Couple goes viral by recreating their old photos from the 1980s

Richie Cohen and Duane Tragis in 2023
Richie Cohen and Duane Tragis in 2023 (Photo: Supplied)

A married gay couple have earned themselves a viral following on TikTok after posting videos in which they recreate photos of themselves from the 1980s and 1990s.

The one below has ratched up over 20 million views.

@richie_and_duane Duane always outranks me. #couplegoals #gaycouplegoals ♬ original sound – Richie and Duane

And here’s another one with a snap from 1990.

@richie_and_duane Where did the years go? #couplegoals #gaycouplegoals ♬ I'm Just a Kid – Simple Plan

Queerty reached out to Richie Cohen, 59, and Duane Tragis, 60, to find out more. Our first question: When and where did they meet?

“We met at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, NJ in October 1981 after silently flirting for two months across opposite ends of a crowded art history lecture hall,” says Richie.

“We were 18 and 19 years old. Little by little, during those two months, Duane moved his seat closer and closer until finally one day, he sat right next to me. And the first thing I said to him was, ‘I love you!’ I didn’t mean to blurt that out, but I meant it. I’d had two months to think about it.”

“When you’ve had a crush on someone for two months and the first words you hear from them are “I love you,” that is a huge ego boost for a Leo,” says Duane. “But I loved him, too.”

“​​We were each other’s first boyfriend, lost our virginity together, and got married after a couple months,” says Richie. “We naively went to apply for a marriage license but they laughed at us, convinced it was a fraternity prank. We were angered and determined, not discouraged, so we decided to just get married on our own with smiley face rings from a gumball machine.”

The two men were also fond of taking photos. At college, they became known as the “Photo Booth Boys” and recently spoke to the Wall Street Journal about their love of old photo booths. This means they have a large archive of old photos to draw upon.

Richie Cohen and Duane Tragis in 1986
Richie Cohen and Duane Tragis in 1986 (Photo: Supplied)

Love and laughter

Richie and Duane have lived in Manhattan since 1985 and have worked together as a comedy team since 1987. They say that although gay couples doing comedy sketches on social media is not uncommon, but back in the 1980s, a gay couple working together on stage was groundbreaking and didn’t always go down well with other comics. Fortunately, audiences loved “Dick & Duane”.

The men say they have been surprised to score so many millions of views. Have they received any unusual or surprising comments?

“Yes, two kinds,” says Duane. “Firstly, all the hate comments. I mean, we have been on social media for decades, so that’s nothing new. Everyone gets them. But it’s weird how so many are suddenly coming out of the woodwork to tell us how disgusting they think we are for being two gay men kissing. Not that it affects us at all.

“Look, we survived the AIDS crisis in NYC, seeing our close friends and neighbors die young. We joined ACT UP and fought back against the indifference of President Reagan and Mayor Koch. We dealt with the homophobic entertainment industry, including managers who suggested we promote ourselves as brothers or buddies instead of a married couple. So, a few hundred vomit emojis in TikTok and Instagram comments aren’t going to affect us, other than to increase our engagement!”

“The other surprising type of comments are the ones expressing how they rarely, if ever, have seen an older gay couple,” he adds.

“We never thought of ourselves as unicorns and we know other couples who have been together a long time. So, it’s kind of weird to find out how invisible we are in the media. It’s not something we ever thought or cared about. We had no idea!”

@richie_and_duane Where did 42 years go? #couplegoals #gaycouplegoals ♬ I'm Just a Kid – Simple Plan
@richie_and_duane How did 42 years fly by? #couplegoals #gaycouplegoals ♬ I'm Just a Kid – Simple Plan