The amazing documentary about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.
I watched it today.
(Yes, eldergay thread! Go chase parked cars!)
I have not cried that many times at a film in over 20 years.
I was there too and I just can't.
Once was way more than enough.
I recently watched this online, and I'm 34 so I was just a kid during AIDS. It was very moving and also appalling how gay men were treated in those days. Fascinating documentary. I cannot imagine the fear and paranoia gay men must have felt back then. I'm grateful I did not experience it personally.
Was there too. Seriously, Zak, can you give me a reason?
Must we re-live the pain and the horrible suffering; physical and mental? What would I get out of it? Is there some new insight to be had?
Well for me, it made the hard choices I made back then seem very much the right ones.
Getting involved in AIDS, working in HIV prevention education -- I knew they were the right things for me to do, but some times I felt the cost on me were too great. I certainly no longer feel that.
It made me see why I was such a live-for-the day person for so many years of my life. I never thought about the future or that I would be here getting old... and I am not even infected, I was just very much Afected by HIV. Seriously, didn't think I would be old and some times forget how fortunate I am to be old.
Overall, it made me very happy to be alive and it reminded me that I can't take life for granted -- or squander the gifts I have. Every day, I want to remember that I survived and that it is important we not forget the things many of us lived through.
And that my struggles to be more compassionate are far from over. While I have had buckets of compassion for my LGBT brothers and sisters, the rest of the world has often made me want to wretch.
I realize that my short fuse for people who haven't faced what we faced doesn't really serve me well.
Another reason: the people they interview, each in his/her own way are all remarkable. I feel like that are part of my family that I just haven't see in awhile or somehow haven't met.
It also made me miss California so much.
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R6 is off her meds.
Where is this available?
Is this an HBO show!
No it is a documentary film.
You can buy the DVD. I did.
It's on itunes to buy (9.99) or rent (3.99, 4.99 HD).
Thanks Zak, I appreciate the answer. Hadn't looked at it that way.
[quote]Well for me, it made the hard choices I made back then seem very much the right ones.
I, too, never overlook an opportunity to be self-congratulatory.
Jesus, R14, could you be any more fucking insecure.
Please. Zak's post is chock-full of "I, me, my" and you call out R14?
I remember the night it hit me. I had pushed down all the trauma of watching these young men die and moved from SF to NY in '95. My father, stepmother and I were watching Rent and when it got to the part where the little drag queen dies of AIDS I couldn't stop the tears. At first it started out as a sympathetic gesture to a poignant plot point in a musical. I found a tissue and it was soaking wet in a second or two and so I began to wipe my eyes with my shirt cuffs and the back of my hands. I sat there in the darkness and was mortified by my own reaction which went on into the next scene.
I was there. SF General. Rita Rockett putting on shows in the AIDS ward. Sylvester. The Elizabeth Taylor TV and video cart at Davies Memorial AIDS ward. The slow goodbye and the cartwheel off the cliff. The Catholic Church.
I don't want to relive it again. Not in this lifetime. Maybe in a book no one will ever read.
Lots of gay-friendly people were there, too, you know. Back in the day, the straights were having a hard enough time having to justify why they were 'putting themselves at risk for no reason' with the association. Hags were big support during this time.
Fuck. I can't even think about it without my heart sinking.
R17. You took me back there.
It should be, "Do you remember where you were when your first friend died of AIDS?"
I was in ICU when I think it was 20/20 first aired a report on the gay cancer. I asked my intern if there were any cases here(at OSU hospital)and I was shushed! He WHISPERED that there were but that nobody was supposed to talk about it. I asked why and he said it was to avoid panic. It was a bad year at that hospital. That same year a serial killer was stalking patients in the ICU. It didn't take long for society to form it's opinion of what came to be called AIDS. By the next summer a local church had hired a plane to buzz our Pride parade with a banner that AIDS was "God's curse against homosexuals".
I was struck by the 'sensitive'/femme guy who said he finally felt accepted or part of the gay community when volunteering with HIV/AIDS patients.
