Andrew Sullivan orders up "Larry Kramer With Sugar on Top."
I'd met Larry Kramer twice before. First from a distance at
an ACT UP/New York meeting, where I was alternately sickened
and intrigued by his theatrical extremism, by the way in which
this mater familias held sway among so many young,
angry children. Second in a dark corner of the Spike, a gay
bar in New York City, where he accosted me about my own
indolence in the time of the plague. Both times, I'd sensed
someone on a different but recognizable frequency. I sensed an
urgency I couldn't muster, a faith I couldn't begin to hold.
Not that I'd been unaffected by the plague. I had just been
bewildered by it. I had tried to understand the epidemic, and
tend, so far as I could, to the wounded; but Kramer had
clearly tried to end it.
In "A Boy and His Toy" Dominic Hamilton-Little shares his boudoir buddy.
Hank, as I affectionately dub my latex buddy, is a
low-maintenance angel -- just warm water and some soap. No
condoms to unwrap, no conversation to unravel and no breakfast
to worry about. Hank's the ultimate safe-sex playmate -- I can
throw him on the bed in all due haste and let him ravish me
with no unbidden and chilling thoughts of those lab rooms
words such as transmission, seroconversion and
bodily fluids. Finally one rapturous night, I take it
all and discover an insatiable beast within. "Lucky, lucky me!
Free at last!"
In "The Lady Is a Champ," Life columnist Kiki Mason introduces fellow diva Ilka Tanya Pyan.
The woman who had made that announcement, which ran as the
lead item on all the New York City news programs, conveyed a
sense of feistiness as she talked about her decision to come
out about her illness. Surrounded by her daughter and members
of her community, she was a pillar of strength. The person
walking next to me today, however, is quiet and restrained.
Her frailty shows through on the street, like she's a bird out
of its nest. Glimmers of her former persona come through,
though, when she tells me about going to a wedding shower for
her niece. "I've lost about 25 pounds," she says. "I wore this
little Chinese embroidered jacket and sat around posing all
afternoon, like a model in Harper's Bazaar. But I do
miss my butt. I had a beautiful butt -- I'll show you
pictures, really -- but now it's gone."
Dick Scanlan's "Cheating on Your Doctor" relates
his flight into another's waiting room.
As in any relationship, my doctor, Ward, and I have had our
problems. Last summer, when I became suddenly, and somewhat
severely, symptomatic with neuropathy and fatigue, I felt
protective of him, unable to share the details of my worsening
condition. Instead, I fled to the office of another
superlative Upper East Sider, Catherine Carlisle Hart
(daughter of New York City doyenne of the arts and To Tell
the Truth regular Kitty Carlisle and Moss Hart, director
of my favorite musical, My Fair Lady). Dr. Hart was top
flight, but I missed the familial, perhaps paternal,
connection. The promise of show-biz dirt was reason enough to
stay with Dr. Hart, but I realized that if I were to find
myself writhing in discomfort on a hospital bed, the sound of
Ward's voice, soft-spoken at tempo allegro, would ease
my aching heart and soothe my bruised soul. (Then again, so
would the original cast album of My Fair Lady.)
Ward and I spent our first visit after my medical fling
talking about why I turned away, and when we finished, he
wanted to examine me.
"I'm not ready for that," I told him. "I thought we were
just going to talk."
"I'd like to take a look," he said, "and see what's going
Shyly I took off my shirt. As soon as I felt his hands on
my shoulders, looking for the swollen glands I have had for
more than a decade, I had to hold back tears. "I've come home
at last," I said, my au courant reference to Norma
Desmond's musical declaration wasted on Ward. I don't know
what I was expecting -- a lively debate on Patti versus Glenn?
-- but all I got was the slightest squeeze of my shoulder.
That's all I needed, for in his hands, comforting and familiar
as any man's touch I've had the pleasure of knowing (save
one), I felt his relief that the prodigal son -- or at least,
the prodigal look-alike -- had returned, and oh, Dr. Ward,
there's no place like home.
In April/May '95, the father of us all,
Larry Kramer, went off (on everything from the evil of
Donna Shalala to Barbra Streisand's broken promises) in an
interview with Andrew Sullivan. The cover read "Larry
Kramer's Secret," but in '96 the brainy Brit revealed that he
was the one hiding something -- his positive status. The clue
was in his "oral sex" quiz of Kramer.
Sports Illustrated's Bruce Schoenfeld squared off
with Lamar Parks about HIV in the boxing ring. And as
prevention advocates were duking it out over the condom code,
POZ issued its first call for plain talk about unsafe
sex, which in 1999 is still making waves among Second Wave
Ilka Tanya Payan, activist, lawyer and star of the
popular telenovela Angelica, Mi Vida, looked so
fabulous on August/September '95's "Viva la Diva!" cover that
few knew how sick she was (she died less than a year later).
POZ's first women's issue.
Legendary legal eagle Tom Stoddard, who died soon
after October/November '95 hit the stands, bravely bared his
Kaposi's sarcoma lesions on the cover. In solidarity, founder
Sean Strub soon switched his S.O.S. page photo to show that
he, too, had KS.
Eagle Scout with hemophilia Henry Nichols won
everyone's heart. The issue marked our first POZ
Honors, a look back at a year when Richard Nixon's nephew
shilled a hocus-pocus cure and O.J.'s dad, a San Fran drag
queen who died of AIDS in '85, was outed.
Intrepid treatment activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya smoked
a joint at his February/ March '96 cover shoot, first volley
in the pot-for-pain battle.