Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989) Movie Script

(somber music)
- [Man] The death rate was extremely high.
- [Man] The best guess is that
some infectious agent is--
- [Man] It's an epidemic,
a disease that's a killer.
- [Man] This probably
means they are dealing
with some new deadly
sexually transmitted disease.
- [Man] One of the most
frightening medical mysteries
of modern time.
- The man with the most
publicized case of AIDS,
Rock Hudson, flew home from Paris today
on a chartered 747 jet.
Hudson's 6'4 frame--
- [Woman] Rock Hudson
returned to Los Angeles
and was immediately flown
to UCLA Medical Center.
It was there that Hudson
learned he has AIDS.
- [Narrator] It took rock Hudson's death
to capture America's attention.
By that time, AIDS had already killed
15.000 other Americans.
(somber music)
Rock Hudson is the most
famous name in a giant quilt,
a memorial to tens of thousands
of men, women and children
who came along very different
roads to the same fate.
- [Man] Ron winters, Wayne field,
Ray Wright Jr., Paul Edward Richards.
- [Woman] Fred, Andy.
- [Man] Billy, Juan Jimenez.
- [Woman] David.
- [Man] Ron Blard.
(somber music)
- He hated the stereotype
that the heterosexual world
had towards the gay community.
And it wasn't true, and he
was a perfect living soul
as proof of that.
He is a very competitive,
was a very competitive man.
And it hit a great note in my heart
because I'm a very competitive woman.
He was the sixth greatest
athlete in the world
in the decathlon, and placed six.
What, 31, 32 when he was
doing this, he was incredible.
But he was out to prove something.
(crowd cheering)
We'd go down and we'd play racquetball,
I'd teach him how to play.
And he said, "No problem,
I am a top notch athlete.
"It is nothing for me to pick up anything.
"I am great and wonderful
at everything I do."
I go, "Ha-ha, we'll see."
My biggest pleasure was to be whipping him
around that court.
Every time he would be diving for a ball
and crash into a wall,
with sweat pouring out,
I would almost fall down laughing.
I said, "You're not in shape, Tom."
(somber music)
You gotta be a special lady
You got me sitting on top of the world
- Every time I hear that
song, I think about it.
It's what he made me feel
like a special person.
I've always been involved in the church
and it was very important to me
to have a stable
relationship and to commit.
And in the middle of talking, he says,
"Well, I'll marry you, you
know, that's no problem."
And I said now, did I
ask him or did he ask me?
It was always crazy about
how it actually happened.
Three months after we married,
you could tell it was
something bothering him.
He said he wanted to talk to me.
And he told me he was on drugs
and that he had been trying to get off
and he was having a problem
with trying to straighten up.
And he said to me at the time, he said,
"If you want to be out
of this relationship,
"I understand 'cause I don't want
"to pull you through that."
Of course I thought about
it, we prayed about it.
In the prayer, I said we took vows
and it was for better or worse.
And I said to him, I said,
"Okay, we said better or worse
"but this shit better get better."
(somber music)
- It was her going away party.
We were talking to a bunch of people
and one of our favorite
movies was "Two For The Road"
with Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn.
And there was one scene
in "Two For The Road"
towards the end of the film
that Jeffrey and I knew
by heart and we did it, both parts.
I forget who did which one.
There was this pause
right after we finished
and some guy looked at us and he said,
"I was genuinely moved."
And Jeffrey Wright burst out laughing
and I remember after that for years,
every time we would see
something in the movies
that was either funny or
charming or something,
Jeffrey would say, "I
was genuinely moved."
He was the kind of a person
I was when I was a teenager
but he still had that sort of
childlike teenage innocence.
Jeffrey had favorite movie stars
and his favorites turned out in many cases
to be my favorites.
Why should I feel discouraged
Why should the shadows come
Remember "The Wedding" was
probably his favorite film.
I think it was because
he identified so much
with the character of Frankie Adams,
who's played by Julie Harris.
Frankie felt like she didn't belong.
I think Jeffrey identified as a person
who didn't know what he
wanted to do with his life.
You know how they used to say
that there are some people
who are too gentle to live among wolves?
That was Jeffrey.
- [Marcia] This is Marcia
Pally for Our Time.
We're at the Chelsea Gay Street Fair.
It's a beautiful afternoon.
We have just about everything here today.
Gay atheists, gay Lutherans,
all people, young people.
How do you feel about
the gay community today?
- Oh, it makes me very nervous,
but then again, most things do.
(Marcia laughs)
(somber music)
- I don't have any concept
of what happens to us
when we die.
In my son's case, knowing
David, I believe he's up there
right alongside the big man
making suggestions and changes and saying,
"Well God, if you do it this way,
"maybe just maybe things will
work out a little better."
(somber music)
- David was full speed ahead.
Everything about him was a forward motion.
Sometimes I would just look at him
and marvel at him.
Because watching him was
like watching someone
actually eat life.
And in the back of my mind, I thought,
"He's my middle life eater.
"He really knows how to extract the most."
He's a very strong child
physically, hated baths.
So when I would hold
him in his little tub,
I would have to grasp him very firmly
or he was often running.
And the doctor noticed
bruises on his upper chest
and upper arms much as you
would take hold of a child
if you were gonna shake him,
and asked that we put
David into the hospital
to see if he was an easy bruiser
or if he was being battered.
When they ran the test, they discovered
not only was he an easy bruiser,
he was in fact, a classic
severe hemophiliac.
