He dies at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles.Learn More.
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) describes the men as having other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems are compromised. Two of the give young men have already died by the time the report is published.
This edition of the MMWR marks the first official reporting of what will become known as the AIDS epidemic. The initial five-patient series was reported to the CDC by Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a member of the Council of Advisors to the AIDS Monument.
Today, Dr. Gottlieb is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and still treats patients exclusively at APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) Health.
Following Gottlieb’s report to the CDC, he and his team would publish a more detailed report in the New England Journal of Medicine December 10, 1981.
Now it is known that HIV originated much earlier, in 1920, likely in the Democratic Republic of Congo around when HIV crossed species from chimpanzees to humans. Up until the 1980s, we do not know how many people were infected with HIV or developed AIDS.
While sporadic cases of AIDS were documented prior to 1970, available data suggests that the epidemic started in the mid- to late 1970s. By 1980, HIV may have already spread to five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia), and in this period, between 100,000 and 300,000 people could have already been infected
New York City dermatologist Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien calls CDC to report a cluster of cases of a rare and unusually aggressive cancer — Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) — among gay men in New York and California.Learn More.
Like pnuemocytis carinii pneumonia (PCP), KS is associated with people who have weakened immune systems.
Dr. Friedman-Kien told New York magazine in January 1987:
“In February 1981, I saw a young man who was perfectly healthy except for a number of spots on his skin…. I’d never seen anything like it, so I did a biopsy. Under the microscope, the cell structure was clear. It was’ Kaposi’s sarcoma.
“A week later, another physician sent me another patient, also a gay man in his late thirties, also with disseminated KS,” he said, explaining that each spot is a separate tumor.
As his first day as an oncologist at San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Paul Volberding treats his first HIV-positive patient, a 22-year-old man with Kaposi sarcoma.Learn More.
After completing a three-year fellowship at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Volberding was ready to become a cancer specialist under renowned virologist Dr. Jay Levy. Instead, he would find himself on a lifelong journey of treating people living with HIV/AIDS and fighting the spread of the virus.
Dr. Volberding remembers his first patient with clarity.
“Twenty-two-year-old man, grew up in the Deep South, and as I recall he was estranged from his family,” Dr. Volberding tells the San Francisco Examiner almost 35 years later. “He ended up in San Francisco working basically sex for food, and had innumerable previous sexually transmitted infections.”
The man died within a few months, without his family present, Dr. Volberding recalls.
Around this same time, two doctors in the Bronx start to see HIV/AIDS symptoms in their patients. Dr. Gerald Friedland sees cases of Pneumocystis pneumonia in injection drug users, and becomes one of the first to see the connection between IV-drug use and HIV transmission.
Pediatric immunologist Dr. Arye Rubenstein begins to identify the immunodeficiency of his pediatric patients, the children of drug addicts, as a symptom of what would be eventually called AIDS.
Dr. Rubenstein, who has been seeing this particular kind of immunodeficiency in children and sometimes in their mothers in his Bronx practice since the late 1970s, is one of the first to connect pediatric cases to the new disease affecting homosexual men.
These doctors who treat some of the first known cases of HIV/AIDS go on to do important, transformative work in the fields of treatment, research and public health policy.
In 1983, Dr. Volberding would establish what would make San Francisco General Hospital the model for HIV care: the country’s first AIDS treatment center (Ward 86). Later the same year, he would join the medical team at Ward 5B, the first in-patient clinic for AIDS patients in the world.
Dr. Volberding would continue to treat HIV/AIDS patients until 2012, when he would become Director of the UCSF AIDS Research Institute. Volberding would also become Co-Director of the Center for AIDS Research.
Dr. Friedland also would dedicate his life to AIDS treatment and research. Following 10 years of working with HIV/AIDS patients in the Bronx, Dr. Friedland would become Director of the HIV/AIDS Program at Yale and Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Friedland would also become involved in HIV/AIDS international research aimed at providing access to antiretroviral therapy in developing regions of the world. The major focus of his work becomes the integration of HIV and TB care and treatment in co-infected patients in South Africa.
In 2018, on the occasion of delivering the keynote address at the 13th annual International Conference on HIV Treatment and Prevention, Dr. Friedland would tell TheBodyPRO:
“Many of these people living with HIV, I have cared for, for decades. I know them extremely well. They know me. We have gone through this together and have this close collegial relationship as a partnership, so it’s a wondrous pleasure to continue to provide.”
The other doctor working in New York City in 1981, Dr. Rubenstein, would decide to remain in the Bronx, caring for children with HIV AIDS.
He would receive a grant in 1983 from the National Institutes for Health to study the incidence of AIDS in women and children. In 1986, Dr. Rubenstein would establish that transmission of AIDS can occur in utero, and his breakthrough findings are published in the journal Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology.
By this time, Dr. Rubsenstein has treated more than a hundred HIV-infected children, and in the summer of 1985, he would open a day care center for pediatric AIDS patients at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. He would become Chief of the Division of Allergy & Immunology at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology & Immunology at Albert Einstein College.
In a 1987 interview with New York magazine, he would speak fondly of the parents, many of them former IV-drug users, of his pediatric patients:
“Many come from a low socioeconomic group, they’re poor, the family may have broken up, they may have used drugs, and now their child has AIDS because they gave it to him. You wouldn’t be surprised if they threw up their hands, but many don’t. They become the best parents in the world. They straighten out their lives, they spend hours with their kids. They give up longing for material things and look for spiritual and religious values.”
A pregnant Elizabeth Glaser, wife of television star Paul Michael Glaser is rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to give birth to her first child. She hemorrhages heavily during labor and requires a transfusion of seven pints of blood.Learn More.
A former teacher who works as Exhibit Director of the LA Children’s Museum, Glaser asks her doctor about the mysterious disease reported recently in the press, and her doctor assures her: “Your nightmare is over.”
In 1985, daughter Ariel would experience persistent stomach pains and doctors are unable to determine the source. The four-year-old is tested for HIV “as just a precaution,” and the results come back positive for the virus.
Each member of the Glaser family is then tested, and would result in the additional HIV diagnosis of mother Elizabeth and 18-month-old son Jake.
Doctors determine that Elizabeth contracted HIV during the 1981 blood transfusion, and Elizabeth had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breastfeeding. Jake, who was born in October 1984, had contracted the virus in utero.
When Elizabeth seeks counseling for Ariel, she discovers that no child psychiatrist will take the case. Aware of the stigma of AIDS, the Glasers pull Ariel out of nursery school and erect a wall of secrecy to protect their children.
In August 1989 (one year after Ariel dies of AIDS-related illness), the National Enquirer and other tabloids would threaten the Glaser family with exposure.
Elizabeth Glaser would share her harrowing story in her 1991 autobiography, In the Absence of Angels. She and two frinds would start the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and she would become one of the most aggressive and effective pediatric AIDS activists in the country.
Of the 108 known cases of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, 107 are male and 94% of those whose sexual orientation is known are gay/bisexual. About 40% of all patients have already died.Learn More.
The MMWR article, “Follow-Up on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia,” reports that CDC received information on 70 additional cases of KS and/or PCP since its July 3 edition, making a total of 108 known cases.
At Albert Einstein Medical College in New York, pediatric immunologist Dr. Arye Rubinstein treats five black infants showing signs of severe immune deficiency, including pnuemocytis carinii pneumonia (PCP).Learn More.
The mothers of at least three of the children have disclosed that they use drugs and/or engage in sex work. Dr. Rubinstein recognizes that the children are showing signs of the same illnesses affecting gay men, but his diagnoses are dismissed by his colleagues.
Bobbi Campbell, a San Francisco nurse, becomes the first Kaposi’s sarcoma patient to go public with his diagnosis.Learn More.
Campbell published a series of articles about his KS diagnosis for the San Francisco Sentinel, the first titled “I Will Survive: Nurse’s Own ‘Gay Cancer’ Story.”
Calling himself the “KS Poster Boy,” Campbell continued to share his experiences in the column “Gay Cancer Journal.” His AIDS activism would go on to include being pictured in San Francisco’s first AIDS poster, organizing the first candlelight vigil to raise AIDS awareness, and eventually becoming one of the first openly gay men to appear on the cover of a major news magazine when he posed for Newsweek with his lover Bobby Hilliard.
Starting with a case of shingles in February 1981, Campbell suffered from a series of unusual illnesses, including Leukopenia later that summer. After a hike with his boyfriend in September 1981, he noticed KS lesions on his feet. He was formally diagnosed as having KS by dermatologist Marcus Conant in October 1981, Conant’s first diagnosis of a patient with what would become known as AIDS. Campbell brought Conant a rose each year to commemorate the anniversary of his diagnosis.
In February 1982, Campbell and Dan Turner, who had just himself been diagnosed with KS, attended what turned out to be the founding meeting of the KS/AIDS Foundation, which later became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Campbell also became involved with the Shanti Project, which moved from its original focus of supporting people with terminal cancer, to providing emotional support to people diagnosed with AIDS.
At that time, Campbell also helped start the People with AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement (PWA), arguing that people with AIDS should expect to participate actively in the response to the AIDS crisis. The PWA Movement rejected the term “AIDS victim.”
With others, Campbell drafted the Denver Principles, the defining manifesto of the PWA Movement. Inspired by the Lavender Menace radical feminists storming the National Organization for Women convention stage in 1970, Campbell and other activists decided to do something similar at the closing session of the Second National AIDS Forum. As each of the 11 men read out one of the 11 statements of Denver Principles, they did so with a banner stating “Fighting for Our Lives.” These words became the slogan of the PWA Movement.
Campbell gave one of his last speeches at the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights, occuring while the 1984 Democratic National Convention was in San Francisco. Campbell told the crowd that he had hugged his boyfriend on the cover of Newsweek, and then kissed Hilliard on stage “to show Middle America that gay love is beautiful.”
In a powerful speech, Campbell denounced the Christian right for their practice of using scripture to justify their homophobia, and he slammed the Reagan administration for its lack of action. He held 15 seconds of silence for “the 2,000 who had died of AIDS at that point and for those who will die before this is over.”
Two weeks later, Campbell appeared on CBS Evening News in a live interview with Dan Rather. While the rumors and fear of AIDS had reached the general public, the facts had not, so Campbell was placed in a glass booth, and technicians refused to come near him to wire up his microphone for the interview.
Soon after his TV appearance, he was admitted to a hospital and needed to be placed on life support. With Hillard and his parents by his side, Campbell died on August 15, 1984, exactly a month after his DNC speech. He was 32 years old.
At the close of 1981, a cumulative total of 270 cases of severe immune deficiency are reported among gay men, and 121 of those individuals have died.
Kenneth Schnorr, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.Learn More.
Schnorr would be among the first in the U.S. to die of AIDS. After being found unconscious in his car in December 1981, he would remain hospitalized with a life-threatening illness that perplexed Cedars-Sinai’s top-notch medical team.
West Hollywood activist Ivy Bottini, who was Schnorr’s friend, would tell the story of Schnorr’s illness and death in her 2018 memoir The Liberation of Ivy Bottini.
Bottini recalls receiving a phone call from Schnorr’s mother, who was sitting bedside with him.
“He’s full of black and blue marks…. I don’t know what to do,” Schnorr’s mother told her.
Bottini asked to talk with Schnorr, and quickly realized that he had lost his hearing. She eventually was able to speak with Schnorr’s doctor, Joel Weisman, M.D., who would go on to open one of the first medical clinics to treat HIV/AIDS. When Dr. Weisman was unable to give Bottini a clear picture of what was going on, she felt a growing dread that Schnorr’s condition was an indication of a larger issue.
Schnorr died about a week after entering the hospital. Bottini was among the members of the Stonewall Democratic Club who attended Schnorr’s funeral.
“After Ken died, something said to me there is more to this than we see,” Bottini said. “So, for some reason, I just picked up the phone and called the CDC. I had never done that before. ‘Look, this just happened to my friend. Do you have any answers?’ The hesitancy at the other end of the line, the hemming and the hawing before they would say anything — I just knew it was bad.”
The CDC official told her the black and blue marks was a symptom of Kaposi sarcoma, which was usually found in elderly Jewish men.
“And that was the explanation,” she said. “I thought, ‘No, this doesn’t make sense, because Ken was one of three first guys diagnosed with Kaposi in town, in West Hollywood, in LA, and that started me on working to find out what the hell was going on.”
After many phone calls and the realization that the government was failing to act on the crisis, Bottini called Dr. Weisman to invite him to update the community at a town hall she was organizing at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park. She was hoping he would share any information he had and would provide his theory on how this new illness was transmitted. She herself suspected that it was being passed during sex, through bodily fluids.
“That’s the only thing that made sense to me,” Bottini said. “Because if it was airborne, women would be getting it, everybody would be getting it, and that wasn’t happening.”
On the night of the town hall, Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park was jam-packed.
“It was all guys — and Dottie Wine (Bottini’s girlfriend) and I,” Bottini recalled. “And Joel talked about transmission and he believed it was bodily fluids, too. And I thought, ‘I’m not crazy.’”
Schnorr’s legacy was that he may have saved many lives by inspiring Bottini and others to search for answers and share that information with the greater community in the earliest days of the epidemic.
Lenny Baker, who won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Actor (Featured Role – Musical), dies of AIDS-related illness in a hospital in Hallandale Beach, Florida at the age of 37.Learn More.
Born Leonard Joel Baker in 1945 in Boston, he began his acting career in regional theater and spent several summers at the O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Connecticut.
He told an interviewer in 1977 that the center was instrumental in his career, partly because he saw performances of the National Theater for the Deaf there.
”It’s perhaps because of watching them work,” Baker said, ”that I can be so brazen with comic uses of my body.”
After moving to New York City in 1969, Baker acted in Off-Broadway stage productions until making his Broadway stage debut in 1974 in The Freedom of the City. Baker would go on to win a Tony award and the Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actor in 1977 for his performance in the musical I Love My Wife.
Baker also acted in films and television shows, including Paul Mazursky’s Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award. His other film credits included The Hospital (1971) and The Paper Chase (1973).
Following Baker’s death, a memorial service would be held at the Public Theater, located at 425 Lafayette Street in New York City.
Larry Hinneman, a dancer with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness.
The exact date of Hinneman’s death is not known, nor is his age at the time of his death.
Twenty-two cases of “an unexplained immunodeficiency” and opportunitistic infections in infants are described in CDC’s report.Learn More.
In the MMWR article, “Unexplained Immunodeficiency and Opportunistic Infections in Infants — New York, New Jersey, California,” CDC states, “It is possible that these infants had the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS),” but the report stops short of making a definitive diagnosis.
The report describes the case of a 20-month-old San Francisco infant who developed AIDS symptoms. One of the 19 donors of the blood components received by the infant during his first month of life was subsequently reported to have AIDS. The report suggests that blood transfusion was the means by which the infant had acquired AIDS.\
“If platelet transfusion contained an etiologic agent for AIDS, one must assume that the agent can be present in the blood of a donor before onset of symptomatic illness and that the incubation period for such illness can be relatively long,” stated the CDC report in an editorial note. “This model for AIDS transmission is consistent with findings described in an investigation of a cluster of sexually related AIDS cases among homosexual men in southern California.”
In another MMWR report, the Centers for Disease Control reports four additional cases of immune-suppressed infants, none of whom received blood transfusions.Learn More.
The CDC report provides background on the infant cases:
- the mother of one was a prostitute and IV drug user;
- two were the children of Haitian immigrants; and
- one was the child of an IV drug-using woman who had died of AIDS.
Although the nature of the immune function described in the four cases was unclear, the report suggests that the infants likely were infected with the AIDS virus and that the death of one of the mothers from Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia was probably secondary to AIDS.
The CDC further stated that although the etiology of AIDS remained unknown, a series of epidemiological observations suggested the condition of the infants was caused by an infectious agent.
The CDC publishes its first article that includes women among those diagnosed with AIDS.
“Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Immunodeficiency among Female Sexual Partners of Males with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — New York” described the first cases of AIDS in women.
Readers of the New York Native take notice of “1,112 and Counting,” AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s urgent plea for the NY Gay Community to get angry at the lack of government support and scientific advances in the fight against AIDS.Learn More.
Published in the New York Native, Kramer provides a blistering assessment of the impact of AIDS on the gay community, the quickly rising numbers of sick and dying gay men and the slow pace of scientific progress in finding a cause for AIDS.
Kramer’s historic essay opens with:
“If this article doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If this article doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get.”
This essay was just the beginning for Kramer, in what would become a lifetime of activism and advocacy. He would go on to write The Normal Heart, the first serious artistic examination of the AIDS crisis, and he would found ACT UP, a protest organization widely credited with having changed public health policy and the public’s awareness of HIV and AIDS.
“There is no question in my mind that Larry helped change medicine in this country. And he helped change it for the better. In American medicine there are two eras. Before Larry and after Larry,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Lancet medical journal reports on the case of an infant who received multiple blood transfusions during the first few days of life and then developed multiple opportunistic infections when 6 months old. The infant dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 17 months.Learn More.
Between the age of 6-14 months old, the infant developed symptoms of hepatitis, thrush, Candida dermatitis, otitis media, and Mycobacterium avium intracellulare. Tests revealed raised immunoglobulin levels, decreased mononuclear-cell responses to allogeneic cells and mitogen, and a decreased T-cell ratio.
It was determined that a blood donor, who was well at the time of blood donation, had died of AIDS about 17 months after donating. The case study’s researchers find that the infant likely acquired AIDS (“a transmissible infectious agent’) from the blood transfusion.
Rock star Jobriath dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 36. He was the first openly gay pop singerto be signed to a major record label, and one of the first internationally famous musicians to die of AIDS.Learn More.
Born Bruce Wayne Campbell and raised in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, Jobriath started his music career in the West Coast production of the musical Hair, receiving positive reviews in the lead role of Woof, a character implied to be gay. After leaving the production in 1969, he joined the folk-rock band Pidgeon as their lead singer and guitarist, followed by a two-album solo deal with Elektra Records in 1972.
His debut album Jobriath, released in June 1973, would feature an album sleeve design by photographer Shig Ikeda depicting a nude Jobriath as an ancient Greek statue. This photograph was used in an extensive publicity campaign for the album release.
Critical praise for the album followed the hype, and he was often compared with David Bowie, some critics contending that Jobriath had more talent than Bowie. But American music fans of the 1970s weren’t ready for a talent like Jobriath.
“At a concert at the Nassau Coliseum, chants of ‘faggot’ started from the minute he took the stage, along with rubbish thrown at him, and Jobriath was forced a flee the stage,” writes music historian Kevin Burke.
Elektra then rush-released Jobriath’s second album and ended its contract with him. Jobriath would spend the rest of the ’70s in a new identity, “Cole Berlin” (an amalgamation of Cole Porter and Irving Berlin), whose professions were nightclub signer and sex worker.
Jobriath had begun to feel ill in late 1981 but still managed to contribute to the Chelsea Hotel’s 100th birthday celebration in November 1982.
“A decade after his billboards hung in Times Square, Jobriath Boone died alone and abandoned in his rooftop apartment at the Chelsea Hotel,” Burke writes. “Sadly overlooking the New York skyline he once adorned, here his body lay decomposing for four days before it was found.”
Klaus Nomi, a world-famous countertenor, dies of AIDS at the age of 39. Although Nomi’s work had not yet met with national commercial success, he has a cult following in New York and in France.Learn More.
Nomi is an important part of the 1980s East Village scene, a hotbed of development for punk rock music, the visual arts and the avant-garde. Born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Germany, Nomi began his career in the 1960s, singing opera arias at the Berlin gay discothèque Kleist Casino. His distinctive performances featured his wide vocal range and an otherworldly stage persona.
In 1978, he caught the attention of the NYC art scene with his performance in “New Wave Vaudeville.” Dressed in a skin-tight spacesuit with a clear plastic cape, Nomi sang the aria “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” (“My heart opens to your voice”) from Camille Saint-Saëns’ opera Samson et Dalila. After that performance Nomi was invited to perform at clubs all over New York City.
Nomi would go on to create the Klaus Nomi Band, release albums, and perform in NYC’s top clubs. In 1979, David Bowie hired Nomi as a backup singer for his Dec. 15 appearance on Saturday Night Live. During the performance of “TVC 15,” Nomi and Joey Arias dragged around a large prop pink poodle with a television screen in its mouth.
In the last several months of his life, Nomi would change his focus to operatic pieces and adopted a Baroque era operatic outfit complete with full collar as his typical onstage attire. The collar helped cover the outbreaks of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Nomi’s death at the Sloan Kettering Hospital Center in New York City is one of the first of many celebrity deaths from AIDS.
Modern dancer Graham Conley, who performed with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.
A Florida hospital arranged for a private jet to fly a patient with AIDS to San Francisco, where he was left at a local AIDS foundation with $300 cash.Learn More.
Morgan MacDonald, 27, of Vero Beach, Florida, was brought to San Francisco in a chartered Lear jet after being discharged from Shands Hospital at the University of Florida at Gainesville. MacDonald told Dr. Mervyn Silverman, San Francisco’s public health director, that he was transported to California against his will.
Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, spent $7,000 for a private jet to fly MacDonald to San Francisco last week and leave him on a stretcher at the office of a city-funded AIDS foundation. He was immediately transferred to the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital.
Dianne Feinstein, then-Mayor of San Francisco, sent a telegram to Gov. Bob Graham of Florida, asserting that a hospital there dumped an unwanted AIDS patient by having him flown to San Francisco. She called the incident “outrageous and inhumane.”
Gov. Graham’s press secretary said Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services would investigate the matter.
Virginia Hunt, Shands’ public relations director, defended the hospital’s actions, saying MacDonald no longer needed hospital care and the hospital was unable to find a Florida nursing home for him. She contended that the AIDS Foundation in San Francisco agreed to give Mr. MacDonald 30 days’ free housing.
But Dr. Silverman said the Florida hospital had made contact with both the City of San Francisco and the AIDS Foundation and ”played us one off against the other.”
Silverman said MacDonald was free to return to Florida, but said his condition was acute and it was essential that he receive proper care.
MacDonald would die 21 days later at San Francisco General Hospital’s AIDS Ward. MacDonald was said to have no family. Before his hospitalization, he lived in a religious commune in Florida.
John Ponyman, an off-Broadway actor who migrated to San Francisco, dies of AIDS- related illness at the age of 41.Learn More.
Ponyman regularly appeared in shows at Theatre Rhinoceros. His final project was a solo show titled “Sawdust,” featuring several of his own songs.
Canadian flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas dies of AIDS in Quebec City at the age of 32. A few years later, Dugas would be erroneously vilified as “Patient Zero” due to the CDC’s labeling of his case as “patient O” (as in the letter O).Learn More.
In 1987, three years after the death of Dugas, journalist Randy Shilts would publish the best-selling book And the Band Played On, an influential work on HIV that would help shame the U.S. Government into properly funding research.
Tucked away in the book would be a few pages on so-called “patient zero” to illustrate how the virus could spread. Shilts would identify “patient zero” as Dugas, who had a home in Los Angeles, and implied that he was the first-known source of the HIV spread in the U.S.
The media would erupt: Dugas’ hansome face would be pubished everywhere, and he would be characterised as a kind of “typhoid Mary” who callously spread the virus in the early 1980s.
Flash-forward to 2016, when this would be scientifically disproven by a group of researchers led by evolutionary biologist Dr. Michael Worobey. Worobey’s team conducted a genetic study of blood samples taken from gay and bisexual men in 1978 and 1979 as part of a hepatitis B study, and based on the results of the data, concluded that Dugas was not the source of the virus in the U.S.
“On the family tree of the virus, Dugas fell in the middle, not at the beginning” Worobey concluded. “Beliefs about Patient Zero are unsupported by scientific data.”
Worobey’s paper, published in Nature in October 2016, finds neither biological nor historical evidence that Dugas was the primary case in the U.S.
It is also important to note that Dugas was particularly helpful and transparent with the CDC in tracing his network of partners, providing names and addresses for many of them (which was further expanded because others remembered his distinctive name).
Performer Bill Kendall, who received rave reviews for his portrayal of “Mr. Peanut” in the long-running San Francisco production of Beach Blanket Babylon, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35. He is pictured with the cast (standing far left).
Beach Blanket Babylon was the world’s longest-running musical revue at the time. The show began its run in 1974 at the Savoy Tivoli and later moved to the larger Club Fugazi in the North Beach district of San Francisco.
Kendall was in the production’s original 1974 cast and continued to be a featured performer through 1982, playing the roles of Superman, John Travolta Sat Night Fever, and The Original Mr. Peanut.
Beach Blanket Babylon was created by Steve Silver, who died of AIDS-related illness in 1995. The San Francisco Chronicle described the show’s roots as a combination of “Vegas lounge acts, the Follies Bergere, God Rush-era extravaganzas, English music halls, a child’s birthday party gone mad and dopey beach party movies.”
Dennis Yount, a Marine who served in the Presidential Honor Guard at President Kennedy’s bier in the Capitol Rotunda, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 43.Learn More.
Yount was born in North Carolina and attended North Carolina University at Columbia before joining the Marines. In 1970, he moved to New York City and became a favorite bartender at the Village bar Trilogy. He moved to San Francisco in 1980 and began tending bar at the Eagle.
Once relocated to the Bay Area, Yount also pursued his long-held interest in acting, being cast in stage productions of Delivery and Sunsets.
Allan Estes, the founding artistic director of Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29. His final project, “The AIDS Show,” would become the first work by a theater company to deal with the AIDS epidemic.Learn More.
Theatre Rhinoceros is the nation’s oldest and longest-running LGBTQIA+ theater, founded in 1977 by Estes.
Estes came to San Francisco from Boston in 1977 with one goal: to establish a theater where the gay community could go to make and see theater which reflected the realities and joys of homosexual life.
From 1977 until 1984, Estes and Theatre Rhinoceros produced works by gay New York writers that included Doric Wilson, Robert Patrick, Lanford Wilson, Terrence McNally, and Harvey Fierstein, as well as several San Francisco playwrights including C.D. Arnold, Robert Chesley, Cal Youmans, Philip Real, and Dan Curzon.
In the early 1980s, Allan began transforming the Rhino from a gay men’s theater into a lesbian and gay theater, and invited lesbian screenwriters to stage their plays.
In 1984, he conceived the production Artists Involved with Death and Survival (“The AIDS Show”), which was brought to fruition by director Leland Moss (who would die from AIDS at age 41) and included the works of 20 Bay Area playwrights. “The AIDS Show” became the first work by a theater company to deal with the AIDS epidemic.
In 1987, “The AIDS Show” and its touring company became the subject of a PBS documentary by Rob Epstein and Peter Adair and brought the Rhino national attention.
When Estes died, his friends and collaborators vowed to continue Theatre Rhinoceros as a monument to their fallen leader.
Bay Area dancer Charles Butts — who performed with Dance Spectrum, Xoregos Dance Company, Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo and Valerie Huston Dance Company — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31.
Singer-songwriter António Variações, Portugal’s first gay superstar, dies of AIDS-related illiness in Lisbon, Portugal at the age of 39.Learn More.
Variações made his TV debut in 1981 during the Sunday variety show on Portugal’s sole broadcaster, recounts Pedro João Santos in his Guardian profile.
“He sang a punk metaphor about pills while a dancer dressed as a giant aspirin threw Smarties at the dumbfounded audience,” writes Santos. “Nothing so transgressive had ever graced Portugal’s airwaves.”
His 1983 bestselling debut album, Anjo da Guarda (Guardian Angel), features Variações’ Portuguese folk-style singing set to new-wave music. His follow-up album, Dar & Receber, fused disco-rock with synthpop.
In May 1984, Variações was admitted to hospital due to illness, according to The AIDS Memorial. Except for his family and close friends, he received few visitors during his hospital stay. A month later, the media reported that his health had deteriorated and rumours began to circulate that he had AIDS.
The initial cause of Variações’ death would be reported as bilateral bronchial pneumonia. At his funeral on June 15, 1984, the coffin would be sealed shut by order of the Portugese government.
Paul-Michel Foucault, one of the most influential and controversial scholars of the post-World War II period, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 57.
