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Showing posts from May, 2006

10 Years Ago: Crixivan & LA Times.

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On May 21, 1996, I note that a new drug has suddenly arrived in the mail. An experimental drug called Crixivan. I note:
"I received...my first shipment of Crixivan--the new, even more potent protease inhibitor. I was thrilled, but it does come with some tough rules. First of all, I have to take it on an empty stomach three times a day--every eight hours, and I can't eat for a full hour after taking it. But I also have to take Saquinavir three times a day on a full stomach.

"Now let's see... if I take the Crixivan at 6, 2, and 10, then I'd have to eat (and take the Saquinavir) at 7, 3 and 11. LUNCH AT 3? Dinner at 11? But I suppose I could eat lunch at 12, take a snack at 3 with the Saquinavir, dinner at 7, Crixivan at 10, and eat a snack with the Saquinavir at 11...

"The Pharmacy also included a little form to fill out to report to them if I'm late or if I miss a dose. This means I should carry around a couple of doses in the car with me just in case I get …

10 Years Ago: Last Cruise of My Life?

I have a little catching up to do on my "10 Years Ago" series. Lots of things were happening in May of 1996. First of all, as you might recall from the last installment, we were on our way to Alaska, both of us thinking--but not saying out loud--that it would be my last cruise. A nice way to go out. I did, however, set a goal of gaining some weight. I decided to eat/eat/eat until I could hold no more. On the first day, we met a gay couple who had been together for 52 years, who had met as soldiers during WW2. Jim got very misty and said to me, "I want 52 years with you!" It prompted me to write a poem called "52 Years" which ends with a silly punchline.

The first thing I did was, between taking long naps because I was feeling really ill, to find the piano and start playing and singing. It was always my best therapy. One day I was sitting there playing and singing the songs from TLS, eyes closed, having my own private party. Suddenly, I looked up and saw t…

Barcelona Picture Book

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Our trip this year began with a very long flight to Lisbon. We were so tired, we ended up staying aboard the ship instead of exploring Lisbon. But since we'd been there before, we didn't feel too guilty. Our next port was Barcelona. Again, we'd been there last year, so we didn't knock ourselves out trying to see everything, but instead, just walked up the main thoroughfare near the port.

There were lots of street performers.















As you can see, satan was smoking a cigarette while putting on his costume.

























The guy sitting down reading is a real live person who didn't move a muscle. He had a little tip jar out in front. Lots of the performers in Barcelona do this kind of thing. I think it's really fun to see. His make-up is amazing.


The last place we found was this beautiful old plaza where we found some friends from the ship and then sat around just enjoying a cool beverage while the sun went down. It was beautiful.

Petrina Johnson & The Secret of the Great Big Hall

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I fell totally in love on our cruise to the Mediterranean with a singer from London named Petrina Johnson -- pictured left as Judy. (A frequent stage actress and performer on London's West End, she is a very popular singer on the most prestigious cruise ships and cabaret clubs in the world. It's no wonder. Not only does she have a versatile and powerful set of pipes, but she is a brilliant entertainer and comedienne who can imitate some of the greats, including Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Liza Minelli, just to name a few -- her Julie Andrews is side-splitting. But more than that, she sings with absolute heart and commitment.)


So, after seeing her first show, I did what I always do when I meet a new singer. I walked up to her and said, "Hey! You should be singing my songs! In fact, I just wrote a brand new song and I think it would be perfect for you."

Now, normally, when I make this pitch, since I'm not exactly the most famous person in the world…

For Memorial Day

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Jetlag, Free Press & Mourning.

Yesterday was one of those days impossible to describe. Mix in the grief you feel for someone who was as close as any brother, the compassion you feel for his spouse and the walking-in-syrup / soup-in-head feeling of first day jetlag when your body is awake but thinks it ought to be sleeping, then sleeping when it wants to be awake, and you have a recipe for Fried Zombie on Couch.

Your eyes are red with tears and burning for so many reasons, you can't keep track of them. You just sit staring dazedly ahead thinking "Am I awake trying to sleep or asleep trying to be awake?" "Is it true that my brother is dead or was that a nightmare that won't let go?"

Another thing that confuses you is that you come out of the vaccuum of 20 days of ship life, which is defined by "what port are we in today?" and "what's the dress code at dinner tonight?" and "Oh, did you hear the news? There was a bombing or something somewhere. Yes, I'll have …

Death In Venice

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When we arrived home from our trip to Europe, there was an urgent phone message from Dick (Dickie) Bell, one of Jim's lifelong actor pals. The message was simply to call. We left a message for him, saying we'd be up and that we wanted to hear from him ASAP.

Jim looked at me and said, with horror, "It's Jimmy Rilley. The last time Dickie left me a message like that, George had died." (George was Dickie's longtime partner).

When Dickie finally called, he confirmed the news. Jim wept softly down in the living room as he received the news. I was up in my loft, so I could hear him but I had no feelings about it. My heart felt dead and my eyes were dry. I wasn't even poked in the chest with sadness or recognition. No shock. No feelings whatsoever.

