1981-2017: If I had to select one photo from my archives which personifies the devastation wrought upon my generation by the AIDS epidemic, it would have to be this one: a group of handsome and fit gay men in their late 20’s, smiling while posing on a beach (July / August 1981, as the discovery of AIDS was being announced). Iconic, yet, also a parable for innocence about to be destroyed.
May 1983: From the moment the discovery of a “gay cancer” (GRID, or “gay-related immune deficiency”, later renamed AIDS) was announced in July 1981 right up through the mid-1990s (when protease inhibitors were developed, making the disease largely manageable), living as an active gay man in metropolitan NYC (and anywhere not removed from the possibility of sexual interaction with other men) was fraught with fear.
1981 – In this photo, I’m with my housemates and my weekend date from Boston (John Shade, with our arms around each other) on the beach in Fire Island Pines (August 1981). It was the first time I had taken a share for the summer. It was an innocent time. But, the discovery of a “gay cancer” had just been announced the month before in a front page article in the NY Times.
OCTOBER 1979: Shortly after I returned to Manhattan from my cross-country road trip spent trying to find my “gay self,” Bo, the guy I had been seeing in San Diego, and three of his friends (two of whom I’d also slept with) came to NYC for the Mr. Blueboy Contest (Blueboy was a Playgirl-like magazine with stories and male nudity that was popular then.). One of the San Diego crew was representing that city in the nationwide contest and was put up in a nice hotel in midtown Manhattan. The others stayed with me.
Luis Eduardo Quiros (1948-1986) was invited to a weekend at the Tuna Walk house of Jacques Haran, the Chairman of my employer Revillon Furs, in Fire Island Pines where I was on my virgin visit, over July 4th 1980. We fell in immediate lust, a more exotic man I’d never met. Not just an acclaimed artist, he owned a men’s clothing store on 3rd Ave near Gramercy Park called Lugini. Within 3 months I’d quit my job managing Revillon Furs at Saks in Houston and moved to NYC to be with him. I learned my way around the city running from place to place for art supplies. Burnt ochre anyone?