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'The Old Gays' of TikTok publish their first book, a guide to life and living for all

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You almost certainly have heard the term save the best for last. It's often applied to that last bite of a great meal, but it is seldom used in speaking about life at a time of life when many people may feel tired, disregarded, overlooked. Well, for one quad of senior friends affectionately known as The Old Gays, their best years may be yet to come. NPR's Ryan Benk has this profile.

RYAN BENK, BYLINE: With 11 million followers on TikTok and a name like The Old Gays, these fellows are anything but private about their sexuality or age.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

BILL LYONS: I used to be a looker, and now I can't see anything without my glasses.

JESSAY MARTIN: I used to have a straight face, and now there's nothing straight about me.

BENK: But with as much as they do share on social media, which sometimes leaves very little to the imagination, there was still a lot more to show off. So the crew put together a book because, as 67-year-old Mick Peterson puts it...

MICK PETERSON: Old gays actually have a lot of life in them yet.

BENK: Peterson and fellow 70-year-old member Jessay Martin told me the book, "The Old Gays' Guide To The Good Life," is part memoir, part self-help - for anyone, whether you're straight, gay, on the old or even on the young side. Although it's also audaciously salacious because, Peterson says, it's important people know that your sex life doesn't necessarily have a shelf life. And he says...

PETERSON: Because it sells (laughter).

BENK: Jessay Martin was the last to join the group, and he admits it wasn't exactly the kind of thing he'd ordinarily be a part of, like this recent TikTok where the group, dressed in nothing but Santa boxer shorts, lip synced to Ariana Grande's "Last Christmas."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST CHRISTMAS")

ARIANA GRANDE: Merry Christmas, everybody. (Singing) I hate that I remember. I wish I could forget...

MARTIN: This process of The Old Gays, you have no idea how I had to get used to it. They were so free and would say anything, and I'm just like sitting there going, derp (ph).

BENK: Martin has always considered himself a reserved person. Sharing details about his personal life to millions, no less, was never something he'd thought he'd do. In one Father's Day post, the guys were asked to say something about their dads.

MARTIN: And I simply said, where were you when I needed you?

BENK: In the book, Martin details how his police officer father wasn't at all happy about having an effeminate son. After seeing the overwhelmingly positive response to his honesty, though, Martin had an epiphany.

MARTIN: The anger and hate are something that just poisons you and makes you old and evil, so let go.

BENK: And it's this mix of sexy antics and candid storytelling that made The Old Gays a sensation in the first place. Martin says it saved him financially, and Mick Peterson says after a bout with a life-threatening illness, it might have actually saved his life.

PETERSON: It's something to get up in the morning for, you know, to have that second cup of coffee rather than slinking back under the covers and getting up at 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

MARTIN: He almost died three times on us, you know? And the third time wasn't the charm.

BENK: Peterson is HIV positive and says he has no problem getting real about that and his other health problems because...

PETERSON: I want people to know the story so that when they look at me, they can appreciate, you know, the hard work I've done to get back to some form of healthiness.

BENK: All of The Old Gays have lost so much through the years, especially during the AIDS crisis. Between that unforgettable trauma, financial hardships, family difficulties, health problems and all the other trials of life, Jessay Martin says this unexpected act has been rejuvenating.

MARTIN: Yeah, I'm so happy I can't stand it sometimes.

BENK: Mick Peterson stops short of endorsing Martin's enthusiasm completely, but he admits, all in all, it's been a lot more good than bad.

PETERSON: I'll paraphrase something that was told to me by Estelle Getty. She said to me, child, there is no such thing as happiness. There are only degrees of unhappiness. And I would say for me, my unhappiness is relatively low.

BENK: The Old Gays don't pretend to have all the answers, but they hope to entertain and provide a little advice to anyone looking to live the good life. Ryan Benk, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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