A day later, French newspaper Libération would include in the death notice a mention of the rumor that it had been brought on by AIDS. The day after that, Le Monde would issue a medical bulletin cleared by his family that makes no reference to HIV/AIDS.
On 29 June, Foucault’s la levée du corps ceremony would be held, in which the coffin is carried from the hospital morgue. Hundreds attend, including activists and academic friends, while French philosopher Gilles Deleuze gives a speech using excerpts from Foucault’s extensive examination of sexuality in the Western world, The History of Sexuality.
His body is then buried at Vendeuvre-du-Poitou in a small ceremony.
The son and grandson of a physician, Foucault was born to a bourgeois family. A distinguished but sometimes erratic student, Foucault gained entry at the age of 20 to the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1946, and established a reputation as a sedulous, brilliant, and eccentric student.
After graduating in 1952, Foucault travelled Europe, issued monographs of his work and, in 1969, published L’Archéologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge), which won him attention as one of the most original and controversial thinkers of his day.
A year later, he was awarded a chair position at the Collège de France, the country’s most prestigious postsecondary institution, and began conducting intensive research.
Between 1971 and 1984 Foucault wrote several works, including Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison (1975; Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison); three volumes of a history of Western sexuality; and numerous essays.
Foucault continued to travel widely, and as his reputation grew he spent extended periods in Brazil, Japan, Italy, Canada, and the U.S. He became particularly attached to the San Francisco Bay area and was a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley for several years.
Although Foucault reportedly despised the label “homosexual,” he was openly gay and occasionally praised the pleasures of sadomasochism and the bathhouse. Foucault died of a septicemia typical of AIDS, with the fourth volume of his history of sexuality still incomplete.
Foucault’s partner Daniel Defert would go on to found the first HIV/AIDS organisation in France, AIDES; a play on the French language word for “help” (aide) and the English language acronym for the disease. On the second anniversary of Foucault’s death, Defert would publicly reveal that Foucault’s death was AIDS-related.
AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell dies of AIDS-related illness at age 32.Learn More.
Just one month earlier, Campbell spoke at the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.
Campbell told the crowd that he had hugged his boyfriend on the cover of Newsweek, “to show Middle America that gay love is beautiful.” He held 15 seconds of silence for the 2,000 who had died of AIDS at that point “and [for] those who will die before this is over.”
He then laid-out a series of concerns for politicians to address — including increased funding for both research and support services and a warning of the potential for discrimination with the advent of a test for HTLV-3 (now known as HIV) — and appealing to all candidates in the upcoming elections to meet with people with AIDS.
Two weeks after his DNC speech, Campbell appeared on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. While the rumors and fear of AIDS had reached a mainstream audience, the facts had not, so Campbell was placed in a glass booth, with technicians refusing to come near him to wire up microphones for the interview.
At noon on August 15, 1984, exactly a month after his DNC speech and after 2 days on life support in intensive care, Bobbi Campbell died at San Francisco General Hospital. His parents and his partner Bobby Hilliard were by his side. Bobbi Campbell was 32 years old and had lived for over 3½ years with what was by then called AIDS.
His partner Bobby Hilliard would succumb to the deadly disease not long afterwards.
Roger Gail Lyon, famous for being among the first three Persons With AIDS to testify to Congress about the epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 36.Learn More.
“I came here today with the hope that this administration would do everything possible, make every resource available — there is no reason this disease cannot be conquered,” said Lyon in 1983 in his testimony before Congress.
“We do not need in-fighting, this is not a political issue,” he said. “This is a health issue. This is not a gay issue. This is a human issue.”
Lyon travelled from the Bay Area to the nation’s capital to speak before a Congressional hearing on the government’s (largely nonexistant) response to the AIDS crisis. Accompanying him on the panel were activists Michael Callen of New York and Anthony Ferrara of Washington.
Lyon was born in 1948 in Houston, later moved to Chicago and then San Francisco. He was a branch manager for the San Francisco Maritime Shipping Company when he was diagnosed with AIDS in early 1983.
Little more is known about Lyon, because his health began to decline in the year following his moment in the political spotlight.
Lyon’s ashes were scattered, along with the ashes of many others who died of AIDS, on the White House lawn during an ACT UP protest in 1996.
James Thomason-Bergner, musical director and conductor for the San Francisco production of Beach Blanket Babylon, dies of AIDS-related illness on his 40th birthday. He was also a vocal coach and headed the musical theater program at Lone Mountain College.
The Center for Disease Control reports that as of April 30, 1985, the number of AIDS cases in the U.S. has increased substantially. Of the 10,000 reported cases, 9,887 are adults and 113 are children.Learn More.
Since the initial reports of AIDS in the spring of 1981, the number of cases reported each half-year has increased significantly, with more than half of the 10,000 cases being reported within the last year.
Of the 10,000 reported AIDS cases, 4,942 are known to have died (49% of the adults and 69% of the children). About 75% of patients diagnosed before January 1983 are known dead.
The CDC report states that 90% of adult patients are 20-49 years old, and 94% are men. The racial breakdown of the cases are: 60% white; 25% black; and 14% Hispanic.
The report also notes that the proportion of AIDS cases in transfusion recipients has increased significantly.
At this point, AIDS has been diagnosed in patients from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories. Among cases reported before May 1983, 47% of the adults were residents of New York. As the virus spread geographically between 1984 and 1985, the proportion of adults reported with AIDS from New York decreased to 34%.
Among the 113 pediatric patients, 58% percent were under 1 year old at diagnosis; and 72% came from families in which one or both parents had AIDS or were at increased risk for developing AIDS, 13% had received transfusions of blood or blood components before their onsets of illness, and 5% had hemophilia.
Pediatric cases were reported from 17 states; 82% were from New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California. Of the 81 pediatric patients with a parent with AIDS or at increased risk for AIDS, 69 were residents of New York, New Jersey, or Florida.
Actor Rock Hudson dies of an AIDS-related illness at age 59. As the first major U.S. public figure to publicly acknowledge AIDS diagnosis, Hudson’s death marks a turning point in public perceptions about the epidemic.Learn More.
Hudson leaves $250,000 to help set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). Actress Elizabeth Taylor serves as the organization’s founding National Chairman.
Dwight Burk , aged 20 months, dies of AIDS in Cresson, Pennsylvania. He was the first child of a hemophiliac known to be born with AIDS.Learn More.
Dwight’s case prompted the National Hemophilia Foundation in April 1985 to advise hemophiliacs to postpone having children for a few years until scientists can perfect a technique to kill the AIDS virus in blood clotting concentrates.
Dwight’s father, 27-year-old Patrick Burk, was infected with HIV from his hemophiliac treatment of blood clotting concentrates. More than a year before learning he had HIV, he passed the virus to his 25-year-old wife, Lauren, who became pregnant with Dwight.
Doctors believe Dwight most likely contracted the disease in utero.
Burk told the Associated Press that an autopsy was to be performed at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and that the body would be used for medical study.
The United Nations announces that at least one HIV case has been reported in each region of the world, indicating that the epidemic is becoming a global issue.
Charles “Chuck” Lee Morris, former owner and publisher of the San Francisco Sentinel, dies of AIDS-related illness in Denver at the age of 42. Morris is also the co-founder of two AIDS hospice programs in California.Learn More.
Believed to be one of the longest-living victims of AIDS, Morris had reportedly been seriously ill since April 1978, but he wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS until 1982
Morris was a confidant of then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein and often was sought for political endorsements from such people as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Walter F. Mondale.
In the early 1980s, Morris helped found two hospice programs in California for those dying of AIDS.
Morris and his partner moved to Denver in the spring of 1984. Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick, Morris’ physician and an AIDS researcher at National Jewish Hospital, said Morris survived four to five times longer than most AIDS patients. He said the average survival time of someone with full-blown AIDS is 12-18 months.
More people were diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 than in all earlier years combined, according to the CDC. Public health experts predict twice as many new AIDS cases in 1986.Learn More.
The CDC report states that, on average, people diagnosed with AIDS die about 15 months after the disease is diagnosed. The report also shows:
- Between 6/1/1981 and 1/13/1986, there have been 16,458 cases of AIDS (16,227 adults and 231 children) reported in the U.S. Of these, more than half of the infected people have died.
- The number of cases reported each 6-month period continues to increase.
- Cases have been reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories.
“One million Americans have already been infected with the virus, and this number will jump to at least 2 million or 3 million within 5 to 10 years,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci tells The New York Times.
Howard Greenfield, the 20-year songwriting partner of Neil Sedaka, dies of AIDS-related illness in Los Angeles at the age of 49.Learn More.
Born in 1936, Greenfield grew up in the same Brighton Beach apartment building as Sedaka, who was three years older than Greenfield.
“After Howie’s mother Ella had seen me, he came ringing my doorbell,” Sedaka would tell Goldmine magazine years later. “I was playing Chopin, and he said, ‘My mother heard you play and thought we could write a song together.'”
The first Greenfield-Sedaka hit would be ‘‘Stupid Cupid,” recorded by Connie Francis in 1958. Later collaborations with Sedaka included ”Calendar Girl,” ”Oh! Carol” and ”Next Door to an Angel.”
Greenfield was openly gay at a time when it was particularly courageous to do so. His companion from the early 1960s until his death was cabaret singer Tory Damon.
The two lived together in an apartment on East 63rd Street in Manhattan before moving to Los Angeles in 1966. Damon would die of AIDS-related illness just 26 days after Greenfield’s death.
Greenfield’s and Damon’s bodies are interred side-by-side at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Damon’s epitaph reads: Love Will Keep Us Together…, and Greenfield’s epitaph continues: … Forever.
Barry Robins, best known for his portrayal of troubled teenager “Cotton” in the 1971 film Bless the Beasts & Children, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.Learn More.
In New York Times article, “The Gay Film That Changed My Life,” actor John Cameron Mitchell credits Robin’s portrayal of “Cotton” as having a profound impact on him as a boy.
In particular, Mitchell is moved by the scene in which Robin’s character saves another character, a “delicate, blond shiksa” named Gerold, from a gang of bullies.
“The mean boys part for Cotton as he reaches a hand out to the boy,” Mitchell recalls. “Branded on my 10-year-old brain was Gerold’s heartbreaking expression when he realizes that for the first time there is someone he can trust and, just maybe, love.”
Mitchell adds, “It was sad to hear that Robins succumbed to AIDS in 1986. If we’d met, I would’ve thanked him for helping me out of the pond.”
In 2013, actor and comedian Jason Stuart would tell A&U: Art & Understanding magazine:
“When Barry got really sick, he stopped seeing people, including me. I was devastated. I remember going by his apartment, knocking on his door, and he would not answer it. He would tell me, ‘Go away. It’s better that way.’ I respected his wishes. To this day I regret that.”
Stephen Stucker, the scene-stealing comic performer in the Airplane! movies, dies from AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.Learn More.
Stucker was known for zany portrayals in comedies, notably the manic air traffic controller Johnny in the 1980s Airplane! movies.
Created by the directing-writing team of Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker, the Airplane! movies featured Stucker in a non-essential role that wasn’t crucial to the plot. But in a movie with established stars, larger-than-life performances and endless jokes, Stucker managed to steal every scene he’s in with his comic performance.
Some may see the character as an offensive stereotype that hasn’t aged well, but Stucker’s performance can also be viewed as progressive for its time, a character that is unapologetically gay in an era where that was still taboo. Johnny is never harassed or bullied by the over-the-top manly-men characters (played by Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen) that dominate Airplane! Instead, Johnny turns the joke around on them and provides the perfect foil to their authority, gruffness, and self-importance. The screenwriters developed the character specifically for Stucker, who wrote his own lines for the part and ad-libbed many of them.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Stucker moved with his family to Alameda, California, where he attended Lincoln School. During his school days Stephen was known as both an accomplished pianist and a class clown with a dry wit. Stucker made his film debut in 1975 as a crazed asylum escapee in Delinquent School Girls (also released as Carnal Madness).
He went on to perform in the 1977 earthquake-disaster comedy Cracking Up, alongside Fred Willard, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer. Stucker had been a scene-stealing member of the cast of the Madison, Wisconsin Kentucky Fried Theater sketch comedy troupe founded by Abrahams and the Zucker brothers and, in 1977, he appeared in the film based on the troupe’s comedy sketches. The Airplaine! movies soon followed.
Stucker also appeared on Marie Osmond’s TV show, Marie (1981), and on one of the last epidodes of Mork and Mindy (1982), playing a wildly enthusiastic TV producer intent on capitalizing on Mork’s fame.
Stucker was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1984, and was one of the first celebrities to go public with his diagnosis. He appeared on talk shows like Donahue, where his unrestrained and acerbic personality sometimes bumped hard against an audience ignorant and fearful of AIDS.
Dancer and choreographer Ed Mock — who fused modern dance and jazz dance, acting, improvisation and mime in his work — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.Learn More.
Born in Chicago, Mock performed as a boy in his family’s pool hall, tapping out steps for customers. Athletic in high school, he chose to pursue dance because, as he would tell the San Francisco Examiner in 1980, “I just love body movement, it was all just movement for me, and sports was just a function of that. I just was always aware of my body in a sort of a dance sense. I never try to tell anybody it’s an easy life, but not a day has ever gone past that dancing didn’t make me feel good emotionally and spiritually.”
As the founder of the West Coast Dance Company (1974-1979), Ed Mock Dancers (1980-1985), and the Ed Mock Dance Studio, Mock’s dance style and teaching influenced future generations of dancers and artists.
Brontez Purnell, Director of the documentary Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock, states, “I believe Ed Mock is the missing choreographic link between Alvin Ailey, Anna Halprin, and Bill T. Jones. He is my direct predecessor, creatively. We – artists, black queers, Bay Area dancers, gay men – have to extract our collective past and create the historical record.”
Mock would teach and perform taught and performed up until weeks before his death. In 1988, he would posthumously be elected to the Bay Area Dance Coalition Hall of Fame.
Herman George, the first in-house costume designer for the long-running stage show Beach Blanket Babylon,” dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.Learn More.
George also designed costumes for Charles Pierce and the San Francisco Opera.
Top fashion designer Perry Ellis dies at the age of 46. Ellis presented his first collection under his own name on Seventh Avenue in 1979 and almost immediately achieved star status.Learn More.
Both women and men adored Ellis’ fashion sense for its clean-cut, all-American look. What the designer did best was take elements of classic American style — like stadium coats, tweed jackets, and homey sweaters — and adapt them to suit the consumer passion for gender-neutral, high-quality separates.
His ethos earned him accolades — including the Coty Award for his first show in 1979, which he would go on to win eight more times, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Designer of the Year Award in 1982. And in 1984, he became the head of the CFDA, extending his influence on designers worldwide.
At the time, the cause of Ellis’ death was listed as viral encephalitis, but rumors of Ellis’s HIV-positive status made news after it came to light that his lover and business partner, Laughlin Barker, died earlier in the year of Kaposi’s sarcoma.
In a controversial move, some media organizations mentioned the rumor that Ellis was HIV-positive in his obituary.
While the vast majority of newspapers omitted mention of the rumor, the Washington Post, USA Today, Newsday and the San Francisco Examiner decided to publish it. Among the news magazines, Newsweek mentioned the AIDS rumor, and Time did not.
This started a conversation among media professionals worldwide about whether media outlets should mention AIDS as a cause of death if AIDS can be proved or is openly acknowledged — as was ultimately the case with actor Rock Hudson. Or, they posited, should they mention AIDS if it is only widely believed but neither acknowledged nor proved?
At the time, disclosure of HIV-positive status was a very sensitive subject, involving matters of privacy — medical and sexual — since many media consumers automatically assumed someone was gay if he had AIDS.
But many close to Ellis, including top industry professionals, already knew the fashion designer was ill.
“What really, truly, abruptly woke up the entire fashion industry was Perry walking out at the end of his last fashion show,” fashion designer Michael Kors recalled. “He barely could walk, and here was someone young, talented, great-looking, full of charm and life, and suddenly this was a shell of a human being.”
The show took place on May 8, and afterward Ellis checked himself into New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, where he died 22 days later.
Roy Cohn, best known for his role as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s investigation of alleged Communist sympathizers, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 59.Learn More.
A graduate of Columbia Law School at the age of 20, Cohn quickly made a name for himself in his first job with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, prosecuting cases of people with alleged ties to the Communist Party.
Impressed with Cohn’s performance at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover would recommend that Cohn be hired as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. McCarthy, who chaired the panel, hired the 24-year-old Cohn in January 1953.
“People born in the 1940s or earlier remember Cohn and his master performing on television,” writes Mary Ellen Clark in her 1988 book The Snarling Death of Roy M. Cohn. “They remember coming home to be hushed by a mother or aunt who was watching the hearings; they remember a father’s opinion, expressed at the family table when families still ate together.”
“For younger people, however, Roy Cohn was simply another name for a très smart lawyer, for Disco Dan, for the international, I-go-by-private-plane man,” writes Clark.
Throughout his later life, Cohn was well known for his lavish Washington parties, with wealthy and famous friends among his guests.
“He was a figure very tough and in on things, a champion of the underdog, though definitely running with the overdog pack,” Clark writes. “He nested on the nighttime radio call-in shows; he spread his wings over Koppel on Nightline. He appeared to be able to avoid all taxes and all penalties, maybe because he was connected, or on the A list, or known to the headwaiters and hostesses of New York.”
Cohn would be indicted four times from the mid-’60s to the early ’70s — for stock-swindling, obstructing justice, perjury, bribery, conspiracy, extortion, blackmail, and filing false reports. He is acquitted in three of the cases, and in the fourth, he would escape with a mistrial. This experience would give him “a kind of sneering, sinister sheen of invulnerability,” writes Michael Kruse in Politico.
Cohn would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984 after having a doctor examine a small cut from shaving that wouldn’t stop bleeding. During the visit, the doctor would remove two suspicious growths and the tests would reveal Cohn is HIV positive.
Cohn’s lover Peter Fraser, a New Zealander roughly half Cohn’s age, reported that, “When he found out, he didn’t cry but a couple of tears.”
Cohn would publicly deny that he was HIV positive and would keep his sexuality closeted for the rest of his life. According to Robert E. Bauman, who says he first meets Cohn on the day McCarthy dies in 1957, Cohn paradoxically had a reputation for “fag bashing” and loudly opposed laws that protected gays from discrimination.
In his last months of life, Cohn would be disbarred from law practice in New York for old fraud charges and he would lash out at the bar ethics committee, calling members “a bunch of yoyos.”
Cohn once said he wanted the first line of his obituary to read: “Roy M. Cohn, who served as chief counsel to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.”
“Cohn didn’t quite get his wish,” writes Bauman.
When Cohn dies, the headlines would trumpet the fact that he died from complications of AIDS. The mention about McCarthy would come second.
Way Bandy, one of the fashion world’s best-known makeup artists and a best-selling author, died of AIDS-related illness at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center at the age of 45.Learn More.
Prior to his death, Bandy requested that media outlets report his death as AIDS-related, which was then uncommon.
Born in 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama, Bandy pursued childhood interests that included sewing, music, painting and movie magazines. His family moved to Tennessee, where he graduated from high school. He returned to Birmingham to attend college for two years and then dropped out to model for department stores. He later earned a degree in education at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, and became an English teacher in Alabama. He married, but separated from his wife shortly after visiting New York City for the first time in 1965.
Bandy moved to New York, changed his name (from Ronald Duane Wright) and enrolled at Christine Valmy’s makeup school. Within a few months, he was heading the salon there.
Considered the “greatest makeup artist in the world” by Vogue fashion editor Polly Allen Mellen, Bandy was in high demand throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. He worked with hundreds of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, Catherine Deneuve, Lauren Hutton, Farrah Fawcett, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Cher.
He worked closely with top photographers, such as Scavullo, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Horst, Hiro and Victor Skrebneski. In 1977, he authored a bestselling makeup manual entitled Designing Your Face, and followed this in 1981 with another manual, Styling Your Face.
Bandy was one of the first to use color and texture innovatively. For example, he recommended blending moisturizer with a little water and “red-colored fluid” and “spreading all over the face for a rosy glow.” This was decades before the use of red liquid cheek stains became popular.
A pioneer of contouring, Bandy instructed his subjects to “reveal to our mirror only our best angles and most flattering illusions of reality, as seen through blurred vision and whatever other tricks we have at our disposal.”
Bandy’s techniques sought to create what he referred to as a “Personal Sculpture Portrait” through contouring with “light and dark.”
The opening paragraph of Designing Your Face contains this piece of advice: “I was bored for most of my youth because I tried to do not only what was expected of me, but also many other things I did not enjoy. One day I realized that when you do something with your whole being simply because you love to do it, you experience life as it should be lived. It was then I decided to be free and to do something I loved doing – creating beauty.”
Bandy’s makeup techniques continue to inspire generations of beauty pros and consumers.
Charles “Chaz” Watson, who acted in stage productions in the Bay Area, dies at the age of 37. Watson was also a drum major for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band.
Transportation historian Anthony Herschel Perles — author of Tours of Discovery, co-author of The People’s Railway and Inside MUNI — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.
Raymond Tasco, an actor and director with Oakland Ensemble Theatre and Black Repertory Group, dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.Learn More.
Tasco directed several works at Theatre Rhinoceros and Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. He also co-founded the Bay Area Black Artists’ Connection support group.
Nancy Cole Sawaya, co-founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies in Sherman Oaks Community Hospital from AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.Learn More.
Two months before, on August 4, Sawaya publicly disclosed that she had contracted AIDS, apparently from sexual encounters with men prior to her marriage, at least one of whom later died of AIDS complications.
“I just wish people would realize that it could happen to anybody,” Sawaya would tell the Los Angeles Times. “I do this couple support group on Monday nights, and all these people are a group of well-educated, down-to-earth, loving, successful people. It’s not the image like when you see on TV — they immediately shoot to Santa Monica Boulevard, somebody in leather, groping the other person, and it’s not like that.”
Sawaya began her HIV/AIDS advocacy work in 1982, when she helped to create the first hotline in Los Angeles to share verified medical information about the disease. In December 1982, she hosted a Christmas party to raise $8,000 for a new organization — AIDS Project Los Angeles. In early 1983, APLA would open its doors on Cole Avenue, with herself, Max Drew, Matt Redman, and Ervin Munro as Founders.
In the beginning, APLA had five clients, which would grow to 100 by the end of the year, and by the middle of 1984, APLA would serve 200 clients — and the numbers kept growing. Sawaya was the first to manage APLA’s client services operation, often working 60 hours a week.
Sawaya would leave behind her husband, Louis; and an adopted daughter, Morgan.
CDC reports that AIDS cases are disproportionately affecting black and latinx communities. This is particularly true for children in these communities, who make up 90% of perinatally-acquired AIDS cases.
Marcelino Sánchez, best known for his starring role as Rembrandt in the 1979 cult classic, The Warriors, dies of AIDS-related illness in his Hollywood home at the age of 28.Learn More.
Born in Puerto Rico, Sánchez began acting in the late 1970s, according to the Los Angeles Blade. He played Ricardo on The Bloodhound Gang mystery vignettes featured on the 1980s children’s educational television show 3-2-1 Contact. He also appeared in TV shows CHiPs, Hill Street Blues and the film 48 Hrs.
In an interview with Noblemania.com, Bloodhound Gang co-star Nan-Lynn Nelson recalled:
“Marcelino had actually contacted me months prior to his passing to let me know that he was sick. We met and spent an entire day together while he was here in NYC, basically to say good-bye. I still think of Marcelino often.”
In 1986, Sánchez’s health would decline quickly. His sister and brother would come to Los Angeles to take care of him until his death just a two weeks shy of his 28th birthday, according to the tribute to him on Gran Varones, a website dedicated to pop culture, queer history & storytelling through a Afro-Latinx Queer lens.
Arthur Conrad — director of more than 200 productions for the Marin Opera, West Bay Opera, Oakland Opera, Sacramento Opera and the Lamplighters — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 51.
Founder of the Gay Men’s Theater Collective and co-creator of its pioneering production Crimes Against Nature, Chuck Solomon dies of AID-related illness at the age of 40.Learn More.
As an actor and director, Solomon worked with several local companies, including the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Theatre Rhinoceros.
He is immortalized in Marc Huestis’ 1987 documentary “Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age,” which received the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. In the film, Solomon is celebrated by members of his family and about 350 friends on his 40th birthday.
Emmy-Award winning pianist and mainstay of the Las Vegas entertainment scene Liberace dies at his Palm Springs, California home at the age of 67.Learn More.
Liberace’s doctor claims that the man called “Mr. Showmanship” died of a heart attack caused by an underlying brain infection. But an autopsy by the county coroner reveals that Liberace died of AIDS-related illness.
Just weeks before his death, Liberace was treated at Eisenhower Medical Center for what his staff called “the effects of a watermelon diet.” Hundreds of friends and tourists kept vigil outside of his Palm Springs home as rumors of his real illness became rampant.
When death seemed imminent, his attorney would tell reporters that Liberace chose his Palm Springs home to die because, “I think he wanted to rest in the place he loves. He’s always thinking about his fans. He wants to be remembered as he was — an entertainer. I think it’s nice that fans are here and supporting him.”
The news of Liberace’s death demonstrates the powerful stigma of AIDS and leads to a national discussion about the rights of people living with AIDS to privacy, both before and after death.
Neal Lo Monaco, the pincipal cellist of the Sacramento Symphony and a member of the Sacramento String Quartet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.
Antonio Lopez, whose drawings appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, and Interview, dies of AIDS-related illness at the UCLA Medical Center at the age of 44.Learn More.
Based in New York, Lopez had come to Los Angeles for a showing of his drawings at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica when he became ill and was hospitalized, according to fashion model Susan Baraz.
Lopez is credited with launching the careers of Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall, Tina Chow and Grace Jones, and he also was the first artist to use black models in his work, which was seen in the top fashion magazines in the mid-1960s.
He also was credited with being the first artist to draw not only the inanimate creations of the haute couture but to idealize the models behind them.
His family migrated to New York City when Lopez was seven and he attended P.S. 77 on East 104th Street. To keep her son preoccupied and away from street violence, Lopez’s mother, a seamstress, would ask him to draw flowers for her embroideries, according to the tribute to Lopez on the Visual AIDS website.
While a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he received a work-study assignment at Women’s Wear Daily, where his talent was immediately recognized. WWD put him on staff and he left FIT.
At the time of his death, Lopez had been in California for an exhibition of his fashion drawings and personality portraits at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica. An exhibition of his drawings was also taking place in Munich, West Germany.
Lopez’ creative partner, Juan Eugene Ramos, would die of AIDS-related illness eight years later, on Nov. 3, 1995, at the age of 53.
In 2016, a retrospective of Lopez’ and Ramos’ work was exhibited at El Museo del Barrio in New York. The exhibit, “Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion,” was curated to evoke serious discourse on gender, sexuality, race, and heritage, and simultaneously invited viewers to revel in Lopez’ and Ramos’ legacy.
Fashion star Willi Smith dies in New York at the age of 39.
Smith was apparently unaware that he had contracted the virus and had shown no symptoms.Learn More.
Thinking he was suffering from an attack of shigella, a form of dysentery, acquired on a textile-buying trip to India, Smith admitted himself to the hospital, where tests showed he was HIV positive.
At the time of his death, Smith was regarded as one of the most successful African-American designers in the fashion industry. His company, WilliWear Limited, launched in 1976 and by 1986 was grossing over $25 million in sales.
“Smith was, in the truest sense of the word, a streetwear designer, long before anyone used the term,” writes Jenny Comita in W magazine. “Even as he was collaborating with some of the most avant-garde artists of the day and staging fashion shows that doubled as performances, he was taking his cues as a designer from the women he saw on the sidewalks of midtown.”
Smith was born in Philadelphia, the son of an ironworker and a homemaker. He studied drawing at Mastbaum technical school and, later, fashion illustration at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art.
His big break came through his grandmother Gladys, who worked as a housekeeper. One of her clients had a connection to the famed couturier Arnold Scaasi and secured an internship for Willi.