It was an interesting observation when much of the coverage of the late 1960s and the 1970s talks about openness, diversity etc. and yet this "mild" femmey guy could find no place within the gay community until the AIDS crisis.
R19 Yes, I remember. His name was Jerry. He broke it to me by saying, "Do you remember when we were talking about how awful it's gonna be when your first friend tells you he has AIDS?"
We were a good team. Writing partners. We'd just interviewed Sylvester for his "One Night Only" concert which was coming up. The Bay Area Reporter. Not exactly big time, but we had plans. Jerry knew all the new stuff about Sylvester. I knew the old stuff -- like when he came to NY with the Cockettes. Sylvester put a Patti LaBelle song on and said he'd be singing it with Martha Wash at the Castro Theater. I will never forget the angelic sound the two of them made as they bounced their voices off the hallowed walls of that theater. It was like a call and response bit at the end of the song. I was awestruck.
Yeah, there's lots of good memories from back then too, but if you are a gay man of a certain age who fits into this demographic you basically lost most, if not all, of your friends. And it made a tremendous mark on your psyche. I think that period in time is the genesis of the traction we have in gay civil rights today.
I just watched this movie. Now, I can't stop crying.
I was heartened to see the documentary with the lesbians who put together a safety net, like overnight, to help the gay men in the Castro. I had a friend from a wealthy Orange County Christian family who lived out his last days in a roach-infested tenderloin rat trap. Nobody visited. He had no money and relied on the charity of this women's network.
His mother called occasionally to tell his ex-boyfriend and fellow caretaker, "You know, I don't approve of your lifestyle." He was changing her son's diaper at the time.
It was like we had entered the Twilight Zone.
Surprisingly, he wanted his ashes scattered back home in Orange County, in Laguna Beach so it was okay, and his mother met us there.
With her church group.
Yeah. I know.
His mother said, "Thank you for coming."
I had the ashes in a fliptop plastic container in my arms. The ex-boyfriend leered at her. He had to call to get her to send the $650 to cremate her son. She procrastinated.
Mom returned to the group and they all joined hands in a circle and began singing religious songs.
I was cued to begin and as I started to tilt the container, the mother let out an awful heartbreaking gasp.
I noticed the ex frantically running his index fingers in a circle, the international sign for "speed it up" so I'm afraid I kind of just dumped the rest of him in the drink and closed the lid.
On the way back to her Mercedes, the mother walked alongside me and tried to make small talk. It was an awkward conversation, but she knew better than to interact with the ex who had long since stopped trying to fathom this woman.
All of a sudden, the top of the ash cannister popped open with a loud "Snap!" and I swear this woman screamed and jumped three feet in the air.
I remember thinking, "Good one!"
Great story, r24. Love the ending.
I was very young during the height of the crisis (18 in 1983) but out, and I can remember the many, many lesbians who came to the rescue.
I just put it my Netflix queue.
While I know it's difficult to look back on that terrible period, it did galvanize the gay community as never before. It was the defining moment for a generation. Yes, as in any war, many were lost. But those who survived moved on to build institutions that will last decades.
Today, all over the country, there are HIV/AIDS resource centers. Everywhere you look on TV, there are gays, accepted as part of the mainstream. Marriage equality is a reality in several states and will be in more, if not the entire country in the next 20 years.
You're really the gay "Greatest Generation". It may not seem like that right now but history will mark those years as THE turning point in equal rights.
Thanks R26 for somewhat justfying all the "I's" that were in my previous post.
Ignore me, (besides, I want to be alone) BUT if you are gay guy between the ages of 30 and 89, you have to see this movie.
That is all...
R27 Zak, you post eloquently here on many threads, including this one. Don't let any nasty cunts get you down.
Thank you for pointing this out. I came out in the early 90s after the first several waves of losses but I still lost a few friends. Small town + shitty medical help + hospitals/doctors who were homophobic = unnecessary deaths.
I will check this out.
Bad Teacher was funnier, but I appreciated the wit in We Were Here.
Thanks for posting about this, Zak. I'm downloading the movie from iTunes right now.
You people know that homosexuality was illegal in the USA until 2003, that was only 9 years ago...
America is a terrible place for Gays, it always has been.