(somber music)
- If you were in the Navy,
you had to have a wife.
That was part of the Navy career.
I spent 18 years with my ex-wife
and had a decent relationship,
I think with her,
but I only spent five years with David
and they were probably the
happiest five years of my life.
At the time that we met, I was
taken aback with his looks.
Of course that's always a good
place to start (chuckles).
And he admitted to me later
that he was taken aback
by my Rolex. (laughs)
Neither one of us was
particularly enthralled
with the fact that we
turned out to be gay.
David had had a hang up
ever since his teenage years
with the fact that he was probably gay,
and he would have become
an interior designer
if it weren't for the
great stigma attached
to that occupation, and therefore,
decided to become a
landscape architect instead
and was doing quite well
in his landscape architecture business.
- Many of us believe that
it may be infectious,
that it may be a new mutant type of virus,
a cytomegalovirus that has mutated
and it is spreading through
these individuals suppressing
their immune system and setting
them up for these events.
But that's just a theory
at this period of time.
- I don't know how I got
it, I fit the profile
of kinda typical capsules
patient in my age
and that I'm gay and...
But I don't know how I got it.
- So far doctors have only
documented 60 known cases
among gay men, so it is
by no means an epidemic.
They are concerned that
it is attacking heavily
in the gay community and
they're working on theories
to explain why.
In San Francisco Lindy Yi, New Center 4.
- [Interviewer] Do we know
for certain what caused it?
- No.
- Do we even know whether it's
a virus, bacteria, or what?
- There are a lot of
theories, but at this point,
we know nothing for certain.
- [Interviewer] Do we know how it spreads?
- No.
- Now if we don't know how to cure it,
it must be spreading like wildfire.
- Yes, they're growing
at an exponential rate.
- [Narrator] Among the
victims is Bobby Campbell.
The San Francisco
resident describes himself
as the AIDS poster boy.
- For me personally, I've
had fungal infections,
I've had warts, I've had stomatitis,
which is an infection
of the mouth so serious
that I would not be able to
eat, would not be able to talk
and I have cancer.
- [Narrator] Bobby Campbell
was the 16th person
in San Francisco to be diagnosed
with this mysterious disease.
A nurse himself, he
understood the importance
of getting out the warning
about this new health danger.
But despite the efforts of
those like Bobby Campbell,
to most people, AIDS remained
a very distant sort of threat.
(light dramatic music)
- For years I'd been
wanting to have a child
and I'd been in discussion
with several other gentlemen
about having a baby and
just trying to be picky
with who and what involvement.
Tom founded the Gay Games
and I became a member of the board.
We were both gay, we became best friends.
When I thought about it,
I thought there could be
no better man
so I decided to take the chance
to see if Tom liked children, number one,
and then start with that,
and which is what we did.
On the bridge coming back
home, in his little Alfa Romeo,
I said, "How do you feel about kids?"
He went, and he's driving,
said, "I love kids, I've
always wanted to have a child."
I said, "Tom, how Would you
like to have a child with me?
"You're wonderful, you're
athletic, you're smart,
"you're a doctor, my mother
would have no complaints,
"everything that Jewish
mama would ever want
"for her husband."
And he says you're
kidding, I'm like, "No."
And he starts turning, and so the car
is swerving the bridge.
I said, "Wait a minute, look at the road!"
He was just so happy.
If you had seen his face in
that warm, sensitive man,
he was everything that I
would want for my child
to grow up with.
In that moment, I felt this would be truly
a little American family.
Well, this was a community event.
I mean everybody's been
waiting for this child,
especially Tom and I.
And the baby comes out one, two, three.
I hear the cry and it was wonderful.
All I know is here is Tom,
he's looking at the baby
and they're all just
surrounding this little baby
and he says, "It's a boy!"
I just remember my doctor
looking at him he says,
"Dr. Tom, this is a girl.
"You just looked at the
umbilical cord." (laughs)
And I just laughed, 'cause I
thought it was a little Nathan
and there were little Jessica.
(cheerful music)
- There were many times I would be asleep
at one or two o'clock in the morning
and the little guy would
come to the side of my bed
and shake me and I tried to
open my eyes and be civilized.
And he'd say, "Mom, I got a bleed."
So we would grow up
our way to the kitchen,
and I would set up for
what is called an infusion.
And you just hope to hell you
get that needle in the vein
the first go.
And it's always a question,
how many times do I have to
stick him before I get it in?
And please God let me
not increase his pain.
After the actual infusion was over,
it was not easy for him to sleep.
He would get bleeds in his
ankles and the joint would swell.
So painful that he could
not even bear the weight
of a sheet on that joint.
He would approach me with a request like,
"Can we take the training
wheels off my bike?"
So he has to realize and accept
I may have to pay the price.
I may have a bleed, I may
end up with an infusion,
I may end up with a joint that's hurting.
- I felt it was important for
David to have as much freedom
and abilities of his own
without us interfering
and putting restrictions on him,
so that he could have a normal life.
I think it was very important
to David in his mind
to be as normal as possible.
- He went through programs,
he went through detox
and he did well for a little
while and then he'd slip.
When you're going
through it, it's painful.
When you look at it back,
you think of how much worse
it could have been.
I mean he was,
his caringness protected me.
He didn't let me hurt,
he didn't take my
furniture out of my house,
he didn't rob me, he didn't rob anybody.
The only person he ever hurt was his self.
And it was a struggle for five years
until after our daughter was born.
Rob wanted to be the
best father that he could
and he was just so nurturing
and caring about his daughter.