Smith’s first major role, in 1969, was as head designer of the sportswear label Digits, where he quickly made a name for himself with bright, bold prints; flowy high-waisted pants; and an ahead-of-its-time marketing campaign featuring women on the gritty streets of New York. Two years later, he became the youngest designer to be nominated for a Coty Award, then the fashion equivalent of an Oscar.
In 1976, he and his former assistant Laurie Mallet founded WilliWear; she handled the business side and he the design. WilliWear’s affordable, wearable clothes were picked up by Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and eventually hundreds of stores.
Smith designed the costumes for “Secret Pastures,” a 1984 work by dance pioneers Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane; Keith Haring created the sets. Smith also contributed to Spike Lee’s 1988 musical comedy-drama School Daze, making the gowns for the homecoming court.
Many of his friends wonder what would have happened if Smith had lived.
“We’ve been told that he wanted to move to India permanently, a place he visited constantly. He might have gone to Hollywood to produce films full-time after making a short film called Expedition.”
Smith’s legacy is the streetwear that lives on in menswear season after season.
Charles Ludlam, whose Ridiculous Theatrical Company had become one of New York City’s more popular attractions, dies in St. Vincent’s Hospital of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.Learn More.
An actor, writer and director, Ludlam was one of the more prolific artists on the off-Broadway scene. His productions in a small basement theater Greenwich Village included such parodies as Bluebeard, Galas (a spoof on operatic diva Maria Callas) and Reverse Psychology.
Jeremy Gerard of The New York Times memorialized Ludlam, calling him was one of the most prolific and flamboyant artists in the theater avant-garde.
“He was a master of travesty, creating in a tiny grotto theater on Sheridan Square critically and popularly acclaimed parodies of such familiar genres as the dime novel (The Mystery of Irma Vep), film noir (The Artificial Jungle) and opera (Camille, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet),” Gerard wrote.
Ludlam’s productions received a Drama Desk award and six Obie awards. The Ridiculous Theatrical Company has toured extensively in the United States and Europe.
Recently, he was retained by producer Joseph Papp to direct the production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus for the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park. However, the play was postponed when Ludlam was admitted to the hospital on April 30.
”We lost an extraordinary artist who was just on his way to a tremendous breakthrough in theater and opera,” Mr. Papp said of Ludlam’s untimely death.
At a July 13 memorial event for Ludlam, about 1,000 people crowded the Second Avenue Theater to pay tribute to the king — and sometimes queen — of downtown theater and celebrate his work.
The most moving remembrance was offered by Everett Quinton, Ludlam’s longtime partner and his successor as artistic director of the company.
”I’ve never felt so alone in my life, but it’s going to be all right,” Quinton said. ”We’re going to continue to do wild theater and wonderful theater.”
Wife of Larry Flynt and publisher of Hustler magazine, Althea Flynt drowns in a bathtub in her Bel-Air mansion in Los Angeles at the age of 33. Her husband says she was diagnosed with AIDS four years ago and likely fell asleep while bathing.Learn More.
Althea is Larry Flynt’s fourth wife, and because she married him in 1976, she is the only partner who joins him in his rise to celebrity. She would meet Flynt in Ohio, while working in one of his clubs as a go-go dancer.
Born in poverty in a Kentucky mining town, Althea Flynt was orphaned at eight years old, when her father murdered her mother and her grandfather and her mother’s best friend, and then killed himself. Flynt recounted her childhood ordeal in a 1978 interview with New York magazine:
“They put you in a bare room with dirty floors and a single mattress that was stained and filthy and stank,” she said. “I still remember the smell. They put a pot and a roll of toilet paper in the room. Then they locked you in.”
In the late 1960s, she and Larry Flynt started a relationship that would last until the rest of her life. As partner in her husband’s publishing business, she would be known to come to work in outrageous attire, including in leather dog collars and bangled chains that ran from her ear to her nostril.
As documented on video from Flynt’s library, Althea’s style was complex and highly unusual, particularly once she came into money and moved to Los Angeles. Her attraction to drug culture, Sunset Strip clubs and punk rock led her to patronize Hollywood shops like North Beach Leather and Trashy Lingerie.
In March 1978, her husband would be shot by a religious extremist, leaving him paralyzed and in pain, and she would remain with him, for better and for worse.
In a 1983 magazine article by the Washington writer Rudy Maxa, the Flynts would descibe how Larry tried to manage the pain with methadone, marijuana, cocaine, sleeping pills, morphine, and Dilaudid. Althea would experiment with drugs with her husband, and soon both would become addicted to narcotics.
She would be diagnosed with HIV in 1983, reportedly from a blood transfusion while undergoing a hysterectomy. Larry Flynt explained that Althea “always used clean needles when using drugs.”
The cause of Althea’s death is a perscription drug overdose-induced drowning, according to the coronor’s report. Her husband, however, states that she was in the advanced stages of AIDS and would have died within that year, regardless.
Flynt’s body is buried in Saylersville, Ky., where her husband keeps a family burial plot.
In 1997, Althea would be portrayed by singer-actress Courtney Love in The People vs. Larry Flynt; Love’s performance with garner her a Golden Globe Award nomination.
Director and choreographer Michael Bennett, the mastermind behind A Chorus Line, dies at his home in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 44.Learn More.
Bennett was the ultimate Broadway ″gypsy,″ a dancer in the chorus who went on to become a successful choreographer, director and producer, associated with such hit shows as Promises, Promises; Company; Follies; Dreamgirls; and of course, A Chorus Line.
″I went from dancer to choreographer to director to producer to sometime writer,″ he once said. ″But I never had to deviate from my ambition, which was to work in theater.″
Born Michael Bennett DiFiglia in Buffalo, New York, Bennett started dance lessons as the age of 3. As a teen-ager, Bennett studied dance during the summer in New York with Aubrey Hitchins, Matt Maddox and others.
He dropped out of high school at age 16 to perform in a European tour of West Side Story, directed by Jerome Robbins, one of Bennett’s dance idols. Upon his return to New York, he found work dancing in several Broadway shows, as well as TV shows like The Dean Martin Show.
Bennett made his debut as a choreographer in 1966 with A Joyful Noise. Two years later, he had his first Broadway success with the choreography for Promises, Promises, the Burt Bacharach-Hal David musical based on the film The Apartment. This was quickly followed by more hits: Coco starring Katharine Hepburn, and then Stephen Sondheim’s Company.
In 1971, he both choreographed and co-directed Follies, another Sondheim show, and won Tony Awards in both categories. In 1975, he directed, choreographed, and wrote A Chorus Line, which became the longest running musical on Broadway up to that time.
Compared with his contemporary Bob Fosse, Bennett did not have an immediately recognizable choreographic style, according to Masterworks Broadway’s tribute to Bennett.
“Like Jerome Robbins, whom he endeavored to emulate, he strove for unity of style within each separate work, shaped by the story and the characters in it,” Masterworks’ tribute states. “Thus the movement might be jazzy or balletic, romantic or angular, athletic or even a little bumbling, depending on the circumstances. Even in A Chorus Line, the dancers’ execution becomes progressively more polished as the ‘show within the show’ crystallizes.”
Michael Riedel, theater columnist for the New York Post, said A Chorus Line came at a privotal time for Broadway.
“By the mid-1970s Broadway was starting to flounder and so was the city,” Riedel said. “The 1960s rock revolution had changed everything, and new musicals were mostly doing mediocre business or they simply tanked. Times Square had become the preserve of pimps and prostitutes and drug-pushers.”
When A Chorus Line moved to Broadway from its original downtown location of the Joseph Papp Theater, many of the surrounding theaters were dark. But that soon changed.
“Somehow it caught the moment, and when it transferred to the Shubert Theatre on Broadway people started to flock back to Times Square,” said Riedel. “It was the Hamilton of its day. I don’t think any show has ever been so vital to the New York economy.”
In 1986, Bennett determined he was too sick to work, sold his New York property, and moved to Tucson, where he stayed until his death.
Donna McKechnie, an original star of A Chorus Line who was briefly married to Bennett, thinks that if he survived, he could have gone on to even greater things.
“But I learned on Chorus Line to relish the moment you’re in as a performer, because it can end any moment – especially for a dancer,” McKechnie said.
Bennett’s striking panel was among the first to be included in the original display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Dancer Sean O’Neill, who performed with the Pacific Ballet and also edited the San Francisco Ballet program, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.
Dr. Tom Waddell, founder of the Gay Games, dies of AIDS-related illness in San Francisco at the age of 49.Learn More.
Waddell was a superior athlete, good enough to take sixth in the world in the decathlon in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, writes Mart Dobrow of ESPN. He was a paratrooper in the Army, and a doctor with a sense of adventure — working in Africa on patients with tropical diseases and becoming the physician for the Saudi Arabian Olympic team in 1976.
“To Waddell, the symbolism of the Games spoke to his highest ideals: the five interlocking rings, the parade of nations, the torch being lit,” writes Dobrow. “In some ways, this felt like sports at its most pure. It brought people of the world together.”
After his athletic career, Waddell would worked for years as a medical consultant for Whittaker Corp., enjoying the opulence of the Saudi royal family in Riyadh. When he wasn’t in the Middle East, he settled in San Francisco.
There, in the hub of American gay life, Waddell embraced the bacchanal fully, its drug use and promiscuity, before finding what he hoped was true and lasting love with Charles Deaton, a 50-year-old former CIA operative.
Then Waddell had a grand vision; it started out as the “Gay Olympic Games.” Waddell was aware that for many gay people, sports had meant a door slamming shut. His goal was to open the door of completitive sports wide open to the LGBTQ community.
He modeled the Gay Olympic Games after what he considered to be the true principles of the Olympics: equality, fairness, human dignity. Except that the U.S. Olympic Committee didn’t see it that way.
Just 19 days before the games were to begin, the USOC persuaded a federal court to issue an injunction prohibiting Waddell and his group, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, from using the word “Olympic” because of copyright infringement.
Waddell was incredulous and wounded to the core. He pointed out that in the past there had been no opposition to multiple other uses of the term (e.g., the Special Olympics).
With no legal recourse, Waddell and the SFAA scrambled to remove the offending word from a slew of merchandise and promotional material. The hastily rechristened “Gay Games” played out nevertheless in the summer of 1982 with some 1,300 athletes from 12 countries participating.
By the next summer, as Gay Games 2 came to a now-besieged San Francisco, Waddell knew his days were numbered. He checked himself out of the hospital, marched in the opening ceremonies, and delivered a stirring opening address as part of the Games, which attracted some 3,500 athletes from 17 countries.
In one final feat of athletic strength, Waddell managed to win the gold medal in the javelin. Within a year, he was gone.
Today, the Gay Games live on and are help in locations all around the world, including Amsterdam, Sydney, Paris and Hong Kong. Since 1986, The Federation of Gay Games Scholarship Fund has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships to underfunded LGBTQ+ individuals from 70 countries around the world, where the daily struggle for equality is harsh and often dangerous.
Tom Waddell’s core principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best continue to bring thousands of athletes together to compete.
Every four years in conjuntion with the Gay Games, the Tom Waddell Award is presented to a person or organization involved in the Gay Games that embodies the standards of commitment, selflessness, and love of humanity, and inspires pride through leadership and excellence in sports, culture, or volunteerism.
Arthur J. Bressan Jr., best known for his devastating 1985 AIDS drama Buddies, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 44.Learn More.
A pioneer of independent gay cinema in the 1970s and ’80s, Bressan is best known for his 1985 drama Buddies, the first feature film about the AIDS pandemic. He also directed the largely influential Gay USA, the first documentary by and about LGBT people, and the feature film Abuse (1983).
“If you want to submit one director as the auteur for the post-Stonewall, pre-New Queer Cinema era of Gay Liberation, Arthur J. Bressan Jr. is that director,” writes film critic Caden Mark Gardner.
Bressan’s first credited film work is that of a documentary short called Coming Out, about the first official San Francisco Pride march in 1972. Shot in 16mm and in color, it offers a snapshot of many people who made the pilgrimage to San Francisco.
Bressan would expand this cinematic approach for his 1978 feature-length documentary, Gay USA, made during the National Gay Freedom marches across the country in 1977, the year Harvey Milk became America’s first openly gay elected official.
“Many of the interviewers and testimonies in Gay USA are not just talking about the pleasantness of seeing themselves and being out at this Pride parade, but are speaking with righteous indignation about homophobic violence and systemic homophobia,” Gardner writes.
Bressan’s 1983 film Abuse, a drama with an intensely provocative portrayal of child abuse, is hailed by film critic Rex Reed as “a film of astonishing power and emotional impact.”
“Artie loved butch men and women, drag queens, black, brown and white,” writes Emmy Award-winning director Greta Schiller. “Artie was exceptional in that he loved women. He had none of the misogyny that was (and still is) rampant in our culture, even in the LGBT community. He knew who and what he was, and he was not threatened by women.”
Schiller, who met Bressan in 1983 through activist Vito Russo at a screening of Abuse, said she went to the event “angry that it was a film about a man in authority sleeping with an abused teen.”
After watching the film, she emerged “with my mind blown by the complexity of what I’d seen.”
Russo convinced Schiller to share her reaction to Abuse with Bressan.
“I told him it was a brilliant film that made me realize not all older men who fall in love with a younger man are predators,” she recalled. “The story and acting made me think of Italian postwar neorealist films.”
Schiller says that when Bressan became sick, he was determined to complete Buddies.
“He cut the film on a flatbed in his tiny apartment. He poured his heart and soul into making one last film,” she writes. “I lived a few blocks away from him [in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City], and I would come get him for a walk around the block. Soon, he could only make it to the corner of 18th Street and 8th Avenue, a block from his home. He would gaze at the high-school boys and talk about the ones he fancied, and how those who were gay would have a better, freer life.”
About 10 years after Bressan’s death, his sister Roe Bressan and LGBT film historian Jenni Olson would launch The Bressan Project to preserve and promote Bressan’s films.
A task force of the Society of Actuaries issues a report claiming that the cost of AIDS to insurance companies could exceed $50 billion by the year 2000.Learn More.
The study, commissioned by the 10,000-member Chicago-based organization, also predicts that future life insurance policies could add $30 billion to $60 billion to the total, depending on whether applicants are screened for the AIDS virus.
The study bases its findings on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, which suggests that 15% of those infected with the AIDS virus develop the fatal disease after five years and up to 36% are stricken after seven years.
The CDC reported there were 8,000 AIDS deaths in 1986, and is projecting that the number to rise to 54,000 by 1991.
The authors of the study, who are actuaries for the State Mutual Life Assurance Company of America, contend that based on the Federal projections, AIDS claims are expected to go up by a factor of 10 by the 1990s.
By the time Gallup would field its next survey in 1990, national AIDS policy had developed to the point that the U.S. Congress was passing the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, and the share of the public naming AIDS as a top problem had fallen to 49 percent.
This measure further declined in the 1990’s, a decade that saw major advances in HIV treatment including the development of effective combination anti-retroviral therapy. By 2009, the proportion who named AIDS as the nation’s top health problem had fallen to single digits.
However, in the coming years, black Americans would continue to be prevalent among those naming HIV as the nation’s most urgent health problem.
National Minority AIDS Council co-founder and board member Frederick Garnett dies at the age of 32 of complications resulting from AIDS, at the Hospice of Northern Virginia.Learn More.
Three weeks before his death, Garnett would receive an “American Who Cares” award from the National AIDS Network for his dedication to AIDS education in minority communities. Garnett also served as a board member of the National Association of People With AIDS and the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington.
Born in Chicago and a graduate of Northwestern University, Garnett studied for a doctorate in psychology at Adelphi University, completing all but his dissertation before moving to Washington in 1983.
Fifteen months before his death, in July 1986, Garrett addressed the National Conference on AIDS in the Black Community, bringing public awareness to the racial disparities in how the AIDS epidemic is addressed in his adopted hometown of Washington, DC.
A staff psychologist at St. Elizabeths Hospital and the founder of a support group for Persons Living With AIDS, Garnett expressed his concerns to conference members that although African Americans made up roughly 50% of people living with AIDS in Washington, DC, they were largely absent from clinics and support groups.
The conference was organized by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, with co-sponsoring organizations National Minority AIDS Council and National Conference of Black Mayors.
Lyle Loder, member of the congregation of the Hollywood United Methodist Church, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.Learn More.
Loder was a key leader in development of an LGBT witness among United Methodists in southern California during the early 1980s, recalls his friend Morris Floyd.
Feeling called to the United Methodist ministry, Loder studied philosophy and religion and served as a student pastorate while at Kansas Wesleyan University in the early 1970s, according to Floyd. However, Loder chose to not hide his identity, and by the time of his graduation from KWU, the denomination had incorporated into its Discipline the language describing same-sex relationships as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
“Lyle’s dream of serving as a United Methodist clergyman was never realized,” writes Floyd in the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network.
Instead, Loder would go on to help build a local congregation that would welcome lesbian and gay United Methodists in the Hollywood area. By 1986, Loder would be an active member of HUMC and he would share with the congregation that he was living with AIDS.
In October 1987, the Health and Welfare Ministries Division of the Board of Global Ministries hosted a consultation conference on AIDS at a hotel near the San Francisco airport. Loder was invited to help plan the conference and participate in a panel discussion about the needs of people living with AIDS.
“Lyle’s participation on a panel, sharing his story, and in the midst of it, despite everything, his love for God and his refusal to give up on the United Methodist Church,” recalls Floyd. “He was frail and only a few weeks from death, though he did not know it at the time. If ever God’s Spirit was present anywhere, it shone in Lyle in those hours.”
On November 29, 1987, the day before his birthday, Loder was admitted to the hospital, where he was visited by his brother. When Loder died a few days later, many friends came to his hospital room, spread rose petals on his bed, and sang hymns
Memorial services were held at HUMC and again at Loder’s home church in Kansas. Loder was the first of the HUMC family to die of complications of HIV/AIDS, but he wouldn’t be the last.
A memorial plaque inside the church narthex carries the names of Loder and 34 additional members of the congregation who died in the early years of the pandemic. On World AIDS Day in 1993, members of HUMC fashioned two giant red ribbons and attached them to the tower of the church. In 1996, more permanent ribbons replaced them and remain today.
Loder’s life is also memorialized by three panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of them made by church and community worker Donna Kay Campbell.
Dancer and dance teacher Joah Lowe dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 34.Learn More.
Lowe performed in the San Francisco area and taught dance classes, including one titled, “Lessons in the Art of Flying.”
In 2004, dancer Keith Hennessy was asked to write about Lowe, his first dance teacher.
“Joah taught a weekly class, an introduction to contemporary dance that involved technique and improvisation,” Hennessy writes. “Joah, thanks a lot. Thanks for welcoming me, for steering me into the future and away from the past…. You were my first authentically intuitive man.”
The Joah Lowe collection — which includes theater, performance and dance ephemera, performance and dance production notes, and related art and artifacts from Lowe’s work — is stored at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. The collection includes material collected by Charlie Halloran, a dancer who worked with Lowe and who subsequently died in 1993, also from AIDS-related illness.
Arnie Zane, the co-artistic director of Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane Dance Company, a leading postmodernist dance troupe, died of AIDS-related illness at his home in Valley Cottage, New York. He was 39 years old.Learn More.
Zane was born in the Bronx and attended public schools in New York City, receiving an undergraduate degree from the State University at Binghamton. Zane began working with Bill T. Jones in 1971, and they formed the American Dance Asylum with Lois Welk in 1973 in Binghamton, New York.
“They made an unlikely team: Jones is tall and muscular and his dancing expansive, while Zane, short and wiry, leaped about the stage in bursts of nervous energy,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
After touring together in the U.S. and abroad, the two choreographer-dancers formed the Jones-Zane company in 1982 and appeared in that year’s Next Wave festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Through much of the 1980s, the company drew critical acclaim for its stylish, punchy dance that incorporated narrative and text set to music by noted post-modernist composers. Zane and Jones’ choreography often explored issues such as racism, religion, sexism, and the nuclear age.
Zane held two Creative Artists Public Service Fellowships: for photography in 1973 and for choreography in 1981. He also was awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983 and 1984.
In 1986, he and Jones were recipients of New York’s Dance Performance Award (the “Bessie”) for their 1985 season.
Following Zane’s death, Jones kept the name of the company the same. Published in 1990, Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane is a collaboration by the two men, examining their work together.
“The reader of Body Against Body is left to contemplate the toll the disease is taking in the arts community and to reflect on what the premature death of so many young artists means to the performing arts, to their audience and to humanity,” wrote Charles Solomon in the LA Times.
Also in 1990, Jones (who was also diagnosed as HIV-positive) created the now canonical work, D-Man in the Waters, which explored the grief, loss and existential fear shared by many in the dance community at that time.
Nationally known flamenco dancer Cruz Luna dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.
A native of Spain, Luna learned flamenco dancing in cafes there and studied later in Mexico and Los Angeles. He launched his career at the age of 17 with appearances on the Ed Sullivan and Dave Garroway television shows.
Luna danced in an international tour with the Ballet Nacional of Spain and in a Broadway show titled Ole! Ole! He moved to San Francisco in 1959 and performed with the Smothers Brothers and Phyllis Diller. From 1960 to 1974, he operated Cafe Madrid in North Beach and presented flamenco dancers from around the world.
Andrew Meltzer, resident conductor with the San Francisco Opera, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.Learn More.
At age 39, Meltzer entered a blind test for AZT, but he was one of the participants given a placebo. He was switched to AZT at age 40, but it was too late.
Meltzer made his West Coast conducting debut with the Spring Opera Theater’s 1974 production of Cavalli’s L’Ormindo. He made his company debut during the 1982 summer season with The Barber of Seville, and followed up with Cosi fan Tutte in the summer of 1983, La Gioconda during the 1983 fall season and Die Fledermaus in 1984.
His conducting credits with other companies include productions for Michigan Opera Theater, Edmonton Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Spoleto Festival USA. He was a rising star.
Kurt Raab, best remembered for his work with German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, dies of AIDS-related illness in Hamburg at the age of 46.Learn More.
Born in 1941 in the Bohemian town of Bergreichenstein (now part of the Czek Republic), Raab started life as the son of a farm hand. While attending high school at Straubing, he would befriend Peer Raben, the future composer for many Fassbinder films, and the two would move to Munich together.
Raab would play his first role in Raben’s staging of Antigone, where they both would meet Fassbinder. In 1969, Raab would play the lead role in Fassbinder’s Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? and then go on to perform in numerous other Fassbinder films and TV productions.
Raab is considered one of the most versatile members of Fassbinder’s stock company, and he would work on more than 30 of the director’s films, on and behind the screen.
Before he died, he worked to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Germany. In 1987, he discussed his illness in Herbert Achternbusch’s Wohin?, a film about AIDS hysteria. Shortly before his death in 1988, he made Mitten im Leben, a documentary about AIDS, for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen.
Raab’s tragic death in 1988 played out publicly and painfully in Germany, where understanding of the illness was poor at best.
The actor was practically quarantined in the Hamburg Tropical Institute, and following his death, his body was frefused burial in Steinbeißen, the Bavarian town where his family had settled in 1945.
His body would be shipped to Hamburg, where he would be buried in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery.
Raab’s last days were recorded for Yearning for Sodom, which he codirected with Hanno Baethe and his former Fassbinder colleague Hirschmüller, and for which Raab would be posthumously awarded the Adolf Grimme Award.
Actor Anthony Holland, whose health was declining due to infection with HIV, commits suicide in his Manhattan apartment; he was 60 years old.Learn More.
A graduate of the University of Chicago, Holland had been a member of the original Second City comedy troupe, where he met Joan Rivers, with whom he remained friends until his death.
He made his Broadway debut in 1963 in Lillian Hellman’s comedy My Mother, My Father and Me. His half-dozen subsequent Broadway roles included Division Street and We Bombed in New Haven. He appeared in many regional-theater productions, as well as Off Broadway productions of Brendan Behan’s ‘Quare Fellow, Eugene Ionesco’s Victims of Duty and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
He gave one of his best performances in The Hunger Artist, Martha Clarke’s 1987 adaptation of several stories by Franz Kafka.
“His soft voice, unpretentiously conversational in tone yet mesmerizingly grave, could be Kafka’s,” Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times.
In 1979, he gives a standout performance in the film All That Jazz as Broadway songwriter Paul Dann, and appears in scores of other films between 1964-1986.
Holland took his own life just as he was entering the final stages of the disease “in what can only be called an act of sheer bravado,” writes friend David Ehrenstein. He had saved enough medication to facilitate a lethal overdoes.
“Tony had elected to make his exit on a day when he was in a good mood,” Ehrenstein recalled. “He was in New York at that time and friends recall seeing him around town at his usual haunts in high spirits.
Holland had left instructions for the paramedics and even rubber gloves in case they were concerned about handling an “AIDS corpse.”
Tommy Pace, a member of the pioneering Gay Men’s Theater Collective, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39. Pace was known locally as a brilliant comic actor with the Angels of Light.
Jesse Hollis, the resident set designer at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39. Hollis’ designs were seen at theater and opera companies throughout the country, including Berkeley Rep, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Magic Theatre.
Rodney Price, co-founder of the wildly creative Angels of Light performance troupe in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.Learn More.
Leonard Frey, an actor admired for his vivid and often flamboyant performances, dies of AIDS-related illness at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 49.Learn More.
In 1968, Frey received critical acclaim for his performance as Harold, a bitter, bitchy, gay man who dreads his upcoming birthday, in off-Broadway’s The Boys in the Band. He, along with the rest of the original cast, appeared in the 1970 film version, directed by William Friedkin, as well.
Frey was nominated for a 1975 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in The National Health. For his role in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, Frey earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Motel the tailor.
Frey also had a number of screen credits to his name, including films The Magic Christian, Where the Buffalo Roam and Tattoo and the television series’ Mission Impossible, Quincy, M.E. and Barney Miller.
Ronald L. Stone, the major architect of the incorporation campaign that made a city out of the community of West Hollywood in 1984, dies at his home of AIDS-related illness at the age of 40.Learn More.
Stone was instrumental in turning the 1.9-square-mile wedge of unincorporated Los Angeles County into the first American city to be governed by a gay majority.
“Without him it wouldn’t have happened,” said John Heilman, then-Councilmember of the new city.
Compelled by a vision of open, local government, Stone saw cityhood as the means by which West Hollywood’s 36,000 residents — most of them renters, many of them gay or elderly — could shape key community issues such as zoning, rent control and anti-discrimination laws.
“He was really concerned about having local control over zoning and planning,” Heilman told the Los Angeles Times.
In his 2014 article about the founding of West Hollywood, former WeHoville editor Henry E. Scott, wrote: “It was the construction of a hotel in his neighborhood in 1983, and a county decision to limit the hours at the pool at West Hollywood Park, that prompted Ron Stone, then 37, to take a look at the impact of development and the county’s governance on the area.”
Early on, Stone won the support of an influential renters rights activist, Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES). A major goal of the local group was making sure people had access to affordable housing.
In 1983, CES was assessing the aftermath of its losing campaign to introduce stringent rent control in Los Angeles County. The proposition failed to capture the majority of votes, most likely because many of the county’s residents were homeowners. In West Hollywood, however, the ballot measure passed by a five-to-one majority.
Through its work on the county rent control initiative, CES had assembled a large base of supporters in West Hollywood. Gross and Stone assembled a team to canvass the area with petitions proposing that West Hollywood become its own city – and one out of every four registered voters signed on. With that petition and economic data, the newly formed West Hollywood Incorporation Committee won the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), a state agency tasked with assessing the feasibility of West Hollywood as a separate city.
Stone also secured the support of the Stonewall Democratic Club and the Harvey Milk Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club, which were enthusiastic about the prospect of a city run by LGBTQ officials. But what really united individuals and groups from a varied background — seniors on limited incomes, renters, and LGBT residents concerned about discrimination — was the city’s soaring rents and the lack of any effective way to regulate them.
