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True Love: The Real Housebears of Salt Lake City

You may know Cory Chitwood as the bear in the viral video who proposed to his now-husband, Hunter Harden, at the Salt Lake City International Airport. Or you may recognize them from their podcast The Real Housebears talking everything “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” Or maybe you’ve seen Hunter (and sometimes Cory) as a host, model, and dancer at events across the country like Bearracuda, Bearvasion, Daddy Next Door, and Furball, along with a number of Prides.

As part of our annual LOVE issue, we asked the Salt Lake City couple about their relationship, their lives, and, of course, their podcast.

Thank you so much for taking the time to get all close and personal with QSaltLake’s readers. How did you two meet?
: We met through social media. 
Cory: We were social media acquaintances who started our relationship through chatting on Facebook Messenger, then talking on the phone and FaceTiming, to Hunter flying across the country from Nevada to South Carolina to meet in person. 
Hunter: We actually just celebrated the anniversary of when we first met in person.
Cory: We have a lot of anniversaries. We celebrate the day we met in person. We celebrate our wedding anniversary, our proposal anniversary, the first time we did this, the first time we did that…
Hunter: We might overdo it a bit.

So, was it love at first site? When did you know it was love?
:  I would say it more lust at first sight. (laughs)
Hunter:  We’ve definitely been attracted to each other since the beginning. It did take us some time to find a lot in common and understand what works so great between us outside of the bedroom. 
Cory: True. We had very different interests in the beginning. It took us a while to focus on what we had in common instead of how different we were.
Hunter: Now we’re finishing each other’s sentences.
Cory: I knew it was real love when we came to a crossroads of being together or going our separate ways, and decided that I couldn’t live without him
Hunter: I think that was defining for both of us.

How long had you two been dating before Cory popped the question? 
: We were together for six years.

Cory – tell me what was going through your head as you proposed at the airport
: I was mostly concerned about keeping my composure and being able to speak. I’m a big ‘ol teddy bear. I get emotional when it comes to people I love. I was also really excited about surprising him at the airport. I knew he had no idea it was coming. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction!

Hunter – at what point did you figure out he was asking you to marry him? What were you thinking?
: I had just come back from working an event in Chicago. I was tired. I was so exhausted. When I saw him in nice clothes, I thought it was so nice of him to dress up just to come pick me up from the airport. Then he got down on one knee, and I still don’t remember anything that he said to me, but I knew I wanted to say yes.

How long after you proposed did you marry, and tell me about the wedding.
: Two weeks!
Hunter: If it was up to my Bear, it would have been one week. He wanted to get married the following Friday.
Cory: Well, we had this trip to Cabo San Lucas booked, and we were going to be gone for a whole month. I didn’t know when we would ever have another opportunity like that, so I thought we should turn it into a honeymoon instead of a vacation. 
Hunter: I didn’t get the chance to prance around to all of my friends and talk about “my fiancé” and have an engagement period. He wanted to lock it down right away.
Cory: I had to act fast while you were still tired and confused.
Hunter: And then we had a surprise wedding in front of our friends. We were heavy in a pandemic, so it had to be kind of small and intimate.
Cory: We have a friend who worked at Squatter’s downtown. With just a few days notice, he reserved an entire floor for us and was willing to work for us that evening to serve and tend the bar. 
Hunter: So, we invited some friends to an “engagement dinner.”
Cory: They had no idea what was coming. The only people who knew were us and our barber.
Hunter: Yes, our barber, Fuzzy Nate, officiated our ceremony. He’s the sweetest guy. He’s like family. 
Cory: When I got up to offer a toast and thank everyone for coming, I dropped that bomb that instead of being invited to our enagement party, they were invited to our wedding.
Hunter: Everyone was blown away. There were a lot of tears.
Cory: Nate spoke and gave us a lovely ceremony. We exchanged vows in front of our friends. Then when it was over, it appears that the rest of the restaurant could hear us and they all clapped for us.

Cory – I know you work as an instructor in education software. Hunter – what do you do?
: I’m a model and entertainer on the weekends. During the week I have a job hanging blinds in homes with a private company that is contracted through larger businesses. But for the most part, my weekend job is what I’m known for and where my real passion is. I was really lucky that I was able to travel through the last half of 2021 quite a bit. I was booked almost every weekend to either host an event or perform.

How does that work in the relationship?
: It didn’t work out too poorly last year. I was able to go with you on several trips. I had some leftover miles to use, and I got booked with you a few times.
Hunter: Yes! We did a few events together, and those are my favorite. I always have the most fun when my Bear is around. It’s no fun for me to go to gigs by myself and not have anyone to talk to. Most of the time, he even makes more tips than I do. He’s a big, hairy bear up there dancing and people don’t see that every day. I’m so proud and annoyed at the same time.
Cory: And then when life ever goes back to some sort of normalcy again, I travel with my job too. When I travel during the week, I’ll meet him in a city on the weekend instead of fly home.

