PICK OF THE LITTER

In 1995, Mutual of Omaha began selling a tour and cruise travel insurance policy that waives all pre-existing conditions. Travelers qualify for the waiver by purchasing the insurance within 24 hours of the time the initial trip deposit is made and purchasing coverage for the full cost of the trip. For more information or to enroll, ask your travel agent or call 800.228.9792.—From Out and About Gay Travel Guides: USA Resorts and Warm Weather Vacations by Billy Kolber-Stuart and David Alport (Hyperion)

Music

Ballads, Blues & Bey
Andy Bey
(Evidence)

This is one of those recordings  that captures the essence of a rare artist’s gifts and, in doing so, becomes an instant classic. Bey has been called “one of the best-kept secrets in jazz.” Now in hit late 50s, Bey’s baritone is as powerful as ever, but for this collection (which includes “Embraceable You”) he’s turned the vocal volume down to “intimate.” Perhaps Bey’s recently disclosed HIV positive status lends a new level of emotional meaning to songs like “Someone to Watch Over Me.” There’s not one wasted note.

--Andrew Velez

Lucky Pierre
The Travis John Alford Band
(World Domination)

In 1995 singer Travis John Alford landed a contract with Twist Management and was waiting to turn his tentative demos into some well-produced songs when his health took a turn for the worse. His friends convinced him to go into the studio to remix his already-existing demos. Alford managed to craft this album full of remarkably assured songs ranging from transcendent pop (“Tumbleweed” to hard-driving, rude punk (“Lucky Pierre”). Like the best rock rebels, Alford consistently walks on the wild side, but in “Weep Below the Waist,” he sings tenderly to a boy who is facing positive status: “So they told you that you’re dying, well, don’t take it so hard.” Two months after recording the last track, Alford died of AIDS at age 26. To order, call 800.818.6377.

Books

Does Freddy Dance

Dick Scanlan
(Alyson Publications)

This quietly affecting collection of interrelated stories follows Freddy Donovan over 30 years as he matures from shy Maryland adolescent to extroverted New York City hoofer. Making a living as a dancer is never easy, but Donovan’s most challenging footwork involves negotiating relationships in the age of AIDS. When Donovan’s partner, Mark, becomes ill, Donovan struggles with guilt, confusion, anger and fear, reminiscing about the days before HIV became “enemy troops occupying his life.” POZ editor at large Dick Scanlan deftly captures uncertainty and paranoia: The sudden terror of a common stomachache, hospital visits with lovers and bouts of paralyzing melancholy. Although Freddy wonders “how long this dance will last,” the book waltzes wistfully in memory long after the final page is turned.
--Erik Jackson