When the Board of Supervisors, which consisted of conversative officials at that time, agreed to put cityhood on the Novemer 1984 ballot, 44 people announced their candidacy for five seats on the West Hollywood City Council — 19 of them gay or lesbian. All of the candidates stated they supported gay rights and rent control of some sort.
Meanwhile, local landlords and developers began to mobilize in opposition of West Hollywood’s cityhood. One early opponent was Francis J. Montgomery, a local landowner whose family still manages the Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood. Montgomery funded a campaign to try to convince area seniors that cityhood would give LGBT people undue influence. That strategy failed.
Then Montgomery and other landlords and developers formed a coalition to lobby against cityhood. The group, West Hollywood Concerned Citizens, asked LA Ccounty to create a special rent control district for the West Hollywood area, one that would be weaker than what a new City Council might pass. That effort also failed.
In the November 1984 election, a majority of residents voted to make their unincorporated area the 84th city in Los Angeles County.
The Los Angeles Times would report that the new city was “heralded worldwide as creating ‘A Gay Camelot’ — the first openly gay-run city in the nation.”
Almost immediately, the city’s officials and staff launched programs for a wide range of services for its residents who most needed them — hot meals, healthcare, low-cost housing, taxi coupons for senior citizens, early childhood education, and even pet care for people with AIDS.
The Metropolitan Community Church, a gay and lesbian faith organization that claimed a worldwide membership of 42,000, moved its headquarters from Culver City to West Hollywood to “be part of this community.”
After the cityhood victory, Ron Stone ran twice for the council and lost both times. But he remained active in civic affairs, offering advice behind the scenes, attending council meetings and serving on committees.
In 1987, just as the city was beginning to thrive, Stone’s health began to decline. After his death, he would be publicly lauded as “the father of West Hollywood.”
David Anthony Keith, Bay Area concert pianist, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.
Wayland Flowers, best known for creating and voicing the sassy puppet Madame, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.Learn More.
Wayland Flowers was one of the first openly gay entertainers to find acceptance in mainstream America.
“In an era when even Paul Lynde was still in the closet, Flowers hid nothing,” says Kevin Phinney in his article “This is How Wayland Flowers and Madame Made the ’80s so Gay” in MetroSource.
After refining his act, Flowers’ made a national splash on The Andy Williams Show. From there, Flowers became a regular presence on network TV — although it was not unusual for Madame to get more closeups.
He is best known for the TV series Madame’s Place (1982) and The Hollywood Squares, and also performed in scores of live shows.
Other puppets populated Flowers’ act, but none earned Madame’s notoriety. Among them were a Harlem harlot known as Jiffy, a cranky vaudeville vet named Macklehoney and Crazy Mary, a Bellevue mental hospital escapee.
Sometime in the mid-1980s, Flowers was diagnosed with HIV. He continued to perform until he collapsed onstage during a show at Harrah’s casino in Las Vegas. Eventually, he developed Kaposi’s sarcoma. He made one last visit to his home town in Georgia and then checked into an AIDS treatment facility, the Hughes House hospice center in Los Angeles, where he remained until his death.
Dancer Peter Childers, who performed with the San Francisco Opera Ballet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 32.
Timothy Patrick Murphy, best known for this role on the prime-time soap opera Dallas during the 1982-83 season, dies of AIDS-related illness in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 29.Learn More.
On Dallas, Murphy played the part of “Mickey Trotter.” He started his acting career as an adolescent in several television commercials and from there he went on to act in a mini-series called Centennial.
He soon would land more substantial work, including a part in the 1984 inspirational feature film Sam’s Son, the film biography of the life of actor Michael Landon.
Volunteer caregiver Brian Smith recalls visiting with Murphy in 1988 at the Sherman Oaks Medical Center in California.
Smith and Murphy had met in the summer of 1984, and they would talk about “the old times.”
“Sometimes, we would just sit quietly, holding hands, nothing needed to be said,” Smith recalled. “I was blessed with good timing; Tim rarely had other visitors when I was there. Even as his health deteriorated, he kept his winning smile and personality.”
On December 6, 1988, Smith would arrive at the hospital to visit his friend and be informed by “a teary-eyed nursing staff” that Murphy had died that day.
On September 11, 2001, Murphy’s younger brother, Patrick Sean Murphy, would be killed in the World Trade Center attacks.
Singer Sylvester dies of AIDS-related illness at age 41. Born Sylvester James, Jr., the black performer is known internationally as “the Queen of Disco.”Learn More.
Famous for his song “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” Sylvester is the lead singer and co-creator of one of the all-time top LGBTQ anthems.
Born in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, Sylvester had been a member of the ’60s group the Disquotays — which was “somewhere between a street gang and a sorority house,” as one former member puts it.
He moved to San Francisco in 1970 at the age of 22 and joined the Cockettes, a “cross-dressing hippy performance art troupe,” and sang blues and jazz standards in his gospel-trained voice in solo segments of the show, writes Alexis Petrides in The Guardian. In the early 70s, he made a bid for mainstream success fronting the Hot Band.
“But the U.S. wasn’t ready for an androgynous black man doing covers of Neil Young songs and A Whiter Shade of Pale,” Petrides writes. “Band members were threatened with violence when they toured in southern states.”
Sylvester’s career was beginning to take hold in 1978, when “Mighty Real” is released on his second solo album and then later as a single. When the song catches fire, he would travel to London to perform to packed clubs and be mobbed by fans. Sylvester would release another 12 albums, many of them featuring top hits and nightclub mainstays. An album containing Sylvester’s final studio recordings, titled Immortal, woud be posthumously released.
Max Robinson, the first African-American network news anchor in the U.S., and a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 49.
Gay rights activist and writer Joseph Beam dies of AIDS-related illness three days before his 34th birthday. He is best known for editing In the Life, the first collection of writings by gay black men on the impact of HIV/AIDS on their community.Learn More.
Today, In the Life is widely regarded as a literary and cultural milestone in gay literature.
A native of Philadelphia, Beam attended Franklin College in Indiana, where he studied journalism and was an active member of the black student union and the Black Power movement.
After earning a his master’s degree in communications, Beam returned to Philadelphia in 1979, and explored literature on gay figures and institutions while working at Giovanni’s Room, an LGBT bookstore. Discouraged by the lack of community for black gay men and lesbians, Beam began writing articles and short stories for gay publications.
In 1984, he received an award for outstanding achievement by a minority journalist from The Lesbian and Gay Press Association. In 1985, he became the first editor of Black/Out, a journal produced by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays.
Beam would continue to collect materials about being black and gay and find ways to increase their reach. In 1986, he produced the first collection written by black gay men, called In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology.
Beam dies from AIDS-related complications at the age of 33 while compiling the sequel, “Brother to Brother.” His mother, Dorothy Beam, and poet Essex Hemphill would go on to complete the work and it is published in 1991.
Dancer, singer and choreographer James Tyler — who soloed with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and the Arnie Zane Company — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48. Tyler also co-founded the men’s dance company Mangrove, and worked with Blake Street Hawkeyes and Ruth Zaporah.
The CDC identifies 1,440 AIDS cases among children under 13 years old, of whom 800 have died. Nearly 76% of the pediatric AIDS cases are black and Hispanic.
Reported AIDS cases total 142,000 in 145 countries. However, the World Health Organization estimates that there are as many as 400,000 cases worldwide.
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, known for his erotic, sometimes controversial works, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.Learn More.
In the mid-1970s, as the NYC music scene gave rise to New Wave, Mapplethorpe created austere black-and-white album covers for Patti Smith and the group Television.
He credited his close friend Smith with helping embolden the homosexuality of his early photographic images that dealt with sexual audacity — from sadomasochistic scenes with chains and black leather to an oversized image of male genitals resting atop a pedestal — and that were produced on a large scale.
Soon he would join Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine as a staff photographer, and draw attention for his flattering celebrity portraits.
Despite his diagnosis in 1986 with AIDS, he accelerates his creative efforts, broadens the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepts increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art would mount Mapplethorpe’s first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death.
The tragic news that Mapplethorpe is ill coincides with the zenith of his critical acclaim as a photographer.
“In my experience, even the most optimistic artists are unable to keep the pain and sadness of AIDS from occasionally surfacing in their art,” writes Paul Martineau, associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
“Mapplethorpe was no exception,” Martineau continues. “While studying his photographs, I noticed a perceptible shift in the emotional tone of his self-portraits occurred in 1986: the year he was diagnosed with AIDS. In 1988, while the disease wreaked havoc on his body, Mapplethorpe used the camera as a means of taking artistic control over what was happening to him.”
In February 1989, Mapplethorpe would speak openly to Vanity Fair contributor Dominick Dunne.
“I’m quite frustrated I’m not going to be around to enjoy [my success],” Mapplethorpe tells Dunne. “The money’s coming in, though. I’m making more money now than I’ve ever made before.”
In his feature on Mapplethorpe, Dunne writes about how the photographer’s health status had become the topic of speculation in January 1987, when New York aristocrat and art collector Sam Wagstaff died of AIDS-related illness.
“Mapplethorpe, the principal inheritor of Sam Wagstaff’s fortune, had once been Wagstaff’s lover and later, for years, his great and good friend,” Dunne writes.
Mapplethorpe tells Dunne that he has two nurses on twelve-hour shifts that cost him $1,000 a day and he has been on AZT for two years. He expresses concern about friends who are facing the same illness with fewer financial resources, specifically his black friends.
“Most of the blacks don’t have insurance and therefore can’t afford AZT,” he says. “They all died quickly, the blacks. If I go through my Black Book, half of them are dead.”
The year before his death, Mapplethorpe establishes the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to protect his work, to advance his creative vision, and to fund HIV/AIDS research. In its early years, the Foundation created medical facilities and programs, including the Robert Mapplethorpe Laboratory for AIDS Research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, the Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Center for HIV Research at St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York.
Serving as the first president on its board of trustees, he established mandates of furthering the recognition of photography as an art form having the same respect as painting and sculpture and supporting AIDS and HIV medical research.
In late winter 1989, Mapplethorpe is in Boston for a medical treatment when his condition worsens, according to Susan Arthur of the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City, which represents the artist.
He dies at New England Deaconess Hospital at the age of 42. His body was cremated and his ashes are interred at St. John’s Cemetery, Queens in New York City, at his mother’s grave-site, etched “Maxey.”
In 2011, the Mapplethorpe Foundation would donate its archive to the Getty Research Institute and give a collection of artworks to the J. Paul Getty Museum in partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
‘Star Trek’ film actor Merritt Butrick dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 29.
A native of Gainesville, Florida who grew up in the San Fransisco area, Butrick portrayed Dr. David Marcus, son of James T. Kirk and Dr. Carol Marcus, in two movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
“I’m part of a legend,” said Butrick about his work on the Star Trek films. “I gave what I had to give at the right time and place for my own personal gratification. I look at my resume at this point and it reminds me of how well I’ve done in the few years I’ve done it.”
Butrick had just been cast in ST II after starting work as a regular on the short-lived but critical and cult favorite 1982 “new wave” high school series Square Pegs, playing Johnny “Slash” Ulasewicz opposite an equally young Sarah Jessica Parker and Jamie Gertz.
At the time of his death, he had recently received critical praise on stage for his role as a male prostitute in the play Kingfish.
William Olander, the senior curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, dies of AIDS-related illness in Minneapolis at the age of 38.Learn More.
Olander arrived at the New Museum in 1985, and specialized in performance art and video, especially post-modernist language and theory.
Olander’s 1986 exhibition “Homovideo: Where We are Now” included several videos responding to the spreading of the AIDS virus. In 1987, he invited the group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to present an installation in the museum’s window on Broadway near Prince Street.
ACT UP’s artist group, Gran Fury, responded to the opportunity with “Let the Record Show.” The exhibit juxtaposed information and statistics on AIDS with indifferent, callous or manipulative responses to the epidemic from national figures, all bathed in the glow of a neon sign that proclaimed “SILENCE = DEATH.”
The neon piece became part of the New Museum’s permanent collection, and the SILENCE = DEATH graphic was widely disseminated through t-shirts, wheatpastes, and other printed materials.
In 1988, Olander and three friends founded Visual AIDS, the only contemporary arts organization dedicated to raising AIDS awareness by producing and presenting visual art projects, exhibitions, public forums and publications — while assisting artists living with HIV/AIDS. Visual AIDS was one of the first national initiatives to record the impact of the AIDS pandemic on the artistic community.
Olander lived in New York but had returned to Minneapolis to be with his family during the last months of his life. His longtime companion, Christopher Cox, would die 18 months later, on September 7, 1990.
Olander’s name on the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt reads: “Let the record show that there are many in the community of art and artists who choose not to be silent in the 1980s.”
To honor Olander’s ongoing legacy, Visual AIDS presents the “Bill Olander Award” anually to artists living with HIV.
Elwood Thornton, a baritone who performed with Oakland Symphony, San Jose Symphony, Midsummer Mozart Festival and other Bay Area organizations, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 45.
Winner of the Tony Award, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the Broadway hit A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood Jr. dies in his Manhattan apartment of AIDS-related illness at the age of 64.Learn More.
Born in 1924 to a Hollywood acting family, Kirkwood followed his parents into show business at the age of 14. He appeared in dozens of plays and films, pausing only to serve a three-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard. He performed on stage in Panama Hattie and Wonderful Town, and played opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Welcome Darlings. He also had roles in the films Mommie Dearest, Oh, God, Book II, and The Supernaturals.
Together with Nicholas Dante, Kirkwood wrote the text for A Chorus Line (1975), which became one of the longest-running musicals in the history of Broadway. He also wrote the comedy, Legends, in which Mary Martin and Carol Channing toured in 1986 and 1987.
Just before his death, he had finished a nonfiction book about his experiences, entitled Diary of a Mad Playwright.
A memorial service was held for Kirkwood at the Shubert Theater, 225 West 44th Street, on June 1, 1989.
Steve Rubell, co-founder of the Studio 54 discotheque, dies at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York at the age of 45.Learn More.
Owning and operating the enormously popular Studio 54 on West 54th Street in Manhattan from 1977 until 1979, Rubell and his business partner Ian Schrager hosted celebrities, society figures and crowds of clubbers.
Rubell often worked the club’s front door, selectively admitting celebrities and spurning others queued outside. In January 1980, Mr. Rubell and Schrager would be sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for tax evasion, but they would reduce their sentences by turning in several other club owners and be released from prison in January 1981.
They would sell Studio 54 a short time later and rebound with a new club, the Palladium, which would become just as popular.
In the film Studio 54 The Documentary, Rubell’s brother, Dr. Donald Rubell, says, ““I was the one who told him he had AIDS.”
Dr. Rubell recalls that his brother had “vague symptoms” of HIV infection, and so he administered the test.
“You have to remember at that time AIDS wasn’t a disease,” he says. “It was a condemnation. So he wouldn’t let me tell our parents.”
Held two days after Rubell’s death at the Riverside Chapel on Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street, the private funeral would be attended by numerous Studio 54 regulars, including Bianca Jagger, Calvin Klein and Keith Haring. His body is buried at Beth Moses Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
Race car driver Tim Richmond dies of AID-related illness at the age of 34.Learn More.
One of auto racing’s brightest stars, Richmond is the inspiration behind much of the film Days of Thunder, starring Tom Cruise.
The 1980 Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year, Richmond was involved in an Indy car crash where his car was sliced in two at Michigan International Speedway, and was persuaded to switch to stock cars. By 1986, Richmond would win seven races in three months.
Shortly after his most victorious season, Richmond would suffer a near-fatal bout of pneumonia and receive a diagnosis of HIV-positive. Still, Richmond would regain his health enough in 1987 to return to NASCAR for an eight-race run that brought him wins at Pocono and Riverside, California.
Unaware of his illness, other drivers accused Richmond of being a drug user and persuaded NASCAR to test him. When drug tests were inconclusive, NASCAR asked to see Richmond’s medical records. Richmond refused and filed a defamation suit against NASCAR that was settled out of court when it was ruled that his medical records were relevant to the case.
In 1988, NASCAR would suspend Richmond for what the organization said was violation of its drug policy. Although NASCAR later lifted the ban, Richmond would never drive again.
According to the film Tim Richmond: To the Limit, Richmond spent his final days in seclusion.
After Richmond’s death, numerous women would claim that he infected them with the AIDS virus.
CDC reports that the number of reported AIDS cases in the United States has reached 100,000.
Angel Estrada, a Spanish-born designer whose label featured glamorous gowns, dies of AIDS-related illness in Manhattan at the age of 31.Learn More.
Estrada started his clothing label in 1983, after his designs for his sister became covetted items in the NYC nightlife scene,
Estrada’s aesthetic was to combine a simple, form-fitting silhouete with bold details. His clothes were sold in stores such as Bergdorfs and Saks at prices ranging from $800 to $2,000. His first collection appeared on the cover of the November 1986 issue of Vogue.
Born in Barcelona, Estrada moved to New York with his family when he was three years old. He attended the Parsons School of Design and worked part time as a hair and make-up designer until he was able to set up his own business.
After Estrada’s death, his sister Virginia took over his business, assumed the design responsibilities. The Angel Estrada brand, which had focused on custom-made evening dresses, transitioned to a sportswear line and also entered a licensing arrangement with a Japanese company, Kindwear, to make clothing in Japan.
Paul Shenar, best remembered for his performance as the drug lord Alejandro Sosa in Scarface, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 53.Learn More.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Shenar moved to New York City after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. He debuts on Broadway in Tiny Alice as Brother Julian, and continues to work on the NYC stage for several years.
In 1965, Shenar would move to Philadelphia to help found the American Conservatory Theater, where he is not only a regular performer throughout his career, but a teacher and advisor as well.
From there, roles on television and the big screen would follow. In 1975, Shenar portrays Orson Welles in the television movie The Night That Panicked America, receiving received some of the best reviews of his career. He continues working steadily on television through the end of the decade, and in the early 1980s starts receiving feature film roles.
In 1983, Shenar delivers a memorable performance as the diabolical Colombian drug lord Alejandro Sosa in Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Other notable roles are Dr. Lawrence in Luc Besson’s The Big Blue (1988), Joshua Adams in Deadly Force (1983), Paulo Rocca in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Raw Deal (1986), and Ben Gardner, the father of a troubled Kristy McNichol, in Alan J. Pakula’s Dream Lover (1986).
Shenar would die in West Hollywood.
Critically acclaimed actor Michael Carmine dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Manhattan. He was 30 years old.Learn More.
Born in Brooklyn, Carmine graduated at the age of 16 from the High School for the Performing Arts in 1975, and then attended the California Institute for the Arts.
Carmine won critics’ praise for his performance in Off Broadway and Broadway productions of Reinaldo Povod’s play Cuba and His Teddy Bear. He created the role of Papo in another Povod play, La Puta Vida.
Among his screen credits are Batteries Not Included, Scarface and Turk 182; on television, he appeared in episodes of Search for Tomorrow, Hill Street Blues, M*A*S*H, and Miami Vice. His final TV appearance was in 1988’s Tour of Duty, and his final film role in Longtime Companion was released nearly a year after his death.
Cookie Mueller, a key member of film director John Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble, dies from AIDS-related causes in New York City at age 40.Learn More.
Mueller would meet John Waters at the premiere of his 1969 film Mondo Trasho. Cookie went on to join Waters’ Dreamlanders ensemble and would act in five movies for Waters.
Moving to New York City in 1976, she became a cocaine dealer and writer. She wrote the health column “Ask Dr. Mueller” for the East Village Eye, was an art critic for Details magazine, and wrote the novella Fan Mail, Frank Letters, and Crank Calls, the memoir Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black, and several collections of short prose.
Mueller became a muse to many of the photographers and directors of the NYC art/music/film scene. She would have her portrait taken by Robert Mapplethorpe, and appear in Amos Poe’s Subway Riders, Edo Bertoglio’s Downtown ’81 and Michel Auder’s A Coupla White Faggots Sitting Around Talking. She also would be featured prominently in her friend Nan Goldin’s iconic The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.
Goldin would later recall that she was with Mueller on Fire Island in New York when they first learned of AIDS in 1981, referred to as a “gay cancer” at the time. “Cookie just started reading this item out loud from The New York Times about this new illness… we all kind of laughed it off.”
By 1985, many of Golden’s close friends and acquaintances would be diagnosed with the virus, including Mueller.
Goldin would write in ASX: “We were very obsessed with what caused it: There were all kinds of rumors, everything from amyl nitrate to bacon. I was in denial that people were going to die. I thought people could beat it. And then people started dying.”
In 1986, Goldin would photograph Mueller’s wedding to Vittorio Scarpati. An artist who was an HIV-positive heroin addict, Scarpati would create a heartbreaking series of whimsical deathbed drawings of himself and Mueller.
Scarpati would die in 1988, and Goldin would photograph Mueller, by that time walking with a cane, beside her husband’s casket. After Scarpati’s death, Mueller’s health would begin a steep decline.
“When I went to see Cookie in Provincetown, she had lost her voice,” recalls Goldin. “Her laughter and her verbal wit had been so much of her personality. The fact that she couldn’t talk, the fact that she couldn’t walk without a cane was so devastating that I was calling every doctor, screaming at the impotence I felt.”
Shortly before her dealth, Mueller would write in her final column for the East Village Eye:
“Fortunately I am not the first person to tell you that you will never die. You simply lose your body. You will be the same, except you won’t have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes. You will be released from sexual obsessions. You will not have drug addictions. You will not need alcohol. You will not have to worry about cellulite or cigarettes or cancer or AIDS or venereal disease. You will be free.”
La Cage aux Folles actor Rémi Laurent dies of AIDS-related illness in Paris at the age of 32.Learn More.
Alvin Ailey, the African American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Ailey School in New York City, dies of AIDS-related illness.Learn More.
Ailey’s early childhood would be spent in Texas during the Jim Crow era, a time and place that would inspire some of his most iconic choreography. He discovered dance after moving to Los Angeles but didn’t fully commit to the art form at first.
Then, in the mid-1950s, Ailey would join the Lester Horton Dancers, later becoming a choreographer and then director of the company. In 1958, he decided to open his own dance company, establishing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.
Ailey and a group of young, black modern dancers perform for the first time on March 30, 1958 at New York’s 92nd Street YM-YWHA. In its first years, the Company would travel to booked performances on what Alvin Ailey called “the station wagon tours” in a vehicle driven by a longtime friend of the Company, Mickey Board.
In 1960, he would choreograph his classic masterpiece Revelations, which brings the Company international acclaim.
Over the next 30 years, Ailey would create ballets for many notable companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and Paris Opera Ballet.
“As common practice at the time, Ailey maintained a closeted persona regarding his sexuality but would utilize his art as an outlet for it,” writes Smithsonian in the website for the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
“His choreographed ballets for AAADT exhibited imagery reminiscent with male and female homosexuality such as juxtaposing same-sex partnering with religious and hypermasculine archetypes.”
Although Ailey dated intermittently, he wouldn’t find long-term companionship while trying to conceal his sexuality from much of the world. And when he dies amid the AIDS epidemic, his doctor reports the cause of his death as a rare blood disease.
Among the many posthumous accolades for Ailey, President Barack Obama would award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, the highest civilian honor, in recognition of his contributions and commitments to civil rights and dance in America.
“Ailey’s work was groundbreaking in its exploration of the African American experience and the enrichment of the modern dance tradition, including his beloved American masterpiece Revelations,” the award description would state.
The Ailey company continues to perform at the New York City Center and tours cities around the world. Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations, is currently streaming on the dance company’s website.
Patrick Kelly, the first American designer to be admitted to Paris’ Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, dies at the Hotel Dieu, a hospital near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, at the age of 35.Learn More.
Kelly was part of a generation of Black designers who introduced a new energy and perspective into the fashion industry in the 1980s.
“Patrick’s particular contribution was a quirky, surrealist take on design accented by the subversion of racist imagery as an act of Black empowerment and reclamation,” writes Darnell-Jamal Lisby in i-D.
Celebrated for his designs that incorporated references to pop culture and Black folklore, Kelly moved to Paris after becoming frustrated by the lack of support from the fashion industry in New York. Black supermodel Pat Cleveland recalled how she and Kelly first met through a mutual friend:
“[Kelly] made this banana costume for me because he knew I liked to dance like Josephine Baker. So we went out that night, and I did this hair show in Columbus Circle, and I sang like Josephine Baker in that outfit.”
When Kelly told Cleveland about his struggles with the fashion industry, Cleveland said she told him, “You better go to Paris, because there’s no room for Black boys in New York. They’re not going to give you the break you’re going to get in Paris.”
Once in Paris, Kelly’s popularity quickly grew. With a perspective rooted in his experience as a Black man from the South, Kelly incorporated details into his work, such as mismatched buttons, which his grandmother had employed while mending clothes.
As Kelly’s reputation in Paris rose, his popularity among the Black American media grew, too. Ebony magazine published a feature on Kelly’s journey to success in Paris, and Jet magazine regularly covered him, as they did other notable Black designers in America and internationally.
Kelly also incorpated his racial perspective in many elements of his runway shows. At the start of his shows, he would walk onto the runway and spray-paint a large heart on the stage set.
In the gift bags given to the attendees, Kelly would include a “Love List” of items ranging from his favourite foods, like fried chicken, and music from hip-hop to gospel. He would also give everyone a tiny brown doll with molded black hair.
The designer was always seen in outsize overalls — even if the occasion was formal. He wore a bike messenger’s cap, its brim flipped up to reveal “Paris” embroidered on the underside. Kelly acknowledged most every stereotype attributed to Southern blacks.
“It was Patrick’s way of subtly giving his typically predominantly white audiences a brief education on his design process while simultaneously outlining aspects of various Black experiences in the hope of expanding their purview,” writes Lisby in his tribute to Kelly.
In 1985, the first “Patrick Kelly Paris” commercial collection was featured in a six-page spread in French Elle magazine.
Kelly would make history, becoming the first American admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, France’s prestigious organization of fashion designers. In doing so, he was canonized among the likes of Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior.
He is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where his epitaph states “Nothing Is Impossible.”
Leland Moss, a theater director known for The AIDS Show, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in San Francisco at the age of 41.Learn More.
With a group of writers, Moss helped create The AIDS Show, an acclaimed series of songs, monologues and short scenes that he directed in San Francisco in 1984. The production, which was updated with the new title, Unfinished Business, was also presented in other cities. A documentary about the play was made for public television and shown in November 1986.
During his nine years in the Bay Area, Moss worked principally with the Theater Rhinocerous, and was active in the city’s LGBTQ movement. His own play, Quisbies, as well as other works that he directed, explored the effects of AIDS on the gay community.
Moss studied at Harvard University and the London Academy of Music and the Dramatic Arts, and then moved to New York City, where he was a resident director at LaMama and Playwrights Horizons. He was also an advisor to the New York Shakespeare Festival and an assistant director to Andrei Serban in New York. His acting credits included playing five characters in the Broadway production of ”Yentl.”
Pop artist Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 31 at his LaGuardia Place apartment in Greenwich Village.Learn More.
Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Westbeth Painters Space in 1981, according to the Keith Haring Foundation.
Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages.
Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images.
Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, using a primacy of line and directness of message, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.
Since his death, Haring has been the subject of several international retrospectives. The work of Keith Haring can be seen today in the exhibitions and collections of major museums around the world.
Stephen W. Burns, known for his starring role as Jack Cleary in the 1983 television miniseries The Thorn Birds, dies of AIDS-related illness after contracting the HIV virus from untested blood received in surgery. He was 35.Learn More.
As soon as he graduated high school, Burns moved to New York City to study theater. He worked odd jobs during the day to pay for his rent and the acting classes he attended at night. Auditions eventually led to the lead role in the national touring production of the Broadway hit Grease.
Burns moved to Hollywood and within six months, he was offered the role of Li’l Abner in the 1978 TV special Li’l Abner in Dogpatch Today. During his short career, Burns starred as Pete Stancheck in Walt Disney Productions’ Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) and appeared on several television shows, in a starring role in the ABC series 240-Robert and appearances ine Eight Is Enough, Heart of the City and Simon & Simon.
Halston, one of the most successful fashion entrepeneurs in history, dies of AIDS-related illness at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco at the age of 57.Learn More.
