Idol Chatter

Amidst the coverage of this week’s 25th anniversary of the identification of the disease that’s come to be known as AIDS, Idol Chatter would like to take a moment to remember the pop-culture figures who’ve been lost to the disease. As the epidemic has moved on to devastate poverty-stricken African American communities and horrifyingly large swaths of Africa, we may forget that the first AIDS victims were mostly white gay men, and that the arts and entertainment world lost many of its own to the disease.

Their names may seem like distant memories to us today, but it was not so long ago that their suffering and death shocked and saddened us: Rock Hudson. Liberace. The photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Freddy Mercury, lead singer of Queen. Ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Journalist Randy Shilts, who brought us the groundbreaking work, “And the Band Played On.” Rap artist Eazy-E. Tennis star Arthur Ashe. A diverse group of creators who were lost to this mysterious disease–and whose famous names stand in for the multitudes of lesser-known victims.

The next time we dismiss Hollywood as superficial and narcissistic–charges that are too often well earned–let’s also remember the role that the entertainment world played in bringing AIDS to the forefront of our consciousness and spurring us to care and to act. Films like “Philadelphia,” TV productions like “Angels in America,” the activism of stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Bono, the tireless work of organizations like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS help make us all better informed and more caring on a subject that’s too easy for us to turn away from and ignore. And they prove that there are many in Hollywood who care about more than just themselves and who use their wealth and influence to help heal this world.

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