He bathed her, he washed
her, he took her for walks.
he rolled in the stroller,
he changed diapers.
That wasn't a problem, I don't like that,
because he didn't mind it.
And she was so attached to him,
her daddy this, her daddy that.
I think that's when he
realized he had to change.
(upbeat music)
I felt great when he was drug
free, I was so proud of him.
And when he was drug-free, I said,
all the bad stuff was going past
and all the good stuff could then start.
Not just the love but the building.
- The disease called AIDS,
Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome sounds less than deadly,
more like a diet pill.
AIDS has struck only
a reported 1500 people
but it has killed almost 600 of them.
And as yet no one with
AIDS has been cured.
- Puzzling new disease has appeared
in the past couple of years
that is spreading rapidly
among homosexuals, and it
is a disease that is fatal.
- From an epidemic point of view,
there have been more deaths
from Kappa C, sarcoma,
pneumocystis pneumonia, than had occurred
with all the cases of toxic shock syndrome
and the Philadelphia outbreak
of Legionnaires disease combined.
- In this disease many
people feel lies the secret
to what causes cancer in general.
Why is the NIH dragging its heels so?
- Do you, are raising the
possibility that people
are dismissing it
because it strikes mostly
the gay community?
- There's no question in my mind.
If this were happening to you
and the white straight
middle class community,
it would have been attended
to a long time ago.
- [Woman] Congress wants to
know what to do about AIDS.
Victims of the disease say the
government has done nothing
and has no plan to.
Committee members were told
that victims are often gay men
or IV drug users, groups
already discriminated against.
This witness, a victim from San Francisco.
- This is not a political
issue, this is a health issue,
this is not a gay issue,
this is a human issue.
And I do not, I came
here today in the hope
that my epitaph would not
read that I died of red tape.
- [Narrator] In just two years,
the number of AIDS cases
was nearly doubling
every six months.
The government declared AIDS
its number one health priority.
Yet of the $3.8 billion spent
on health research in America,
less than 1% went to this epidemic.
- For the better part
of the month of October,
he was feeling pretty lousy.
I tried to get him to eat
his dinner and he couldn't
and he went upstairs, went
to bed about 8:30, 9 o'clock
and was feeling very miserable.
And I called his doctor
at home and told him
that I was even more
concerned than I'd never been.
And so he told me to have him admitted
to the emergency room right away.
And he walked in and he never came out
David died at 4:30 in the
morning of 19 November,
and I was required to be
at my desk at the Pentagon
at eight o'clock in uniform ready to work,
looking like a prim and
proper naval officer
having just lost one of
the most important people
in my life.
Although the Navy thought
that I was carrying
on Navy business, most of that
day I was on the telephone,
talking to funeral
directors and cemeteries
and planned for a funeral.
- This was not gonna happen to me.
It was like three or four years
with all this was going on,
and it didn't reach me in a scary sense
until it became clear that
anybody could get AIDS.
I mean suddenly I was
knowing a dozen people
who were sick instead of two.
Suddenly, there were
30 people who were sick
instead of four.
And it hit you like an
overwhelming wave of water.
I mean suddenly cold water
was thrown in your face.
Everybody was dying.
- Any gay male who caught a cold
automatically got scared
to death, they've got AIDS.
So here, I'm seeing the same thing.
He's got a cold, he's like,
"Oh great, now you think you got it,
"join the rest of the crowd."
I just like how crazy,
wouldn't even let it into my head.
- I remembered reading
an article about a baby
in San Francisco who had died
and they had traced it back
to the blood transfusion
it had received and the
alarm started going off
in the back of my mind,
knowing that my son used
immense amounts of blood factor.
And you start getting more and more scared
as there were more and more stories.
- The American Red
Cross is recalling vials
of a blood product used by hemophiliacs.
The product was made with
blood plasma from a donor
who had AIDS, Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndrome
and the Red Cross is now
trying to avert a new scare.
- All this because one
man gave one pint of blood
at an undisclosed Red
Cross center last year.
This spring he was
diagnosed as having AIDS
and he died in May.
- You just stand there because
what choice do you have?
Do I continue to allow him to live
by using the blood product
or do I risk him even more?
He may not get AIDS if I
deny him that blood product,
but what else, what other
kinds of injuries could he get
because I don't give
him that which he needs.
And you go the only way you think best.
I want him to live as well as he can now.
- He said, "This is
inside my body, I know it.
"I'm so scared."
And I should have listened, but I didn't.
'Cause Jeffrey was always
complaining about something.
He fell and he broke his wrist
that week, he had the flu,
he was feeling like shit
until he got so sick that he collapsed
outside the doctor's office.
I remember I took a six
o'clock flight from Newark
and I went directly to Children's Hospital
which is where he was.
And the first thing I saw was a nurse
outside of Jeffrey's
room putting up signs,
which were precautions for
bodily fluids and blood.
And of course, I mean that's it, you know?
And I remember running into the room,
I pushed the door open.
And he's sitting in the
bed, and he looked at me
and he said, "Honey, did you hear?"
And I didn't have to hear, I just knew,
because of the signs they were
putting up outside his door.
And I sat on the bed and I
told him that we were gonna,
we're gonna do this together.
So this was, it was gonna be all right.
I wanted so much to convince him that,
I knew immediately just from
what I knew in the community
that if he didn't fight, he would die.
And the doctor told me that,
you know, he was gonna die.
I mean this was it.