We had Ward 5. Death Valley was what we called it. There was no hope once you hit W5. But there were 2 nurses, Sets and another who weren't afraid and worked tirelessly to make those last moments comfortable for the dying and for those suffering with them.
That horrific era for Gay men has continued to affect me since.
Do people still die of AIDS?
Zak I saw it on Sat night. I moved to SF in 84 and was there until 98 and worked in the Castro though all of the 80s and early 90s and saw literally dozens if not hundreds of people go from zero to dead in an instant. It was a wrenching time to live through and changed my perspective about the future and what life should be like. Seeing the documentary was not, for whatever reasons, as devastating an experience as I thought it would be. I was shocked to see one of my good friends in a picture taken at General visiting a sick friend and then later in the film another picture of him dying. There was John frozen in time. I think one of the central points to make is that no one who didn't go through it will ever understand what happened then.
Firstly, we posted about this about 7 months ago when the film was long listed for the Best Documentary Oscar and received a limited theatrical release.
Secondly, this is not an "eldergay" thread - that annoying and offensive word that some idiots here embrace like women who hate feminists. This film is for everybody.
Thirdly, you watch it because it is a document of our history as probably the only people who suffered through and survived two holocausts in one century. This story is part of who we are, the challenges we have faced and by taking care of our own - at one time, the ethos of the gay community - what we have overcome. For those of us who lived through it, it offers perspective on a time that was too overwhelming to process completely and, as sad and painful as it is to watch, it is a document, proof if you will, that it really happened. Like every other part of our history we're in danger of being air brushed out of it; we witnessed this when Reagan died and people shrugged off the part he played in prolonging the suffering of our people by refusing to take any action.
For younger gay men, they should watch it to know what we went through.
And lastly, you should watch it because it documents how our lesbian sisters cared for us in our desperate time of need, how they stood by us and fought for us; it shows how much we as gay men are indebted to them and should make more of our opportunity to show them our gratitude and love.
It's a very touching doc but I wish it had been more imaginatively filmed. The 5 people who speak are, except the woman and, perhaps, the florist, very self-involved and talk as though the entire epidemic were about them. The imagery is predictable and the filming bland.
Docs are very difficult to do well. This one just isn't that good. Still waiting for the really good doc that will bring everyone to the theater or the netflix queue. It'll happen. Just hasn't happened yet.
The nurse and the florist were my favorites. They were such genuine, lovely people.
[quote]Do people still die of AIDS?
Just a couple weeks ago, a study came out that said people with HIV/AIDS are four times as likely as the general population to die from sudden cardiac arrest -- even if their virus is well controlled.
I was a young scientist and worked with someone who is one of the subjects of this film. Am only about one third into it and don't think I'll watch the rest of it today because I don't know who else is going to pop up.
r17/22, I think we know each other. Didn't know you posted here.
I watched it. I didn't want to, having lived through it. But it was on when I was flipping channels and I was unable to not watch it. I was crying and talking to dead friends throughout. I didn't realize I had so much pent up feeling inside me, and thinking of our idiot country planning to erect a vile conceited Mormon scumbag as president. Anyway, I'm an emotional eater and at the end I knew how bad it was because I was craving Wendy's chili cheese fries instead of the nice tomato salad I had made for dinner.
I guess I'm one of those people they were talking about at the end, the kind who can't restart their lives and can't think about the future.
Two things I cannot watch, anything to do with people dying from cancer, or dying from AIDS. I've experience the loss of too many people to either of those horrid diseases and it cuts right to my core.
[quote]Just a couple weeks ago, a study came out that said people with HIV/AIDS are four times as likely as the general population to die from sudden cardiac arrest -- even if their virus is well controlled.
Better than a slow lingering death.
I hope young gay men see it. I won't. I've done my AIDS time. For many years I volunteered caring and advocating for people with HIV/AIDS. Recently I made a conscious decision to move on and allow myself to put my own needs first.
This is the kind of thread I come to DL for.
It was banned in Columbus, Ohio. Our PBS station won't show anything remotely controversial. We get This Old House reruns whenever Frontline or Independent Lens is scheduled.
