Letters to the Editor

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Of AIDS, AmFAR, and Andy Warhol

To the Editor:

I was amazed to read Andrew Hol-leran’s article on the movie How to Survive a Plague in the latest issue [Jan.-Feb. 2013], and thereby realize the actual origin of the “Lazarus Effect” brought about by protease inhibitors to save millions of lives from AIDS.

I’ve known about Larry Kramer’s involvement almost from the beginning, since he was a lover of a former housemate of my lover’s and mine. It was therefore from Larry that I first learned about the incipient plague. The work leading to protease inhibitors didn’t begin until Nancy Chang, supported by AmFAR [The Foundation for AIDS Research], received her first grant in 1986 for $50,000. It took ten years of scientific research for these drugs to receive FDA approval so that they could begin to save lives.

AmFAR had run out of money at the end of 1986, and so they got Leonard Bernstein to put together a concert evening at the Public Theatre so that AmFAR could raise the needed money to complete giving out the grants they had promised for that year. I and my lover, the late Richard Torrence, happened to be
producing a fundraising event for our nonprofit organization honoring Maestro Bernstein, who insisted that AmFAR hire us to help make the AmFAR concert pay off.

AmFAR had planned an after-concert dinner at a Japanese restaurant across the street from the Public Theatre, until I pointed out that the date of the event (December 7th, which was Pearl Harbor Day) seemed inappropriate for that location; plus the fact that we could not sell $50,000 booths at a restaurant, whereas we could sell $50,000 tables (which we eventually did!) in a large room that could be used for an after-concert party.

I happened to share the information about AmFAR’s need with Stuart Pivar, who was Andy Warhol’s business partner at Andy’s New York Academy of Art, which was only two doors down from the Public Theatre. Stuart then asked Andy’s permission to invite the after-concert crowd to gather at the Academy—which became the first indoor New York social event to raise money for AIDS.

The event, which Andy reported in The Andy Warhol Diaries (pages 780-1), thus helped raise $350,000 for AmFAR, which is how protease inhibitors got started. Andy attended, expecting to meet Elizabeth Taylor; but since Elizabeth only attended events that raised over a million dollars, she didn’t show up (which Andy commented on in the book).

One of AmFAR’s executives, Paul Corser, told AmFAR’s publicist (who told me) that the thing he did that he was “proudest” of in his life was “to get the ball rolling for protease inhibitors.” He said that just a month before he died of AIDS. (I wrote the eulogy for Paul, which Elizabeth Taylor delivered at the memorial service.)

Twenty-seven years later, thanks to your article, I now know that I have something to be proudest of in my life, as well.

Marshall Yaeger, Anchor-International Foundation, New York City

 

Lister Biographer Offers More Leads

To the Editor:

I would like to express my appreciation of the excellent review by Irene Javors of The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister [Nov.-Dec. 2012]. It may interest her, and your readers, to know that I produced a second volume of extracts from the diaries, entitled No Priest But Love. This second book is published by New York University Press, and it covers the periods Anne spent in Paris in 1824-25 and in 1826. She engages in a love affair there with a young widow, Maria Barlow.

There is also a DVD of a film about Anne put out by the BBC, also entitled The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. This includes a documentary, presented by Sue Perkins, titled Revealing Anne Lister.

Many thanks once again for bringing my work on Anne Lister to the notice of your readership.

Helena Whitbread, Halifax, England

 

Clifton Webb Role Misidentified

To the Editor:

Thank you for your interesting review of the Clifton Webb autobiography, Sitting Pretty [by Cassandra Langer, Jan.-Feb. 2013]. I’m sure I’m not the only person to point out one rather glaring mistake. Webb did not play a father in the movie Sitting Pretty—he was a babysitter / housekeeper hired by a suburban couple. Robert Young was the father in the movie.

What makes the film especially delightful is Webb’s rivalry with a flamingly gay neighbor who lives with his mother and is preoccupied with raising irises and savoring local gossip.

Clifton Webb is prominently mentioned in the smutty but entertaining autobiography of Scotty Bowers [Full Service: My Adverntures in Hollywood and the Secret Lives of the Stars, 2012], Hollywood male prostitute of the 40s and 50s.

Jeff Hanna, Fresno, CA

 

Latino Writer Remembered

To the Editor:

I was appalled that the list of notable LGBT men and women who died in 2012 failed to mention the one Latino gay writer of note who passed last year, Mr. W. Brandon Lacy Campos.

It appears to me that your list was compiled for the usual readers and subscribers of your magazine. The old elite that continues to populate academia and other outlets for the LGBT community is being served, yet again! The fact that one of the contributors to the latest anthology of Latino short stories, From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction, was omitted reflects the continued lack of appreciation for our contribution to the literature by and for Latino LGBT communities in the U.S. and abroad.

Mr. Campos was a fine and published writer [and HIV/AIDS activist]whose passing should have been observed.

Jimmy Lam, Jersey City, NJ

Editor’s Note: Due to our publishing schedule for the January-February issue, the deadline for each year’s “In Memoriam” column is November 1; while Mr. Campos’ death was announced in mid-November. (Deaths occurring late in the year are observed in the following year’s “In Memoriam.”)

 

The AFA: Once a Hate Group…

To the Editor:

I have read the new issue [Jan.-Feb. 2013] from cover to cover and will probably go back through and reread some of the articles again before I receive the next wonderful issue. However, I wish to comment on a concern I have regarding an item in the “BTW” column titled “Hidden Agendas.” As I recall, the GLR several months ago made a statement in this column to the effect that the Southern Poverty Law Center had declared the American Family Association (AFA) to be a nationally recognized hate group. I was surprised that this new article did
not connect the dots between these two stories.

It would appear to me that the AFA is doing its best to continue its pattern of bullying by attempting to harass the Southern Poverty Law Center for having the audacity to call the AFA a hate group. Since the AFA (and its affiliate state groups) strive to harass homosexuals back into the closet through all sorts of ugly tactics, I’m not at all surprised to hear that the AFA has turned its sights on the Southern Poverty Law Center as another enemy that should be attacked and undermined at every possible opportunity. I would also not be surprised if the AFA also has a white supremacist extremists within its membership.

Dennis J. Hall, Lansing, MI

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