And I told him that I was
gonna move to San Francisco,
that I would leave my job,
and I would close my apartment
and then I would be there
and I would take care of him.
And he said, "Do you realize
the commitment you're making?"
Because he knew me.
And I said yes.
And I did, I knew it was not gonna be easy
and it was not easy.
- He was a very active man,
he was all always on the go.
If he didn't have anything to do,
he'd walk around the neighborhood.
He just was not the type of
person that would sit down
and watch TV for instance.
And he didn't have any energy.
The only thing we would give to him was,
he had some sort of virus,
he had a viral infection.
Nothing was taking the fever away
and nothing was making him better.
We didn't know what it meant.
We just knew it meant something
bad because at the time,
he came in and he said,
"The nurse said well people
don't live with 40 T cells,
"you got to be dead already."
And he said, it made a play
with him because he kept saying
well I'm supposed to be dead already,
I'm supposed to be dead already.
- They test him for everything.
Nope, come up negative,
everything negative.
He was not satisfied, he just wasn't.
I said, "Tom, it's as if
you're looking to have,
"what is going on?"
I remember this one day, he turned,
he was walking away from me here.
I really did see that
he's been losing weight.
This is a muscular, strong,
healthy, vibrant Tom.
For the first time, I
said could it be possible?
I mean, could it be possible?
- [Tom] My dear child, tonight
when I was brushing my teeth,
I noticed some white patches on my tongue.
Sweetheart, I hope it's nothing.
But there's a possibility that this
is an early sign of AIDS.
The horror I feel and
a fear of leaving you
before you ever really know
me is my greatest concern.
- Back now, it's 7:17 with a question.
Is the deadly disease,
AIDS, now a health threat
to the general population?
- [Man] The government today
tried to reassure people
that there's no evidence
AIDS is breaking out
into the general population.
Assistant Secretary for
Health Edward Brandt.
- What's important is that
there is no reason for panic
among the general public.
- I'll never forget reading
Life magazine when they said
we should all pay attention to AIDS now
because now this disease
is beginning to strike
the rest of us.
Then I go, "Am I not the one holding
"this magazine in my hand?"
But took three or four years
before the press picked it up,
and only when it became clear
that it might head to the
heterosexual population.
- [Narrator] Gay men
continue to be hit hardest
accounting for three out of
every four Americans with AIDS.
In major cities, gay men
and their supporters marched
to call attention to the
government's failure to respond.
- Demand state and federal funding.
- [Crowd] Thank you.
- We must go through this together.
Our greatest asset has been
the strength in our unity.
This is a fight for all
of our lives, thank you.
- [Narrator] Most people
still thought AIDS
was a disease only of gay men.
But more and more heterosexual
men and women and children
were turning up with the symptoms.
AIDS would soon become the leading cause
of death for hemophiliacs.
- When he was I think seven,
we had a friend of the family
who passed away from AIDS.
This was a young man in his
mid 20s who had hemophilia.
And the day that we got the word,
got the news that day that
Steve had passed away,
David and I did a lot of hugging that day,
just wanting to touch each other a lot.
But that night when I put him to bed
and as I was tucking him in,
he looked up at me and he said,
"I'm going to die of AIDS too, aren't I?
And I have this sense
in the back of my mind
that from then on, David
was getting ready to die.
- Tom's worst fear and
nightmare was God forbid,
in case he would have given
it or passed it on to us,
meaning Jessica and myself.
I went and got tested.
There's something to that weight
that really can drive you crazy.
I mean makes you crazy
if you weren't before.
And we get there, I remember
getting in the counselor,
the person that tells you when we get in.
He says, "Well, I'll get to the point.
I go, "Please do."
He says you're negative, absolutely.
I said, "You sure?
"Check the note."
"You're negative."
I just jumped for joy.
I remember rushing home and telling Tom
and he was so excited, thank God.
The only thing it didn't
do is take away the fact
that he still had AIDS.
- I remember noticing
that there was a dark spot
on the back of my knee like
inside the hollow behind.
And I noticed it, I think
most people did by accident.
I just looked and there it was.
And I couldn't lie to myself.
I wasn't, because I was more sophisticated
about this disease than I
think the average person
and I knew immediately what I was seeing.
And of course, you hope that it's not.
I mean everybody does.
But I immediately made an appointment
to see my doctor in New York.
The phone rang, and it
was my doctor in New York
and he said, "I can't believe this,
"But the biopsy came back
negative, it was a mole."
And it was incredible,
I mean just incredible
to hear this news, that
in fact it was not KS.
And two days passed.
And again the phone rang.
At the AIDS Foundation,
was my doctor and he said,
"I will never ever be able
to make this up to you."
He said, "I don't know
how to tell you this,
"but the labs switched your slide
"with a slide of an
86-year-old heterosexual woman
"who's gotten a KS diagnosis,
which is not possible.
"So I'm sorry to tell you this,
"but it turns out it's positive after all
"and you do have KS."
And at that point, I sort
of felt like, Susan Heywood
and I wanna live, but the
governor giving her a pardon
every five minutes and
then the phone ringing.
It just drives you nuts.
The stress was enormous,
I was at the end of my emotional rope.
And this was the final verdict,
the final verdict was that I had AIDS.
(crowd applauding)
- Kills people, it petrifies me
'cause girls be hanging out with him.
And one night they could be in the club
having fun with their gay friend
and give him a little
kiss (mimics smooching)
and go home with that AIDS on their lips.
- [Woman] This tape concert aired
on Cable Systems last month.
