Long before CBS'
Big Brother, PWA Pedro Zamora lived out his own version of Survivor,
the only compelling story to come out of nine seasons of MTV's
maison vérité, The Real World. After his 1994 death, two housemates
from the show -- med student Pam Ling, who became an AIDS doc, and her
now-partner, Judd Winick -- toured the country, filling in for
Zamora on the college lecture circuit. A Marvel Comics animator, Winick
turned his HIV shtick into a graphic novel -- publishing-speak for a
book-length comic -- called Pedro and Me (Henry Holt), also online
Winick talks to POZ about Zamora's gallows humor, lying to
the producers and what sets him apart from Real Worlder-turned-VJ
POZ: I heard the first four years of
the show are going into syndication.
Winick: We'll be like The Brady Bunch.
It would be nice if the show was outdated, but little has been done
about AIDS since 1994 except back-slapping. This time Pedro's message
will get a much larger audience. He was the only altruistic person to
ever be on the show. For everyone else -- including me -- it was about
being on TV and free rent. For Pedro it was much bigger.
Like your new book?
any moment." They couldn't
do it on TV, either.
For a history of graphic AIDS, visit www.nyc comicbook
museum.org and check out the fledgling group's first permanent
exhibit, Comic Books and AIDS: What's the Story? A half-hour
documentary produced with Cable Positive aired in New York in
July and will be shown nationwide. (Call 212.712.9454 to help
bring it to your local PBS channel.) An off-line exhibit can be
viewed in the Big Apple this winter.
Also left on the cutting-room floor -- but
in the book -- was the severity of Pedro's illness. Did he ask you to
It was all unspoken, but Pam knew from day one
that it was serious -- his CD4 count was soon down to 32. We each got
one get-out-of-jail-free card from the producers as to what they would
edit out. Pedro said, "Don't show me throwing up or having a really
bad day. Respect my privacy." He didn't want to be the sickly AIDS boy.
But he wasn't well.
He really was OK for a very long time. But it
was stressful for him to be living there. Who knows what would have
happened if we demanded he leave for his own good? We're still haunted
by that. If he'd hung on another nine months, he could have gone on
the cocktail. You wonder. . . .
<Having an HIV specialist in the house must
keep you up-to-date now that you're back on the road, lecturing.
We're always talking about AIDS at home -- which
of our friends have changed their dosing, which protease they're on,
what's working, what's not. It's a part of our lives.
What's the difference between this book and
Eric Nies hosting The Grind?
I don't have to keep my abs as hard, thankfully.
Look, I know people are going to say this is self-promotion. People
ask what right I have. What's better? That I do nothing? This idea that
I'm jumping on the bandwagon -- it's been six years. In '94,
Pedro was all anyone could talk about. Now there's nothing. Let them
criticize. I still think it's an important story to tell.