How did you two end up podcasting about “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City?” What drew you to it?
– We had been talking about starting a podcast for a very long time. We had a lot to say, and we knew we had great banter, but we couldn’t find a focus. We knew it would be about pop culture, and we had a few other ideas to throw in there, but nothing really clicked.
Cory: I have been a “Housewives” fan since the beginning. I haven’t missed a single episode of any city, except for Washington, DC.
Hunter – And I hated reality TV when I met him, especially the “Housewives.”
Cory: But I wore him down!
Hunter: Actually, it was “Vanderpump Rules.” I was home by myself one day and there was a Vanderpump Rules marathon on. I got sucked into it, and that was my gateway drug to the “Housewives.”
Cory: Then, we were in Cabo for our honeymoon and the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” premiered. We watched the premiere episode on our iPad next to the pool.
Hunter: As soon as the episode was over, we practically looked at each other and said, “we just found our podcast.” 
Cory: Talk about love at first sight! As luck would have it, I had recording equipment with me that I needed for work, and we recorded our first 2 episodes right there in our condo in Cabo.

I’ve noticed a ton of photos of you and the cast of the show. How well do you know them?
: We’ve developed a real friendship with Heather Gay and her best friend/business partner, Dre. Heather and I went to a concert together last October. We’ve all gone out together several times for dinner, drinks, and karaoke as well. We call ourselves Dreather Hardenwood; the ladies’ first names combined with our last names combined.
Hunter: We had an immediate connection with Whitney Rose and her husband, Justin, too. When we went over to their house to record an interview for our podcast it was like we were hanging out with old friends. I was almost worried that we were staying too long.
Cory: Jen Shah is our “Mama Bear.” That’s how she identifies herself in our text messages.
Hunter: She cracks me up! She always likes to make a comment about my salacious Instagram posts. She likes the view from behind.
Cory: Jennie Nguyen was also incredibly lovely. She actually came over to our condo to record the episode. 
Hunter: We were a nervous wreck! Our house has never been so clean.
Cory: Then we got to meet her family a few days later at her 9-year-old daughter’s book signing event. 
Hunter: That’s also when we met Lisa Barlow. We had no idea she was coming, and couldn’t believe it when we heard her voice say “I love that” as she was entering the room. 
Cory: Even though that was the first time we met her, we have interacted with Lisa Barlow since the beginning. We contacted her through social media, and she sent us a free bottle of Vida Tequila.
Hunter: That was in the very beginning of the podcast, too. We thought we had really made it! We could have NEVER imagined that it would lead to real relationships with any of the women. 

Tell me one thing about the RHOSLC cast members that no one knows about.
: One thing that I will say about all of them is that the television cannot possibly capture how beautiful they are in real life. All of them. It’s breathtaking when you meet each one of these women because they’re all so gorgeous. You spend so many hours staring at them on your tv, but it’s really unexpected when you meet them in person.
Hunter: Most people don’t know that Heather Gay was a competitive piano player. 
Cory: She’s also a great singer.  She could probably also be a standup comedian too.
Hunter: She has a lot of talent. I don’t think people know that. 

With so much travel, how do you find the time to do your podcast on Real Housewives of Salt Lake City?
: We never imagined how much time the podcast would take. We seriously had no idea what we were getting into.  We were starting from scratch with no knowledge of what would go into producing a weekly podcast.
Hunter: To be honest, I don’t think we were really looking that far ahead. I don’t know if we were even thinking about what would happen after season 1 was over.
Cory: And now it’s evolved where we incorporate a lot of sound bites from the Real Housewives into our podcast episodes. Producing this podcast takes up way more time than we ever expected. Luckily, I LOVE to talk about the Housewives, so the work is gratifying.  Finding funny and interesting ways to use the sound bites is my new favorite thing.  
Hunter: So, to answer your question, it takes a lot of planning. It takes a lot of looking ahead. Luckily, my Bear thinks that way already.  He’s always overthinking and over planning, which is an advantage in this situation.  Sometimes we might have to watch the episode separately while I’m out of town then record the podcast when we’re both home.
Cory: It’s quite a process.  First we watch each episode.  Then, we watch it a second time and take notes, as well as mark down things the ladies say that might work as good sound bites in various situations, or are helpful in telling the story.  
Hunter: After that, we record the episode in the Hot Closet, record the sound bites, and then my Bear edits each episode and adds the sound bites.

Does the show just stream naturally like we hear it, or do you have to seriously edit it?
: The only real edits are the sound bites.  Every now and then we might have a big blunder and have to start something over again, but overall what you hear is how it went in the Hot Closet.
Hunter: By the way, the “Hot Closet” is literally Cory’s closet.  We take most of the clothes out of it and it’s our studio.  The sound quality is impeccable.  It’s hot in there though.

In a sentence or two, what do each of you think overall of this season of the show?
: There’s so much happening.  What’s not to like?  
Cory: I think Salt Lake City is the strongest cast of all of the cities. Salt Lake City and Potomac are the reigning queens of “Housewives” currently. The other cities are having some cast issues, but every lady in Salt Lake City is bringing it!

What love advice can you give our readers?
: If you love someone, never let them think that you don’t.
Hunter: Don’t expect Prince Charming to come sweep you off of your feet. It takes two to make a relationship work.  You have to be Prince Charming too.

Anything else you want to say?
: We just want to say how much we love Salt Lake City! I lived in South Carolina for 21 years and it never felt like home. Salt Lake City felt like home right away. I’m grateful every day to live here. Moving here is the best thing that’s ever happened to us.
Hunter: As soon as we moved here, we met a great community of friends. I lived in South Carolina for 3 years and never once made a close friend. We’ve met some people here that we really love and get that love back. We really do love it here.

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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