Randy Neece has lived two lives. The first one began in the fifties in Whittier, California, where he grew up in a loving family with an older brother and sister, and two parents who were devoted to their children and to each other throughout their entire lives.
Randy’s other life began in the early eighties when he was diagnosed with HIV, followed by years of illness as he struggled to survive full blown AIDS, at a time there was little or no hope of survival. Yet, something remarkable happened to turn everything around. What came next was like the ending to a Hollywood movie or an episode of I Love Lucy, except this time, it really did happen.
Randy got his start in the entertainment industry at the age of 16 when he auditioned for a popular singing and dance group called The Young Americans. During the next four years, he performed with the group on several international and national tours, recorded three albums, appeared on stage with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and guest starred on many of the most popular variety shows in the sixties and seventies.
Following his years as a performer, Randy went to college to study Broadcasting, and began his career in production, starting as a page at CBS. From there, he worked for television legend Norman Lear who helped him get into the Directors Guild of America and hired him as a stage manager on Maude.
His career as a producer and director began in 1980 when he met Jay Wolpert, a successful game show producer of such shows as the Price is Right. Together, Randy and Jay created several game shows and Randy also produced and directed many of Wolpert’s pilots and game show series.
Randy has also created, produced and directed programs for education and industry. Throughout his career, he has won more than twenty national and international awards for his documentaries and programs, including an Emmy Award for the AIDS drama, Secrets, winner for Outstanding Children’s or Youth Special.
In 1983, Randy met Joe Timko, and they have been together since that first night. Their wedding ceremony five years later was a rare event in 1988, decades before gay marriage would become a national debate. But neither society nor Randy’s HIV diagnosis could stop the couple from celebrating their love for each other, and it’s now been 25 years since that wedding, and nearly 30 years being together.
With the unconditional love and commitment of his husband, Joe, along with Randy’s perseverance (or as he claims, “just being too damn stubborn to let go”), somehow he managed to get through those dark and terrifying years with AIDS.
After directing a revival of the classic television show Match Game in 1997, Randy decided to make a major career change. It began ten years before when the couple bought a Tibetan terrier puppy. The dog was of such high quality and breeding that he came with a condition. They had to agree to enter him in competition at dog shows. Soon Joe was showing their dog, Max, who then started winning ribbons.
In 1997, they entered Max in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York and he won Best of Breed. That led Joe to dog training, and the couple began breeding their own line of prize-winning dogs.
One day in 1998, Randy and Joe were wandering around Disneyland, when a thought occurred to them. Why hasn’t anyone created a Disneyland for Dogs?
Eight months later, the most extraordinary fantasyland for dogs was open for business.
Randy’s background in television helped formulate many of the design concepts that went into creating the theme park-like features. Joe refers to the Ranch as “Randy’s five acre stage.” And Joe has transformed every acre by designing all of the landscaping, including hundreds of trees, gardens, and topiaries.
It’s hard to imagine how life could change so much for this couple from the way things were a dozen or so years ago when Randy was so ill. Back then, everything seemed so hopeless. But that’s what love will do when two people just can’t find the words to say good-bye.
As Randy says in his memoir, “I used to think happily-ever-after endings only happened in fairytales and Frank Capra films, but never in real life…
That’s what I used to think.”
If you would like to read more about this inspirational story of love and survival,
read Randy’s memoir, Gone Today, Here Tomorrow.