It's currently on Vudu and iTunes. It's very heartbreaking, but an important film to watch.
Prepare to cry for days, after viewing this film.
Deeply moving. It brought back a lot of memories.
I lose it during the ending montage when they show Nureyev leaping.
A friend phoned to to tell this was on tv last week (in Australia here!) so recorded and watched a few days later...
Fantastic documentary! So well done and resonant on so many levels - and seeing the experience of San Franciscans at the time reminded me of how it was here and of so many friends and acquaintances that I lost in the eighties and early nineties.
I disagree with the comment by a previous poster who felt the five people interviewed were too self absorbed or whatever - not so! The filmmakers asked them for their own stories - to give a human perspective on an event that was almost too big to comprehend. I feel they wove those stories into the chronology of events so well and always served to remind us that it was about people - individuals - when just hearing statistics and numbers can become meaningless after a point.
I will always be grateful that those five people were prepared to open up and spill their hearts and memories for others to see. It was a profoundly generous act. And I think every glbt person - and friends & family thereof should be encouraged to see this document of our history, remember those who've gone - and honor those who faught the good fight for the benefit of the rest of us.
And ditto the assails who criticized zak for dating the reasons he thought it was an important piece of work. Someone asked him a question and he opened up and gave a thoughtful, personal response. Then you have a go at him like a complete dickhead.
On the whole - certainly know who I'd rather sound my time with. Do you actually have any real friends? If so - they're fucking saints!
R53 here again -
Second last para is meant to say an arsehole not am assail - thankyou iPhone spellcorrect -
...and it should have been 'citing the reasons' not 'dating' then - blah!
I remember when the 'mos first started getting the AIDS. They'd be fucking bareback and licking the butt and not caring. Now it's thirty years plus later and they are still barebacking and licking the butt...
Oh yeah, gay people are pretty retarded.
AIDS = 100% preventable.
r55, you do realize that not only gay people get AIDS, don't you? And that "licking the butt" doesn't transfer HIV?
R55, go fuck your sister.
"AIDS = 100% preventable."
Unfortunately being a complete asshole is not.
R53, which station was it on? I missed it.
There were good lesbians and bad, of course. I remember one who was deathly afraid her dog would get AIDS from one of the fags at pride.
Think it was on the ABC r59 - but come to think of it - might have been SBS.
If you can't find it there or on the net, well worth ordering it on DVD - it's available from amazon if u have a multi-region player... (might even be available in Oz - didn't investigate that thoroughly)
I was here. You were pretending to be hetero.
I watched the documentary - mostly it made me very sad as I've lost a number of friends to AIDS.
It just reduced me to tears.
I was 17 in 1982 so I sort of came of age during the AIDS epidemic. I watched this last night while I was on Youtube and remembered to post it now.
It bugs me when I see people being so careless sexually. I look at the young men on the Sean Cody and Corbin Fisher site having bareback sex and just wonder what are they thinking? The "testing" they have done prior to the videos is meaningless as far as I'm concerned.
Excellent documentary. Makes one think and cry. And thank those who helped all the sufferers. So much loss.
Have also recently been researching where HIV/AIDS started and the theories behind it. There really isn't a concrete answer, but it is still around and people really do need to continue to be safe. Sadly, I feel many teens feel they are invincible--not so.
I've also been listening to Queen and reading biographies and watching documentaries on Freddie Mercury.
I only wish he had lived a few more years until the proper drugs were discovered. It could have saved his life.
So many talented people lost before their time
Good post, R65.
I lost a dear friend who succumbed to the disease a few months before combination therapy became widely available (1995).
For those who watched "We Were Here" and found it powerful (hard to say "enjoyed"), I recommend the new HBO doc, "Vito," about Vito Russo. Much of it is about his early years and groundbreaking work on gays in the cinema in "The Celluloid Closet," but I had never realized the extent of his activism around HIV/AIDS.
I had high hopes for We Were Here but I thought it was done on the cheap. I've seen much better gay documentaries. The contribution of lesbians is given lip service by a gay man.
The lesbian nurse was a living saint; I loved her.