Predictably, it did not
receive rave reviews
from the gay community.
In protest this record store
in San Francisco's Castro district
will no longer stock Eddie
Murphy tapes and records.
Murphy's manager says he's
not anti-gay but anti-AIDS.
- The Gay plague as AIDS has been called
is the center of a political storm.
The moral majority claiming
AIDS is God's punishment
for the gay lifestyle.
- All this media attention and sympathy
for these AIDS victims
just really bothers me.
Let's call a spade a spade.
AIDS is a venereal disease
and the vast majority
of its victims are a
group of abnormal people
with a very strange and unusual lifestyle.
- [Woman] Cleve Jones and
Mark Astfeld are homosexual,
both victims of an increase
in anti-gay violence
that many contend is being
fueled by fear of AIDS.
That's what happened to Charles Howard,
a 23-year-old homosexual
from Bangor, Maine.
He was attacked, pushed
over a bridge and drowned.
- [Man] Parents are afraid three brothers,
Ricky, Robert and Randy
Ray, all hemophiliacs
would spread the AIDS virus
they got from blood products.
The Rays left Arcadia
after their home burned
in a suspicious fire, but the year old--
- Seeing what happened to the Ray family,
it just voiced you know, can
this happen to us, daddy?
I told him, I says, I don't know,
I can't answer that honestly,
I can't give you an honest answer.
He was asked by a reporter one
time how he felt about AIDS.
- We have the right to do everything
that everyone else does.
We have the right to do, we
have the right to run around
and play, we have the right
to go inside some place
without having to feel ashamed
that "Oh, I have AIDS, oh,
I might give it to someone
'cause that's what I felt for a while
before I really realized anything.
I felt oh god, what if I
did give it to someone?
What could happen?
And also it started to scare me.
- David and I talked
about letting people know
whether he had AIDS or not.
I read an article that there was a lotion
being sold in Arcadia, strawberry scented
and you could rub it
on your children's skin
and it would protect you from AIDS
and the people were buying it.
And all of a sudden, I
just couldn't trust anybody
to behave responsibly, to
make the effort of finding out
what AIDS was all about.
- We didn't come from a different planet,
we're still the same human
beings that they are.
We just have a little different,
a little difference in ourselves.
And I don't see why anyone should
put some person down for that.
- The word just spread so fast.
I remember I called
everyone up on Los Angeles.
I said I wanna meet everyone
at my sister's house
and I will have something
I have to sell everyone.
I told them that Tom had AIDS.
And their first thing
is don't go near him,
don't let Jessica near him.
It's like you catch it in a tear,
it's just the education of what they knew.
I didn't know all that much more.
And of course being in Los Angeles,
they're reading about Rock
Hudson and everyone else
and now it's struck the
family, it was very sad.
And what I told them is
that I wanted to respect,
I wanted Tom treated
just like anyone else,
this is the situation, he's gonna be dying
and I wanna make sure people are there.
And the biggest thing is
that whatever the services
at the time we had
discussed, it was enough.
Last time all we discussed was services
but if there was a funeral,
I expected every single
one of them to be there.
And if I didn't get that love and support
and I'm very close with my
family, and I truly meant it,
if there was one person that backed off,
that they'll never see
myself or Jessica again.
(somber music)
- [Announcer] Each of us
must take the responsibility
for keeping AIDS out of our lives.
- [Man] Last month the
federal government began
a formal AIDS education campaign,
with the release of these
and other public service announcements.
The US was one of the last
developed nations in the world
to undertake an AIDS education campaign.
And critics say the ads
still do not contain
enough specific information.
The critics point out that
the President did not mention
the word AIDS in public
until he was asked about it
in September 1985.
Bauer says it was not
necessary for the President
to talk about AIDS before then.
- When it became clear
that the disease was going
to be a much more major
challenge than anyone thought,
the President then I think
appropriately decided
to speak out and he's done that repeatedly
and will do so again
in the next 14 months.
- [Woman] Mr. Reagan said
prevention is better than a cure.
He sided with his Education
Secretary, William Bennett
and other conservatives
who say that the government
should not provide sex
education to children.
The Surgeon General disagrees strongly.
- We can no longer afford to sidestep
frank open discussions
about sexual practices;
heterosexual and homosexual.
- I don't quarrel with that,
but I think that abstinence
has been lacking in much of the education.
- [Woman] That angers some critics.
- Until the Reagan administration realizes
that the government's
responsibility is saving lives
and not saving souls, we will
continue to see the virus
spread through our society.
- [Narrator] In the seventh
year, the national debate
over how to confront the
epidemic had finally begun.
But for those who already had the virus,
the years of denial, neglect
continued to take their toll.
(somber music)
- He didn't wanna be in the hospital,
he wanted to die at home.
And if that's what his wish is,
that's what we accommodated.
There was nothing now to do except set up.
At least we know that he's gonna die,
so now what do we do?
To make the most of our daughter.
He saw Jessica every
day, it was unlimited,
it was just a delight for him.
He just couldn't get enough of Jessica.
It's heart.
So sweet.
- Rob started getting
ill, I guess two years,
18 months before he died.
People from Narcotics
Anonymous would call him,
people he had sponsored,
people he'd become friends with
who were struggling to get off drugs.
And during a time when he could no longer
go to the meetings, he'd lay
in the bed and get phone calls
and he'd be on the phone
for hours and yeah man,
I know how that is, but if
you do this, it'll work.
