by David Waggoner
November is a month when we have to decide to which candidates we give our votes. Sometimes, as we all know, we feel buyer’s remorse when said candidate leaves campaign promises unfulfilled. Maybe November is a good time, then, for gathering family and friends around the Thanksgiving table, because honoring those people in our lives who have supported us through thick and thin undoubtedly takes the edge off of political disappointments! It’s the perfect time to honor unity, too—an ideal represented by that winsome tableau of Native Americans making sure the Pilgrims didn’t starve or freeze to death on the cold shores of Plymouth Rock. We may not have achieved that harmonious brand of family values since, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.
Even we here at A&U are not too jaded to try. Each November, in our Holiday Gift Guide (now in its twelfth incarnation), we’ve tried to spotlight the unity that is possible in the AIDS community when people are willing to give a little more. By spotlighting organizations and individuals who are making a difference in the fight against AIDS, we are showing that people do come together when the chips are down. In this year’s rendition, we feature a sampling of original gift ideas created by organizations whose mission is to assist those living with HIV/AIDS, now more than ever a lofty goal in these uncertain times: Positively Sweet, Chocolate for a Cause; Dab the AIDS Bear Project, Same Sky, God’s Love We Deliver, and Fred Says.
Speaking of those who give a little extra, this month’s cover story is a member of Hollywood Royalty: Anjelica Huston is no ordinary angel. She’s been a stalwart supporter of the AIDS community for over thirty years. In the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, Ms. Huston was there for us. Giving solace, giving money, and always lending her famous name to a cause that couldn’t have but touched her: From an early age, the Oscar winner crossed paths with dozens of men who were the epidemic’s first to fall silent—actors, set designers, hairdressers, fashionistas and countless others who appeared alongside her or her brother, actor Danny Huston, or her father (actor and legendary film director John Huston, son of movie star Walter Huston).
The Huston family knew so many creative individuals whose early deaths were a harbinger of difficult times to come. As Anjelica acknowledges, “people were becoming ill all around me. I was living in the fashion and art scene, and in every single area of my friendships there was somebody who was sick. Extraordinary wonderful people died, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, Halston, Joe McDonald, Peter Lester, Antonio Lopez, and Michael Bennett. It…was…a…war.” But never one to forget that all of this suffering has led to enlightenment, she tells A&U’s Dann Dulin that “there is a huge lesson to be learned from this tragedy. A large phoenix has risen from the ashes to make us more tolerant. I don’t think we would be where we are today if it had not been for this crisis.”
This harmonious brand of family values can be seen all around us in today’s popular culture: the stalwart friends of Longtime Companion or Love! Valour! Compassion!; the brotherly bonds of Philadelphia; the mentorships in Precious or Life Support. The AIDS epidemic has redefined what it means to be a family, forged from a time when those dying of AIDS in the early days were sometimes (lots of times) abandoned by those they thought they could count on and embraced and supported by those they never knew existed. Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner (see this month’s NewsBreak for discussion of this groundbreaking film), continues this redefinition by not forgetting where the HIV community comes from—folks from different walks of life deciding to trailblaze the path ahead.
Just read the interviews in this issue—with Kerry Hendrix, Guy Anthony, Catherine Wyatt-Morley, Dr. Bambi Gaddist, Sarah Schulman, Alexey Kashpersky, and Dab Garner—and you’ll see what I mean. Through their work, each shows that the value of family is a positive value.