I assume that by "done on the cheap," r69, you are suggesting that they didn't have a broad enough focus and largely told the story through interviews with five people. That may be a valid criticism (I disagree), but where do you get your last sentence? One of the five people was a lesbian, and she talked extensively (and humbly) about her contributions.
Is vito online yet?
It seemed kinda low-budget, but effective. And I always like firsthand accounts of this- the few that are left.
Pictures of emaciated bodies covered in sores should be required viewing for all these little fools that want to bareback for strangers. Sure, it might be a "manageable disease" like leukemia right now, but who knows what the future of AIDS will look like?
I'm celibate. I want to live.
Exactly, R73. I'm in my 30's and I can't tell you how many guys my age and younger I have known who have casually barebacked. I can't believe such reckless behavior still exists. I agree that emaciated bodies of AIDS victims covered in sores should be required viewing for anyone stupid enough to bareback with someone they don't know. It's just complete insanity.
R51 that was "And the Band Played On".
People who got HIV in the 80s are still dying of AIDS. It takes longer with all the new treatments, but they still continue to die before their time.
I had it from Netflix for months, finally sat down and watched it a few days ago.
That nurse is one of my heroes.
One of the things that shocked me, and actually made me tear up a little was that in one of still pictures of the different volunteer groups, you can see a woman who is very clearly Nancy Pelosi, and probably from a time from before she was elected to Congress. I did a little more reading about what's she's done with AIDS, and the very first speech she gave on the floor of the House was about increasing AIDS funding.
I think the next time anyone puts her down, I'm going to tell them to watch this movie.
The Voice of the Night
"And that "licking the butt" doesn't transfer HIV?"
It's not exactly safe sex to "lick butt", unless you use a dental dam or some other barrier.
I recently saw this film. It really is worth seeing and is very moving.
I especially liked shy Ed, the gay man who was absolutely "terrible" at "anonymous sex." I loved the imitation he did of the looks gays guys would give each other in order to say without words "wanna suck and fuck? I'm ready when you are!" Ed said during the documentary that he had a partner, a much younger guy (the picture shown of the two of them together revealed that Ed's partner was quite attractive); I was very happy for him.
I lived through it, do I need to watch it? Seems too sad. Maybe it's for younger generations or ignorant people.
Just watched it on Netflix.
I'm not old enough to have lived through it, but had some idea of how awful it was. I cried through most of the film...how different would things be if all these guys hadn't died?
I knew the anti-gay vitriol at the time was bad, but it seems especially craven and mean-spirited (those are not anywhere close to being strong enough words) juxtaposed with the images of men wasting away, with lesions all over their bodies.
This has nothing to do with AIDS, but I was reminded once again that physical attractiveness really is God's little joke. They showed photos of these guys when they were young...they were all pretty cute. Paul Boneberg was the only one who retained his attractiveness, although all of them are truly beautiful in the ways that really matter.
[quote]how different would things be if all these guys hadn't died?
Well for one thing our movies, music, tv shows and Broadway would all be a hell of a lot better.
Does the documentary mention ME??? After all I'm patient zero.
Gaeten Dugas, still haunting the baths.
I just watched this. I'm 33. This and "How to survive a Plague" should be required viewing for my generation and younger gays. So many are so ignorant of our history and struggle.
Also, I'm fascinated by Rita Rockett now. What can you San Franciscans who were there tell me about her?
This is available in HD on amazon prime right now if you haven't seen it. Terrific. I am puzzled by whoever said it was done cheap (did you want CGI and explosions?) or that the people they interviewed were too self-involved (they were asked about their first-hand experiences!). I was not in any way shape or form involved with the community during this time period so this documentary did an excellent job of showing what it must have been like to be in the midst of so much death and sadness.
My husband and I were in our 20s in SF at the time. We were a couple we only dabbled infrequently with others. We lost most of our friends within a couple of years. I have wanted to watch the film but I just can't. The pain is still too fresh.
Thanks for the heads up, r85.
r83, I would add Silverlake Life to that list. It's incredibly depressing and awful, but it's the most personalized view of AIDS I've ever seen on film.