And he'd be encouraging 'em from his bed
but you could tell as soon
as he hung up the phone,
he had no energy anymore.
And it would make me mad.
I'd get so angry with him.
How could he take all this
time with these people
in this struggle, and I
got selfish about his time.
- We went in different directions in terms
of dealing with our illness,
and I think that each direction
was exactly in tune with our
individual personalities.
I immediately got angry
and began to learn everything
I could about the disease.
Jeffrey, on the other hand
did what Jeffrey always did.
His personality was to
retreat into his own world
and to try things that offered easy hope.
He got into a lot of mystical things,
he stopped taking his medicine
and started like having the
color blue around the house.
The color blue is the healing
color, figure that out, right?
But he believed, you know, and I thought,
all right, maybe his belief
system will carry him through.
I had eternal hope but at the same time,
I was aware on some level that
I was losing him completely.
And he was just in another world.
I would come home and he
would be lying on the sofa
staring at the ceiling in a dark room.
And that became the end of
his life in a lot of ways.
He just checked out.
- He had wasted, I mean
the last time I took him
to the hospital, literally I
could pick him up in my arms
and carry him.
And when we went to the
hospital, he said to me,
"I can't make atonement
"for everything I've put you through."
I said, "Atone?"
I said, "Atone to God, you
don't atone to your wife."
You make atonement to your Creator,
the person who created you, not me.
That's when I realized
how close it was for him.
He said from this point
on it's gonna be fast.
He said I don't want to die at home
because you and Mackenzie is there.
He just totally gave up
and the spirit of the person
that was there had changed.
The last time I saw Rob I wanted to sit
by the door of his room,
but I had told the nurse
how badly I was feeling.
So she took my temperature and it was 105.
And I said, "Well, I
can't even go see Rob?"
She said, "No, I think you
should stay away since."
So I just went to the
door and I looked around.
And he never turned around.
He just was laying there
like in a fetal position.
And that's the last time I saw him.
I remember standing at
the door for a few minutes
and just looking at him,
wanting to go in real bad
and society know it be
best I didn't go in.
And the next morning,
my sister-in-law came
and they had called
her that he had passed.
So I didn't get to say goodbye.
Just got to sit and look at him from afar.
- When I was diagnosed
a year ago with AIDS,
I didn't shed a single tear.
And of course most people I think
when they're first diagnosed,
it just really blows me away.
Well, all of my tears
have been shed the year
after David died recognizing
that I was probably doomed.
So when the other shoe finally fell,
it was just comforting I guess,
more than anything to know
where I was headed.
I am to be buried next to David
in Rock creek Cemetery,
the oldest cemetery in Washington
and in a very beautiful spot.
(somber music)
- [Suzi] We were told that
he would either be with us
at Christmas or he wouldn't.
I wanted David to hold on to
the magic of his childhood.
That was his right, that's
the right of every child
to hold on as long as they can.
- How you doin'?
- Fine.
- Good, you know me, don't you?
- Yeah.
- [Suzi] I knew one of the
greatest things would be
if he could visit Alf.
David could relate to Alf.
- Who do I send the bill to?
- [Suzi] He had the soul of a con man,
and I think David related to him
because not only for his con artistry,
but because Alf was different.
I think David always had
a sense of his difference
from the rest of the world.
- David, it was great talking to you.
- Okay, I think you're great, Alf.
- Oh, I think you're great too.
And I'm glad we had a chance to talk.
- So am I.
- Huh?
So am I.
- And I want you to listen to me.
I'm gonna tell you something.
I want you to think positive
thoughts, all right?
- [David] I will.
- You will, you do that for me.
You be good and think
nothing but good things.
- [David] Okay.
- Okay?
- Have a merry Christmas, Alf.
- You too, David, have
a very merry Christmas.
- Okay.
- Bless you, bye bye.
Bye bye.
- His last Christmas, we
tried to make it as best one
as we possibly could.
Him and I went out and
it was the first year
that I got a Christmas tree early.
I guess he basically knew
that this was gonna be his last Christmas.
And he tried to make it as good for us
as we tried to make it for him.
- I'll never forget this,
I was on the plane from
Melbourne to Honolulu.
And it's a long flight,
it's 12 hours or something
and I was sleeping.
The entire cabin was quiet, it was dark.
And I woke up the way
you sometimes wake up
from a dream but really startled.
It was the middle of the
night and I heard a voice.
Now I don't know whether I dreamed it
or whether I really
heard this voice or what,
but I heard, Jeffrey always
called me V, not Vito.
And I heard, "V!"
And I woke up in the cabin, and I remember
I was just like sort of sweating.
The stewardess came and she says,
"Is there something I can do for you?"
And I said, "No, I'm all right,"
and I went back to sleep.
And I got to Honolulu in the morning
and Joe Brewer and I went out
to lunch at Hamburger Mary's.
And I went home, take a nap.
And Joe came into the hotel
room about two hours later
and he woke me up.
And he said, I got a
call from San Francisco
and I have to tell you
that Jeffrey got very sick
and was taken to San
Francisco General Hospital.
And this morning, he died.
I went directly to San Francisco General.
I needed to see him to prove
to myself that he was gone.
And he was there and
they took this drawer out
and he was covered with a sheet
but only his face was showing.
To me it was of course it was
still Jeff, but it wasn't.
No way was Jeff.
I mean he had that little bump on his nose
that'd tell me was Jeff.
And I remember I combed his hair
'cause he was always doing that.
He used to pull back his hair.
