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 Posted:   Apr 20, 2014 - 6:47 AM   
 By:   Montana Dave   (Member)

The fact that this film is due out soon may very well be common knowledge, but I mention it because a friend only just told me about it last night. Playwright Larry Kramer's play of 'The Normal Heart' is due out in late May. I read it first, and years later I went to an off-off-off Broadway staging of it (in what appeared to be a re-converted loft on 23rd Street in Manhattan). Even 'bare-bones', it was extremely powerful stuff. I will catch the dvd when it becomes available.


 
 
 Posted:   Apr 20, 2014 - 8:36 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Saw the original cast of this play at the Public Theatre, back in the fall of 1985, as I recall.

Starred Brad Davis, who later died from complications of AIDS, though his widow swore up and down he got it from using infected needles.

The staging was unconventional, in that it was performed in an high-ceilinged, oblong room, with seating on either side, in stadium fashion, and the acting area in the center. The walls were covered with names of those who had already died from AIDS. (And this was 1985!)

It's not really a play, so much as a polemic. (Larry Kramer is famous for these.) It details the rising death count, as institutions, presumably run by "straight" people, turn a blind eye. Which is more or less the historical record.

It's difficult to describe the cumulative effect of this, but the staging included a particular detail: as the situation got worse, the stage, literally, got messier. At one point, a well-known doctor, sympathetic and helpful to AIDS patients, based on the factual Mathilde Krim, and who is confined to a motorized wheelchair, throws piles of papers of her cases up high in the air, and they all settle down all over the stage. Then the Brad Davis character becomes enraged with his lover, who has AIDs, and smashes a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread into the mess. The consequent effect is that we are all being inundated in an ever-increasing muck, more than metaphorical.

It was a powerful production.

Though I came away from it, more concerned about the political situation than about any of the characters. (Although, at one point, one of the supporting gay characters, a political activist, in realizing that all the sexual liberation he has so diligently fought for all these years will have to be curtailed, if he is to survive, had what appeared to be a mental breakdown on stage; it was so powerful, because the actor went beyond acting, and really seemed to be having a breakdown. Amazing work.)

I have a recording of a benefit performance of the play, with Raul Esparza in the Brad Davis role. Esparza has always been good at intense.

And, for years, there was talk that Barbra Streisand had bought the film rights, and planned to direct and star in it, playing the wheelchair-bound physician. But, of course, that never happened.

I'll be interested in seeing this.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 20, 2014 - 8:44 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Just watched the preview.

People seeing this will think it's over-the-top drama.

But, sadly, all the details mentioned in the preview are true. The city, and the country, ignored it. People lost their jobs, their benefits, were thrown out of their homes. Parents disowned their sons, then swooped in, and took everything after their sons' deaths, like animals eating their own young. Hospital orderlies would not bring meal trays to AIDS patients because of fear of contagion; so they'd leave them outside the door. Even funeral homes refused to take bodies of mostly men, who'd died from AIDS.

And, when the test for HIV was announced, even that was a tricky procedure. If you tested positive, and word got out, and it always did, you could lose your job, benefits, home, everything. I saw that happen. So, there were numerous authorities, encouraging gay men not to get tested, unless they absolutely had to, because, even then, anonymity was not guaranteed. (Here in California, in 2014, if you go to a hospital for any reason, and they take blood, they automatically test you for HIV, and don't even tell you. And I'm still negative, for reasons yet unclear.)

And the New York Times, that bastion of free thought, refused to use the word "gay," but insisted, for years, on the word, "homosexual," instead.

Larry Kramer, himself, wrote an editorial in the New York weekly gay newspaper, the New York Native, in March of 1983, announcing gay men will have to change the way they have sex, if they want to survive. I was struck enough by that, even though I was married to a woman at the time, that I changed my entire approach to male encounters. (There were a lot of men like me at the time, still are in fact, men married to women who carried on with men on the side. They went pretty fast, abandoned by everyone who they thought "loved" them.) Sexuality is a tricky thing...

Those were Medieval times. (And they really haven't changed that much. It's all under the surface, just waiting.)

I ought to know. I was there. For some unexplainable reason, I lived through it. (The elder of my two older brothers didn't; he died of AIDS in October of 1995.)

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 20, 2014 - 9:11 AM   
 By:   Montana Dave   (Member)

Just watched the preview.

People seeing this will think it's over-the-top drama.

But, sadly, all the details mentioned in the preview are true. The city, and the country, ignored it. People lost their jobs, their benefits, were thrown out of their homes. Parents disowned their sons, then swooped in, and took everything after their sons' deaths, like animals eating their own young. Hospital orderlies would not bring meal trays to AIDS patients because of fear of contagion; so they'd leave them outside the door. Even funeral homes refused to take bodies of mostly men, who'd died from AIDS.

And, when the test for HIV was announced, even that was a tricky procedure. If you tested positive, and word got out, and it always did, you could lose your job, benefits, home, everything. I saw that happen. So, there were numerous authorities, encouraging gay men not to get tested, unless they absolutely had to, because, even then, anonymity was not guaranteed. (Here in California, in 2014, if you go to a hospital for any reason, and they take blood, they automatically test you for HIV, and don't even tell you. And I'm still negative, for reasons yet unclear.)

And the New York Times, that bastion of free thought, refused to use the word "gay," but insisted, for years, on the word, "homosexual," instead.

Larry Kramer, himself, wrote an editorial in the New York weekly gay newspaper, the New York Native, in March of 1983, announcing gay men will have to change the way they have sex, if they want to survive. I was struck enough by that, even though I was married to a woman at the time, that I changed my entire approach to male encounters. (There were a lot of men like me at the time, still are in fact, men married to women who carried on with men on the side. They went pretty fast, abandoned by everyone who they thought "loved" them.) Sexuality is a tricky thing...

Those were Medieval times. (And they really haven't changed that much. It's all under the surface, just waiting.)

I ought to know. I was there. For some unexplainable reason, I lived through it. (The elder of my two older brothers didn't; he died of AIDS in October of 1995.)




I as well recall these early, early days of the disease John, until the day I die. At the very beginnings of it, there were notices up at The Star Pharmacy one block down Castro Street from Market. There were photos of these strange and genuinely frightening skin lesions and mouth sores that an individual put up in the front windows, and people were taking notice. 'IT' had no name yet. The closures of The Baths and The Clubs (in San Francisco) was front page news. Years later, (maybe around 1985 or so?) I was walking down Market Street and saw through a ground floor window of a business, people with huge amounts of fabric on tables. This fabric and 'patchworks of colors' were the very beginnings of The Aids Quilt, which was being assembled and not yet displayed. At that time, it was still contained on a couple of long tables. Every single Gay Man I knew as co-workers, Barbers, Dentists,Bartenders, Sales Clerks, Bankers, 2 Attorneys, Projectionists, and Union Bosses, EVERY GAY FRIEND I HAD THEN, has died from the disease. Which is why to this day, I cannot go back to my favorite city in the world as it would be a city of ghosts for me. And yes John, when you mentioned the bottle of milk smashed on the floor (in the play), I'd fogotten about that, but when it happened onstage, I was so surprised, I jumped.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 20, 2014 - 1:10 PM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Now it's all history, I guess.

The discovery of protease inhibitor drugs has taken off the terror of it.

Now, idiots flaunt their "barebacking" all over the place, and Gay Pride parades are no longer about solidarity in face of the Plague, both literal and figurative, due to the willful, murderous ignorance of the "mainstream population, but a self-indulgent celebration of alcohol, drugs, and crazy sex. (There are even parties, where negative men give themselves to positive ones, in order to become "Poz" themselves. Talk about crazy.)

We have survived one wave of the storm, only to be assailed by another, this one of greater, even willful, ignorance.

 
 Posted:   Apr 21, 2014 - 12:11 AM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Now it's all history, I guess.

The discovery of protease inhibitor drugs has taken off the terror of it.

Now, idiots flaunt their "barebacking" all over the place, and Gay Pride parades are no longer about solidarity in face of the Plague, both literal and figurative, due to the willful, murderous ignorance of the "mainstream population, but a self-indulgent celebration of alcohol, drugs, and crazy sex. (There are even parties, where negative men give themselves to positive ones, in order to become "Poz" themselves. Talk about crazy.)

We have survived one wave of the storm, only to be assailed by another, this one of greater, even willful, ignorance.


The capacity for denial (within both the gay and straight communities), and its tragic consequences, are graphically portrayed in Randy Shilts' book, "And the Band Played On," one of the most powerful and moving works of non-fiction I've ever read, and have re-read a number of times through the years. Though I am straight, I hope to see the HBO presentation of THE NORMAL HEART. I strongly recommend also the Shilts book to any who need to learn (or be reminded) about the origins of the AIDS epidemic, the disease's devastating effects on peoples' lives, the heroic efforts of some and the equally cowardly and unfeeling attitudes and behaviors of others during the course of events from the earliest days of the outbreak through the identification of its nature, and the belated realization that AIDS was/is as much a tragedy for the nation as a whole as for the gay community. Larry Kramer had a role in that story as I recall, so I look forward to seeing his play. It's hard to imagine how a drama on this topic could be over the top.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 21, 2014 - 2:28 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

If you're interested in plays from the period, check out "As Is," by William Hoffman, which has more realized characters, coping with AIDS in their relationships.

THE NORMAL HEART is more of a pageant-polemic. Yes, there are individual characters, but there is less empathy with them as people than with their situation. In a way, Kramer is writing a kind of Brechtian political drama about AIDS, with the stage directions of messing up the whole place part of the metaphor of mounting chaos in the whole situation.

Kramer even wrote a sequel to THE NORMAL HEART, called THE DESTINY OF ME, which takes place some years later, during an "SILENCE=DEATH" riot outside a hospital, and has the main character from NORMAL HEART, Ned Weeks, interacting with his younger self. Interesting idea, certainly more involving as a character, and there's a good scene between Ned and his estranged brother, as I recall. I never saw it, only read it. But it's certainly available, though mostly overlooked nowadays.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 21, 2014 - 2:29 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Sorry. Double post.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 21, 2014 - 7:06 AM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

TRAGEDY UPON TRAGEDY, on and on it goes and I like to give JOHN credit for the openness to see no matter who we are, wherever we are from, the tragedy does not just end where you want to end with scapegoats of one's choosing. Sadly victims often later turn into the culprits, meanwhile the descendants of the culprits unfairly have to pay a price from the victims descendants. The war between good and evil on earth is eternal. I am straight but I have dealt with a lot of gays over the years as with all cultures of this world. To show victims that are hidden to a too often world of apathy is such a hard task.One where people will try to crush you down if they feel the change you want will hurt them. But one should always look at the big picture and as humans when we fail and make the small picture more important then the big picture, stop for a moment , repent and be happy you change because we are humans. The small usually have to yell louder then the big.But the biggest danger are the swindler's with false hope in power trying to conform the masses into their hell.They need to make it look they are on a good cause to help you, that gives them a path to a genocide. It's all about FATAL ATTRACTION.

 
 Posted:   Apr 24, 2014 - 11:01 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Dana Wilcox:

Yes, Randy Shilts' AND THE BAND PLAYED ON was a powerful book and I bought and read it shortly after it was released. I also bought and read Shilts' next book, CONDUCT UNBECOMING, about the military, and it was even better, and I learned from it that when military investigators told me, just weeks after I turned 21, that "Nothing you tell us can be used against you," it was a common ploy they used to open the floodgates, which it did, and for the next 25 years I would anguish that I had foolishly confused "ANYTHING you say" with "NOTHING you say." But they had lied, and the old saw "There's no justice in military justice" was sadly true back then. And it continues today with the way the military treats sexual abuse.


THE NORMAL HEART (TV Movie 2014)

Written by: Larry Kramer

Directed by: Ryan Murphy

Cast & Crew:
Jonathan Groff (as Craig Donner)
Taylor Kitsch (as Bruce Niles)
Julia Roberts (as Emma Brookner)
Matt Bomer (as Felix Turner)
Jim Parsons (as Tommy Boatwright)
Mark Ruffalo (as Ned Weeks)
Denis O'Hare
Finn Wittrock (as Albert)
Joe Zaso (as Ernesto - Pines Party Host)
Remy Auberjonois (as Examining Doctor)
Erik Conover (as Bartender)
Frank Fortunato (as Koch Security Guard)
Rob Tunstall (as Man on Subway with AIDS)
Chris Sullivan (as Mike The Tech)
Frank De Julio (as Nick)
Joe Mantello (as Mickey Marcus)
Corey Jantzen (as Pool Guest)
Joseph Anthony Sudol (as Fire Island Party Boy)
Shaun Allen (as Beach Goer)
Danielle Ferland (as Estelle)
Sean Meehan (as Morton)
Richard Meiman (as NY Times Reporter)
Armand Schultz (as Dick Lombardo)
Jake Allyne (as Man in Woods / Partygoer)
Thomas W. Stewart (as Man At Disco)
Andrew Alberson (as Beach Goer / Party Guest)
Scott Johnsen (as Undertaker)
Andy Allen (as Meat Rack Guy)
Lorenzo Beronilla (as Pedestrian)
Jesse Newman (as Hospital patient)
Daniel Keith (as Disco Twink)
Frank Bal (as Koch Security Detail)
Patrick Woodall (as Grady)
William DeMeritt (as Nino)
Catherine Chadwick (as Albert's Mother)
Justin Arnold (as Disco Dancer)
Gregg Micheals (as GMHC Volunteer)
Will Bradley (as Mario)
Adam B. Shapiro (as Bella)
Benjamin Lott (as Taxi Cab Driver)
Corey Brill (as Henry)
Spike Christie (as Beach Guy / White Party Guy)
Ren Marsh (as Mourner)
Wenne Alton Davis (as Gloria)
Brett Glazer (as Lenny)
David Gibson (as NY Times Reporter)
Eden Marryshow (as Orderly)
Joe Lanza (as TV One)
Richard Prioleau (as Phil)
Frank Hernandez (as Minister on the Beach)
John Mainieri (as John)
David Beck (as Disco Guy)
Blake Pruitt (as Yale Student)
Les Gardonyi (as Reporter)
Jeanmarie Lally (as Fag hag)
Jacob Devik (as Disco Patron)
Robert Shulman (as Newsroom Employee)
Josh Pesin (as Janitor)
Liamm Whitaker (as Disco Drag Queen)
Lisa Perez (as Fag Hag)
Adrian Van Ess (as Newsroom Employee)
Adam Francisco (as Disco Dancer)
Jamie Greco (as Party Goer) (uncredited)
Rich Petrillo (as Pneumonia patient) (uncredited)
Shade Rupe (as Angry Activist) (uncredited)
Christian Paul Sherwood (as Disco Patron) (uncredited)
Nancy Ellen Shore (as NYC government bureaucrat) (uncredited)
John Stepanian (as Fire Island Resident) (uncredited)
Yeuris Taveras (as GMHC Staff) (uncredited)
Jamie Theurich (as Disco Dancer) (uncredited)
William Henderson White (as NY Times Editor) (uncredited)
Produced by Jason Blum executive producer
Dante Di Loreto executive producer
Scott Ferguson producer
Alexis Martin Woodall producer
Ryan Murphy producer
Brad Pitt producer
Daniel Moder cinematography
Adam Penn editing
Amanda Mackey Johnson casting
Cathy Sandrich casting
Shane Valentino production design
Stephanie Barkley art direction
Anu Schwartz art direction
Andrew Baseman costume design

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 25, 2014 - 9:19 AM   
 By:   John B. Archibald   (Member)

Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 25, 2014 - 9:39 AM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

I'm looking forward to seeing this. I lost quite a few close friends to AIDS during the 80s, most of whom had a great potential. It was so tragic to see their lives cut short, and I wonder how different the world might be had they lived to realize that potential.

Seeing how American society dealt with the crisis was very disillusioning to me. There will be a special place in hell for the powerful people who scapegoated AIDS victims, and willfully thwarted efforts to treat them with competence and compassion.

 
 Posted:   Apr 25, 2014 - 10:53 AM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Dana Wilcox:

Yes, Randy Shilts' AND THE BAND PLAYED ON was a powerful book and I bought and read it shortly after it was released. I also bought and read Shilts' next book, CONDUCT UNBECOMING, about the military, and it was even better, and I learned from it that when military investigators told me, just weeks after I turned 21, that "Nothing you tell us can be used against you," it was a common ploy they used to open the floodgates, which it did, and for the next 25 years I would anguish that I had foolishly confused "ANYTHING you say" with "NOTHING you say." But they had lied, and the old saw "There's no justice in military justice" was sadly true back then. And it continues today with the way the military treats sexual abuse.



Agreed on all counts. I had forgotten about CONDUCT UNBECOMING, but did read it and found it also well written and of course, infuriating. Not sure I'd say I liked it better, but Shilts was an ace writer.

 
 Posted:   Apr 25, 2014 - 11:16 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Dana:

On reflection, I have to agree with you that AND THE BAND PLAYED ON was probably the better of the 2 books -- what a magnificent book! I probably inflated CONDUCT UNBECOMING because I felt more of a connection to it than to BAND because of my own military background.

I do want to make the point that Bill Kraus, who plays a pivotal role in BAND, was an extremely attractive quintessentially American young man with a beautiful brown beard and bright blue eyes, and he truly shone in the interviews he did during those troubling times. But they gave his role to iconic Brit Ian McKellen, who was not just the antithesis of the real Bill Kraus, but looked like he could be his grandfather! So I was very annoyed by that bit of improbable casting, although it probably helped them get the financing to make the film.

 
 Posted:   Apr 25, 2014 - 2:36 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Dana:

On reflection, I have to agree with you that AND THE BAND PLAYED ON was probably the better of the 2 books -- what a magnificent book! I probably inflated CONDUCT UNBECOMING because I felt more of a connection to it than to BAND because of my own military background.

