Graham Norton’s first gay friend was a penpal who sent him ‘handwritten porn’

Graham Norton has revealed that his first-ever gay friend was an American penpal who regularly sent him “handwritten porn”.

The iconic TV presenter told the Irish Mirror that he struggled growing up gay in rural Ireland, and hatched a plan to travel to Los Angeles to meet some queer pals.

Norton, who grew up in a Protestant family in the town of Bandon, County Cork, said: “I never came out. It didn’t seem practical.

“Living in a small town in rural Ireland in the early eighties there was no context for me to be gay in, so why tell anyone?

“I would just have been gay watching afternoon TV or riding my bike into town.”

He felt that he had no relationship prospects in the small town, and that coming out “would just have upset everyone without any real benefit”.

Instead, he “resolved to go to where the boys were” and headed to the US.

He chose America, he said, because of his first gay friend: a penpal named David Villapando.

“Not only was he gay but… he was doing something about it,” he said.

“In fact, he was doing quite a lot about it.”

Norton recalled: “Every month or so I would receive what was essentially handwritten porn on thin blue airmail paper.

“It seemed that David would be the perfect person to show me the ropes.”

He added: “I know it seems ridiculous that the closest gay person I could find was five thousand miles away, but subconsciously, that was probably how I wanted it.”

Graham Norton was greeted by three drag queens upon arriving in America

Although Graham Norton said he never made it to LA, and to his penpal, he got as far as San Francisco before running out of money.

When he stepped off the bus he had quite an awakening, he said, as “a flatbed truck came around the corner with three drag queens waving and screaming on the back of it”.

It turned out he had arrived on the day of the city’s Pride parade.

“I walked up to Market Street and watched the parade go by,” he said.

“Actual Grace Jones was on a float singing to me. My Irish head and heart were close to bursting.”