By Carolyn Tucker, LAPC
In 1984 I lived in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. On the sleepy, conservative island there wasn’t much to fear. However I found it quite homogenous, having just graduated from college, and I wanted to experience life. I took my first trip to New York City that year. I fell in love! Big city life was meant for me. It was my first exposure to so many things! Art, music and the energy of the city came alive to me. It was as if I took my first breath of life and would die before I took my next gasp.
I remember having read an article in the New York Times about an immunodeficiency virus that was affecting gay young men in New York and how deadly it was. I had first seen it mention in People Magazine. I remember feeling a touch of fear. In spite of this, the ache for the city gnawed away at me until I moved to New York in order to sink my teeth into life and grab all it had for me.
My best friend moved with me and we lived for the night life in the city. We met famous people, from David Lee Roth to Mick Jagger. Everyone sparkled in the night and life was grand! The Palladium had taken the place of Studio 54 and Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were back on top of the world. The club life was fabulous, but along with it came a dark side. There was a sexual revolution going on, but along with it there was a burgeoning awareness of the illness called AIDS that I had heard about when I was sheltered on the Island.
Beautiful young men were becoming sick. Fear was all around us. I remember when my first friend was diagnosed with AIDS; I remember how we didn’t understand what it meant, the implications and how his life would eventually end, leaving us all shattered. Rock Hudson died, Anthony Perkins, Arthur Ashe, later Freddy Mercury and Keith Haring. We noticed condoms in all of the night club bathrooms and ads for safe sex everywhere. It took a very long time to realize this wasn’t just a gay men’s health crisis or something relegated to IV drug users or people far away in Africa.