And I took a comb out of my
pocket and I combed his hair
and I talked to him for a little while.
- Watching the heart monitor cease, stop,
the numbers kept coming down,
lower and lower and lower,
and then finally the nurse
saying he's gone now.
But I watched his chest
inflate twice more.
Almost as if,
wanting to get one one lung full of air.
And I was there and I watched his face
and I kept looking for a handle,
looking for something to
grab to keep him from going.
There was no handle.
- I just remember the last
things he said to her,
said he died or went into a coma actually,
started going in and out.
He had this big crystal
ball on a pedestal.
He says I have this wizard's ball.
And I found it here, a wizard left it.
And I want this to be very special
and that'll always bring
you good luck and fortune.
And always know that
daddy will always be there
and he'll always love you.
She took that, it was hard for her
because she's got her Legos
and goes back to the Legos.
Instead here I am
crying, taking it all in.
Here she is not understanding
why he's leaving, you know?
"Okay, I heard that you're
leaving, thank you."
She was so sweet.
And I see him, he was in
so much pain at that time.
He's just trying, you see
the tears just rolling down.
That was his last time of seeing Jessica.
And that was it,
and he passed away.
- He and I talked about when we first met
that we would be soul mates.
It's like we would always have that vibe
that would connect our souls.
I think we will.
- People had heard of the
Names Project and asked me
are you making a panel for David?
They said why don't you come down
to the Lesbian and Gay Men Center?
Which I gulped.
I said, "I'll have to ask my husband."
We had not ventured very
far out of our little
Middle America home into
that area of the city.
But we said, "Let's go."
And we went down there,
and we found the room
where they were working and met the man
that I had spoke to on the phone.
And I don't know, it seemed
like five minutes later,
David was very, very busy
with helping them out
with the mailing and I was very busy
stitching letters onto a person's panel.
I was thinking of all the different things
I wanted to put on David's panel,
satins and bright colors
and things that flew,
just of all the possibilities,
everything that would say
to somebody this was David.
And suddenly, for the first
time since my son's death,
it was okay to laugh, really laugh.
(somber music)
(woman laughing)
(sewing machine whirring)
- [Narrator] In 1987, in a
storefront in San Francisco,
friends, families and lovers
began to piece together a quilt.
They would soon be joined
by tens of thousands
of people from across the country,
remembering loved ones lost to AIDS.
- I'm very proud that
he has so many panels
because that means that
his message cut across.
The happiest thing that
I feel and I know Jessica
will feel as we get older is
I think that we're just proud
to have so many people love
the same man that we love.
After he died, I played
some tapes that he had.
I was listening to this one
tape and he's talking to Jessica
about mama, and I love mama
and you've got a wonderful mama.
But I gotta tell you, this one's for mama.
Remember all those times
we played racquetball?
I let you win (laughs).
And I just, I was crying, Judy was crying
and I heard that,
let me win, how dare you
say that you let me win?
even to his dying days, it's
like that competitive edge,
he knew he still wanted me to remember
and to have something.
- Well, I entertained making
a quilt for a long time
when I first heard about the
quilt, I thought about it.
I thought it would help
to be a healing for us.
There was so much hurt and pain and guilt
and desperation left when you
lost somebody to this disease.
How there was something
to kind of relieve that.
- I know (laughs).
I didn't know, Alfred was theatrical.
- But Robert would.
I had spoken to my mother,
that she said to me,
are you going to get tested?
She said, "Well, if you're positive,
"I don't wanna know it."
Yeah, that's nice.
And I said, "Okay Mom, I won't tell you.
Six months later, my mother
came to me and she said,
"Did you ever take that AIDS test?"
And I said, "Yeah."
"Well, what was the answer?
"What happened?"
And I said to her, "You
told me not to tell you."
She said, "Yeah, but I
gotta know, I wanna know."
I said, "Mommy, I'm positive."
She says, "Oh no."
She just, you could sense the loss in her.
She said, "I don't know how
I'm gonna deal with this."
She said, "This is going to
kill me, I can't take it."
I said if it's the Lord's
will that I don't make it
and I get sick and anything
happens, that's his will.
You can't protect me from
whatever his will is.
And she came through a
lot stronger behind that.
I've been positive for
two and a half years.
And I'm well, and every day I'm prayerful,
and thankful that I am.
In my mind, I've decided
I'm not gonna get sick.
I don't have to get sick
and I'm not gonna let
worrying about it make me sick.
And that's how I've been coping.
Now whether it works
or not, time will tell.
But I feel great.
- In the 48 years that I've been around,
I've done more than many,
many people do in a full 80
or 85 years on this earth.
I've raised a family, had
a successful naval career,
been around the world many times.
Loved and have
really no regrets, not that
I wouldn't like to be around
another 20 or 25 but I
can't think of many things
that I've left undone.
The panel that I've made has my name on it
with my rank at retirement,
Commander T.E. Torrey.
David has a panel there and I
just would like to have them.
And I just decided that
if that was gonna happen,
I'd do it myself.
Hang in there, buddy
'cause it won't be long
before we're together again.
And I truly believe that,
and that's been one of
the things that's I think,
been comforting to me.
I do believe in an afterlife.
I just look forward to that.
(somber music)
- Everything that I am tells me
that nothing happens when you die.
It is the state of
unconsciousness and that is it.
Now that's very hard for me to accept.
I would like to believe that
consciousness is eternal
and that in some form or
another, that we exist.
I don't think so.
Intellectually, I don't buy it.
