February / March #68 : 02.16.90 Radiant Baby - by James Servin

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Table of Contents

A Daily Affirmation

Feed Your Head

TO: President George Bush

Puppet Masters

License to ddI

Longtime Companions: Tips For Two

You Sexy Thing

Indiana Jonesing

The Hanging CHAT

A Play In the Life

You Schmooze, You Lose

I Want My HIV

Speak Out

Once and Again


Redemption Song

Art from the Heart

S.O.S: Mouth Off

Zen at Work



Suck It Up

Comfort Zone

His M.O. is Her N-0

Sean's Trough Luck

Soul Survivors

Dyke Strike

A Rage to Age

Blood Brothers


02.16.90 Radiant Baby


Total Discord

Choosing Our Religion

Dogma & Devotion

The Brain Drain

Liver Lovers

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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February / March 2001

02.16.90 Radiant Baby

by James Servin

Using Day-Glo paints, felt-tip pens, city sidewalks and his own bad-boy but beguiling imagination, Haring made his name as the '80s top street artist -- while rarely naming his work. But fame was bittersweet. "My friends are dropping like flies," he wrote in his Journals (Viking Penguin, 1996). "Work is all I have, and art is more important than life."

When Keith Haring revealed in a 1989 Rolling Stone interview that he had HIV, a ripple of shock hit not only the pop-culture enthusiasts who loved his inspired squiggles in New York City's subways and art galleries, but even those fellow artists and members of the gay community who knew of his status: Back then, most public figures were still deep in the closet about being queer, let alone positive -- you only learned about that in their obituary. Haring's announcement made him unique. The Rolling Stone news prompted more press and a command from my editor at the short-lived downtown weekly 7 Days to interview Haring. Faxes to his rep proved futile: Haring had said all he had to say on the subject. Instead, he launched a one-man safe-sex t-shirt campaign, protested Mayor Ed Koch's AIDS policy, joined a kiss-in at St. Vincent's Hospital, stormed St. Patrick's Cathedral with ACT UP and danced until dawn at Paradise Garage. On February 17, 1990, my editor called to tell me that Haring, age 31, had died the night before. "People will talk to you now," he said. "Get on a bus to his hometown." I had no contacts in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, but talking around, I met his old friends and eventually his mother. I most remember being greeted at the door of the Harings' home by Zoe, the family German shepherd with a deafening bark. I smile when I see Haring's famous barking-dog drawing today. It's a reminder that his images are not idle fantasies, but connected to what was alive and real around him. Haring was the conduit between the street and the angels, zapping UFOs and radiant babies, monstrous contortions and wacky genitalia. His was less a vision than a groove, a tribal interplay of constantly unfolding experiences. I think of him often, especially on the dance floor.

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