Born Roy Frowick Halston in Des Moines, Iowa, Halston led a classic heartland childhood playing in soap box derby races, fishing, visiting farms, and the like. He took an interest in sewing from his mother, and from an early age he showed a special interest in making hats.
His family moved in 1952 to Chicago, where Halston enrolled in a night course at the Chicago Art Institute and took a day job as a window dresser. Halston continued to design hats and finally obtained his break when a small story on his fashionable creations appeared in the Chicago Daily News.
It was at this time that he would take his middle name Halston as his professional moniker. His hat sales took off, and in 1959, Halston left Chicago for New York City to work for the famed French milliner Lilly Daché.
Following that Halston accepted a position at the fashionable store Bergdorf Goodman, where he charmed his clients and made a grand name for himself. In 1962 he designed the famous pill box hat worn by Jackie Kennedy at the President’s Inaugural, making the Halston name a household word.
Later that year he was bestowed the Coty’s Fashion Critics Award. In 1966, Halston designed his first ready-to-wear collection for Bergdorf Goodman and continued creating magic with his hat creations. Women’s Wear Daily heralded him as “New York’s Top Milliner.”
He quickly became the toast of fashion society, including Liza Minnelli, Martha Graham, Lauren Bacall, and Elizabeth Taylor among his close circle of friends and clients.
Halston’s career sky-rocketed during the 1970’s and his designs set the standard for American designers. The Halston name became synonymous with classically cut, simple, spare and elegant designs, a phenomenally successful fragrance line Halston by Halston for women X12 and Z14 for men, and the fabric known as “Ultra suede.” Throughout most of the seventies he epitomized the glamour, as well as the decadence of the era, becoming a central figure in the nightlife scene of New York’s Studio 54 disco.
By 1988, the designer had effectively retired and retreated from the limelight — and it wasn’t long after until he was diagnosed with HIV, according to AP News. After learning of his diagnosis, Halston moved to San Francisco to be cared for by his family, where he reportedly spent his last days touring the California coastline in his Rolls Royce car — which Halston asked his family to auction off after his death in order to donate the proceeds to AIDS research.
Despite his tragic death, there’s no doubt that Halston’s legacy still lives on today, with his dazzling life story becoming the focus of many films and biopics, including the Netflix miniseries, Halston.
John “Jack” Winkler, who taught classics at Yale and Stanford, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.Learn More.
Winkler’s 1989 book Auctor and Actor — which treats the Latin novel The Golden Ass as a detective story — was named best work of classical scholarship by the American Philological Association. In addition to being a classical scholar, Winkler was also a queer theorist and political activist.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1943, Winkler attended a Jesuit high school, where he first learned Greek. From 1960 to 1963, he studied at St. Louis University, also a Jesuit institution. Upon graduating, he joined the Benedictine religious order, living first at St. Lawrence’s Abbey in Ampleforth, England, and then continuing at the St. Louis priory.
In 1970, Winkler left the Benedictines and decided to pursue a career in classics and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1974. For the next five years, Winkler taught classics at Yale, where he became an advocate for feminist, gay, and minority causes. He helped to found Yale’s women’s studies program, openly supported the university’s Gay Alliance, and co-produced an LGBT-themed radio show called Come Out Tonight.
In 1977, Winkler was the sole faculty member to help organize Yale’s first Gay Rights Week. That same year, he was the only faculty member to join a class-action lawsuit brought by women students against Yale for its tolerance of sexual harassment of students by faculty. Jack left Yale for Stanford in 1979, and continued to be a leading voice for gay students and faculty.
Upon being diagnosed with AIDS in August 1987, he announced a two-year sabbatical. He spent the last years of his life co-editing essay collections, translating fragments from Greek novels, and publishing his most influential work, Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece. He donated half of the book’s income to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
He was the author of three books and 19 articles, many of them reinterpreting classical works.
Franklyn Seales, best known for playing the finicky business manager Dexter Stuffins on the sit-com Silver Spoons, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 37.Learn More.
Born on the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent, Seales studied at John Houseman’s Acting Company in New York in the early 1970s. The 1978 PBS drama, ″Trial of the Moke,″ proved to be Seales’ first big break.
Between 1982 and 1986, Seales played business manager Dexter Stuffins on the NBC-TV sitcom Silver Spoons, in which Houseman played a stoic grandfather. His other television appearances included Hill Street Blues and Amen.
Among his motion picture credits are The Onion Field and Southern Comfort. A versatile performer, Seales took on stage roles in productions that ranged from Shakespeare to the theater of the absurd.
A member of L.A. Classic Theatre Works, Seales performed in unconventional productions, such as Conversation at Night With a Despised Character, in which Los Angeles Times critic Lawrence Christon found him “one of America’s most compelling stage actors.”
Dan Turner, author of several plays at Theatre Rhinoceros, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.Learn More.
Turner was one of the earliest diagnosed with AIDS in 1982 and became of the longest-living known people with AIDS by the time of his death.
Demian Acquavella, a dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Company, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Brooklyn. He was 32 years old.Learn More.
A popular figure in post-modernist dance in New York, Acquavella was the inspiration for the 1989 work D-Man in the Waters, a celebration of Acquavella’s determination to fight his illness.
Born in Brooklyn, Acquavella moved to California when he was twenty to major in dance at Santa Monica Community College. He trained with Marjorie Mussman, Cindi Green, Ernie Pagnano and Phil Black, and also studied at the Nat Horne Musical Theater and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. He danced with Lillo Way, Elisa Monte, Miss Mussmann, the Rush Dance company, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater before joining the Jones-Zane troupe.
He became the central figure in Bill T. Jones’ pivotal work when the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra commissioned Jones to choreograph a dance set to the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-Flat Major. By then Acquavella was so sick, he had stopped dancing but he continued to stay close to the dance company.
“At first, Bill was going to call it just Waters,” Acquavella recalled. “But then Bill looked over at me, and changed the title. I will never forget Bill saying I would be in it, even though I could hardly walk.”
D-Man in the Waters had its premiere at the Joyce Theatre on March 14, 1989.
“As he could no longer walk by the time of the debut, I carried Demian onstage, offering my legs as he executed the arm movements of what would have been his solo,” Jones wrote.
After he was too ill to perform, he was known to attend performances and loudly cheer the dancers from his seat.
The work finds new life in the 2020 documentary Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, directed by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz.
When codirector LeBlanc was 16, she tells us on-screen in the documentary, she saw D-Man performed. The experience inspired her to become a dancer — and to join Jones’ company.
Now on the dance faculty at Loyola Marymount University in California, LeBlanc chronicles in the film a production of D-Man that she staged with her undergraduate students.
In the documentary, Jones meditates on what the work means now. In 1989, “It was a place to grieve,” he says.
But he believes D-Man is more than “a response to the plague”; it’s an enduring statement about survival and community.
Jim Samuels, winner of the 1982 San Francisco Comedy Competition, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.Learn More.
Born in Oakland, Samuels was a popular comedian and sometime comedy teacher. In the mid-1970, Samuels and then-comedy-partner Marty Cohen were regulars on Merv Griffin’s television show and several other variety programs. In 1977, Samuels performed solo in a comedy skit on the TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and would embark on a solo career officially in the early 1980s.
Dubbed San Francisco’s Dean of Comedy by his friends and competitors, Samuels was also part owner of the Holy City Zoo club, a small but influential comedy club located at 408 Clement Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in San Francisco.
Samuels died at Garden Sullivan Hospital in San Francisco.
Brazilian rock legend and heartthrob Cazuza dies from AIDS-related illness at his parents’ Ipanema home at the age of 32.Learn More.
“Cazuza was forced to navigate his way through the trying social and medical realities of living with AIDS in Brazil during the 1980s,” according to Brazil: Five Centuries of Change by Thomas E. Skidmore.
Prior to the arrival of AIDS in Brazil in 1983, a sexual liberation had taken hold in the country’s major cities. Because the first reported AIDS cases were that of gay men, it would be commonly referred to by Brazilians as a “gay cancer” or “gay plague,” and would cause widespread panic and fear.
“Cazuza would come to embody much of the conversation around (homo)sexuality and AIDS that would consume Brazil in the late 1980s,” Skidmore writes. “Cazuza had relationships with both men and women. He made easy references to kissing girls and having girlfriends, but he neither ascribed to being gay per sé nor denied his interest in men… He would be able to defy the notion that AIDS was purely a gay man’s disease; though he slept with men, he was not necessarily identified, by himself or others, as gay.”
Mixing Bossa Nova music with 1960s British and American rock, he composed and recorded ″Cazuza,″ his first solo album in 1985, a record known for its biting, sarcastic tone and lyrics.
Changing the ways in which HIV/AIDS were discussed and understood in Brazil, Cazuza demonstrated that people with AIDS could continue to be productive. According to author and literary critic Marcelo Secron Bessa, Cazuza had become the “face” of AIDS in Brazil.
Cazuza dies in his sleep in his parents’ home in the beachfront neighborhood of Ipanema.
″Fortunately, he died without pain, sleeping,″ his father, Joao Araujo, director of one of the largest record companies in Brazil, would say on television.
Cazuza’s funeral at Sao Joao Batista Church in Rio’s Botofogo neighborhood would draw hundres of fans.
Flamboyant actor Ethyl Eichelberger, who turned theatrical conventions upside down in their career as a performance artist, playwright and director, committs suicide. Eichelberger was 45 years old.Learn More.
Eichelberger was diagnosed with AIDS and chose to end their life on their own terms. Their body was discovered in their Staten Island home by friends Lola Pashalinski and Linda Chapman.
They wrote more than 30 plays, many of them marked by such Eichelberger trademarks as fire-eating, cartwheels and impromptu accordion concerts.
Eichelberger was born to Amish parents on July 17, 1945, and was named James Roy. After studying theater at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, they attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and worked with Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company.
It was here where they perfected their flair for comedy and their craftmanship as a wig maker. In 1975, they legally changed their first name to Ethyl.
As their reputation grew, they began making forays into mainstream theater, doubling as the courtesan and the abbess in the Flying Karamazov Brothers production of ”The Comedy of Errors” at Lincoln Center.
Eichelberger played themself in Oliver Stone’s movie, ”The Doors.”
Tom Fogerty, member of Creedence Clearwater Revival and older brother of frontman John Fogerty, dies of AIDS-related illness in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 48.Learn More.
Born November 9, 1941 in Berkeley, California, Fogerty holds a significant place in rock history. As the rhythm guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, he played on plenty of rock classics and had a solo career.
In the four years the band was together, they never had a #1 single in the U.S. However, the band holds the record for the most number of No.2 chart hits without ever having had a No.1. They also had a U.K. #1 hit with Bad Moon Rising.
At some point in the 1980s, after moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, Fogerty underwent surgery for his back and an unscreened blood transfusion caused him to be infected with AIDS virus. The cause of his death was initially reported as tuberculosis.
In the eulogy that John Fogerty made at his brother’s funeral, he said: “We wanted to grow up and be musicians. I guess we achieved half of that, becoming rock ‘n roll stars. We didn’t necessarily grow up.”
When Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Tom Fogerty’s widow brought his ashes in an urn.
Ray Stephens, best known for his starring role in the 1980s TV series The Great Space Coaster, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.Learn More.
Stephens became the lead singer of The Village People in 1985, recorded with the group for their album, Sex Over the Phone, and acted in the movie Village People: New York City.
He was an actor, known for in roles in The Runaways (1975) and Cat’s Eye (1985). He is also heard singing the tune Cat’s Eye during the closing credits of the 1985 Stephen King movie.
Stephens reportedly became infected with the HIV virus ‘ death through the intravenous use of drugs.
Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 44.Learn More.
A film historian whose work was the first to examine the portrayal of LGBT people in film, television, and other media, Russo wrote The Celluloid Closet, the consummate reference book on homosexuality in the U.S. film industry. Russo also was a key voice in the creation of both ACT UP-New York and the influential gay and lesbian media watchdog, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD.
Russo’s 1981 book chronicles the history of depictions of gay people in film, and it was made into an award-winning documentary (1995). The book found its origins in movie nights Russo organized in the 1970s, when he combined the things he loved — community and cinema.
At the time, with the Stonewall riots a fresh memory, such gatherings were political acts. Russo would screen a beloved movie and invite friends to watch — and soon the attendance grew to hundreds of gay people who would applaud favorite lines of dialogue and revel in queer subtext. For many, these precursors of LGBTQIA+ film festivals were a first involvement in queer community.
Russo’s book The Celluloid Closet was published just as AIDS began its devastating march into the lives of many in the community. Seeing entire circles of friends die, Russo returned to his activist roots and devoted himself to education, support and making as much noise as possible.
“Vito participated in every significant milestone in the gay liberation movement, from Stonewall to ACT UP,” said Jeffrey Schwarz, director of the documentary Vito (2011). “He was right in the middle of everything, every step of the way.”
Among the many protests he helped stage that made headlines was one in which Russo and a group of activists descended on New York City officials for a mass marriage, complete with cakes topped by figures of same-sex couples — decades before gay marriage became a national issue and, in some states, legal.
In an homage to Russo, GLAAD recently developed the “Vito Russo Test,” a set of criteria to analyze how LGBTQ characters are included within a film. To pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:
- The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender;
- That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity, i.e., they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another; and
- The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or set up a punchline. The character should “matter.”
DIVA TV founder and Chicano activist Ray Navarro dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 26.Learn More.
An active member of ACT UP, Navarro famously dressed as Jesus during a protest held on December 10, 1989 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The demonstration called out the Roman Catholic Church’s position on abortion rights, gay rights, and safe sex education.
Already visibly sick, Navarro led protestors in chants (“We’re here to say, we want to go to heaven, too!”) and became the “camp superstar” of the documentary Like a Prayer, which covered the demonstration. Navarro’s activism was also featured in the documentary How to Survive a Plague.
In 1989, Navarro was one of several ACT UP-New York members who founded DIVA TV, a gay and lesbian video activist collective that preserved some of ACT UP’s public displays of civil disobedience. DIVA TV was an acronym for “Damned Interfering Video Activist Television.” Founding members also included Bob Beck, Gregg Bordowitz, Jean Carlomusto, Rob Kurilla, Costa Pappas, George Plagianos, Catherine Saalfield, and Ellen Spiro.
DIVA created three notable video productions:
- Target City Hall, about a March 28, 1989 ACT UP demonstration against New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s inadequate response to the AIDS crisis;
- Pride on the 20th anniversary of the city’s gay and lesbian pride movement; and
- Like A Prayer, five 7-minute perspectives on the ACT UP/WHAM (Women’s Health Action Mobilization) December 10, 1989 demonstration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
In February 1990, Navarro presented an AIDS program at the CineFestival in San Antonio, Texas. Shortly afterward, Navarro lost his vision due to cytomegalovirus retinitis, an AIDS-related complication. Shortly before his death in November 1990, he partnered with artist Zoe Leonard to create Equipped, a series of black-and-white photographs of mobility devices paired with provocative phrases.
Posthumously, Navarro’s art was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and in Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Navarro’s mother, Patricia, became a member of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors HIV/AIDS Committee and speaks publicly about her son’s experiences.
In memory of Ray Navarro and Gerardo Velázquez, Harry Gamboa Jr. wrote the chapter “Light at the End of Tunnel Vision” for the 2018 book Latinx Writing Los Angeles: Nonfiction Dispatches from a Decolonial Rebellion.
Dancer and choreographer Antonio Mendes — who performed as principal dancer or guest artist with the Pacific Ballet, San Francisco Opera Ballet, Marin Civic Ballet and the National Ballet of Portugal — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 41.Learn More.
Mendez was also Director of the Redwood Empire Ballet.
Former leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, known for his speed, lightness and strong acting ability, Burton Taylor dies of AIDS-related illness in White Plains, New York at the age of 47.Learn More.
Taylor danced such roles as Captain Belaye in John Cranko’s Pineapple Poll and Arthur Saint-Leon in Robert Joffrey’s Pas des Deesses. Taylor made his professional debut with the Eglevsky Ballet in 1959. He joined the American Ballet Theater in 1962 and the Joffrey in 1969, dancing with the company through 1978.
Taylor also wwas a contributing editor of Dance magazine from 1979 to 1983, and wrote several dance articles for The New York Times.
Lou Graydon Sullivan dies at the age of 39, the first transgender man to die of AIDS-related illness.Learn More.
Sullivan was an activist and author known for his work on behalf of trans men. A pioneer of the grassroots female-to-male (FTM) movement, he is largely responsible for the modern understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as distinct, unrelated concepts.
He founded FTM International, and his activism and community work was a significant contributor to the rapid growth of the FTM community during the late 1980s.
Born in 1951 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sullivan was raised in a very religious Catholic family. At age 10, he started keeping a journal, describing his early childhood thoughts of being a boy, confusing adolescence, sexual fantasies of being a gay man, and his involvement in the Milwaukee music scene.
He continued to express confusion about his identity throughout his adolescence, writing at age 15, “I want to look like what I am, but don’t know what someone like me looks like. I mean, when people look at me I want them to think — there’s one of those people … that has their own interpretation of happiness. That’s what I am.”
By 1975, Sullivan identified himself as a “female-to-male transsexual,” and two years later, he moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco in the hopes he could find “more understanding” and access hormones for his transition. He got a job with the Wilson Sporting Good Company, where he was employed as a woman but presented as a man much of the time. In his personal life, Sullivan lived as an out gay man, but he was repeatedly denied gender affirmation surgery because of his sexual orientation. At that time, transgender people were expected to adopt stereotypical heterosexual opposite-sex gender roles. This rejection led Sullivan to start a campaign to remove homosexuality from the list of contraindications for gender affirmation surgery.
In 1979, at the age of 28, Sullivan was finally able to find doctors and therapists who would accept his sexuality. He began taking testosterone and underwent a double mastectomy surgery the following year. He started a new job as an engineering technician so that he could fully embrace his new identity as a man with new co-workers.
Shortly after undergoing genital reconstruction surgery in 1986, Sullivan was diagnosed as HIV positive and told he only had 10 months to live. He wrote, “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not live as a Gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.”
In June 2019, Sullivan was one of the inaugural 50 American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City. In August 2019, Sullivan was one of the honorees inducted in the Rainbow Honor Walk in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.
Howard Ashman, the award-winning lyricist “who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul,” dies at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at the age of 40.Learn More.
Born in Baltimore in 1950, Ashman would rise to prominence in the musical theater world in 1977, when he became the artistic director of New York City’s WPA Theatre, an off-off-Broadway theater with 99 seats. This is where Ashman’s collaboration with composer Alan Menken began.
Their first musical was Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater in 1979 (which Vonnegut himself approved of). Then in 1982, Ashman went on to conceive, write and direct Little Shop of Horrors, again with music by Alan Menken. The musical, based upon Roger Corman’s 1960s-era horror flick, was immediately successful.
In 1986, Howard wrote and directed the Broadway musical, Smile, which featured music by Marvin Hamlisch. Little appreciated at the time, Smile is now considered a lost gem of musical theater and is performed by high schools and amateur groups around the U.S.
Smile closed after just 48 performances, and Ashman decided to accept an offer from Disney Pictures and moved to Los Angeles.
“Here’s what you need to know about Disney in 1986: it was a total mess,” writes Peter Knegt in his column Queeries. “The 1970s and 1980s are what many refer to the company’s ‘dark period,’ peaking with 1985’s massive financial disaster The Black Cauldron.
Ashman showed up just in time to rescue Disney’s animation department. Of the prospective projects presented to Ashman, one grabbed hold of him right away — an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. He took charge of the project and brought in Alan Menken to help him.
“The animation studio was basically shutting down,” Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, recalled in 2016. “When we did our film, we didn’t even have an animation division over at the lot; they’d been kicked off and in these little cubicles in this run-down place…. It was just unbelievable to think that Walt’s vision was dying.”
It was during production of The Little Mermaid that Howard discovered he was infected with HIV. Despite his illness, he continued to work, giving the story his particular point of view.
In early meetings with Little Mermaid directors Ron Clements and Jon Musker, Ashman made a suggestion that would change cinematic history: What if Sebastian the crab, Ariel’s guardian, was Jamaican?
“Now we can’t imagine hearing ‘Under the Sea’ any other way,” writes Maureen Lee Lenker for Entertainment.
Ashman also steered the animators toward his favorite design option for the sea witch Ursula, one based on drag star Divine.
“And really, to think that an openly gay man inserted a queer icon into the essence of a lead character in a Disney film in the late 1980s is incredibly radical,” writes Peter Knegt. “It would be even today.”
Ashman continued to keep his diagnosis secret, enduring eight-hour days at Disney World doing press. To receive his daily treatments via IV infusion, he had a catheter in his chest. He was expected to go on rides, and was too afraid to tell people that it would be too painful.
Over the next few years, Ashman was pivotal in the renaissance of Disney animated musicals and in the development of The Little Mermaid (Producer and Lyrics), Beauty and the Beast (Executive Producer and Lyrics) and Aladdin (Lyrics), all with music by Alan Menken.
Beauty and the Beast premiered as an unfinished film at the 1991 New York Film Festival, but Ashman wasn’t there to see it and hear the rapturous applause during the closing credits. He had died eight months before its release.
Ashman’s contributions to the revival of classic Disney animated musicals have been acknowledged by many but were perhaps best expressed by his Disney colleagues, who dedicated the film Beauty and the Beast to his memory: “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul. He will be forever missed.”
Ashman’s numerous awards include two Oscars, two Golden Globes, four Grammys, a Drama Desk and a London Evening Standard. Ashman won his second Oscar posthumously in 1991, for his work on the title song for Beauty and the Beast, and this became the first Oscar given to someone who had died of AIDS.
In 2001, Disney inducted Ashman into its Legends program, an honor reserved for animators, Imagineers, songwriters, actors, and business leaders who made a significant impact on the Disney legacy.
In 2020, Disney+ released Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist. Directed and written by Don Hahn, the film tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows, and to his untimely death. His story is told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends, and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast.
Nicholas Dante, who won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award as a co-author of A Chorus Line, died of AIDS in New York City at the age of 49.Learn More.
Dante started his career as a dancer, appearing in the choruses of shows, including Applause, on television shows and in nightclubs. His experiences became one of the prominent stories in A Chorus Line,” which ranks among the top ten longest-running shows in Broadway history.
His own story — about growing up poor in New York City and feeling scorned and lonely because of his homosexuality — was told by Sammy Williams, who won a Tony Award as best supporting actor for his portrayal of the character, Paul.
Dante described his lonely childhood and his illness in a 1991 Jimmy Breslin column.
“I grew up in the Forties, a Puerto Rican kid on 125th and Broadway, and obviously gay,” he told Breslin. “Nobody would hang out with me … I was terrified to go out where anybody could see me.”
Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett and with music by Marvin Hamlisch, A Chorus Lie was produced by Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1975 and then moved to the Shubert Theater, where it had 6,137 performances before closing in April 1990.
By then, three of the show’s five creators had died: Bennett in 1987, lyricist Edward Kleban in 1987, and co-writer James Kirkwood in 1989.
Performer-writer Philip Mills, who performed in drag in San Francisco under the name Doris Fish, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.Learn More.
Co-founder with Miss X and Tippi of the long-lived Sluts-a-Go-Go drag trio, Doris would perform songs and skits based on such cult favorites as The Valley of the Dolls.
Mills would co-write and (as Doris Fish) star in the cult film classic Vegas in Space (1991).
Erik Mead, who performed in San Francisco venues under the drag name Tippi, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 39.Learn More.
With drag queens Miss X and Doris Fish, Tippi created the performance group Sluts-a-Go-Go in San Francisco. They would create and perform drag shows for 10 years in Bay Area venues like Club 181.
Tippi would also perform in a featured role in the camp cult film Vegas in Space (1991), written by Philip Mills (who performed in drag as Doris Fish). Favorites of the Castro district drag scene, Doris and Tippi produced a weekly cable news show in 1986 about the gay community.
Mead and Mills were roommates, and Mills would precede Mead in death by two months.
Belinda Mason, the only AIDS-infected member of the National Commission on AIDS and a critic of President George H.W. Bush, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 33.Learn More.
Infected with the AIDS virus in 1987 from a blood transfusion during the birth of her second child, Mason is known for being the commission member most unafraid to speak out against the Bush administration for treating AIDS as a moral issue rather than as a public-health issue.
She is also known as a strong voice among people with AIDS who are angry that AZT is the only AIDS drug approved by the U.S.
Mason refused to distinguish between what sanctimonious politicians called the “innocent victims” of HIV and the rest of those living with the disease. Yet she was aware of her priviledge, telling the press that Bush appointed her because, ″I was perfect. I was Southern, I was white, I was articulate and I got AIDS in a nice way.″
Before becoming ill, Mason worked as a reporter for the Appalachian News Express in Pikeville and the Hartford Times News, both Kentucky weeklies. She also wrote short stories.
Mason, originally of Whitesburg, Ky., founded Kentuckiana People With AIDS, the first Kentucky-based group dedicated to fighting for a cure. She also was a member of the AIDS Action Council, a national AIDS lobbying group.
She spent untold hours with Kentuckians, listening, laughing, educating, telling stories and being a lifeline for rural HIVers, according to Kate Black in her profile on Mason in POZ magazine.
She was president of the National Association of People With AIDS when Bush appointed her in 1989 to the commission created by his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.
Right before Belinda Mason died at the age of 32, she told her family, “Well, bye-bye y’all.”
In 2016, the legislature of the State of Kentucky would honor Mason with a resolution to “reflect on the many accomplishments Belinda Mason made as a notable woman in Kentucky’s history.”
“For her uncommon courage in the face of death, for all that she accomplished as an AIDS
advocate during a time in this country when it was unpopular to do so, and for being a
daughter of this great Commonwealth,” the resolution states, “this honorable body posthumously honors her for her many contributions to human rights on Women’s History Month.”
Freddie Mercury, the lead singer-songwriter for the rock band Queen, dies at the age of 45 of AIDS-related illness at his home in west London one day after he publicly announces he is HIV positive.Learn More.
Regarded by fans and critics alike as a consummate showman, Mercury was openly bisexual and enjoyed a colourful rock-star lifestyle.
Born Frederick Bulsara on the East African island of Zanzibar on September 5, 1946, Mercury studied piano in boarding school in India, then befriended numerous musicians at London’s Ealing College of Art.
Mercury would become famous for being one of the rock world’s most versatile and engaging performers and for his mock operatic masterpiece, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Released in 1975, the six-minute song was nearly never released due to its length and unusual style.
But Mercury insisted to his bandmates and music executives that it be included in their album “A Night at the Opera” and the song would go on to be a worldwide hit and timeless rock anthem.
When members of the music community began to become sick and die from AIDS, Mercury would express fear about becoming infected with HIV, recalls friend Peter Freestone, who believes the singer first suspected he was ill as early as 1987.
For the final two years of his life, Mercury would keep his illness secret from everyone, except those he was closest to, according to his bandmates, and he would live in almost total seclusion.
Only Freddie’s close family and friends were invited to his funeral.
Ten years later, Mercury and Queen would be recognized for their contributions to American music history when they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Stan Hadden, a senior administrative aide to California Senate President Pro Tempore David A. Roberti and one of the most influential voices on AIDS policies in Sacramento, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 35.Learn More.
As fierce fighter for HIV/AIDS policy for 10 years, Haddon is credited with shepharding the creation of the California AIDS Advisory Committee in 1983 and writing legislation supporting a coordinated approach to local HIV/AIDS programs and services in 1985.
Hadden was one of only a few in the 1980s Sacramento political scene who were open about their LGBT identity, journalist Karen Ocamb would later write in The Pride. Scores of administrative and political aides to California legislators remained in the closet, fearful that open knowledge of their sexual identity would end their professional careers. Elected officials and potential candidates who identify as LGBT also remained silenced by the very real fear of ruination.
In the final two weeks of his life, Hadden receives round-the-clock nursing care as part of a hospice program. Sacramento AIDS Foundation spokeswoman Patty Blomberg notes that the AIDS care Hadden received might not have existed if it were not for his influence and persistence.
