It’s 106 degrees outside and my tush is on fire! My beloved ’69 classic, Mother Lincoln, is blowing her AC at full tilt, but she’s losing the fight. I just revisited the Palm Springs Art Museum, a wonderful treasure trove of art. The latest exhibit is “Colors of The West: The Paintings of Birger Sandzén.” Birger’s haunting landscapes and use of brilliant colors are mesmerizing.
Now on Indian Canyon Drive, I’m headed to the nearest health food store to pick up some soda pop. Suddenly I whiz by a place called THE VIEW. Wait a minute. Has Barbara Walters set up shop?! I make a U-ie, carelessly park my hot box, and strike up a chat with a guy who’s about to enter this zen-like flagstone building. His name is Jack Law and we hit it off. He invites me into this spanking new upscale gay men’s resort.
Jack is a licensed real estate broker in Hawaii, and, with his bracing good looks, reminds me of Jack Lord, the original Steve McGarrett from TV’s Hawaii Five-O. Friendly and voluble, Jack escorts me into the resort office and introduces me to his friends and co-owners. There’s Gene Kelly (no, not the iconic movie dance man) and John Weir (no, not the flamboyant Olympic skater).
I’m stoked when Jack tells me that he’s been involved with the AIDS community for many years, along with Gene and John. Jack and I cozy up in the shade near the inviting pool adjacent to red blooming foliage. We’re stretched out on cushy white loungers. Fluffy, Venetian red towels are draped over them. Water mists us from above. Heaven. Through the tall palm trees I look out at the panoramic view of majestic Mt. San Jacinto….Ah-ha! That’s why they call this place THE VIEW! Before John and Gene depart, they offer us iced tea and tasty chocolate croissants left over from the daily buffet breakfast.
Ruby Comer: Since Hawaii has been your home for many years, did you ever meet the actor, Jack Lord?
Jack Law: [He hesitates.] It is not nice to speak unkindly of the dead…I’ll just leave it at that. [He smiles and raises an eyebrow.] But, everyone in Hawaii loved Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I., as well as the cast of Lost!
Well, tell me a bit about Mr. Jack Law.
Let’s see, I attended the University of Hawaii, and in 1974, a business partner and I started Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand. It’s still going strong today and is known as Hawaii’s premier gay club. I opened the Wave Waikiki in 1989 and it stayed in one location for nearly thirty years till we lost our lease. I was also one of the founding Board members of the Life Foundation, the AIDS Foundation of Hawaii.
I’m impressed…and grateful.
Over twenty-one years ago I started the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival in memory of Adam Baran. Adam was a friend and a Hula’s DJ/VJ. He died of AIDS. The film festival has been a memorial to all the artists whose lives were cut short. Then, Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand has fundraisers for such charities as The Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, Gregory House, housing for clients with HIV/AIDS, and Save the Food Basket. They’re also one of the sponsors for the annual AIDS Walk for the Life Foundation.
Jack excuses himself for a moment. I notice a door to one of the eleven intimate guest rooms is ajar. The snoop-sister I am, I peek in. The soothing air-conditioned room is designed with a contemporary flair and appointed with stylish amenities—hi-tech full kitchen, breakfast nook, private patio, and a combined bathtub and shower. Nice. As I exit the room I run into Jack who invites me to the Jacuzzi. He leads me to a hidden alcove that suggests serenity and romance. Returning to the pool, I flip off my wood wedgies and dangle my feet in the water.
Jack, when I say “AIDS” what comes to your mind?
Sadness, hope, and apprehension. Ruby, I have personally lost over one hundred friends, employees, and acquaintances.
Good God! How in the world did/do you deal with all this?
In the height of the AIDS pandemic I had a lot of survivor’s guilt, as I came through the pandemic unscathed, when so many close friends did not. I still cannot understand why my friends contracted the virus—before there was even a word for the disease. My behavior was just as risky as theirs! It sure has made me appreciate life. I feel I have to live for those who were not so fortunate.
Amen. What do you mean by “apprehension”?
I’m apprehensive about all the young gay men who are having unprotected sex because they think that HIV is a thing of the past. AIDS needs to be brought out of the closet again. People need to know that the disease is still rampant. Everyone must get tested so they know their HIV status. Also, it has to be made clear that, despite the pharmaceutical company ads that show people on meds climbing mountains and running races, that HIV treatments can have very bad side effects!
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]
Photo of Jack Law by Dyan Tanaka