A Q&A with Daniel Harris done by Visual AIDS

"The Kitschification of AIDS" was one of the most controversial chapters in Harris' book, "The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture," containing his disturbing analysis of the AIDS Quilt.

In some senses, "the kitschification of AIDS" could be replaced with "commodification"; how does the media representation of people with AIDS become part of the "marketing package"?

In The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, I talk a lot about the marketing of what I call the "AIDS product." My thesis is this: in the early stages of the epidemic, the Reagan and Bush administrations refused to allocate the money necessary to cover basic costs of research and treatment, with the result that movie stars, and not government officials, became the epidemic's statesmen, its panhandlers, the ones who were forced to seek alternative sources of funding out in the open market, in charity balls, rock concerts, and fashion benefits. Because of insufficient federal funds, activists were forced to turn the disease into a commodity and sell it to the public like any snack food, compensating for the lack of government support with private support, with charitable contributions, which they extorted from the public by arousing pity for the victims, by packaging the epidemic in sentimental clichés that reduced potential donors to a state of maximum susceptibility. The more money that was needed for the disease, the kitschier it became. Had the Republican administrations of the 1980s been more responsible, the epidemic would not have spawned nearly as many sentimental images which activists designed expressly to overcome consumer resistance and prime the pumps of private contributions. So I see kitsch in crudely economic terms, as a practical response to federal irresponsibility, which provoked a massive PR blitz as tacky as any advertising campaign for a new shampoo or a dish detergent.

Controversial author predicts demise of gay culture

By Jeff Walsh

With the release of The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, Daniel Harris stirred up a lot of arguments within the gay community. The book tracks the assimilation of the gay culture by straight culture, and lists drag and the gay aesthetic as some of the likely casualties of assimilation.

Harris, 40, of Brooklyn, N.Y., recently spoke to Oasis about his book and what many of its messages mean to the queer youth community.

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Troix Bettencourt, 23, of San Francisco, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

Troix Bettencourt was one of the most visible gay teens when I was first coming out in the early 90s. Like most things back then, I don't quite remember how or why I knew about him. He had appeared on Maury Povich and other shows, but I don't recall having seen them. I just knew he existed.

I remember once that I had called BAGLY for some legitimate reason, and asked the person if they knew Troix. They said they did. I thought it was so cool that I was talking to someone who knew Troix.

Warren delivers character-rich gay youth novel

By Jeff Walsh, Oasis Editor

With the release of her new book "Billy's Boy" this month, Patricia Nell Warren writes the third novel in the series that began with "The Front Runner" in 1973. "The Front Runner," about a long distance runner who is outed on his way to the Olympics, has sold over 10 million copies to date, and may be turned into a film in the near future.

Jason Hungerford, 20, of Manassas, VA

By Paul Pellerito
Oasis Staff Writer

The Internet has done a lot for 20-year old Jason Hungerford, but what he is doing for it may be even more important.

Hungerford is no stranger to the power of being online. Like many queer youth today, he had his first tastes of coming out on the Internet, and it helped him come to terms with who he is.

Gay comic writes book, opens doors

By Jeff Walsh

Bob Smith seems ordinary.

His politics are poignant, but not scathing. His comedy routine is hilarious, but not over the top. And in his new book, Openly Bob, he writes about being in a committed relationship and bird watching -- nothing that will give Pat Robertson any fuel for the fire.

Jacob Eiler, 18, of Anderson, Indiana

By Jeff Walsh

School is slowly becoming a better place for queer and questioning youth. With the $900,000 settlement against a public school for not protecting Jamie Nabozny as a harassed gay student, teachers will now most likely be a little more supportive. And last year, many same-sex couples even attended their proms without incident.

He's Out!

Former Umpire Talks About Gay Life in Baseball and Beyond

By Christopher Ott

One Saturday in 1970, 18-year-old Dave Pallone sat watching a baseball game on TV. A shoulder injury had put a premature end to his dream of being a pitcher, but Boston Red Sox announcer Curt Gowdy asked a question that caught his attention: "How would you like to be an umpire?" Gowdy was talking about the Umpire Development Program in Florida, and after Dave Pallone called to find out more about it, he suddenly knew what he wanted to do.