Blomberg tells the Sacramento Bee that Hadden had slipped into a coma early that morning and then died at about noon at his farmhouse along the Sacramento River, surrounded by friends and family who had flown in from as far away as Michigan.
Hadden’s funeral would bring in friends and colleagues from around the state, including Ocamb and John Duran, then President of the Board of LIFE AIDS Lobby who would become Mayor of the City of West Hollywood.
“In a gesture unheard of for the suits of Sacramento, a huge rainbow flag was unfurled and solemnly marched down the street to the Capitol,” Ocamb recalled.
“Stan’s memory will go on, because he made a contribution to this state that many of us can only dream of making,” Senate President Pro Tem Roberti says during Hadden’s memorial service at St. Francis Church in midtown Sacramento.
Richard Hunt, a puppeteer known for his work on The Muppet Show, dies of AIDS-related illness at Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan at the age of 40.Learn More.
Hunt, a native of the Bronx, was a member of Jim Henson Productions for more than 20 years, as the performer behind Scooter, Janice, Forgetful Jones, Junior Gorg and many other characters from the popular television programs The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock.
He directed several episodes of these shows, and was a puppeteer in the Henson films The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan and Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3-D, a Disney/MGM Studios Theme Park attraction.
Hunt was known by his co-workers on Sesame Street and other projects for his accomplished singing voice and his warm backstage personality.
He served as a mentor to newer puppeteers, taking new hires to lunch. He was often observed reading a newspaper as he was performing a character and doing that character’s lines.
“When he is not working on camera, he is apt to have Scooter or Beaker or Janice — anyone — on his arm for the purpose of entertaining visitors to the studio. If there are no visitors around, he will attempt to entertain his co-workers,” wrote Christopher Finch in his book Of Muppets and Men.
Among his last productions were The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, Sesame Street’s Sing, Hoot & Howl, and Muppet Sing Alongs: Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs (the last of which was released in 1993, one year after his death). Several episodes of Sesame Street’s 23rd season featuring new Hunt performances aired posthumously as well.
In the period immediately following his death, few of Hunt’s characters (with the notable exceptions of Beaker, Statler, and Sweetums) were recast with new performers. Scooter was retired and absent as a character in all Muppet productions until 1999 with Muppets from Space. On Sesame Street, characters originated by Hunt usually appear only in background cameos.
The Richard Hunt Spirit Award is presented annually at the Sesame Street wrap party to the cast member who best honors the generosity in spirit and dedicated work of Richard Hunt in their actions on set.
Jewelry designer and activist Tina Chow dies of AIDS-related illness in Pacific Palisades, California at the age of 41.Learn More.
Born Bettina Louise Lutz, the supermodel, jewellery designer and fashion collector, was married to restaurateur Michael Chow in 1972 and became known professionally as Tina Chow. In the 1970s, she was featured prominently in advertising campaigns for the Japanese cosmetic line Shiseido.
“Chow broke the mold of being a model with an androgynous look and a distinctly chic fashion sensibility that gave her notoriety,” writes artist Maxwell N. Burnstein in his tribute to her on the Council of Fashion Designers of America website.
Karl Lagerfeld credits Chow as the inventor of minimal chic, and Kate Moss considers her to be her style icon. Recognized as having a profound influence on the styles of her era, Chow was initiated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1985.
The same year, Helmut Newton took a portrait photograph of Chow and her husband in which their power dynamics are made evident.
“In the photograph, the two are separated, physically, by the counter of a bar,” writes Cynthia Cruz in The Critical Flame. “He standing in dark glasses, holding a glass in his hand, staring at her while she is on the other side, in a long white dress, her eyes made dark with make-up, tied to the bar with rope.”
In the mid-1980s, Chow began to find the non-stop party lifestyle tiresome, and was encouraged by artist Andy Warhol to turn her attention to jewellery design. She incorporated stones and crystals associated with healing properties into bamboo and used traditional Japanese basket weaving techniques to follow the shapes of uncut stones.
“Chow’s pieces of jewelry are unusual, neither delicate or what one might usually consider ‘beautiful,'” writes Cynthia Cruz in her tribute to Chow. “Instead, the pieces are solid, anchored.”
The piece for which Chow is best known is her Kyoto Bracelet, constructed of black bamboo with seven rose quartz pebbles inside.
Around this time, Chow also deepened her commitment to AIDS charity work. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, she explained, “I lost several friends to AIDS, and I felt my life slipping away while I continued to party.”
She also separated from her husband and embarked on a series of affairs, first with a film star who introduced her to Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, and later with the French aristocrat Kim D’Estainvillle.
In 1989, Chow and her husband divorced. Five months later, she learned that she was HIV positive. Chow refused to take any of the medicine her Western doctors recommended. Instead, she opted for a holistic approach, attempting to heal herself with crystals, macrobiotics, teas, and similar somatic modes of healing.
After Chow had made her illness public, she continued to work with AIDS organizations, including Project Angel Food. She ultimately lost her life from complications from AIDS at her home in Pacific Palisades on January 24, 1992.
Martin Robinson, a long-time organizer for gay-rights causes who was known for his provocative protests, died of AIDS-related illness at his Brooklyn home at the age of 49.Learn More.
Robinson was present at the 1969 police raid of the Stonewall, a Greenwich Village bar patronized by members of the LGBTQ community.
Such raids were common, but for the first time, the customers resisted and fought back. Shortly afterward, 2,000 attended a rally in Sheridan Square, where Robinson was a keynote speaker.
An early member of the Gay Activists Alliance, many activists considered Robinson a visionary during the early years of AIDS activism.
One of his mantras was, if it’s not medicine, it’s murder,” activist Bill Bahlman would tell the Act Up Oral History Project in 2010. “He taught me things like it doesn’t matter whether you’re Rock Hudson or a person living on the street, homeless. If you don’t have effective treatments for HIV, you’re going to die.”
In the early 1980s, Robinson headed GLAAD’s Swift and Terrible Retribution Committee, planning demonstrations and developing political “zaps,” chaotic and theatrical interventions intended to attract the attention of the press.
When the Centers for Disease Control planned its 1987 conference in Atlanta with a focus on mandatory testing for HIV, Robinson led activists from his group, the Lavender Hill Mob, into the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis, where a pre-conference cocktail party was being held for attendees.
Activists passed out fliers to the startled participants with the message, “What does CDC stand for? Center for Detention Camps!”
During the three days of the conference, Robinson and the Lavender Hill Mob appeared in various meeting locations with leaflets and noisy chants: “Test drugs, not people!” and “Drugs into bodies now!”
Robinson was also a founder of ACT UP, which was started in New York in the wake of the Lavender Hill Mob’s success. Modeled on the tactics of the Lavender Hill Mob, ACT UP’s approach was bold and headline-grabbing — and effective.
Perhaps one of Robinson’s most important “zaps” was the one at the National Institutes of Health in May 1990, around the time that North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms was trying to block a $600 million AIDS relief bill.
ACT UP members from all over the country descended on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, setting off smoke bombs and yelling that NIH policies were killing them. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the NIH’s drive to end AIDS, invited several ACT UP leaders inside and listened to them. What he learned brought about the Accelerated Approval process that helped get “drugs into bodies now,” as the ACT UP slogan demanded.
The Marty Robinson Collection of papers and records are currently stored at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York.
Edward Riney, member of the East End Community Action group in West Hollywood, dies of AIDS-related illness.Learn More.
Riney was well-known in the West Hollywood community as a civically engaged resident who worked tirelessly to improve public safety in the early days of West Hollywood’s cityhood.
He served on the neighborhood watch group on the city’s east side and established himself as a commentator for the Los Angeles Times for local public safety initiatives, such as the passage of a “no camping” law for city parks and removing from Plummer Park a meal program for people experiencing homelessness.
At the April meeting of the City Council, then-Mayor Paul Koretz announced that he would adjourn the meeting in memory of Riney. A moment of silence was also held in Riney’s honor.
At the meeting, longtime resident Jeanne Dobrin spoke of Riney’s dedication to crime prevention and said she appreciated his sense of humor. In addition, resident Gloria Vassy talked about how Riney organized an annual food basket drive during the holidays.
On April 25, the community held a memorial service for Riney in Plummer Park. The following December, the holiday food basket drive was organized in memory of Riney; 150 food baskets were assembled and given out to those in need.
Robert Reed, who played quintessential family man Mike Brady in the popular sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974, dies of AIDS-related illness in Pasadena, California at the age of 59.Learn More.
In 1969, Reed was cast as quintessential family man Mike Brady on the enduring sitcom The Brady Bunch. With a superficial and somewhat charming view of suburban family life, the TV show became a cultural icon of the 1970s, against all Reed’s expectations.
Reed kept it a secret that he was gay until he died in 1992. Co-star Florence Henderson said she knew about Reed’s sexual identity, as did others on the set, but it was never discussed.
“He was an unhappy person,” Henderson said. “Had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.”
Behind the scenes of the TV show, Reed battled with its creator, Sherwood Schwartz, over its content. In a 1983 interview with The Associated Press, Reed said that he and Schwartz “fought over the scripts,” and that he thought Schwartz filled the show with “just gag lines. That would have been what The Brady Bunch would have been if I hadn’t protested.”
Despite his frustration with the sitcom, Reed developed close connections with his fellow cast members: He established a lifelong friendship with Henderson, and served as a surrogate father figure to his TV children, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen.
Reed first gained a TV following in The Defenders, a 1960s dramatic series on which he played a progressive-minded young lawyer whose father was portrayed by E.G. Marshall. He also had roles in the television series The Lawman and Mannix. Earlier in 1992, he filmed an episode of Jake and the Fatman.
Born John Robert Rietz Jr. in Highland Park, Illinois, Reed spent his childhood in Muskogee, Oklahoma and then studied drama at Northwestern University, playing the leading man in eight campus productions. He married fellow student Marilyn Rosenberger in 1954, and they had a daughter named Karen; the marriage ended in divorce in 1959.
After more acting study in England, where he studied Shakespearean drama, Reed returned to the U.S. in the late 1950s and joined a young group of Shakespearian players, with whom he performed in Off-Broadway productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. He made his Broadway debut in 1964, succeeding Robert Redford as the star of the Neil Simon hit play Barefoot in the Park.
After The Brady Bunch and Mannix, Reed continued to find success with TV projects, most notably the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), Roots (1977) and Scruples (1980). He received Emmy Award nominations for his work on Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man. He was also nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Dr. Pat Caddison, a transgender person, in a 1975 two-part episode of Medical Center, a groundbreaking role for the time.
He also appeared in Brady Buch reunion specials and the popular Brady Bunch Variety Hour, even though he truly loathed the show’s often inane scripts. He did it, because he knew that the other performers would suffer financially if he declined to participate.
At the end of his career, Reed taught Shakespearean-style acting at the University of California, Los Angeles, work which brought Reed great joy. It was short lived however, because of his battle with cancer that was complicated by HIV.
In the last year of his life, Reed called Florence Henderson and asked her to “tell the kids.” She agreed, and said making those phone calls was “the hardest thing I ever had to do.”
His death told America something important: If AIDS could take America’s favorite Dad from The Brady Bunch, the disease was everywhere — and could take anyone.
Concert entertainer and songwriter Peter Allen dies of AIDS-related illness in San Diego at the age of 48.Learn More.
Allen drew audiences in the thousands to his shows at Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Central Park. Energetic, charismatic and often flamboyant, he once rode onstage on a camel, another time on an elephant.
Starting his career in show business as a child, Allen sang in school shows and neighborhood pubs in his native Tenterfield, Australia, with the encouragement of his mother. After his father committed suicide, he dropped out of school at the age of 14 to help to support his family. To increase his pay as a teenage entertainer, he learned to dance and play piano, and wrote original songs.
He got his break in 1964 when Garland saw him perform in Hong Kong and hired him to be her opening act. He met and then married Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli in 1967. Over the next few years, Minnelli’s movie career took off like a rocket while Allen remained a relatively unknown performer, except on the New York cabaret circuit. After Garland died in 1970, Allen’s marriage to Minnelli deteriorated and they divorced in 1974.
Over the years, he recorded 11 albums and performed live in venues ranging from cabarets and bath houses to Broadway theaters and concert halls. He once gave a special performance for Queen Elizabeth II, and he won an Oscar for writing the theme music to the 1981 film Arthur.
This song, which included a line about being “caught between the moon and New York City,” became a No. 1 hit. He also wrote for other films, including All That Jazz.
Allen never made a public announcement that he had HIV, fearing audiences wouldn’t want to see a performer who was sick. He may also have feared alienating conservative, heterosexual fans: Allen didn’t pretend to be straight after divorcing Minnelli, but he never publicly came out as gay either.
Even many of his friends didn’t know he was sick until January 1992, when he began chemotherapy and radiation treatment for AIDS-related throat cancer.
Allen’s last performance was on January 26, 1992 in Sydney, Australia, where he performed to packed houses. He died less than five month later.
In 1995, music journalist and film writer Stephen MacLean directed The Boy from Oz, an Australian TV documentary on Peter Allen. MacLean’s similarly titled book was published the following year and became the inspiration for a stage musical written by Nick Enright.
With Enright’s book adapted by Martin Sherman, and a revision of the musical content, The Boy from Oz premiered at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway with Hugh Jackman giving a Tony-winning performance as Allen. The show opened in October 2003 and played for a year. A Japanese version followed in June 2005. The Boy from Oz was revamped yet again for an enormously successful Australian arena production with Hugh Jackman in 2006.
Randall Klose, longtime gay-rights activist and fund-raiser, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Washington, DC. He was 37.Learn More.
Klose said he had been inspired to become an activist by Larry Kramer’s essay “1,112 and Counting” in The New York Native in 1983. In that essay, Kramer demanded to know why wealthy homosexuals were not responding to the AIDS crisis.
“I read the article, and said to myself, ‘Here I am,'” Klose said.
At the time, Klose was a Beverly Hills developer with strong connections to the LGBTQ community. He started raising money for the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Los Angeles (now the Los Angeles LGBT Center) and the Triangle Institute.
On June 1, 1987, Klose was among those arrested at a White House demonstration protesting the lack of an AIDS response from President Reagan.
He then helped organize and finance lobbying efforts for the 1988 AIDS research and education law, a cornerstone of the comprehensive federal AIDS effort. He later became co-chairman of the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s board of directors, and helped the fund’s budget grow from $1 million to $5 million in a few years.
In 1991, Klose helped lead a U.S. contingent to the meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission in Moscow, one of the first publicized gatherings of LGBTQ people in Russia.
Klose contributed much of his own wealth to organizations conducting HIV/AIDS research and providing social services. In addition to his earnings as a developer, his wealth included an inheritance from his father, who owned Dairy Queen franchise in Texas, with 800 outlets.
Alison Gertz, who said she contracted the AIDS virus during her first sexual encounter at age 16 – and who publicized her misfortune to show that anyone can be at risk – dies at her parents’ home on Long Island at the age of 26.Learn More.
Gertz drew international attention by telling her story as a warning to heterosexuals and women. A television movie based on her diaries and starring Molly Ringwald, Something To Live For, raised awareness about HIV/AIDS with millions of TV viewers. An HIV/AIDS information hotline that ran after the film generated a record 189,251 calls within 24 hours, mostly from women
When Gertz first publicly told her story, in an interview with The New York Times in 1989, the AIDS epidemic was widely perceived as confined to homosexual men, intravenous drug abusers and blood-transfusion recipients.
She fit none of those categories. Her story was all the more dramatic because of the privilege she was born into, with artistic talent, affluence, private schools and social prominence.
Following her diagnosis, Gertz became a crusader, speaking at schools, colleges and public events. Esquire named her Woman of the Year, and she appeared on the cover of People magazine.
The People article describes Gertz as “pretty, poised and privileged,” but with a forever-changed future due to her AIDS diagnosis. Gertz shares with the reporter her goal of warning young people about the risk of unprotected sex and stopping what happened to her from happing to others.
“They might not listen to their parents or pay attention to the news,” she told People, “but they might understand it coming from me because I’m one of them.”
When she was well enough, Gertz lectured at high schools and colleges.
An only child, Gertz was born in Manhattan and grew up on Park Avenue. Her father, the grandson of a founder of Gertz department stores, is a real-estate investor. Her mother cofounded a national chain of fashion stores, Tennis Lady.
Educated at Horace Mann School, Ms. Gertz studied art at Parsons School of Design. At 22, she was beginning a career as an illustrator.
“I was just, as they say, starting out in life,” she said, with hopes of marriage and children.
Gertz’s mother Carol also became an advocate for HIV treatment and research. In 1989, two close friends helped Carol Gertz start the nonprofit organization Concerned Parents for AIDS Research (CPFA), with the hope of developing a cure.
Initially supported by a circle of longtime friends, the network of fund-raisers soon expanded to include others whose lives had been upended by the virus — and those who realized that their children were also at risk.
Following the death of her daughter, Carol Gertz would go onto launch Love Heals in 1992 as a way to empower youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS through prevention education and leadership development training. The project is meant to address stigma and help young adults have conversations about sexuality.
Juan Suárez Botas, illustrator, graphic designer and film maker, dies of AIDS-related illness at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City at the age of 34.Learn More.
Botas’ illustrations appeared on the covers of Time, Fortune, U.S. News & World Report and other magazines. His drawings appeared in The New York Times, Vogue and other publications.
Botas moved to the U.S. from Spain in 1977. At the time of his death, he was directing a documentary about his AIDS treatment group at the time of his death, which was released as One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave: Secrets from the Dolly Madison Room.
A friend of film director Jonathan Demme, Botas was a major influence on Demme’s decision to make the film Philadelphia.
Ricky Ray, the eldest of three hemophiliac brothers barred from school in Florida because they carried the AIDS virus, dies at the age of 15 at his home in Orlando.Learn More.
Ricky and and his two younger brothers, Robert and Randy, sparked a national conversation on AIDS in 1987, after their court battle to attend school led to boycotts by local residents and the torching of their home in Arcadia, Florida.
Last month, President-elect Clinton had telephoned the boy to offer his support. Bedridden with AIDS, Rick let it be known that he wanted to talk to then-President-elect Bill Clinton about the deadly disease.
When Ricky was handed the telephone in his room at All Children’s Hospital, Clinton was on the other end.
“Ricky told him, ‘I hope you do everything you said you would to make a difference,'” said Ricky’s mother, Louise. “He said that Clinton told him that he was going to do everything in his power to make things better.”
With the death rate from HIV infection steadily and dramatically increasing over the past 10 years, AIDS becomes the leading cause of death in the U.S. for men aged 25-44.Learn More.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control announces that HIV infection emerged in the 1980s as a leading cause of death in the U.S., and now HIV infection is the number one cause of death among men aged 25-44 years.
The CDC bases this assessment on data obtained from death certificates filed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Statisticians suspect the magnitude is greater than indicated in the report.
The report also notes that HIV infection is more severely advancing to death for blacks and hispanics than other racial/ethnic groups.
“These differences probably reflect social, economic, behavioral, or other factors rather than race/ethnicity directly,” the report states. “The social and cultural context of HIV infection must be addressed through prevention efforts designed to meet the needs of specific communities.”
John Dorr, video artist and founder of EZTV, one of the nation’s first centers devoted to the production and exhibition of video, dies in Los Angeles of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.Learn More.
From his two-story, cluttered loft in West Hollywood, Dorr fashioned a self-contained studio with room for filming, editing and exhibiting. He was known to boast that prospective filmmakers just needed enough money for videotape and groceries for their casts.
Dorr became a pioneer in the production of full-length dramatic videos, providing a new opportunity for independent filmmakers to produce inexpensive feature-length movies on video.
Since opening his gallery in 1980, he had a hand in the production of more than 100 video films, among them the Lannen Literary Series, hourlong programs on major poets and writers, and Dorothy and Alan at Norma Place, a film recounting the Hollywood career of the writer Dorothy Parker.
Dorr was a graduate of Yale University and president of the the school’s film society. While at Yale, he provided exhibits of the films of Howard Hawks, John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. After becoming a teaching assistant at UCLA, he hit upon the idea for EZTV when he found many young documentary makers using video to make inexpensive films but there was no place to show their their work.
EZTV Founder John Dorr’s openly gay status in the late ’70s and early ’80s was rare, because such a disclosure could quickly end a Hollywood career. Many of EZTV’s earliest participants from AIDS-related illnesses, including Benedict Falvo, Earl Miller, James “Dillinger” Baker, Mark Addy, Wallace Potts, and Victor Davis.
According to the EZTV Online Museum, EZTV served the West Hollywood community during the height of the AIDS pandemic as a place where the friends of those who had died of AIDS could hold memorial services and gatherings in their honor. For several years, it was common for a Saturday afternoon at EZTV to be dedicated to the remembrance of someone who could not afford a service any other way.
After Dorr’s death, EZTV somehow persevered amid seemingly impossible odds. As Michael Kearns (Hollywood’s first openly gay actor) stated, EZTV became an “AIDS survivor.” Now housed at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, EZTV continues to be a pioneer in the media arts.
World-renowned ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 54.Learn More.
Nureyev is born in 1938 aboard the Trans-Siberian express, near Lake Baikal. He spends his childhood and youth in Ufa, capital of the Soviet Republic of Bashkir. His parents are Tartar Muslims.
In 1961, Rudolf Nureyev dances with the Kirov Ballet, which is on tour in Paris. His first appearance on stage is at the Palais Garnier, in Act III from La Bayadère. Days later, he demands political asylum at Le Bourget airport and refuses to board an airplane to the USSR. He joins the Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas the next day.
He becomes internationally famous as a flamboyant performer and a charismatic celebrity who revived the prominence of male ballet roles and significantly widened the audience for ballet.
In 1973 he codirects (with Robert Helpmann) and stars in a filmed version of Don Quixote, and he has acting roles in the films Valentino (1977) and Exposed (1983).
From 1983 to 1989, Nureyev would be artistic director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, the oldest ballet company in the world. He would be diagnosed with HIV in 1984, his second year at the POB.
He continues to choreograph for the American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet even as his health declines from AIDS-related complications.
Nureyev enters the hospital Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours in Levallois-Perret on November 20, 1992 and remained there until his death. His funeral was held in the marble foyer of the Paris Garnier Opera House.
Frank Banks, beloved entertainer at the Mint piano bar on Market Street in San Francisco, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 46.
Tennis star Arthur Ashe dies of complications from AIDS at the age of 49. Ashe’s body is laid in state at the governor’s mansion in Richmond, Virginia, where thousands of people line up to pay their respects to the ground-breaking athlete and social activist.Learn More.
Ashe is celebrated for being the first (and only) African American male tennis player to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon singles titles.
Attending UCLA on a full scholarship in 1965, Ashe wins the individual NCAA tennis championship and helps UCLA win the team championship. He then serves in the U.S. Army for two years.
Ashe begins his career in earnest in 1968, winning the U.S. Open while still an amateur player. He becomes the first black man to win a Grand Slam event.
He becomes a trailblazer in the world of tennis, winning multiple Grand Slam titles in his career. He also becomes known for his commitment to charitable causes and humanitarian work. He establishes tennis programs for inner-city children and campaigns against apartheid in South Africa. He retires from tennis in 1980 after suffering a heart attack.
In 1988, Ashe begins experiencing paralysis in his right arm. After undergoing exploratory brain surgery and a battery of tests, doctors determine he has toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that is commonly found in people infected with HIV. Another set of tests reveals he is HIV positive.
Doctors believe Arthur Ashe contracted HIV from blood transfusions during his second heart surgery. Despite that, Ashe and his wife try to keep his HIV diagnosis private. After a friend that worked at USA Today calls Ashe about his condition, he decides to go public.
Two months before his death, he founds the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery to urban minority populations. He also dedicates time in his last few months to writing “Days of Grace,” his memoir that he finishes only days before his death.
Arthur Ashe dies of AIDS-related pneumonia in New York at the age of 49. His body was laid in state at the Governor’s Mansion in his hometown of Richmond, VA. More than 5,000 people line up to walk past the casket.
His funeral is attended by nearly 6,000 people including NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and Rainbow Coalition chairman Jesse Jackson. Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who had performed Arthur’s marriage ceremony, delivers the eulogy.
On what would have been Arthur’s 53rd birthday, July 10, 1996, a statue of him was dedicated on Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Before this, Monument Avenue had commemorated Confederate war heroes; in fact, as a child Arthur would not even have been able to visit Monument Avenue because of the color of his skin.
Arthur is depicted carrying books in one hand and a tennis racket in the other, symbolizing his love of knowledge and tennis.
In 1997, the USTA announced that the new center stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center would be named Arthur Ashe Stadium, commemorating the life of the first U.S. Open men’s champion in the place where all future U.S. Open champions will be determined.
Loyd Tittle, owner of Capitol Drugs in West Hollywood, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 42.Learn More.
Tittle was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. For four years, his sister Ruth Tittle traveled from Lexington, Kentucky to Los Angeles to help care for Loyd. In 1992, Ruth moved to West Hollywood to care for her brother full-time and to help him with running his West Hollywood businesses.
Loyd suffered from cytomegalovirus (CMV) colitis, and as a result he couldn’t absorb nutrition. As with many people with AIDS, this condition led to loss of body mass, commonly known as “wasting.” Loyd was in the hospital 11 times in the last year of his life.
A plaque remembering Loyd Tittle is on the sidewalk in front of Capitol Drugs, part of the AIDS Memorial Walk. His sister went on to become one of the founding members of the Foundation for The AIDS Monument. She also served on the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and worked on the Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing project.
Daniel P. Warner, co-founder and former executive director of the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 38.Learn More.
As LA Shanti’s first Executive Director, Warner laid the groundwork for a successful volunteer-run, community-based organization that provided clients with the opportunity and resources to die with dignity. Under Warner’s leadership, LA Shanti would become a leader in quality service programs using the Shanti model of compassionate presence.
Warner also served as Program Director of the AIDS education group West Hollywood CARES, and organized the National Candlelight March in 1983 and in 1990.
As Warner stepped down from LA Shanti’s leadership team in 1991 and prepared to move to San Francisco, he received Shanti’s first Commitment to Service Award. The same year, he received LA County’s Community Service Award and a certificate of recognition from the state Senate.
Warner served as consultant to two television movies dealing with the subject of AIDS –“Our Sons” on ABC and the Emmy Award-winning “An Early Frost” on NBC.
Warner would die on his 38th birthday with his companion at his side.
Keeston Lowery, an aide to Portland Commissioner Michael Lindberg, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 43.Learn More.
Lowery was a tireless and supremely effective advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights from inside the Portland government. He also worked as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital and served on the Board for the Right to Privacy PAC (predecessor to Basic Rights Oregon).
In 1967-68, Lowery worked on Sen. Robert Kennedy’s campaign for President, and shortly afterward, graduated from Mississippi State University’s five-year occupational therapy program. He continued his higher education and earned another degree from the University of Arkansas. He then worked in Pine Bluff and Little Rock, Arkansas, and in the mid-1970s, he took a job with then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton.
Lowery moved to Portand, Oregon in 1977 to take a job as a physical therapist for Emanuel Hospital, and quickly became a leader in the local queer community. He became an aide to Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg, and immediately used his role in inter-governmental relations and film policy to cultivate advocates for equal rights in all levels of local and state government.
Lowery crafted Portland’s first civil rights ordinance, which banned discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and several other categories.
“His beaming smile, southern drawl and good will were infectious,” writes the Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest in its tribute to Lowery. “He was an astute political observer who could intuitively plot winning strategies. His manifold contributions continue to this day, not only in the policies he crafted on behalf of marginalized people, but in memories of all the powerful and empowered people whose lives he touched.”
Lowery’s work on the city’s film production policies and the good will he established with film crews led to his receiving a “thank you” credit on the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho, written and directed by Gus Van Sant.
When Lowery in late August of 1993, Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts and Portland Mayor Vera attended his funeral, held on Sept. 2 in the Rose Gardens at Washington Park, along with numerous members and leaders in the LGBTQIA+ community. Lowery’s ashes were scattered on Mount Hood, a potentially active volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, located about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland.