I chalked it up to the fact that I was so dead tired. 12 long hours of a plane trip from Germany, making it about 3:00AM by our bodies, had left me emotionally and physically numb.

Turns out he died the day we left to go …

On Hiatus until May 28th

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I will be taking a break from this blog for 20 days while Jim and I travel. He's doing another lecture series and I'm going along for the ride. I'll leave the comments section open, so please feel free to chat with each other. I'll try to check in every once in awhile but mostly, I'll be out of reach. I'll come back with new songs and new videos. Thank you everyone for reading and participating.

When I get back, we'll start back with our 10 years ago series and I'll tell you the whole background story as I finally hit rock bottom, physically, and we take drastic steps to save my life -- and then a little miracle comes in the mail and more miracles happen on stage. Stay tuned. The best is yet to come!

Thank you. Oh, and here's your thought for today:

You're not creating your future. You're creating your past.

Steve (and Thurber & Steinbeck)

Jim stars as Zero Mostel in LA beginning in July

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My beautiful partner, Jim Brochu, will be performing as Zero Mostel in his own brand new one-man play, "Zero Hour" beginning in July here in Los Angeles at the Egyptian Arena Theatre, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave. in Hollywood. It's going to be a terrific production. We've already had three staged readings and all of them were really successful and powerful. Zero Mostel, apart from being one of the funniest men on the earth, was also hounded by the House Un-American Activities Committee, blacklisted for supposedly being a "commie," and still went on to win Tony Awards and become a comedy icon.

This is going to be fun.

Connected

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I have now made a music video for "Connected" from The Last Session. The next in my ongoing project to create a video for every song from the show. This was the very first song I wrote for the show. Writing this song literally saved my life. When I wrote it, Jim noticed that I was sitting up stronger, breathing more easily and coming back to life. So, he began giving me "homework" -- writing assignments as a form of physical therapy.

Those writing assignments became a list of songs which became a musical. As I continue looking back 10 years, we will soon be reaching the time when the first workshop of The Last Session begins to come together just as I'm hitting rock bottom, physically. We both come t0 life together. The best part of the story is yet to come! Here's where it all started:

Click here to play the Quicktime version.

Here for the YouTube flash version.

Revised HIV Treatment Guidelines

HHS Panel Revises Guidelines for Antiretroviral Treatment[May 05, 2006]
From the Kaiser Network
An HHS panel on Thursday published revised guidelines on antiretroviral therapy, including recommendations for treatment interruption, drug-resistance testing and HIV/hepatitis B coinfection PharmaLive.comreports (PharmaLive.com, 5/4). The guidelines advise newly diagnosed HIV-positive adults and adolescents to be tested for strains of the virus that are resistant to antiretroviral drugs. The revised guidelines also suggest that people taking antiretroviral therapy should avoid interrupting their treatment, based on the Strategies for Management of Antiretroviral Therapy trial (CQ HealthBeat, 5/4). The SMART trial, which was conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, finds that participants who took antiretroviral drugs on an irregular basis were more than twice as likely to experience increased progression of the virus or death compared with those …

Damn Those Triglycerides!

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I had actually lost my beautiful and talented endocrinologist, Dr. Ruchi, when the clinic she was working for shuffled around and changed offices. So, I went for four or five months without seeing her. Finally caught up with her last month where she put me through a battery of tests and today we looked through the results to talk about what to do now. There was good news and not "bad" news, but things I needed to do to improve.

(Just before she came into the room, I looked over at my folder and read the report she made on my last visit. She described me as a "highly motivated patient" who she felt would follow through on instructions to exercise, etc. I liked that: highly motivated. I love reading my charts.)

The good news is my liver functions are great. My Graves disease is still in a kind of remission. The brain is still sending out hormones to boost production (so that level is high) but the T3 and T4 levels are normal, so it's doing its job. The problem is i…

Chuck's Fine

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I saw Chuck, my homeless veteran friend, this morning on his daily rounds of picking up cans and bottles (which he calls "California Gold"). I gave him two big bags of bottles and cans and we chatted for awhile. I asked him how his court date went and he gave me a totally disgusted look as he hauled out a yellow sheet of paper.

"Look at this," he said, half-laughing.

I looked at the paper.

"See there?"

I saw a line that said "M 30."

"That's my fine. 30 dollars. But I owe them $249 total for all this other shit."

"WHAT?? What else is on here?" I grabbed the paper out of his hand and looked at it. (If you click on the image to the left, you can see the items, also.)

"That's what I'm trying to figure out. Hell, I had the $30. Or I coulda just done five days in jail or something. This is ridiculous."

I looked at it. $30 dollars for the fine. "$95 dollars for the court appointed lawyer? Are you serious? You have…

Salvage Therapy

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In a story at the Wall Street Journal website, which is giving 10 free days of access, there is a story about "salvage therapy," which is what doctors resort to when an AIDS patient has become "immune" to all AIDS drugs. (Or, more specifically, when HIV has become immune to all current AIDS drugs.)

