PETA’s Dan Mathews remembers his drama mama in memoir ‘Like Crazy’

Dan Mathews Like Crazy

Dan Mathews, left, and his mother, Perry, pictured in 2010 inside their home in Old Towne Portsmouth, Virginia. Photo: Jack Ryan

Dan Mathews’ whimsical mother, Perry, gave him advice that was witty and bawdy.

For example, when Perry met one of Mathews’ boyfriends, who was a sex worker, she imparted this bit of enlightenment.

“Never refer to Diego as a hustler — just say that he’s in real estate and manages a very large rental property.”

‘Like Crazy’

This humorous gem is one of many pearls of wisdom that are included in Mathews’ forthcoming memoir, “Like Crazy: Life with My Mother and Her Invisible Friends.” The book was originally set to come out for Mother’s Day, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted publisher Atria/Simon & Schuster to move it to August 11.

From gay party boy to caregiver

In the book, Mathews, a vice president at PETA, chronicles his transformation from gay party boy to caregiver for his “outrageous and unhinged mother” during her final years.

Mathews moved Perry, 78, from Long Beach to a rundown Victorian home he bought for them in Virginia. But to Mathews, a screwdriver is a cocktail, not a tool. Soon, he is overwhelmed with two fixer-uppers: the house and the mother.

Dan Mathews talks being bullied as a gay teenager, his schizophrenic mom

Dan Mathews PETA

Dan Mathews’ memoir “Like Crazy” chronicles his transforming from gay party boy to caregiver for his whimsical mother, who gave him witty and bawdy advice.

Mother’s wisdom

Mathews and Perry get by with help from a colorful cast of oddballs in the Southern harbor town, where Perry is celebrated for her “avant garde, pro-homo parenting” and for inspiring her son’s lifelong animal rights activism.

Mathews gave Q Voice News an early peek at his book. In honor of Mother’s Day, here are other memorable outbursts from Perry that Mathews includes in “Like Crazy.”

  • “Thank God I have on this oxygen mask — People fart nonstop on airplanes,” Perry declared as she boarded the packed flight from Los Angeles to Virginia.
  • “Mother’s Day is the most insincere Hallmark holiday — I don’t participate in that bullshit. Take me out to lunch any other day of the year.”
  • “You’re so tall you must have to get on your knees to kiss the girls,” a woman in a senior home elevator told Mathews, to which mom quipped: “He’s gay. He gets on his knees alright but it’s not to kiss the girls.”
  • “A pig in my arms, not on my plate — This is my kind of Easter.”
  • “I will never wear a MedicAlert necklace because I hate the bitch in those commercials, ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.’ I may be a pathetic old lady, but I refuse to look like one.”
  • “Oh Danny Lee, we’re having a Christmas dinner with an ex-con, Jesus would so approve,” Perry said when she learned that Mathews’ friend had been convicted of grand theft auto. 
  • “Why do they hang these goddamned flags on their porches? Are they afraid they’ll forget which country they live in? It’s delusional for every country to jump up and down and insist they are number one — that creates a pompous attitude toward other cultures and causes wars.”
  • “The full moon is coming, and I’m fully medicated.”
  • “Jack, good for you for going gay when your marriage ended. If only I’d had it in me to become a dyke after my first divorce, it would’ve saved husband number two a lot of grief. But then of course, we wouldn’t have Darling Danny Dimples here or his brothers,” Perry told Jack Ryan, Mathews’ then boyfriend. The couple married in 2014.
  • “When the time comes, I’ll try to hold on till Thursday because on our street, they haul the trash away on Friday.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!