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Christopher Curry, 25, of Los Angeles, Calif.

By Troy N. Diggs

In medieval times, a renaissance man was someone who could "do it all". Christopher Curry seems to fit that bill as a successful print model, personal trainer, and Web designer. Chris's success comes from lots of hard work and devotion to what he does, and in a recent online interview, Chris shared his thoughts and feelings about his life.

Anthony Rapp: Rent-able role model

By Jeff Walsh

Rent has changed the lives of many of its audience members. Its messages of hope and life-affirming spirit are felt and remembered by everyone who has ever attended the show.

Anthony Rapp, the only openly queer cast member, serves as the narrator for the rock musical. Prior to Rent, he starred in such successful movies as Adventures in Babysitting, Dazed and Confused, Twister (look fast!), but Rent has occupied his life since he performed as Mark in the 1994 Theater Workshop version of Rent. He also has the difficult task of portraying the character most associated with Jonathan Larson, the show's creator who died the night before the first public preview Off-Broadway.

Wilson Cruz: Angel in America

When Oasis last talked to Wilson Cruz two years ago, he mentioned that My So-Called Life wouldn't be the last we'd see of him.

And, in passing, he mentioned how much he would like to perform in a Broadway play, among his list of other career goals.

Well, audiences are about to see a whole new side of Cruz as the HIV-positive drag queen Angel in the La Jolla, Calif. cast of Rent (which will tour, starting in Los Angeles). He dropped the weight My So-Called Life made him gain to look younger for the show, shaved the goatee you may have seen and, in his own words, is "pretty damned beautiful" in women's clothes. (The cast hasn't taken publicity photos yet, so we can't show you the results).

Jonathan Larson: The man behind the magic

Article by Patrick Martin

"Measure your life in love...."

Most people who have heard about Rent have likewise heard vaguely of a man named Jonathan Larson, the show's sole creator. In fact, more often than not, an article or feature regarding Rent makes more than a passing mention of the librettist/songwriter/lyricist, who passed away the night before his masterpiece had its first public previews in its final form. The heartwarming story of Rent's success is simultaneously the tragic story of Jonathan Larson's death and the emotional story of Jonathan Larson's life.

RENT Review

Review by Patrick Martin

"How do you connect in an age where strangers, landlords, lovers, your own bloodcells betray? What binds the fabric together when the raging, shifting winds of change keep ripping away?" -- "Rent", from the rock opera Rent

"Rent rent rent rent rent.....," as the multicultural chorus of 15 blares out at the climax of the violently powerful opening number of Jonathan Larson's amazing rock opera Rent, which has taken American theater by storm. "...everything is rent."

Starting a new ecosystem in the age of AIDS

By Jeff Walsh

In the opening shot of David Lynch's movie "Blue Velvet," an idyllic suburban home is descended upon by the camera. Warm, rich colors of green grass, a white picket fence and a happy Technicolor couple fill the screen. The camera never stops descending, though. As it continues down, it goes into the soil and thousands upon thousands of screeching bugs fill the screen, leaving the viewer with the sense that things are never as simple as they appear on the surface.

Craig Jessup, 15, of Larkspur, Calif.

By Jeff Walsh

Junior high school brings changes to any student's life -- new expectations, new teachers and, for some, even a new school district. For Craig Jessup, now a 15-year-old ninth grader in Larkspur, Calif., seventh grade brought with it something even more eye-opening -- a new sexual identity.

"Right before I came into the seventh grade at St. Patrick's, two people who were very close to me came out to me. It was at that point that I started looking back at my life and seeing all these times that I had these thoughts but had no labels to identify them with," he said. "And I began to kind of take a look at the label of 'gay' and see what that meant for me, and see how I could adapt it to my life. And it was pretty much a solid fit right from the very beginning. I could see that that was who I was, and that was pretty shocking."

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