I do want to make the point that Bill Kraus, who plays a pivotal role in BAND, was an extremely attractive quintessentially American young man with a beautiful brown beard and bright blue eyes, and he truly shone in the interviews he did during those troubling times. But they gave his role to iconic Brit Ian McKellen, who was not just the antithesis of the real Bill Krause, but looked like he could be his grandfather! So I was very annoyed by that bit of improbable casting, although it probably helped them get the financing to make the film.


I do recall that there was some difficulty getting a production deal for the HBO film, until Richard Gere signed on. At that point a number of other stars offered to participate, and I wonder if they weren't just so glad to have name stars that the issue of "good casting" became less important than "big names = prestige production." The casting of Ian McKellen as Kraus was wrong, as you say, and Matthew Modine was not at all who I had pictured for his very central character. I liked Lily Tomlin on the other hand, though I was surprised at her choice. So the film for me was disappointing in some respects (as much as I applaud the impulse to make it) and was IMO not as impactful as it should have been. I am hopeful that THE NORMAL HEART will capture some of what was lacking in BAND (the film), and really shock people where BAND the film was more of a history, glossing over the glaring crimes (or so I think of them) committed by the institutions we so naively rely upon to protect the health and well-being of all our citizens.

 
 
 Posted:   Apr 25, 2014 - 3:52 PM   
 By:   Montana Dave   (Member)

Dana:

On reflection, I have to agree with you that AND THE BAND PLAYED ON was probably the better of the 2 books -- what a magnificent book! I probably inflated CONDUCT UNBECOMING because I felt more of a connection to it than to BAND because of my own military background.

I do want to make the point that Bill Kraus, who plays a pivotal role in BAND, was an extremely attractive quintessentially American young man with a beautiful brown beard and bright blue eyes, and he truly shone in the interviews he did during those troubling times. But they gave his role to iconic Brit Ian McKellen, who was not just the antithesis of the real Bill Krause, but looked like he could be his grandfather! So I was very annoyed by that bit of improbable casting, although it probably helped them get the financing to make the film.


I do recall that there was some difficulty getting a production deal for the HBO film, until Richard Gere signed on. At that point a number of other stars offered to participate, and I wonder if they weren't just so glad to have name stars that the issue of "good casting" became less important than "big names = prestige production." The casting of Ian McKellen as Kraus was wrong, as you say, and Matthew Modine was not at all who I had pictured for his very central character. I liked Lily Tomlin on the other hand, though I was surprised at her choice. So the film for me was disappointing in some respects (as much as I applaud the impulse to make it) and was IMO not as impactful as it should have been. I am hopeful that THE NORMAL HEART will capture some of what was lacking in BAND (the film), and really shock people where BAND the film was more of a history, glossing over the glaring crimes (or so I think of them) committed by the institutions we so naively rely upon to protect the health and well-being of all our citizens.



In all my years living in New York the Actor and Actress that I seemed to run-into with the most frequency would probably be Susan Sarandon and Matthew Modine. Although I spoke to Modine about this or that film whenever I met him, I never actually brought up 'And the Band Played On'. I wish I had. Personally, I liked his performance in the film, and Lily Tomlin's and David Marshall Grant's and Swoozie Kurtz and, surprisingly, Steve Martin. Even though his character was slippery and (to me), evil, Alan Alda was very effective.

 
 Posted:   Apr 26, 2014 - 12:36 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

John: Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.

I've always found that amusing and was happy you quoted it!

 
 Posted:   Apr 27, 2014 - 7:11 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Even though his character was slippery and (to me), evil, Alan Alda was very effective.

Dr. Robert Gallo certainly came off as a glory hound, at best, or unethical scientist, at worst, in BAND. The Wikipedia article on Gallo (perhaps as an example of some revisionist history on the matter) tends to gloss over the events depicted in Randy Shilts' book, but we know what a shifty dude he really was. Alda does those guys pretty well.

 
 Posted:   Apr 28, 2014 - 9:43 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Dana:

I've always felt that the movie, unlike the book, failed to show how obvious it was that Gallo, who was credited with the co-discovery of HIV, obviously got his samples from the French laboratory (they were genetically identical).

 
 Posted:   Apr 29, 2014 - 7:28 AM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Dana:

I've always felt that the movie, unlike the book, failed to show how obvious it was that Gallo, who was credited with the co-discovery of HIV, obviously got his samples from the French laboratory (they were genetically identical).


Gallo is still around and "doin' jus' fine" apparently. I was disappointed to see how muddled the "history" was in the Wikipedia article on Gallo. Like there was a little misunderstanding between Gallo and the French scientists, no big deal, and then they went on and worked together yada yada yada. Gallo apparently now gets a share of the credit for solving the HIV mystery, just as a shoplifter might get credit for that lovely new Rolex on his wrist... The book nails him dead to rights.

 
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