Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, a.k.a. The Fabulous Beekman Boys, were first introduced to TV audiences as stars of a Planet Green series about their lives as fledgling goat farmers. This season, they competed on CBS' "The Amazing Race," and despite injuries and near-elimination more than once while racing around the world, they emerged victorious in the end. How does it feel? "Like a million bucks!" declared Kilmer-Purcell, revealing that he and Ridge had a strategy: "We knew we weren't the strongest, the youngest or the fastest. We knew from watching the show that you have to stay in the show till the final leg, and then you go for the win."
The fact that the final challenge, which Kilmer-Purcell performed solo, was a memory test, "gave us the win," he believes. "There's always one big fear challenge on the final leg and one big memory challenge — we knew that and that made us feel a lot better going into it. We have no fear, and for now at least I have my memory!"
The couple are long-time fans of "The Amazing Race" but "never applied because we thought the odds against us were too great." But after meeting a woman at a book signing whose friend worked for the show, they were invited to apply. They discovered it was a lot harder than they expected. "There were plenty of times when we didn't think we could keep going but we knew we couldn't quit. Making a vow not to quit is sometimes the strongest motivator there is," reflects Kilmer-Purcell. "Brent and I have been together for 14 years. We know how to keep each other going when the chips are down."
Going in, they prepared not only by physical training, but by "fine-tuning how we communicate. We discussed with each other how we would handle different types of situations that were going to come up on the race, because it's a horrible time to work on your issues." Nothing, however, could prepare them for the endurance required for all the travel and tough contest challenges. "There's very little downtime on the 'Race,'" Kilmer-Purcell points out. "All 12 legs take place in 3½ weeks."
Shooting ended in June, but he and Ridge kept their win a secret. "In truth, it was very easy because the race was so exciting for us and the outcome was very surprising for us so we wanted our families and friends to have the same exciting and surprising journey that we did," explains Kilmer-Purcell. Since the finale aired Dec. 9, they've been inundated with messages of congratulations and from people who were encouraged to see the underdog team prevail. "We got such a touching e-mail from a mom whose gay son is getting bullied at school. She said it was nice to be able to tell him that things aren't just going to be OK, they can be amazing."
So what will they do with the million dollars? "We're paying off the mortgage on the farm and I'm going to move up there full time," says Kilmer-Purcell, who has been commuting between New York City and their upstate farm for the past several years, subsidizing it with his advertising job. "Brent and I can focus all our time and efforts on Beekman. We're going to buy a building on the main street in Sharon Springs to headquarter our company. We were already going to start a food line, starting with a pasta sauce based on an old heirloom tomato called the mortgage lifter tomato," so named because the farmer who developed it was able to pay off his mortgage with it. "Now that our mortgage is paid off, we're going to make the sauce and use the profits to pay off other small farmers' mortgages. This could not have come at a better time," he says of the win.
Of all the places they traveled to, albeit briefly, Kilmer-Purcell would most like to return to Dacca, Bangladesh. "I've never seen human living conditions like what we experienced there. The chaos, the almost apocalyptic overpopulation and urban decay were almost unfathomable, unlike anywhere on the planet. We did promote a lot of Bangladeshi charities after that episode aired, and I want to learn more about it."
As for the farm, business is good despite the recession and the fact that "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" is no longer in production (Cooking Channel is rerunning Season 2). "When Planet Green first aired the show it was a huge boost. Luckily, we created a really loyal fan base and it's been growing on its own. I think everybody that watched us on Planet Green stuck with us and kept following us on Facebook," says Kilmer-Purcell, noting that business "certainly didn't grow as exponentially as it did when we first appeared on TV but we didn't lose any customers, either. Now we're bringing in more and more craftsmen from our region into the Beekman fold. Right now our holiday shop is online at Beekman1802.com and doing very well."
They're talking to Cooking Channel about a possible new series, and have two books in the works, an heirloom dessert cookbook that will be published in fall 2013 and an heirloom vegetable cookbook in spring 2014. Of course, if "The Amazing Race" has another all-stars edition, "We'd be thrilled to be a part of that," says Kilmer-Purcell, "If we're not too old!"