The City of Portand’s archives store Lowery’s papers and artifacts.
Joan Baker, San Francisco’s first out HIV+ lesbian, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 27. At the time of her passing, she is in her home surrounded by loved ones and her many pets.Learn More.
In December of 1986, two days before Christmas, Joan Baker received news that she was HIV+. According to a tribute to Baker in Lady Science, she had gotten tested for HIV as an act of solidarity with a friend, not because she thought she was at risk, and her diagnosis was a shock.
The youngest of a large family, Baker was born in 1966 in Riverside, California. Her parents were originally from the U.K. and moved Baker and her siblings several times from southern California to Washington state and then to England in the late 1970s. In 1986, she left her family in England after coming out and returned to California.
She received her HIV+ diagnosis after settling in San Francisco, a city that was fast becoming a model for AIDS care to the world. Unfortunately, the city offered very few services and resources for HIV+ women at that time.
“In 1986, many HIV care providers and activists knew women could contract HIV/AIDS, but this knowledge did not translate to widespread services or research, or compassionate coverage from the media,” according to the article on Lady Science.
HIV+ women — particularly HIV+ lesbians like Baker — were virtually invisible, but Baker fought to change this during the last seven years of her life. Through a friend, she connected with several programs, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, where she attended the first ever Women with AIDS support group. Baker never intended to become known for being an HIV+ activist, but to gain access to services, she had to assert a level of visibility.
Baker appeared on local talk shows, promotional materials for pharmaceutical companies and care organizations, and spoke at public events. She attended protests organized by AIDS Action Pledge and ACT UP-San Francisco and carried the “Fighting for Our Lives” banner at the 1988 Candlelight Memorial March. And that same year, during the unfolding of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, she took part in the reading of the names of people who had died of AIDS emblazoned on the quilt.
Because she was a HIV+ lesbian, Baker was subjected to invasive questions. Some asked if she was an IV-drug user, while others wanted to know whether she had sex with men. Baker’s response to these questions was to challenge people to reimagine what an HIV+ person looks like.
“It doesn’t matter how I got it,” she said. “It’s the fact that I have been diagnosed and I am coming out as a woman with AIDS, because a lot of lesbians still think that they can’t get AIDS, and I’m here to say it can happen.”
By the last year of her life, Baker had built a strong support group and was known and admired by many in the community. After her death in early September 1993, Baker was memorialized with a political funeral and rally at Dolores Park, organized by Lesbian Avengers activist Judith Cohen.
Hundreds of people gathered for the event, including members of ACT UP-Golden Gate and ACT UP-San Francisco, and WORLD, as well as members of the Public Health Department and Lyon-Martin Health HIV Services. The crowd carried signs with images of Baker on them and marched to Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro neighborhood, escorted by Dykes on Bikes.
Jenn Maeader, Joan’s partner for the last three years of her life, spoke at Milk Plaza about the importance of Baker’ activism and her visibility in the AIDS epidemic, saying, “Imagine if a woman here today who might be at risk now gets tested, and if we can tell her she has a life, she has a future, she has a community that supports her.”
Emile Ardolino, who won an Oscar for the dance documentary He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’ and directed the hit movies Dirty Dancing and Sister Act, dies at his Bel Air home of AIDS-related illness at the age of 50.Learn More.
Ardolino gained prominence in the mid-1970s as a producer and director of dance programming on television. In the late ’80s, he made a splash in Hollywood with Dirty Dancing, followed by the hits Three Men and a Little Lady and Sister Act.
Born in New York City, Ardolino performed in several theater productions at New York’s Queens College, and portrayed the character “Boy” in a touring version of The Fantasticks.
Ardolino’s awards mounted through his efforts for the Dance in America series for PBS. He won his first Emmy for directing Choreography by Balanchine IV in the 1978-79 season and a Directors Guild of America award for The Spellbound Child in the 1980-81 season.
Jacques d’Amboise, a principal dancer with New York’s City Ballet, invited him to direct He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’, detailing the dancer’s work with children. The film won Ardolino not only the Oscar but two more Emmys and a Peabody award.
Ardolino also had a long-term relationship with producer Joseph Papp and translated to television such New York Shakespeare Festival works as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Dance and the Railroad.
His first feature film, 1987’s Dirty Dancing, was a huge box-office success, grossing more than $50 million in its initial U.S. release.
“I do love dance,” Ardolino said in a 1987 interview with The New York Times. “I do love music. It was a script in which the dance was used to move the plot along, to reveal character, and the story didn’t stop; in addition to which, I saw a subtext of body language throughout. So I related to all that immediately.”
Rocker Ray Gillen dies from AIDS-related illness in New York at the age of 34.Learn More.
Gillen was best known as the lead singer for Badlands, which was notable for its 1989 self-titled record and 1991’s Voodoo’s Highway. Gillen also performed with Black Sabbath in the mid-1980s and recorded most of the vocals on Phenomena’s Dream Runner album.
Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Gillen was still a teenager when he began playing the New Jersey club circuit with various bands, including Quest (1978–80), F-66 (1980–81), Savage, and, most notably, Vendetta and Harlette.
“They were quite good, really, performing a small set of original material sandwiched in between credible renditions of numbers by bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and the like,” said Gillen’s friend Marc Fevre. “But it wasn’t really until 1985, when he joined former Rainbow drummer Bobby Rondinelli’s outfit, ‘Rondinelli,’ that Ray’s career began to take real shape.”
In 1986, Black Sabbath started touring for the Seventh Star album when after only a few shows, singer Glenn Hughes got into a fist-fight and lost his voice due to the related sinus and throat injuries. Gillen stepped in and finished the tour, and then contributed to Black Sabbath’s next album The Eternal Idol. However, Gillen and drummer Eric Singer quit before the album was released.
In 1988, Gillen formed Badlands with Jake E. Lee and Eric Singer and toured until 1992. He first showed HIV symptoms around 1990, when his bandmates began to notice his weight loss.
Lee said he was unaware of Gillen’s diagnosis until a meeting with then-Badlands manager Paul O’Neill, who threatened to tell Atlantic Records about his illness if they fired him. Gillen reportedly said to Lee, “Well, it’s not true, so … fire him.”
“So we did fire him. And he did tell Atlantic Records that,” Lee recounted. “And we got kind of screwed on the second record because of it.”
In 1993, publisher of Metalhammer magazine Wilfried F. Rimensberger invited Gillen to Munich perform in a rock festival that would launch a series of concerts across Europe in 1994. But Gillen would bow out when it became clear that he was too ill to perform. He was hospitalized and died soon after.
In February of 1994, vocalist Glenn Hughes organized a memorial concert in tribute to Gillen with performances by a number of rock luminaries, including singer Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, former Mariah Carey guitarist Paul Pescoe, and Hughes’ own band, Trapeze.
AIDS movement pioneer Michael Callen dies of AIDS-related illness at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 38.Learn More.
Callen was diagnosed early in the epidemic — 1982 — and he responded by becoming involved in every way he could in promoting the self-empowerment of People With AIDS. In fact, Callen is credited with coining the term “People With AIDS,” and insisted on this term instead of the passive and negative-sounding phrase “AIDS victim” commonly used at the time.
Callen was born in Rising Sun, Indiana and raised in Hamilton, Ohio. He graduated in 1977 from Boston University, which he attended on a music scholarship, and then moved to New York, where he sang in cabarets and with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.
He grew into political advocacy after receiving a diagnosis of AIDS in 1982. He became an early proponent of safer-sex practices, writing How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach with Richard Berkowitz, Dr. Joseph A. Sonnabend, and Richard Dworkin in 1983.
Among the very first publications to recommend the use of condoms to prevent the transmission of STDs in men having sex with men, the pamphlet was distributed at gay social establishments throughout New York City — 5,000 copies in its first run.
That same year, Callen was a plaintiff in the nation’s first AIDS discrimination lawsuit, when Dr. Sonnabend, his physician, successfully fought eviction from a Greenwich Village co-op for treating people with AIDS. Also in 1983, Callen was a founding board member of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in Greenwich Village.
On August 1, 1983, Callen was one of three PWAs who testified before a Congressional subcommittee examining the U.S. government’s response to the AIDS crisis. In his statement before Congress, Callen described how he began to feel ill in 1981 and then was diagnosed in the summer of 1982 after being hospitalized with cryptospordiosis.
“It is very difficult when you pick up newspapers or turn on the television, and you hear that no one has fully recovered from this syndrome, and that 80% of those diagnosed with the syndrome are dead after two years,” he said.
A talented writer, Callen became the first editor of the PWA Coalition Newsline and edited the two-volume set Surviving and Thriving with AIDS, published by the Persons With AIDS Coalition in 1988. From 1988-1989, he was editor of AIDS Forum, and his book, Surviving AIDS, published by Harper/Collins in 1990, received honorable mention from the American Medical Writers Association.
Callen wrote extensively on the subject of the politics of sexuality, his essays regularly appearing in magazines, journals, books, and newspapers, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek. He was among the first to give AIDS a human face, by making courageous appearances on TV shows such as Nightline, Good Morning America and 20/20. He also appeared on the talk shows Phil Donahue and Geraldo.
Callen moved from New York to West Hollywood to keep up with his busy TV and film schedule. He can be seen in several films and documentaries, including Philadelphia, Zero Patience, and the HBO documentary Why Am I Gay?
Throughout the years of his illness, Callen had a devoted and caring partner in Richard Dworkin, whom he met in June 1982, when Dworkin answered his classified ad seeking gay musicians.
“I called and Michael answered and said, ‘I happen to be getting together with a bass player tonight, do you want to come over?’ So I said OK and went to his house on Jones Street, and there was the bass player, and Michael had made sorbet,” Dworkin told Tim Murphy of The Body. “And we fell in love that night, and I stayed over. He had a piano and books, and to me that was a draw. He moved in with me in the fall of ’82.”
“Michael accomplished so much in the 11 years between his diagnosis and his demise,” Dworkin wrote in his tribute to Callen on Callen-Lorde, the website for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City (named for Michael Callen and Audre Lorde).
Dworkin listed Callen’s many achievments, including the founding of the People with AIDS Coalition, the Community Research Initiative, and the People with AIDS Health Group. He also mentioned that Callen performed with The Flirtations, “the world’s first gay male politically correct a cappella group,” plus Dworkin helped Callen record and release two solo albums.
Callen also wrote, along with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Malamet, the song “Love Don’t Need a Reason” Callen would go on to sing this at numerous events, including AIDS walkathons in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights.
Shortly before his death, Callen completed vocal tracks for 48 new songs, 29 of which were released as a double album, Legacy (winner of four Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards).
Randy Shilts, a U.S. journalist who covered the AIDS epidemic and who authored And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 42.Learn More.
Randy Shilts joined the newsroom of The San Francisco Chronicle in 1981 to report on gay politics, making him the first full-time openly gay journalist in the U.S. mainstream press. As one of the earliest people in the media to recognize the importance of AIDS as a national issue, Shilts dedicated his writing career to bringing the epidemic to the attention of the American public.
He authored three books, including The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk and And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1980-1985).
Although Shilts had been tested for HIV earlier, Shilts postponed learning the results out of fear the knowledge would compromise his objectivity. He was informed he had tested positive for the virus the day he wrote the final page of And The Band Played On.
When Shilts pitched the book to publishers, he was rejected until St. Martin’s made a modest offer with an advance of $16,000, recalls friend Michael Denneny, who edited the book. And The Band Played On would go on to sell more than 100,000 hardcover copies, and some 600,000 paperbacks.
“He worked four years on that book,” Denneny says. “He went into debt. At one point, literally to pay his rent, he had to empty this huge water jug full of pennies, nickels and dimes.”
He died while planning a fourth book examining homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church.
At his memorial service at Glide Memorial Church, his friend and assistant Linda Alband placed his press card on his casket.
Assotto Saint, a Haitian-born poet and performance artist, dies of AIDS-related illness in New York City at the age of 36.Learn More.
Among the first Black activists to disclose his HIV positive status, Saint was one of the first poets to include the subject of AIDS in his work. He was also a performance artist, musician, editor, human rights and AIDS activist, theatrical founder, and dancer.
After immigrating from Haiti to New York in 1970 when he was 13 years old, Saint graduated from Jamaica High School and was briefly enrolled as a pre-med student at Queens College. Soon, however, he turned his attention to theater and dance, and adopted the name Assotto Saint —“Assotto” for a ceremonial drum used in Haitian vodoo rituals and “Saint” for Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. Through the 1970s, Saint’s passions grew to include poetry, music, and fiction.
In 1980, Saint fell in love with Jaan Urban Holmgren, a Swedish-born composer, and they began to collaborate on a number of theatrical and musical projects. Their relationship would last 14 years, during which time Holmgren would write songs for Saint’s many theater pieces on gay Black life, including including Risin’ to the Love We Need and New Love Song. Saint was the founder and artistic director of Metamorphosis Theater, where many of their collaborative pieces were performed.
Saint founded the publishing house Galiens Press, which published his book of poems Stations and the anthologies Here to Dare and The Road Before Us. With Holmgren, Saint also performed as lead singer in the “techno pop duo” band Xotika, and released the dance song “Forever Gay” on the album Feeding the Flame: Songs by Men to End AIDS.
Saint was dancer with the Martha Graham company, and appeared in Marlon Riggs’ Non Je Ne Regrette Rien (No Regret).
“Assotto was always prepared to die,” writes author Victoria Brownworth for Lambda Literary. “If that makes him sound like a fatalist or a Zen master, he was neither. He was just clear about what was going to happen. And he knew the work had to be done and quickly, urgently, before time ran out.”
Here is the beginning of Saint’s final poem for his life-partner, Jan Holmgren, who was dying of AIDS:
A Lover’s Diary
monday, march 29, 1993
vigil on two chairs
iwhisper “hey, good morning”
he doesn’t respond
iwatch his labored breathings
the head nurse suctions him up
“he’s turned for the worse”
dr mcmeeking mumbles
weeks, days, just can’t tell
“hours” insists my mother
furious iescort her out
the oscars come on
the crying game stars don’t win
hoping he can hear
iremind him he’s my light
death rattles my scream for help
the nurse rushes in
mother returns with prayers
icradle him close
pleading “stay, one more day, stay”
eleven twenty, he’s gone
bathe him with my tears
parched lips thirst for a wet
istick my tongue deep
bitter taste of bloody phlegm
moans spat out ishut his eyes
Pedro Zamora, an HIV-positive man appearing in MTV’s popular show The Real World, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 22.Learn More.
As one of the first openly gay men with AIDS in media, Zamora brings international attention to HIV/AIDS and LGBT issues and prejudices through his appearance on MTV’s reality television series, The Real World: San Francisco.
Zamora’s commitment ceremony to his partner Sean Sasser, which is filmed for the show, is also the first same-sex ceremony in television history. Zamora dies just hours after the finale of The Real World: San Francisco aired on MTV.
Elizabeth Glaser, founder of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 47.Learn More.
Glaser contracted HIV in a blood transfusion in 1981 while giving birth to her daughter, Ariel. She and her husband, Paul, would learn four years later that she was HIV+ and she had unknowingly passed the virus on to Ariel through breast milk and that their son, Jake, had contracted the virus in utero.
The Glasers pulled their daughter out of school, fearful of media exposure and ostracism imposed by parents of other students. Newspapers in 1985 were filled with stories about the plight of Ryan White in Kokomo, Indiana, and the three Ray brothers in Arcadia, Florida — all hemophiliacs who, having been infected with the AIDS virus by blood transfusions, had been ostracized and barred from their schools.
Ariel Glaser had developed AIDS at a time when the medical community knew very little about the disease, and there were no available treatment options for children. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally approved AZT in early 1987 as an effective drug to extend the lives of AIDS patients, but the approval only extended to adults. With their daughter’s condition rapidly deteriorating, the Glasers fought to have her treated with AZT intravenously. However, the treatment came too late, and Ariel died in the summer of 1988, shortly after her seventh birthday.
Elizabeth Glaser went to Washington to do research on AIDS at the National Institutes of Health and found that people in power were willing to listen to her story. She was able to mobilize legislators like Senators Orrin Hatch and Howard Metzenbaum to co-sponsor a fund-raising benefit in Washington for her new organization, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
With the help of her friends Susie Zeegen and Susan De Laurentis, Glaser created the foundation to raise money for basic pediatric research. The foundation also supported additional clinical tests for the medication AZT, which was prescribed for adults years before it was given to children.
In 1994, to honor Glaser’s legacy, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation was renamed the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. EGPAF has become the leading global nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs. Another important legacy of Glaser’s is her son, Jake, who is now a healthy adult who advocates for pediatric reserach.
AIDS becomes the leading cause of death among all Americans aged 25 to 44, new Federal data shows.Learn More.
By the end of 1994, more than 440,000 cases of AIDS, including more than 6,000 among children, are reported since the epidemic was first recognized in 1981.
More than 250,000 people are already dead from AIDS or AIDS-related causes.
About 75% of all cases have been reported in the 25-to-44 age group.
Gary Kalkin, a top executive at Walt Disney Studios who guided the marketing campaigns for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in Los Angeles. He was 44.Learn More.
As senior vice president of domestic marketing for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, Kalkin supervised promotion, advertising and publicity campaigns for Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures as well as Disney. Kalkin also played a creative role in promoting Disney’s Broadway stage version of Beauty and the Beast.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, former chairman of Walt Disney studios, said that Mr. Kalkin also guided the campaigns for the hits Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Good Morning, Vietnam and Pretty Woman. Despite his illness, Kalkin helped supervise the marketing of the Tim Allen comedy The Santa Clause, which emerged as one of the most successful films of 1994.
Paul Monette, author of the award-winning Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, dies at his home in West Hollywood of AIDS-related illness at the age of 49.Learn More.
Borrowed Time chronicles Monette’s experience caring for his partner Roger Horwitz during his fight with AIDS and eventual death from AIDS. The memoir details the final nineteen months of Horwitz’s life, beginning with the day that he was first diagnosed with AIDS, which Monette describtes as “the day we began to live on the moon.”
Born in 1945 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Monette was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967. Soon after graduating from Yale, he began a prolific writing career, and for eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.
After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. At around this time, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.
In 1977, the couple moved to Los Angeles, and Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer. Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982 that were enormously successful, including Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll and The Gold Diggers, and established himself as a writer of popular fiction.
“He was a capable writer, but he had not discovered his voice. When AIDS arrived, he found it,” writes Legacy Project Chicago in its tribute to Monette. “On the front lines of the epidemic he picked up his pen and began to capture the horror as it happened.
In the year following Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote Borrowed Time, and its 1988 release catapulted him into the national arena as a spokesperson for AIDS. Since very few out gay men had the opportunity to address national issues in mainstream venues at any previous time in U.S. history, Monette’s high-visibility profile was one of his most significant achievements.
For Borrowed Time, Monette won PEN Center West literary award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He went on to write two important novels about AIDS, Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991).
In 1992, Monette released the memoir Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, an uncompromising look at coming to terms with being a gay man. In the book, he wrote: “I can’t conceive the hidden life anymore, don’t think of it as life. When you finally come out, there’s a pain that stops, and you know it will never hurt like that again, no matter how much you lose or how bad you die.”
This would become the first LGBTQ studies title to win the 1992 National Book Award.
He followed Becoming a Man with a book of essays, Last Watch of the Night (1994), which he wrote while being treated for full-blown AIDS, hooked up to three intravenous tubes and taking a daily regimen of numerous oral medications. The book is a collection of essays that move through themes from the painful lives of gay priests to the unending bigotry against gay men.
Monette also wrote an episode for the popular television series Thirtysomething about an advertising executive who learns he has the AIDS virus. The show, written with Richard Kramer, a producer for the series, was one of the first prime-time network series to deal with AIDS.
Rapper Eazy-E dies from AIDS-related illness at the age of 31, one month after being diagnosed.Learn More.
As a founding member of the rap group N.W.A. (which stands for Niggaz Wit’ Attitude), Eazy-E was the executive producer of the gangster rap album, Straight Outta Compton, released in 1988. The album’s raps about gunplay, drug dealing, raw sex, gang solidarity and police harassment in a Los Angeles suburb included one song that is a fantasy of violent revenge against racist police officers.
Born Eric Lynn Wright, Eazy-E dies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after being hospitalized on Feb. 24 for what he thought was asthma. Tests reveal he has AIDS, and on March 16 he would release a statement that he had contracted the disease.
An album that Eazy had been working on would be released posthumously in 1995, and an EP of unreleased tracks would be issued on the seven-year anniversary of his death.
One of his children, singer E.B. Wright, would go on to produce A Ruthless Scandal, a documentary about the final days of her father’s life. His story is also depicted in the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray.
Glenn Burke, a Dodger and Oakland Athletic outfielder who later became one of the few players in the major league to acknowledge being gay, dies of AIDS-related illness at a Bay Area hospital. He was 42.Learn More.
Burke was born and raised in Oakland, California. He was a playground legend, an athlete who excelled at every sport he tried. His favorite sport in high school was basketball, but it was baseball that offered him a professional contract after graduation.
Described by many scouts as “the next Willie Mays,” Burke played major league ball with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976 to 1978, and with the Oakland A’s in 1978-1979. In the 225 games of his brief career, Burke batted .237, hit two home runs, had 38 RBIs and 35 stolen bases.
In 1977, after Dusty Baker hit a home run, Burke – who was the on-deck batter – gave Baker a high-five as he left the field, and has since been credited with inventing the gesture. Burke is believed to be the first major league ball player to be outed to his teammates and the owners while he was still playing.
Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda was angered by Burke’s friendship with his gay son, and General Manager Al Campanis offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if Burke would get married (Burke refused), according to The Legacy Project.
The Dodgers then traded Burke to Oakland, where he saw little playing time and was forced to endure manager Billy Martin referring to him as a “faggot” in front of his teammates.
In Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke, author Andrew Maraniss describes how, following a 1979 game at Oakland Coliseum where A’s fans yelled homophobic slurs at Burke in the outfield, he chased down the heckler in the concourse and grabbed him around the neck. In 1980, manager Martin demoted Burke to the A’s minor league affiliate in Utah.
At the age of 27, Burke found that his dream of a being a major league baseball player was over after four short seasons. He later wrote, “Prejudice drove me out of baseball sooner than I should have. But I wasn’t changing.”
The years following Burke’s departure from baseball was rife with drug usage, incarceration, and homelessness, marking a bitter fall from grace. However, in 1982, he won two medals for track in the first Gay Games — the same year his homosexuality was made public in an Inside Sports article.
In the article, Burke said, “It’s harder to be gay in sports than anywhere else, except maybe president. Baseball is probably the hardest sport of all.”
In his last months of his life, Burke received financial assistance from the Oakland A’s (which was under new management) and was cared for in his sister Lutha’s home.
After a few national sportswriters discovered Burke was dying of AIDS, they wrote admiringly of the man who invented the high-five and had been the first Major League baseball player to come out as gay. Soon after, letters began arriving in Lutha’s mailbox and at the Oakland Coliseum.
“There were letters from parents who praised Glenn’s kindness to their kids, letters from adults who had met Glenn as children, and letters from gay men who admired his sacrifices as a pioneer. He’d read the letters and weep,” wrote biographer Andrew Maraniss.
“They make me feel like I was sent to this earth to make certain people happier,” Burke said. “No one can say I didn’t make it. I played in the World Series. I’m in the book, and they can’t take that away from me. Not ever.”
When Burke began to weaken, Lutha arranged for him to be transferred to Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro, just south of Oakland. He died the next day.
In 2013, Burke was posthumously honored in the first class of the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. Before the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota, Burke was honored as a gay pioneer.
In 2017, Burke was inducted into the Rainbow Honor Walk, a series of bronze panels embedded in the sidewalks of the Castro District, recognizing some of the most significant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender figures in history. The occasion was celebrated on April 1, 2017 at the White Horse Inn, the oldest gay bar in the Bay Area.
In June 2021, the Oakland A’s announced that the organization would honor Burke’s legacy by renaming its annual Pride Night after him.
“Glenn Burke was a trailblazer, and we are excited and honored to recognize his legacy and impact on the game of baseball by naming our annual Pride Night after him,” said Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval. “Glenn Burke Pride Night will continue to be a time of celebration and inclusion at our ballpark as we come together with friends and allies.”
In June 2021, Burke’s biographer Andrew Maraniss wrote a Los Angeles Times column proposing that the Dodgers find a way to honor Burke.
“The first openly gay Major League player was a Dodger,” writes Maraniss. “It’s time for the Dodgers to take ownership of the homophobia that prematurely ended Glenn Burke’s days in Los Angeles so that the organization can move beyond it, stake its claim to history by centering Burke’s experience, and lead the way for LGBTQ rights in baseball.”
Steve Silver, the creator and producer of the San Francisco musical revue “Beach Blanket Babylon,” dies of AIDS-related illness at his home in San Francisco. He was 51.Learn More.
A native of San Francisco who became a fixture in the city’s arts and social scene over the past two decades, Silver was notable not only for the cabaret he created in 1974, but also for his philanthropy and tireless efforts on behalf of many San Francisco charities.
Beach Blanket Babylon, believed to be the nation’s longest-running musical revue, has been seen by more than three million people, including celebrities and dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth and Bob Hope.
The San Francisco Chronicle described the show’s roots as a combination of “Vegas lounge acts, the Follies Bergere, God Rush-era extravaganzas, English music halls, a child’s birthday party gone mad, and dopey beach party movies.”
Silver, who retained creative control of Beach Blanket Babylon until his death, continually updated the show. In one of the newer numbers, actors dressed as Bill and Hillary Clinton are accosted by Newt Gingrich singing “King of the Hill, move over Bill, goodness gracious, Newt is on fire” to the tune of “Great Balls of Fire.”
A former painter, Silver came up with the idea for the show in 1974, naming it after the Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon “Beach Blanket” movies.
Silver’s grave stone at Cypress Lawn in Colma, California includes a sketch of Silver done by legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, perhaps the only Hirschfeld work executed in stone.
White Eagle, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, dies of AIDS-related illness at age 43 at his home with his family in Mission, South Dakota.Learn More.
White Eagle was the first Native American to sing lead roles in American musical theater and opera. It was the voice of the great Mario Lanza that inspired the young White Eagle to become an opera singer.
At the age of five, this minister’s son gave his first public performance in his father’s church. In 1971, he made his professional debut as a soloist at one of the nation’s largest churches, and two years later, began working with the vocal group Re-Generation.
In 1985, He graduated from the prestigious Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera, and performed with the Pennsylvania Opera Theater, Florentine Opera, and Cleveland Opera, among others.
When he wasn’t involved in a production, White Eagle often performed in fundraisers for his father’s home for Native American orphans in South Dakota. On these occasions, he was known to don a Sioux chieftain’s hand-beaded white leather jacket and eagle-feather headdress, and sing “Amazing Grace” while the plate was passed.
In January 1989, White Eagle sang at the inaugural gala for newly elected President George Bush. White Eagle made his debut at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall in September 1993, one month after being diagnosed with AIDS. After he made his illness public, White Eagle became a tireless advocate for AIDS awareness.
“His role as advocate was equal to his role as artist, because through his voice, through his message, he brought people together,” reads a memorial to White Eagle in the U.S. Congressional Record on July 11, 1995, five days after his death.
In the course of his career, White Eagle performed more than 4,000 concerts to some five million people in the U.S. and Canada.
Bruce Boland, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was the first gay officer to sue that agency for anti-gay discrimination, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 48.Learn More.
A native of Chicago who was educated at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Mich., Boland became an LA County deputy in 1984 and was assigned to the West Hollywood station. He was fired in 1991 for allegedly falsifying a 1989 report for a drug paraphernalia possession charge. Boland was charged with felony preparation of false evidence, but a judge dismissed the criminal case in 1992.
Boland sued the LA County Sheriff’s Department for $90 million, claiming he was harassed and fired because of his sexual orientation. Boland was represented by John Duran, a civil rights attorney who also served as a Councilmember for the City of West Hollywood.
