well. We’re very attracted to each other.”

They moved in together a week later, “and we have not spent a night apart since,” Mr. Mutchnick said, adding he had never met a man as intelligent and confident, or one who could withstand his insecurities and histrionics. “Erik can stand up to Max,” said Janet Eisenberg, a close friend of Mr. Mutchnick’s who was the inspiration for the character Grace. “He’s a grown-up with his own career and his own point of view.”

Mr. Hyman fell immediately for Mr. Mutchnick’s passion, charm and humor.

“People say ‘What’s the rush?’ But why the delay?” said Mr. Hyman, who had learned firsthand that time can be fleeting. “When you want to be with someone and you can be, I don’t see why you would be apart.”

Within three months they were talking about having children, and 20 months later, in September, a surrogate gave birth to their daughters, Rose and Evan.

Marriage was a tougher issue. “I always thought it was silly to get married if it didn’t matter legally,” Mr. Hyman said. That changed in May, after a California court legalized same-sex marriages.

Still, as new fathers in the process of moving into a new residence, their preference was to wait before planning a wedding. But Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative aimed at banning same-sex marriages that is up for a vote Tuesday, altered their time frame.

“We wanted to be a part of the wave of same-sex couples getting married before the election,” said Mr. Mutchnick, referring to the more than 22,000 lesbians and gay men who have wed there in the last five months.

On Oct. 25, the couple vowed their love before Rabbi Lisa Edwards as they stood beneath a vine-cloaked pergola on the grounds of their Tudor-style Beverly Hills home.

Read the full story in the New York Times


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