I watched this incredibly moving documentary last night,We Were Here, Directed by David Weissman, and is a portrait of the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco.
Short-listed for an Academy Award and Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2012 Film Independant Spirit Awards.
Incredible, almost every film archive or clip from the time brought back the flashbacks in my mind of when i lived through this very period in American history.
My first recollections of this terminally sad period was when living in Westport,Ct. an affluent and Artistic community which I was fortunate to live in for three and a half years of my life before moving to Australia.
With many very successful openly gay men living in Westport, many were in the theatre and acting community, Dancers,Artists, Choreographers, Playwright's and Finaciers, all were totally accepted by the greater community in Westport, a very progressive and accepting town then!, they had their own "OPENLY GAY" club, called the "Brook Cafe", and no-one ever gave them ANY problems, it was live and let live, none of this "greater than thou bullshit"!
The Brook Cafe was on the Post Road, the main road which runs straight through Westport, across the street from the Audi Dealership at the time if my memory serves me correctly. I don't know if it's still there, probably not, they (the local gay community)was i think fully wiped out by this epidemic, and this very top creative gay echelon was to never return, "they really were irreplaceable" and to everyone's loss, these were all the TOP of the TOPS of their chosen fields.
It make me so sad writing this and remembering.
I haven't been back to Westport since 1984.
I do remember very well though when I saw the Phil Donahue show beamed live out of NYC one afternoon, when i was playing "hooky" from school.
He had on his show this day, people talking about this "unknown" disease which was mainly affecting gay men, and haemopheliac's, undescribed then as Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,(AIDS), it had NO NAME really then, as there were several variants which this oppurtunistic disease took its victim according to then medical opinion, all that was really known was that if you get infected, then you've basically got a death sentence, to be taken way before your time, and sadly, to die a very horrible and painful death, leaving behind grief stricken and traumatized care givers and lovers.
At the time, there was no testing regimes for large numbers of people, and in the U.S., i'm thinking around mid 1982, there were only about 300 people in ALL of America with this "Mystery"diagnosis acccording to the Doctors present on Donahue!
The years 1994-1997 roll around, and in San Francisco, almost 17,000 irreplaceable San Franciscan's have succumb to this non discriminating disease in THREE YEARS, anyone could get it in "the scene" back then, and did!
"I can't even begin to imagine", as a straight, but not narrow minded man, what the long term and immediate effects this would have on oneself personally, and psychologically, as you see one by one young, handsome, vibrant, creative men wither away until they are a mere shadow of their former selves then, gone forever!
In a small, inter connected community like the one that existed around the Castro district at the time, absoleutly devestating I can only empathize.
On top of this personal trauma, "you know" the American general public hate you for something you never had a choice in making the decision on, if your born gay, that's hardly a conscious decision, but bigoted religious types think they know best because they follow the word of some two thousand year old "Supernatural" being, and gays mostly know this about the broader public view of "homosexuals", i'm generalising here, but i think if you asked a gay person, if there is a God?, why would he do this to people he supposedly created,and who were only probably having fun and enjoying themselves when they were infected in the "PRIMES" of their one and only life!
One of the health workers interviewed said very eloquently, she paused, gained some kind of composure, and looked right down the camera lense and said, and i paraphrase here abit, "how things would've been so diffferent if all those people who were taken way before their time were around still today", with tears rolling down from her eyes, i couldn't contain myself either, as i too was looking at my response, "I" had been rolled up in a Movement, a Movement which I never really had "consciously" been a part of, but i had been sub-consciously as a fellow human being, this was crystal clear in my unexpected reaction, and was noted by self!
If we as human beings are completely unable to empathize with others, we are no longer fully human, we fail, as traits like empathy must never be lost in us as a species, which i think is happening thanks to these Religious know it all's, tell ya something, "Those religious zealots don't know shit, as Saint John Chrysostom (347-407) said,"The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests' with Bishops as their signposts ", as i do, you too can also use their evil little book against them!
I vividly remember the sunny days in Washington D.C., with the rememberance quilts, thousands of them like beautiful lotus', I, not really conscious at the time atleast to what was really happening, or connecting the painful reality of what i was "REALLY" witnessing atleast then as a younger man.
The media was showing in my opinion a very un-personalized veiwpoint of the death of that generation of Americans, almost propaganda and in particular, the premature and senseless death of these young mostly gay Americans represented by a quilt, when in reality, they were forgotten and fully let down by their own Government, and it's complete non response to the Epidemic in the first place!
A name with a birthday and death date on a beautifully embroidered quilt doesn't really cut it for reality for me, not when you see a doco like We Were Here, i understand why it was done(the Quilt), and i agree with it! And when you know that it was all done to bring some kind of awareness to a MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEM that the Federal Government had ignored for way too many years, hell Ronald Reagan, what a failure he was for America and Young Americans, which "I" was one at the time. "HE DIDN'T EVEN SAY AIDS UNTIL 1987", and that was only because Elizabeth Taylor!, and Rock Hudson had just been outed for being "homosexual" and having AIDS on top of it! This VERY public humiliation of a once well respected and admired American Motion Picture Icon is seared into my memories even to this day!
The Government failed these young Americans, the response was to take TEN YEARS! Thousands more would perish, but now so called "straight" people and women were being affected, the geni was truly out of the bottle and would never return now, spreading throughout the world, much like the Motion Picture Association of America, the MPAA, a truly horrible cabal in itself, don't get me started on these F*^KS!
In the interim, the Federal Government's failure to tackle this EPIDEMIC head on, the American "general public" were all being whipped up into a frenzy about these people with "AIDS", Many thick headed religious types blamed the people who had this horrible disease on themselves, stupid is as stupid does!
These Religious Fundamentalist types were running around like chickens with their heads chopped off at this time, screaming AIDS AIDS AIDS, "Homo, Homo, Homo, and was rife with bigoted two faced "Religious leaders" like (Swaggert,Falwell,Jimmy Baker, and right winged groups like "Focus on the Family",run by some cock named James Dodson i believe) etc. etc,
Understand this, these people drove others into such a morally righteous frenzy, that they would attack little kids who had AIDS, like little Ryan White, what a strong little fighter he was, and i will always admire and remember him so, the people in his small hick town of Dogpatch rose up in a self induced mania to "frog march" him and his family clear out of Dogpatch once they found out this little haemopheliac boy had contracted AIDS from an unscreened blood doner . That's right! "UNSCREENED" blood, at the time there were NO even rudimentary test to screen potential blood donors from passing on this lethal disease, A HUGE GOVERNMENT POLICY FAILURE! Reagan wanted to spend Billions on his "Star Wars" project, which in the end was a complete cock up certainly, as a Republican,he wasn't gonna spend it on HEALTH CARE!
The Republican Party is like that up to this day!
The Gay community was failed big time.Not just by the American Federal Government, and as i have already said, with Reagan in the Whitehouse then the mental midget and war criminal George Bush, and surrounded by all his Religious Fundamentalist cronies, Billy Graham included, they certainly weren't going to do ANYTHING for people who they couldn't relate in any human way too, to care or give and help was asking far too much from a "Brain dead and emotionall crippled creature like Ronald Reagan" !
A whole generation wiped out, gone, and what saddens me more is that apparently now in San Francisco, and i'd like to hear back from someone there to let me know if i'm wrong, that because the awareness that the generation that lived through it was so good that the younger gay people aren't nearly as aware as they once were, and the disease will have a "round 2", but this time it will not be covered in the media so much as it was before because of the controlling nature of the American media machine, and or because of the ever so saturated entertainment,Internet and other time controlling vices in ones current reality.
Thanks for your Time
RES IPSA LOQUITOR