I just think when you're dead,
you're dead and that's it.
And that that's why it's so important
to do something while you're here.
Because this is the only shot you get.
(protestors chanting)
The government, they've
been criminally negligent.
The President of the United
States didn't say the word AIDS
until thousands of people were dead.
And so I've chosen to
spend most of my time
educating people,
fighting, getting arrested,
sitting in the street, blocking traffic
to call attention to this issue.
(protestors chanting)
My name is Vito Russo.
I'm a writer from New
York City and I have AIDS
and I'm here today because
I don't want to die.
I know that there are drugs out
there that can save my life.
And I want to know why
they're not being tested more quickly.
I'm here today because
I don't want a quilt
with my name on it to be in front
of the White House next year.
If I live another 10
minutes or another 10 years,
that's the way I'm gonna spend my time,
agitating for change, because
change needs to happen.
I met a guy in the doctor's
office a couple of months ago
who told me that all
his friends were dead.
And it took a couple of
seconds for me to sink into
what I was hearing.
He was the 32 year old guy who said
I only have acquaintances now left.
And what's even more frightening
is that that's not unique.
And that you know a lot of people
who just have lost all their friends.
And that's an experience
that I don't think
many people have in a
lifetime except during war.
(somber music)
- The AIDS epidemic in America is showing
no signs tonight of slowing down.
Federal health officials said
today that 400 new AIDS cases
now are being diagnosed in
this country every week,
and there were 20.000
new cases in 1987 alone.
- [Man] The man who took charge
of the presidential AIDS
commission made it clear
that he thought the government had failed
to take charge of the AIDS epidemic.
- I hope that the power
of our recommendation,
that this document you have, 270 pages
with nearly 600
recommendations is evidence
that the system for
whatever reason has failed
and it's not working well
and we better get on it.
- [Man] Watkins said the problem
was not just the AIDS virus.
- It is the health care system
that is woefully overburdened.
It is a drug development
system that is unresponsive.
It is a nation that has
a specter of drug abuse
hanging all over its head,
and we haven't dealt with it well.
It's a nation that is
frankly discriminating
against other members of our society.
- [Narrator] In the summer of
1989, the number of AIDS cases
reported in the United
States quietly passed
the 100.000 mark.
More than 59.000 Americans have died,
more Americans than
died in the Vietnam War.
Worldwide, up to 10 million people
have been infected with the virus.
One new person is infected every minute.
And there is one AIDS
death every 30 minutes.
- Bill Krauss.
Bob Greenwood.
Richard Anderson.
Reggie Hightower.
Gary Barnhill.
Simon Gutzman.
Randy Partlow.
Steven K. Sada.
Felix Villa de Munoz.
John Riddler.
Paul Walker.
Bill Cathcart.
Bobby Campbell.
And my friend, Martin Feldman.
- Jose Ramirez
George Durtra.
Scott Outman.
Gemini Jim.
Dick Gambol.
Todd Coleman.
David Thompson.
Larry long.
Frank Cook.
And my friend, Jeffrey Phillips.
- Alfonso McPhatter.
Grenada Gillespie, and the
babies that I have loved
and cared for.
Tony Langstone and Connie.
- Alan, Bert.
Dominic, Martha.
Custer Cotrales.
William Paul Chase.
David Wade.
Dean McDow.
Bill Benville.
Paul Richards, Hank Irons.
(speaking foreign language)
My friends, Peter Hugh Jar.
Tucker Ashworth, Robert Hayes,
Antonio Lopez and Peter Lester.
- Wilbert Darly.
Jamie Gallagher.
Robin Johnstone
James Al.
My much cherished and
loved, 11-year-old son,
David Lee Mandell Jr.
- And my friends, Susan Rose and Tom.
- And my beloved Son, Gregory Cornell.
- And my beloved Son, Zachary Jacob Freed,
five and a half years old.
- And my beloved Jeffrey Sevcik.
- [Woman] Floyd Stevenson.
Roger Whitaker.
- Jeffrey was a perfectionist
and I'm sure he'd hate this,
because I'm not, I'm a big slob
and I've sort of put
sloppy sequins all over it
onto his name and I think
he would want those removed.
Sometimes I look at his
picture on my desk and I think,
"Where the hell are you?"
He's gotta be somewhere, right?
And it's been almost three years now
since Jeffrey died and I still every day,
I wonder where he is.
For me the quilt is where Jeff is.
- Neil, Paco, Raymond,
Tonya, Todd, Yak, Dennis Cetera.
- Our most precious Joel.
- John.
- Our most beautiful son, John Anthony.
- Johnny Boy.
- Johnny Boy.
Olatano and we love him so much.
We love him so much.
We hope all parents would understand.
(somber music)
- [Suzi] Too many people, too many people.
Too much love gone, too much tragedy.
I took David's story and
what his loss meant to me
and I multiply that by
the number of panels
and it was just so horrendous.
Every one of those persons
represented by a panel
is a person who was loved by somebody,
and that loss, the tremendous loss.
And I kept thinking of the
possibilities for David,
what he could have been,
what his promise was,
and how cut short it was.
And again, multiplied that
by the number of panels.
- [Vito] I think what we want
to see eventually is an end.
a day when we can stop
adding panels to this quilt,
put it away,
as a symbol of a terrible
thing that happened
that's now over.
We forget that someday
this is going to be over.
Some day there's gonna
be no such thing as AIDS,
and people will just
look back and remember
that there was a terrible
tragedy that we survived.
(somber music)