Eber: Reflections on those lost to HIV

Allowing the AIDS disease to go forward was a disaster for our nation.  But, who guided and misled the scientific community to assure the disease would spread and not be stopped?  Dr. Anthony Fauci.  He directed the medical research, sent it in the wrong direction.  Instead of limiting the spread through prevention and as we now call it “social distancing”—he saw no problem with close contact.  That was the real time we needed social distancing—instead of today when it makes no sense for COVID.

We have all lost many people close to us.  In most cases it was nature running its course.  In the case of AIDS, it became a political disease and politicians were looking to save votes, not lives.

Reflections on those lost to HIV by Richard Eber  

Richard Eber, Exclusive to the California Political News and Views  6/29/22

Many moons ago when Gay Marriage was legalized in California, I jokingly remarked “Now these folks can be as miserable as us straight people.”  Most others agreed.  After a long battle it was thought our society recognized it was not the business of government to regulate what goes on in bedrooms.

Such an attitude has persisted to this day.  My only regret was losing so many friends from the Aids epidemic in the 1980’s. Since then, after migrating to suburbia, my personal and business centered there. Because of this I was never able to replace those who succumbed to HIV.

Not forgetting these people who played such an important role in my life. I decided to participate in the Gay Pride parade June 25th in Clayton.  It gave me the opportunity to reflect and celebrate the lives of several close friends who died of this horrible disease.

Their humor, intellect, creativity, and honesty, has been sorely missed. For me things started with Bob Price, whom I met in San Francisco during the mid 1970’s while working for a freight forwarding company.  We would remain close friends until he passed away in 1990.

 “Bobbie Dearest” as he was lovingly called, introduced me to a different perspective on life where sports and dating women were not involved. Instead art, music, and culture were the glue that bound us together.  Bob’s brand of insult humor helped change my perspective on life.

In addition to initiating me to the talents of Bette Midler and Donna Summer, he dressed me up like Corporal Klinger to commemorate the last episode of MASH at the Press Club in San Francisco… Over the years I met several other gay friends mostly through my connection with Bobbie.

Those included:

  • Jeff Blouse. Best known for his work as Public Relations Director for “The Rocker” radio station KRQR, he was funny, manipulative, and loyal, all at the same time.  A great guy to party with.
  • Hal the hair stylist:  He cut my hair for many years toasting the event with a glass of wine each time. Prior to when AIDs was known, he was diagnosed with cancer and went home to The Netherlands to die.  A year later we learned what his real illness was.
  • Michael Montgomery:  As a computer programmer in the early days of Microsoft, he was very successful buying a home with a view on Twin Peaks in San Francisco.  Unfortunately, Michael passed away prior to when his promised stock options would have make him a multi-millionaire.
  • Ken Fitzharris:  A friend of mine from the shipping business he was a regular lunch companion whose intellect made me look forward to our get togethers. An older gentleman, I took his passing very hard.
  • Rod McCone: He was diagnosed early with AIDS but lived with the disease for over 25 years.  He had natural anti-bodies in this blood which fought the virus.  UC San Francisco did extensive research on Rod which helped them create drugs to fight the epidemic
  • Harvey Milk: Although this great leader perished from an assassin’s bullet, I had the pleasure of working on this second political campaign.  He was a kind-decent man who cared about everyone.  Even my then 90 year old Grandmother supported him saying “Harvey reminds me of what I would like your Dad to be.”

The list goes on with several other friends who fell victim to the deadly plague that victimized so many gay men in San Francisco.

In some ways the gay lifestyle made me envious.  Where I had to take a gal out to an expensive dinner to get past first base; Bobbie could go to the cavernous men’s room at SF customs to fulfill his desires.  Despite this, I never contemplating changing teams as sexual preference I learned am primarily dictated by nature.

Things happened so quickly.  There was a leather bar on Folsom Street called The Ambush. It was so prosperous its owners bought a large piece of property on the Russian River.  Each year they sponsored an invitation only camp-out where all services were provided.  The only stipulation was attendees arrived and left on motorcycles.

The last year this event was held, over a 100 folks from the Ambush were present.  Twelve months later over 80% of those in attendance were dead. This reality is indicative of how fast AIDS swept thru the Gay community.

Despite what transpired, I still have fond memories of my interactions with the life and times in San Francisco in the 1970’s and 80’s.  From umpiring the first Police vs. Gay Softball Game to a friend remarking, “The only reason you are not one of us Rich is that you haven’t met the right guy yet”; it was a great time in my life.

Things changed radically in San Francisco following the passing of Harvey Milk in 1978.  Where the guy who I knew was economically conservative, socially liberal, and cared about all of his constituents, gay leaders who followed tended to be one trick ponies who concentrated almost exclusively on issues affecting their community.

This trend has continued to where the San Francisco that Harvey Milk loved has lost its reputation for being “The City that knows how”.

Reflecting on the years that have followed, fond memories of my interactions with the gay world in the “City by the Bay” are still with me.  While the march in Clayton was no substitute for the friends that were lost to HIV, it provided a way for me to see “Both Sides Now” so to speak.

In that spirit I decorated the tee shirt worn during the Gay Pride Parade with the names of those buddies of mine who died of Aids.

May their spirits live on!

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. Marcy Berry says

    Thanks for this heartfelt article, which I think would fall in the “least we forget” category. As years pass, the younger folks will not know how deadly AIDS was back then. So many died slow, awful deaths, while researchers ignored the carnage. Regarding Harvey Milk, agreed, he cared for everyone.

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