Steve Kovacev, a sinewy 52-year-old from Truro, Mass., has run the Boston Marathon and sailed in the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. Neither event comes close to his current competition: a race for his life.Mr. Kovacev has AIDS. He has used all the drugs available to fight HIV, the virus that causes the disease, but now almost all regimens have lost strength, and his virus is on the upswing. His plight places him in an unenviable class: the estimated 40,000 U.S. AIDS patients whose illness isn't responding to treatment. As a last-ditch effort, some of these people -- Mr. Kovacev included -- are turning to a regimen known among AIDS patients and d…

10 Yrs Ago: RENT & Jonathan Larson

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From May 3, 1996 comes a very emotional moment:
"Thursday night on 48 Hours, a TV show here in the States, there was a story on the new Broadway show, Rent. It opened off-Broadway to sold-out houses, opened on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize. The man who wrote it, Jonathan Larson, however, died of an aortic aneurysm the night before it opened. He never saw the success it would go on to enjoy. I could tell Jimmy was shaken up a little by the story as he worries so much about me."
Jim and I never talked about me being dead, or dying. The subject never came up. As Gideon say in The Last Session, "You're Irish. And If the Irish don't talk about something, it doesn't exist."

So, I remember this moment as the story played out the TV. I could see him visibly shaking as "the thing we didn't talk about" was being talked about. The elephant in the room had just stood up and was knocking pictures off the wall and crushing the furniture. I had to say…

Roswell or Buna?

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My brother, Corky, who imagines himself to be a laugh riot, sent me this photo of an alien, comparing it to the image I made of myself for the video to "The Group."

He was so proud of himself, he had to call me on the phone to gloat and revel in his sense of humor.

Okay, he wins. I admit it. It's funny.

Spanish National Anthem, Part 3

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The blog "Think Progress" has an interesting post today about the Spanish version of the national anthem. President Bush, 4/28/06:

"I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

But in his book American Dynasty, Kevin Phillips notes that during Bush’s first presidential campaign, he would often sing the national anthem in Spanish. From pg. 142:

When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, he would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish, sometimes partying with a “Viva Bush” mariachi band flown in from Texas.I don't usually do that much political stuff, but I once lived for a summer in Mexico. I love the Spanish language and I especially love the Mexican people. All this racist right wing crap is pis…

10 Yrs. Ago: The Cyberworld Finds Me.

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It was on May 1st, 1996, that the larger cyberworld found me. Up until then, most of my readers were family and friends. My diary postings were mainly for them, though a few people had found me by doing websearches on the word "AIDS." But on May 1st, ten years ago, I was named "Isotopically Cool Site Of The Day". What this did for me was it brought into my circle of friends and acquaintances other people with AIDS, caregivers, physicians, musicians, gay folk, straight folk, religious folk, and, yes, cool folk. (Looking at their site, I see they didn't archive this category designation, so I didn't quite make the A-Team of Cool, but still...)

I also note that Jim had been given an opportunity to lecture onboard a cruise ship to Alaska, which would start in about a week. Given how sick I was, I remember thinking that I would give the diarrhea meds one last push to help me gain weight -- and that, on the ship, I would eat and eat and eat. My goal was to focus o…

10 Yrs. Ago: The Gay Church

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Yes, that's me with Brian Wilson and Nik Venet poking his head out between us.

My blogreader and longtime netpal, Mage, pointed out in a previous entry that it was my friends sticking around that helped me significantly in staying alive through this period. One of those friends was songwriter Harriet Schock and songwriting mentor, the late, great Nik Venet. Nik was a music industry legend who was fierce in his denunciation of bad songwriting. He made Simon Cowell look like Paula Abdul. Seriously. Nik never gave any quarter to any songwriter who he felt was lazy and not trying to dive all the way into the meat of any lyric.

Aside from the great John Bettis (left), who first heard my songs and gave me the go-ahead to believe in myself and my writing skills, it was Nik, who, when I first played them for him, pushed my self-confidence over the top because I didn't really know him that well at the time. We had met a few times through my involvement at the songwriter academy, but it w…

Heidi's Birthday Party

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The Malibu home of Ron & Kristin Turner.

Two of our closest personal friends are Heidi Sullivan & Tom Hozduk. Sunday was Heidi's birthday, so, together with our other friends, Kristin and Ron Turner, we threw a surprise party for her at the Turner's beautiful home in Malibu (which Ron, who is a world class architect designed himself -- he and his firm designed, among other things, the Staples Center here in Los Angeles). The morning fog was somewhat thick over the coastline so, at first there wasn't much to take pictures of until, suddenly, a line of 12 Lotus automobiles came careening past us.

I grabbed my camera and took a few shots. I don't think I've ever seen 12 Lotuses in my life, much less all in one caravan up PCH.


Malibu is one of those strange beachside cities/drives that is mostly ugly because the beach is cut off from view by a series of what looks like run-down shacks (but which cost millions of dollars). It's like driving down the alleyway of…