The Very Beginnings for Me

In 1983, I was working across the street from one of America's largest gay publications, a quasi-porno magazine with aspirations towards greatness, called BLUEBOY. At the time, my friend from the days of the Stonewall, John Calendo, was it's editor who had hopes of affecting changes in it by creating from this soft-core porno rag, a witty, urban New York gay journal. He asked me to write book reviews, and since the pay was generous, I accepted, but made a decision to write under a pseudonym, which, I was told by friends, was the best route to travel.

This "route" was a strange one as I was given things to write about that led from the world of books to the bump and grind world of Leo Ford, a star of porn flicks, who brought his "modeling" portfolio to New York City, and began a relationship with the star of John Water's films, the legendary Divine. I was asked to review Leo's "act" one evening, and watched as a boa constrictor slithered across his naked beach-boy flesh. My friend, who had a distinct adversion to snakes and was truly surprised when she saw an enormous one on stage, promptly let out a shriek, and fainted. Leo, thinking that it was a shriek of ectasy, continued to perform until he realized that something was going on in the audience, and naked he joined us to help revive my friend.

All of this is neither here or there except both my friend and Leo would later be victims of the AIDS epedemic.

One afternoon at lunch, John showed me a Reuters story regarding the deaths of a number of people from a rare form of cancer. These men died in San Francisco, and from, what was being called, "gay cancer".

"You see, John explained nervously, "this is happening and it'll affect us all." I scanned the news report uneasily looking for any loopholes. There were none. I thought that you could not catch cancer, but I was upset.

So, for me, this was the beginning. At first it was distant; friends of friends of friends of friends, and then friends of friends of friends, and friends of friends, then ... friends.

A year later, I stood at the bedside of Fern, a beautiful woman, who lay, brain dead in the hospital. She looked as if she was asleep ...

And there were many, many others. Did the government help? No, slowly this horror took root and spread.

Now, here I am over 15 years later since that fateful lunch. My baby-boomer generation was hit the hardest and I can hardly believe my loss. Your loss.

Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can only pray that this is so, but it won't bring my beautiful friends back from the grave. Each one was so special and each one was part of my life that, as each died, a lot of me died too. Why am I alive? That's something I can't answer, but as long as I have a pencil, I will write, and as long as I have a voice, I will speak.

Jeremiah Newton
New York, New York USA

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