Celebrities

‘Hiding Out’: Memoir Divulges Sins of a Model Family

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Attractive, sophisticated and stylish, actress Tina Alexis Allen (“Outsiders”) would fit in at any upscale West Hollywood establishment. What no one could possibly have suspected is that while sitting quietly in Zinque, one of her favorite local haunts, she penned much of her shocking memoir “Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception and Double Lives.” (Comes out on paperback Nov. 27.)

Tina with her dad, a devout Catholic and gay father of 13.

Tina with her dad, a devout Catholic and gay father of 13.

What makes the story of growing up in a strict religious family—where not all is as it seems—particularly timely is the way Allen exposes the messy reality behind a seemingly All-American family.

As the youngest of 13 children with devout parents (her father had personal and business ties to the Vatican), Allen grew up in the monied community of Chevy Chase, MD, attending the same churches as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Certainly there was hypocrisy,” Allen says now, when it comes to acceptable behavior. The extent of that hypocrisy is laid out in her memoir, starting at a young age, with incidents of incest, child molestation, adultery, alcohol abuse, and eventually, the monumental deceptions of her father in hiding his homosexuality.

Today, judgments about the moral failings, or “sins,” of a father seem to have less to do with one’s values and more to do with one’s political affiliations. But in the 1970s and ‘80s when this autobiographical story takes place, American society had certain expectations, and a gay parent and emissary of the Vatican would’ve been ostracized if his secret got out.

So when Allen’s father, Sir John in the book, discovers his 18-year-old daughter is gay, instead of vilifying her, he makes her a confidante, confessing his affairs with men, and enlisting her to accompany him to gay clubs, unfairly putting her in the impossible position of keeping his secrets from the mother she loves.

“I believe my family is a bit of a microcosm of all the things—the lightness and the darkness—that exist in the Catholic Church,” she says. “[That’s] why I don’t pull punches in my book–we have enough of that. And that’s not how people move to the light, by watching those they’re suppose to model keep secrets, and lie, and be disingenuous. We’re talking about kids, in particular.”

Allen lost her innocence early, having been molested by two older brothers, then while in grade school began an affair with a 26-year-old teacher.

“I do absolutely call it child abuse,” says Allen. But for many years, she convinced herself that she was mature for her age, and was in control of the situation. “When you’re dying of thirst, you don’t really pay much attention if the glass of water being handed you is a little murky. 

“Compared to what was happening at home, it was definitely many steps up. It was a lot of attention that went with it, it was outings and shopping and gifts, and it was being told how special you are, and that no one can ever know.”

But “it shouldn’t have happened,” says Allen, and it’s a topic she’s dealing with in her next book.

Autobiographical writing—two plays and a book so far—have been cathartic, says Allen. But she had another reason for writing “Hiding Out,” a desire “to speak about things that people sometimes have a hard time talking about. And doing it in such a way that wasn’t pointing fingers or blaming, but hey, take this ride, you’ll decide what to think, and more importantly, it may hold a mirror up to your own life.”

The way she thinks about religion now, Allen says, is that while “the Catholic Church was never really a good fit for me … my parents’ belief in something greater than themselves and their commitment to service has had a lasting affect on me. I have deep faith and I try my best to live my life from a place of service.”

She also thinks there are lessons to be learned from putting too much faith in organized religion.

“I think where there is an imbalance of power and a lack of representation and valuing of all voices, there lies the temptation for an abuse of power, whether it’s religion, government or corporations. Organized religion might accomplish its true purpose of community, service and love more effectively when there is not a hierarchy that ignores the importance of diversity and equality.

“In the case of Catholicism, you have a church operating as a sovereign nation with political and economic interests that their followers are not privy to. One example we have all witnessed is how the Church’s commitment to image, power and finances has trumped faithfulness as evidence by the decades long scandal of child abuse at the hands of thousands of priests. This should have been emphatically handled the moment they learned of the epidemic. Yet, the cover-up and wavering continues.”

Allen divides her time between LA and New York with her partner of more than 20 years, Gina Raphaela, and is devoting the next six months in West Hollywood to her next writing project. All of her work, including Gina Raphaela Jewelry, which she runs with her partner, has an aspect of “giving back.” Part of the proceeds from the jewelry goes to victims of violence, and she sees her books as a way to empower others.

“I’m looking to move my book to the screen,” she says. “We’re very early in the process. Looking to see what’s a good fit. I’m seeing it as a TV series.”

Tina Alexis Allen is the author of “Hiding Out, a Memoir of Drugs, Deception and Double Lives.”
Connect with her at tinaalexisallen.com, or on social media at @tinaalexisallen.

 

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and is currently producing a documentary for her own company, Saving Grace Films.

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