In the wake of his firing, Boland’s cause was taken up by the West Hollywood City Council, which has urged his reinstatement, and by activists in the city’s large gay community.
The controversy stems from an April 1989 incident in West Hollywood during which Boland arrested a man for possession of drug paraphernalia. At the preliminary hearing, Boland said he discovered that he had made an error in the arrest report. He told the prosecutor that he had mistakenly written that a bag of syringes was found at the feet of the suspect seated in the front of the car, when they were actually on the floor of the back seat next to a second man whom Boland did not arrest.
The bag belonged to the man who was arrested. Nevertheless, the prosecutor concluded that Boland’s error had tainted the arrest to the point that the charges had to be dropped.
The Sheriff’s Department referred the matter to the district attorney’s special investigations division, which filed two misdemeanor charges and two felony charges against Boland. The Sheriff’s Department then suspended Boland without pay.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed the charges in June 1990, saying that Boland’s arrest report was “at best very sloppy,” but added, “I consider (this) a training problem internal (to) the law enforcement agency and not something that we send people to prison over.”
The district attorney’s office appealed the dismissal of the charges, and Boland was reinstated and assigned to the sheriff’s station in Marina del Rey, where he was told to wash and wax sheriff’s patrol boats. In April, 1991, he was fired – for incompetence, his superiors told him.
Boland said, “To this day I cannot understand why this has happened … I was not openly gay. There were rumors circulated, but I did not ‘come out.’ … I had an excellent relationship with my superiors.”
The West Hollywood Gay & Lesbian Sheriff’s Conference Committee, an independent advisory body that includes a sheriff’s representative from the West Hollywood station, examined the case and concluded that Boland was treated “substantially different than most deputies involved in similar infractions, and more harshly than other deputies involved in considerably more egregious infractions.”
The treatment of Boland prompted outcries of discrimination against gays and fueled calls for the City of West Hollywood to replace the County Sheriff’s services with a private police force. Ultimately, the Sheriff’s Department decided to reinstate Boland and bring him back to the West Hollywood station, and the deputy responded by dropping his civil suit.
At the West Hollywood City Council meeting on April 20, 1992, Boland thanked the Council for its help and support in getting him reinstated and re-assigned to his West Hollywood post.
Visitors to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station can see a photo of Deputy Boland which is placed in a prominent location in the lobby, accompanied by the following poem:
“God saw that he was getting tired
and a cure was not to be.
So He put His arms around him
and whispered, ‘Come with me.’
With tearful eyes we watched him suffer
and saw him fade away.
Although we loved him dearly,
we could not make him stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
hard working hands came to rest,
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best.”
The number of AIDS cases exceeds 500,000 in the U.S., with 311,381 (62%) of them representing deaths.Learn More.
In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the total number of persons in the U.S. reported to have AIDS climbs to 501,310.
According to the report, the rates per 100,000 population for reported AIDS cases in 1994 are:
- 48 in the Northeast,
- 31 in the South,
- 29 in the West, and
- 13 in the Midwest
However, during 1988-1992 and 1993-October 1995, the largest numbers of cases (65,926 and 86,462, respectively) were reported from the South, which also accounted for the largest proportionate increase of reported cases (31%).
Six weeks after being diagnosed with AIDS, Oscar-nominated actor Howard Rollins dies at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York at the age of 46, from complications from AIDS-related lymphoma.Learn More.
Rollins was an American stage, film and television actor best known for his roles as Andrew Young in 1978’s King, George Haley in the 1979 miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the 1981 film Ragtime, Captain Davenport in the 1984 film A Soldier’s Story, and as Virgil Tibbs on the TV crime drama In the Heat of the Night.
Based on the award-winning 1967 movie about a white Mississippi police chief who teams with a black detective from the North, In the Heat of the Night featured Rollins as Virgil Tibbs for five seasons, opposite Carroll O’Connor as the white southern officer. The show ran from 1988 to 1994, first on NBC, then on CBS.
During the show’s run, Rollins struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol. He was arrested four times for drug- and alcohol-related crimes and spent one month in jail for reckless driving and driving under the influence. Due to his ongoing personal and legal issues, Rollins was dismissed from the series at the end of Season 6. Rollins returned for several guest appearances in the seventh season of the show in 1993–1994.
Rollins was the youngest of four children born to Ruth and Howard Ellsworth Rollins Sr. in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother was a domestic worker, and father was a steelworker who died in 1980. After his high school graduation, Rollins studied theater at Towson University.
On October 25, 2006, a wax statue of Rollins was unveiled at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore. The statue is now at Baltimore’s Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
Musician and activist Fela Kuti, a pioneer of Afrobeat music who was repeatedly arrested and beaten for writing lyrics that questioned the Nigerian government, dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 58.Learn More.
Kuti was meant to be a doctor, an upstanding member of Nigeria’s elite like his parents, according to The Guardian. At age 20, he would study in England, where his first cousin, playwright Wole Soyinka, was already making a name for himself.
“Instead, Fela Ransome-Kuti became infamous, an outlaw musician who declared himself president of his own ‘Kalakuta Republic,’ a sprawling compound in the suburbs of Lagos that housed his recording studio and offered sanctuary to the dispossessed,” writes Neil Spencer of The Guardian.
Rebelling against oppressive regimes through his music would come with a heavy cost for Kuti. Over his lifetime, he would be arrested 200 times and endure numerous beatings from government officials.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Kuti’s subversive song lyrics established him as political dissident, resulting in Afrobeat to be associated with making political, social and cultural statements about greed and corruption. One of Kuti’s most popular songs, “Zombie,” questions Nigerian soldiers’ blind obedience to carrying out orders. Another, “V.I.P. (Vagabonds in Power),” seeks to empower the disenfranchised masses to rise up against the government.
At his club, the Shrine, his band played until dawn while dozens of singers and dancers writhed and glittered amid drifts of igbo smoke. Here, Nigeria’s corrupt dictators were denounced and ancient Yoruban deities honoured, all to a relentless backdrop of the “Afrobeat” that Fela had distilled from the musical collision of Africa and black America.
At his death from AIDS-related illiness in Lagos, Nigeria, Fela would leave behind seven children, 50-odd albums and a musical legacy that has been kept alive by his sons and former drummer, Tony Allen
Roughly 1 million people would attend his funeral procession, which began at Tafawa Balewa Square and ended at Kuti’s home, Kalakuta, in Ikeja, Nigeria, where he is laid to rest in the front yard. Belatedly, Afrobeat would become a cause célèbre among young European and American music fans.
UNAIDS estimates that 30 million adults and children worldwide have HIV, and that, each day, 16,000 people are newly infected with the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that black people account for almost half of U.S. AIDS-related deaths.
Community leaders, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are briefed on the highly disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS in their communities.Learn More.
The leadership coalition develops a “Call to Action,” requesting that the President and Surgeon General declare HIV/AIDS a “State of Emergency” in the African American community.
AIDS-related mortality for black people is almost 10 times that of whites and three times that of hispanics, states a 1999 report from the CDC. Only 13% of the U.S. population are black, but they account for 49% of AIDS deaths. Moreover, African Americans are experiencing less dramatic declines in AIDS deaths than whites.
“Ultimately how we succeed in affecting the course of the HIV epidemic in communities of color will be a measure of our collective ability to better target HIV prevention, research, and treatment,” says Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, CDC Director.
The CDC report expresses hope that partnerships with black communities are becoming stronger in recent months, when black community leaders join with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Congressional Black Caucus to create more HIV prevention programs in communities of color.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya — who dedicated his life to LGBTQ activism, AIDS healthcare expansion, civil rights, and anti-war efforts — dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 57.Learn More.
Born in 1943 in a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming known as Heart Mountain, Kuromiya would go on to devote his life to the struggle for social justice.
During the 1960s, Kuromiya became a prominent opponent of the Vietnam War. In 1967-68, he was an assistant to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he took care of King’s children following his assassination. He then moved to New York City, and in July 1969, following the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn, Kuromiya was among the gays and lesbians who founded the Gay Liberation Front.
“GLF tapped into the radical sentiments brewing among young, countercultural, and political gays and lesbians in New York City — and mobilized the energy and eagerness for political action that many felt in the days following Stonewall,” according to OutHistory. In the ways that the GLF organized (patterned after the the women’s movement) and conducted meetings, the organization can be seen as a direct predecessor to ACT UP.
Kuromiya was diagnosed with AIDS in 1989 and immediately researched everything he could about HIV/AIDS. He became a self-taught AIDS expert who believed that patients fared best when they understood the disease, explored treatment options, and actively participated in medical decisions.
Kuromiya became involved in all aspects of the AIDS movement, including radical direct action with ACT UP Philadelphia and the ACT UP network, People With AIDS empowerment, national and international research advocacy, and the mentorship and care for hundreds of people living with HIV.
Kuromiya was the editor of the “ACT UP Standard of Care,” the first standard of care for people living with HIV produced by PWAs. He also ran a community medicine chest to help patients get free drugs and ran a 24-hour hotline for patients needing information — even prisoners calling collect.
Kuromiya is perhaps best known as the founder of the Critical Path Project newsletter. Published by the service organization Philadelphia FIGHT and containing information gathered by Kuromiya, the newsletter was one of the earliest and most comprehensive sources of HIV treatment information. It was routinely mailed to thousands of people living with HIV all over the world, including hundreds of incarcerated individuals.
Kuromiya understood science and was involved locally, nationally and internationally in AIDS research as both a treatment activist and clinical trials participant. He fought for research that involved the community in its design – particularly people of color, drug users, and women.
In the last years of his life, Kuromiya turned his attention to the struggle to maintain freedom of speech on the Internet, participating in the successful lawsuit against the Communications Decency Act. He was also the leading plaintiff in the 1999 Supreme Court case Kuromiya vs. The United States of America, which called for the legalization of marijuana for medical uses.
UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS) reports that HIV/AIDS is now by far the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, and the fourth biggest global killer. Average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa falls from 62 years to 47 years as a result of AIDS.
The 14th International AIDS Conference is held in Barcelona, Spain from July 7-12. Dozens of countries report they are experiencing serious HIV/AIDS epidemics, and many more are on the brink.
Worldwide, 10 million young people, aged 15-24, and almost 3 million children under 15 are living with HIV. During this year, approximately 3.5 million new infections will occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and the epidemic will claim the lives of an estimated 2.4 million Africans.
Gene Anthony Ray, who starred as Leroy in the 1980 movie Fame and the later television series, dies of AIDS-related illness in Manhattan at the age of 41.Learn More.
Ray was cast as a character in Fame that was a natural fit. Like Leroy, Ray grew up on the streets, in the rough, urban center of New York during the 1960s and 1970s. And like Leroy, Ray had never had professional dance training but he had a raw talent that choreographers found compelling.
New York’s High School of the Performing Arts was the setting for the movie and television series. Born in Harlem, Ray had actually attended the city’s performing arts school for a year before being expelled for disruptive behavior.
Ray honed his skills dancing at neighborhood block parties. According to the London Times, Ray later recalled, “All the blocks had parties, not just ours. And I’d go to them and scoop all the prizes.”
At his Fame audition, which he skipped school to attend, he was one of 2,800 teenagers trying out for a part. The film won Academy Awards for best musical score and best song.
Ray’s character, who helped popularize Lycra pants and leg warmers in he early 1980s, was one of the few characters revived for the television series Fame, which ABC began airing in 1982.
Just 20 years old when the television series began to air, Ray’s personal fame was at its peak. However, the show failed to gain an audience in the U.S. and was dropped by ABC. A strong following of 11 million regular viewers in the United Kingdom essentially save the show, and and it was picked up by MGM Television for distribution abroad from 1983 to 1987.
In 1982, Ray toured Britain with other Fame cast members in a 10-concert tour of the show The Kids from Fame. The following year, a television special based on the tour was aired in the U.S.
Ray’s other film credits include Out of Sync (1995), which was directed by his Fame co-star Debbie Allen, and Eddie (1996), which starred Whoopi Goldberg.
In June 1983, the $400,000 house Ray had purchased in a white neighborhood of Rockland County, New York, was intentionally set afire. Ray, who was only using the house on weekends, had planned to move into the house permanently after his younger brother finished high school in the Bronx.
The two-story home was set ablaze in four separate locations on the house’s exterior. Although it was rumored that the fire was racially motivated arson, no one was ever charged.
Soon after, members of Ray’s family were arrested in a drug raid. Ray missed scores of Fame rehearsals during the time family members were tried in felony court proceedings. He also (self-admittedly) was using drugs between shoots, and in 1984, he was fired from the show.
Ray spent the remainder of his life attempting to reclaim his place in the spotlight but was never successful. His use of drugs and alcohol continued unabated, and he squandered his wealth to maintain his habits.
In 1996, Ray was diagnosed HIV-positive. The high toxicity of the drugs he was then required to take made him weak, although he did appear in Dr. Pepper and Diet Coke advertisements during the late 1990s.
His mother helped care for Ray in the last years of his life. He suffered a stroke in June 2003, and died about five months later.
Makgatho L. Mandela dies of AIDS-related illness at the age of 54. On the day of his son’s death, Nelson Mandela announces the cause of the death to help raise awareness about the disease and reduce the stigma associated with it.Learn More.
Nelson Mandela holds a press conference to announce that his son had died of AIDS in a Johannesburg clinic. Makgatho Mandela had been seriously ill for more than a month, but the nature of his ailment had not been made public before his death.
The elder Mandela says he was disclosing the cause of his son’s death to focus more attention on AIDS, which is still a taboo topic among many South Africans. South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV (~6.8 million) in the world.
“That is why I have announced that my son has died of AIDS,” he says. “Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) , the U.S. Government, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria announce results of joint efforts to increase the availability of antiretroviral drugs in developing countries. An estimated 700,000 people have been reached by the end of 2004.
June 5 marks 25 years since the first AIDS cases were reported.
Ferd Eggan, longtime HIV/AIDS activist and leader of Los Angeles city services, dies at his home in Hollywood at age 60 after a six-month illness complicated by HIV.Learn More.
While serving as AIDS Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles between 1993 and 2001, Ferd opened doors for the funding of self-organized programs for women with AIDS, city authorization of and funding for needle exchanges, housing for People With AIDS who might still be active drug users, and a landmark study and intervention program for gay men using crystal meth.
Eggan’s activism began during his college days at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, initially in the southern black civil rights movement and later in anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, women’s and gay liberation and HIV/AIDS struggles.
“Picture me and a Black GI on leave from Vietnam, in his car in the moonlight, windows steamy, ducking as headlights swept past,” Eggan wrote in his autobiographical essay, Fags and Dykes Want Everything: Dreaming with the Gay Liberation Front. “We could be beaten or killed for what we were doing.”
In the years that followed, Eggan traveled between New York City (where he was around the corner from Christopher Street on the first night of the Stonewall riots, but was “too afraid to join in”) and San Francisco. In 1972, while appearing as an extra in a San Francisco Opera production of Aida, Eggan and two others unfurled a banner from the stage reading, “Dykes and Fags Support the Vietnamese Peace Plan.”
Eggan returned to the Chicago area with his then-partner, documentary filmmaker Carel Rowe, where he soon joined the Chicago chapter of the Gay Liberation Front. He worked for a while with a childcare co-op run by women connected with the “Jane” group, which helped women get underground abortions, and he taught Puerto Rican high school students for 11 years.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1986, Eggan helped to found ACT UP Chicago and the national ACT UP PISD Caucus (People with Immune System Disorders), before moving to Los Angeles in 1990 to become Executive Director of Being Alive.
In 1993, Eggan became the city’s third AIDS coordinator, a position created in 1989 by then-Mayor Tom Bradley to spearhead the development of a comprehensive local approach to combating the spread of AIDS. He served in this position until 2001, when he became too ill to continue in the job.
After retiring on disability, he concentrated on his creative writing, journalism, video art, and his blog, “Communiques from a Cranky PWA.” In June 2007, less than three weeks before his death, the Los Angeles City Council honored Eggan for his service.
“We would not be where we are today if it had not been for people like Ferd,” said Dr. Michael Gottlieb, who in 1981 authored the first medical case report that heralded the advent of AIDS. “Part of the founding generation of AIDS activists, he has been involved with AIDS for the life of the epidemic. Even if there were activist leaders waiting in the wings — and regrettably there aren’t — Ferd Eggan would be irreplaceable.”
His long-term friend Walt Senterfit, national board chair of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, said, “He was a warrior, strategist, writer, artist, activist, and friend in the political, social, and intellectual movements for liberation of our time.”
CDC reports over 565,000 people have died of AIDS in the U.S. since 1981.
Washington, DC has a higher rate of HIV (3% prevalence) than West Africa– enough to be a “severe and generalized epidemic.”Learn More.
According to a report issued by the District of Columbia, the HIV rate in the nation’s capital is the highest in the country with nearly 3% of residents living with HIV or AIDS.
“That’s a little more than 15,000 people with the disease — a total that well exceeds the 1% threshold for what makes up a ‘generalized and severe epidemic,'” stated news coverage from NBC‘s Washington station.
The study found that every form of transmission is on the rise, with minorities and women at an especially high risk. The rate among heterosexual black women was 15 times more than the rate of white women and more than three times that of Latinas.
Patricia Nalls, Founder and Executive Director of The Women’s Collective, told NPR, “Women and girls are at risk for several reasons. Prevention messages are not addressing women’s needs. And you are not seeing women in the face of the campaigns and the messages that’s out there.”
Nalls said that violence against women also needs to be considered when addressing HIV infection among the female population. She urged the local government to declare a state of emergency.
UNAIDS reports that there has been a significant decline (-17%) in new HIV infections in the past decade. East Asia, however, has seen a dramatic 25% increase.
A new United Nations report shows significant progress in improving access to HIV/AIDS services in 37 developing countries and offers realistic hope for the achievement of universal access.Learn More.
The report from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, and UNICEF also shows an estimated 5.25 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2009 and an estimated 1.2 million people were able to start antiretroviral therapy – the largest annual increase yet recorded.
The assessment of HIV/AIDS programs in 144 low- and middle-income countries found that 15 countries were able to provide more than 80% of HIV-positive pregnant women with the services and medicines needed to prevent mother-to-child transmission, while 14 countries provided HIV treatment to more than 80% of their HIV-positive children. An additional eight countries had achieved universal access to antiretroviral treatment for adults.
“Countries in all parts of the world are demonstrating that universal access is achievable,” said Dr. Hiroki Nakatani, WHO Assistant Director-General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases. “But globally, it remains an unfulfilled commitment. And we must join forces to make it a worldwide reality in the coming years.”
Remarkable progress in Eastern and Southern Africa, the region most severely affected by HIV, offers hope. In this region, HIV treatment coverage has increased from 32% to 41% in one year. And half of the pregnant women were able to access HIV testing and counseling in 2009.
“We’re on the right track,” said Paul De Lay, Deputy Executive Director with UNAIDS. “We’ve shown what works and now we need to do more of it. But we’re $10 billion short. At the Global Fund replenishment conference in New York next week, countries have a chance to put this right – to make a smart investment and secure the future of the AIDS response.”
At the end of 2012, UNAIDS estimates that, worldwide, 2.3 million people were newly infected with HIV during the year, and 1.6 million people died of AIDS. Approximately 35.3 million people around the world are now living with HIV, including more than 1.2 million Americans
At the end of 2012, UNAIDS estimates that, worldwide, 2.3 million people were newly infected with HIV during the year, and 1.6 million people died of AIDS. Approximately 35.3 million people around the world are now living with HIV, including more than 1.2 million Americans.
UNAIDS announces that new HIV infections have dropped more than 50% in 25 low- and middle-income countries, and the number of people getting antiretroviral treatment has increased 63% in the past two years.
The Pew Charitable Trust publishes Southern States Are Now Epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
CDC announces that only 30% of Americans with HIV had the virus under control in 2011, and approximately two-thirds of those whose virus was out of control had been diagnosed but were no longer in care.
UNAIDS releases its 2015 World AIDS Day report which finds that 15.8 million people were accessing antiretroviral treatment as of June 2015—more than doubling the number of people who were on treatment in 2010.
CDC announces that annual HIV diagnoses in the U.S. fell by 19% from 2005 to 2014. There were steep declines among heterosexuals, people who inject drugs, and African Americans (especially black women), but trends for gay/bisexual men varied by race/ethnicity.Learn More.
Diagnoses among white gay/bisexual men decreased by 18%, but they continued to rise among Latino gay/bisexual men and were up 24%. Diagnoses among black gay/bisexual men also increased (22%), but the increase has leveled off since 2010.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only 1 in 5 sexually active high school students has been tested for HIV. An estimated 50% of young Americans who are living with HIV do not know they are infected.
Transgender trailblazer Alexis Arquette dies at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles of AIDS-related illness at the age of 47.Learn More.
Arquette was born into an acting family that includes siblings David, Rosanna, and Patricia, the latter who would famously memorialize her sister in a speech at the 2019 Emmy Awards.
In the earlier years of her career, Arquette primarily performed as a female impersonator, frequently under the name “Eva Destruction.” She debuted on the big screen in 1986 in an uncredited role as Alexis, the androgynous bandmate of Max Whiteman (Evan Richards) inDown and Out in Beverly Hills. Arquette would go on to star in more than 40 movies, the majority of them low-budget or independent films.
Diagnosed with HIV in 1989, Arquette chronicled her gender affirmation surgery in a 2007 documentary, Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother, but returned to presenting as a man in 2013 as her health failed.
In her final hours, Arquette is surrounded by her famous brothers and sisters. Alexis had left specific instructions for her death: David Bowie’s “Starman” was to play as her final moments approached.
And when the final breath passed her lips, she asked that everyone cheer “the moment that [s]he transitioned to another dimension,” reports The Hollywood Reporter.
Her family would go on to found the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation, which works with the LA County / USC Medical Center to provide medical and mental health support to LGBTQ residents in the county.
Matt Redman, one of the cofounders of AIDS Project Los Angeles, dies at the age of 66. Instrumental in spurring the LA community to action during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Redman dedicated his life to the fight against HIV.Learn More.
Redman began his HIV/AIDS advocacy work in 1982, when he helped to create the first hotline in Los Angeles to share verified medical information about the disease. In early 1983, he would found AIDS Project Los Angeles with Nancy Cole Sawaya, Max Drew, and Ervin Munro.
In the beginning, APLA had five clients, which would grow to 100 by the end of the year, and by the middle of 1984, APLA would serve 200 clients — and the numbers kept growing. Redman served on APLA’s Board of Directors and volunteered throughout the years.
Redman also served on the Board of Directors for the Federation of AIDS-Related Organizations (later renamed AIDS United). He was honored in June 2015 by the LA City Council during LGBT Heritage Month for his work to advance equality.
Redman apparently started feeling ill in mid-December and cancelled a party planned for Dec. 18, according to journalist Karen Ocamb in The Pride. After a friend begged him to see a doctor, Redman went to the emergency room at Southern California Hospital at Culver City and was immediately rushed to Urgent Care.
An upper respiratory infection had traveled to his heart and lungs, and medical personnel determined he didn’t have enough T-cells to fight the infection. He “coded” and was placed on life support while his family and former partner were notified and flew in to be with him in his last moments.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports significant declines in HIV/AIDS death rates for black/African Americans between 1999-2015. Among those aged 18-34, HIV-related deaths drop 80%, and among those aged 35, deaths drop by 79%.
The New York Times reports that, as a group, America’s black gay and bisexual men have a higher HIV prevalence rate than any nation in the world.
Atlanta performance artist, writer, and HIV educator Antron-Reshaud Olukayode dies of AIDS-related illness at age 33. Olukayode had participated in CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign.
The date marks the 30th anniversary of the observance of World AIDS Day.Learn More.
The World Health Organization joins its global partners to commemorate World AIDS Day under the theme “Know Your Status.” The occasion is celebrated as the 30-year anniversary of a pioneering global health campaign first initiated by WHO in 1988.
Jim Chud, who may have been among the first people in the U.S. to exhibit symptoms of HIV/AIDS, dies of sepsis, most likely after a bacterial pneumonia, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 62.Learn More.
A longtime resident of West Hollywood, Chud had served on the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board and on the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV. He was also a prolific writer, having been published by publications like Huffington Post, among others. In 2015, he was included in the “POZ 100” for his advocacy for appropriately designed housing for disabled people.
In late 1977, while a sophomore at Yale, Chud was hospitalized with symptoms that would become familiar to medical personnel in just a few years: night sweats, a rash, swollen lymph nodes, and thrush. At the time, however, Chud’s medical team was unable to come to a diagnosis. When his symptoms subsided in about two weeks, the doctor discharged him, saying, “You probably had some sort of virus.”
The official beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is often cited as June 5, 1981, the day the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about a rare pneumonia called pneumocystis circulating among a small group of young gay men. However, according to Science Magazine, a 2016 study indicated that in 1981, when Dr. Michael Gottlieb presented the first five cases to the CDC, there were already 250,000 people living with the virus. Chud was one of them.
By 1985, Chud was living in Washington and had already watched many of his friends get sick and die. In 1989, his own illness had advanced to full-blown AIDS.
“I thought I was going to die,” Chud told CNN in 2010. “I didn’t think I would see 30.”
He started volunteering for drug trials. One, a National Institutes of Health study, studied the combination of drugs AZT and DDC, a new drug by Roche Pharmaceuticals.
“DDC, while effective in the test-tube against HIV, was very toxic, and put all 80 of us study participants through a whole host of side effects,” recalled Chud in 2017 article he wrote for Plus. “The mouth sores were legendary. Eating required first gargling with Lidobenelox, a thick pink emulsion of lidocaine, benadryl, and Maalox. It resembled the hand soap in public restrooms, but it provided 20 minutes of pain relief.”
Chud was pulled from the drug trial when he began experiencing partial paralysis and lockjaw. While these symptoms dissipated after a few days, Chud had unknowingly sustained long-term damage to his body’s cartilage. By 2003, he was in so much pain, he sought treatment from an orthopedic surgeon, who uncovered extensive damage to Chud’s spine.
Between 2003 and 2015, Chud underwent over 80 operations on his spine, neck, and major joints. Through all this, he lost 7 inches in height because of destroyed disks, leaving less room for his lungs, bowel and stomach.
In 2009, he began using a four-wheeled walker to be able to walk. Prior to that, he had given little thought to what it was like to live with a disability, but this new experience motivated him to become an advocate for himself and other long-term HIV survivors who live with disabilities.
“My drive to do something for other disabled people shifted into hyper-drive from that moment on,” Chud wrote.
Chud was aware of his place in AIDS history and felt a responsibility to share his experience with younger generations.
“While the trajectory of AIDS has changed immensely, I think that knowing my tendency for feeling invincible until something happens to me, there is great peril that the current generation will never know how terrible the AIDS epidemic has been in gay America, let alone the world,” he wrote in the Huffington Post.
The age-adjusted rate of HIV-related deaths in the U.S. fell by nearly half from 2010 to 2017, according to a study that suggests treatment programs are extending the lives of people living with HIV.Learn More.
The study published by the Centers for Disease Control shows that deaths among persons with diagnosed HIV decreased, primarily because of decreases in HIV-related deaths.
Life expectancy for persons with HIV infection who receive recommended treatment can approach that of the general population, yet HIV remains among the 10 leading causes of death among certain populations. Using surveillance data, CDC reseachers were able to determine that progress is being made toward reducing deaths among persons with diagnosed HIV.
During 2010–2017, HIV-related death rates decreased 48.4% (from 9.1 to 4.7 per 1,000 people), whereas non–HIV-related death rates decreased 8.6% (from 9.3 to 8.5 per 1,000 people).
The report also noted that rates of HIV-related deaths during 2017 were highest by race/ethnicity among persons of multiple races (7.0) and Black/African American persons (5.6), followed by White persons (3.9) and Hispanic/Latino persons (3.9). The HIV-related death rate was highest in the South (6.0) and lowest in the Northeast (3.2).
The researchers conclude that early diagnosis, prompt treatment, and maintaining access to high-quality care and treatment have been successful in reducing HIV-related deaths and remain necessary for continuing reductions in HIV-related deaths.