We Were Here, AIDS documentary at 14 Pews

We Were HereWe Were Here, the award winning documentary of the early days of the AIDS crisis, premiers at 14 Pews theater (800 Aurora) Saturday, November 20, at 4:30 pm. The film, from director David Weissman, will be proceeded by a panel discussion on the state of the AIDS crisis today.

I came out in 1998, right at the tail end of the worst days of the AIDS crisis. I remember, with vivid clarity, the days of the walking wounded: when every other gay man I met would tell how their doctor said they should have died five years ago, when the community told time by recalling if an event took place before or after a certain person’s funeral.

Fortunately those days are largely behind us, but as new HIV infections continue to rise and we struggle to maintain funding for medications that are keeping people alive (at a cost of thousands of dollars a month), it’s important that we never forget the early days of the pandemic. For people of my generation and younger the mysterious “Gay Plague” that threatened our community in the early eighties can seem more like a fairy tale monster than the horrifying crisis it was, and is.

We Were Here tells the real life stories of five people who survived. Their mundane and profound recollections highlight, not only their personal experiences, but the broad political and social upheavals unleashed by the crisis. From their different vantage points as caregivers, activists, researchers, as friends and lovers of the afflicted, and as people with AIDS themselves, the interviewees share stories which are not only intensely personal, but which also illuminate the much larger themes of that era: the political and sexual complexities, and the terrible emotional toll. The film highlights the role of women – particularly lesbians – in caring for and fighting for their gay brothers.

Tickets for We Were Here are $10 and can be purchased at 14pews.org.

After the jump watch the trailer for We Were Here.

—  admin

BOOKS: What would Judy do?


Palm Trees on the Hudson by Elliot Tiber.

Square One Publishers (2011), $25, 184 pp.

When Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he wasn’t just talking about the French Revolution. Everyone has that day in their lives they’ll fondly recall as the Best Day Ever, filled with happiness, wishes fulfilled and memories with a smile … as well as a Worst Day Ever, the one best forgotten quickly and for good. But what if they were the same day? They are in this memoir.

Elliot was 8 when he first saw Judy Garland and he wished he could join her in Oz. Movies were important to Elliot growing up in Brooklyn, but equally important to his mother, who took the free dishes the moviehouse handed out and re-sold them at her store. She focused on money, and while that bought her the American Dream, it didn’t endear her to her only son, whom she repeatedly called “worthless.”

Elliot left home via subway to Manhattan and rented a filthy artist studio in the Village. There, he hoped to find love and acceptance as a gay man.

Elliot quickly found work as a window dresser and maneuvered his way into better jobs with richer clients, opening an interior decorating business and branching into party planning. It was at one of those parties — lavish, opulent, over-the-top, and planned for a club-owning, gay-hating mobster — where Elliot had his best / worst situation. See, the mobster was friends with Judy Garland…

This prequel to a prior memoir starts with Tiber’s childhood and meanders forth to a highlight that’s funnier now than it must have been 40-odd years ago. Tiber, who once dabbled in standup comedy, tells a good story and his recollections of Manhattan society and being gay in the 1960s are priceless.

Palm Trees on the Hudson  is a hidden gem, and once you start it, you’ll have a dickens of a time putting it down.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas