Monday, April 24, 2006

10 Yrs. Ago: Breaking the News to Friends

The April 24, 1996 entry is a day I remember vividly. It was a night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for the ASCAP Film & TV Awards. This is a very glitzy annual event where ASCAP honors the composers of the biggest movies of the year and it's one I used to always enjoy. But the entry starts out:
I had to leave early last night before they even served the food. It was the ASCAP Film & TV Awards dinner honoring Randy Newman and all the movie composers of the biggest films of last year. I just wasn't feeling strong and I started getting a little sick, so I left.
I remember vividly feeling profoundly weak that night. I wanted so badly to be there, to pretend that I was getting better and to show my face, but I could barely hold myself up. I also had one of my first experiences with breaking the news to an old friend. Remember, in 1996, AIDS was an almost instant death sentence. The therapies we enjoy now were not on the market -- or, rather, they were mostly rumors and speculation. From the entry:
I saw Brock Walsh (Brock's claim to fame was that he co-wrote the song, "Automatic" for the Pointer Sisters and was the voice of Mac Tonight, the singing moon on the McDonalds' commercial, but his magical talent is lyric writing. He writes English words for many of the top Brazilian jazz artists and is a true poet, in my humble opinion).

Anyway, I mentioned my musical and when I said it was about my own experience with AIDS, he absolutely freaked. He hadn't heard, so there I am in a crowded room full of strangers in tuxes and gowns who are laughing and drinking -- and I'm yelling to be heard that I have AIDS, etc. etc. etc. Very surreal to say the least.
I was so unabashed about having AIDS. Unlike a lot of people who tested positive and got sick, and who hid it, I just was blaring it everywhere. Remember, this diary was one of the very first on the Internet written by someone with AIDS. To me, it felt like I was trumpeting it worldwide, but, in fact, with the Internet so new, not that many people were online.

I remember the look on Brock's face. It was like I had punched him in the stomach. Tears sprang into his eyes. This had happened once before, a couple of year earlier, and I recounted that event in this entry:
It was a couple of years ago at the NAS Salute to the American Songwriter. I was talking to my old friend, Tony Haynes (a lyricist and semi-mogul -- works for Warner Bros. now doing all the music for their animated series) in the lobby just before the big show. I off-handedly mentioned something about my health and he hadn't heard, either. So I told him and -- now get this, Tony Haynes is big brawny 6'5" tall black man with a patch over one eye -- a very imposing figure of a man. As soon as I told him I had AIDS a huge tear came to the one good eye and he had to go sit down on the steps.

That's when I knew that I should be very careful about how my friends find out. They love me and this is not the kind of news that anyone just says, "Oh well, good luck and did you see my last picture..."
Even to this day there are old friends who decide to suddenly do a search on my name and find out about my diagnosis for the first time. Just this past week it happened, an old friend who used to volunteer at NAS. Nowadays, though, they can read this blog and see that, while I have to fight the disease every day, at least I'm alive and kicking and thriving.

EDIT: Marie Cain says, "And Brock Walsh's brilliant lyrics for "Evolution" (music by Ivan Lins) ring all too true today. Here's just a sample:

We can travel to the planets
Drive a mile through solid granite
Thrive in all extremes of weather
Yet we cannot live together...
We have ventured
Where none have gone before us
But in matters fundamental
We are patterned on an old design
Welcome back, Tyrannosaurus
Evolution is a state of mind

1 comment:

Christine Bakke said...

Yeah, I remember back during those years when I would hear of someone (or someone would confide) about having AIDS. It really did feel like I began to grieve at that moment.

Recently, a friend of mine tested positive, and while I felt shocked, it was definitely not the same feeling as 10 years ago. It wasn't that kicked in the gut/slapped in the face/heart ripped out kind of feeling.

Glad so much has changed...still far to go, though, especially with cases on the rise, and medicines/education so lacking in so many places (where it still is such a swift death sentence).

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