Printer Friendly - How to Survive a Plague


How to Survive a Plague
Posted by tazber 2012-09-21 12:40:53


How is there not a thread on this?

This looks like a very educational film for those of us too young to remember, and a difficult but important film for those of you who lived through it.

Anyone seen it yet?



How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-21 12:48:41


YES! I have! (I have friends in it, both alive and dead.)

It actually shows, in great detail, how a bunch of activists changed the way drugs are distributed in the United States, not just for people with HIV/AIDS but also for people with cancer and other diseases.

It is an extraordinary film, and I am so glad David France made it.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Addison D. 2012-09-21 13:18:52


An amazing film. Almost too painful to watch.

(PJ--do we know each other...?)

There is another film to be made, in the spirit of 'Freakonomics: the hidden side of everything', about the perverse and tragic harvest--a generation of young, gay men coming to NYC, eager to "get Pozzed" in order to cash in on all the freebies--that ultimately came out of the important and necessary work done by those incredible, passionate, crusading Men.

We do manage to make a mess of things.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by JoeKv99 2012-09-21 13:48:23


I'm glad you old men documented this for those of us who were born so long after this happened!

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Addison D. 2012-09-21 13:55:06





You little Punk! When my new Rascal gets here, I'm gonna' git you and open a can of whup-a$$ on you!

After my nap.



How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-21 16:03:25


Here's the trailer.

http://youtu.be/wwhFS1mUaVY

You can see two of my friends at the door of a bud at 1:50 and, if you don't blink, I'm the blur in the back of Cooper Union in a white shirt at 1:58.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Almira 2012-09-21 17:09:48


Hoping to see it tonight in L.A.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by canmark 2012-09-21 19:21:25


Haven't seen "How to Survive a Plague," although have seen some recent related docs on the AIDS crisis:

United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP
http://www.unitedinanger.com/

We Were Here
http://wewereherefilm.com/

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-21 19:55:59


They're all worth seeing, but How to Survive a Plague is the one that was featured at the Sundance festival.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2012-09-21 19:59:04


I was hoping this would be on IFC on demand but sadly, it's not.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-21 20:07:26


It probably will be soon. "We Were Here" is on Netflix.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-28 22:09:45


I just saw the Boston premiere tonight but first I just have to say, Addison, the story you repeated about people "getting pozzed" for freebies is mostly an urban myth. There have been anecdotal stories here and there but certainly not a generation of people making conscious decisions like that. The anecdotes are mostly about people with serious mental health issues and no access to any kind of care. Having said that, young black and latino gay men are ridiculously disproportionately getting infected (and historically with the least access to health care).

Back to the docu: I was wondering what it would be like to revisit some of the harshest years of the single biggest tragedy that radically altered the entire course of my adult life. It was occasionally very difficult to watch and yet ultimately I was giddy. A strange, visceral reaction to the film. Maybe it's a PTSD reaction or maybe it was something Peter Staley said about coming home from war. Anyway, it was a weird rush...

By the by, the website for the movie has a link to how to access free tickets for young people, AIDS activists and people with AIDS, in NYC, SF, Chicago, ATL and Cambridge, MA. Go if you can.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-28 22:14:54


PS Massachusetts, which has a health care system in place that was rubber stamped by some governor who is now ashamed of the only accomplishment that took place while he was in office, has reduced new infections by 50%. Access to healthcare IS prevention.

Which makes me think back on some of the discussions here. I would actually pay for Mr "My first wife died of cancer yet I don't think healthcare is a right" Roxy to see "How to Survive a Plague."

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Addison D. 2012-09-29 02:09:50


Namo--people drying their Teacup Yorkies in microwaves is an urban myth. A sub-culture of healthy, young HIV+ men living in NYC with their rent paid by HASA, their health care provided by the State and money for Meth deposited monthly onto their EBT cards is no myth. I lost 3 years of my life through that looking glass and I assure you that land is real and fully populated, with new arrivals every day of the week.

A generation of gay men and their allies fought for those benefits as though their lives depended on it. Medical research changed the reality of living with HIV but the memories--and the anger--of anyone who lived through the 1980s in NYC created a political climate where questioning benefits for people living with HIV was absolutely unthinkable.

How do you think the tweakers can afford to live in Manhattan and f**k all day and all night, 7 days a week? Only some of us had professional careers to throw away.

EDIT: Yes--these are, by and large, people with "mental health issues". But I'm not sure that that changes the grim facts or the sad irony of the situation.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-29 08:22:11


A sub-culture of healthy, young HIV+ men living in NYC with their rent paid by HASA, their health care provided by the State and money for Meth deposited monthly onto their EBT cards is no myth. I lost 3 years of my life through that looking glass and I assure you that land is real and fully populated, with new arrivals every day of the week.

Such melodramatic writing demeans the actual reality. Exactly how many young men constitute this "sub-culture"?

I think you're describing a short-lived phenomenon that involved a very small but fairly visible minority within the circuit-party-culture during the late 1990s, after the protease inhibitors reduced the frequency of death.

But most of the 20-somethings I see today think that kind of behavior is "gross."

It's a different gay culture from what it was when you lost 3 years of your "life through that looking glass."

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Addison D. 2012-09-29 10:53:48


"I think you're describing a short-lived phenomenon that involved a very small but fairly visible minority within the circuit-party-culture during the late 1990s, after the protease inhibitors reduced the frequency of death."

I've been sober for just over a year. I'm talking about Now. (Didn't you notice that I'd disappeared from the boards? I'm hurt...)

As to whether my writing "demeans" reality--I cannot speak to that. It strikes me as the kind of thinking that posits that gay nuptials "demean" the institution of marriage. You may not like it, but it exists. I'm not sure how a frank acknowledgement of reality "demeans" reality, but if it does, then mea culpa.

As to "exactly" how many men I'm talking about, again--I cannot say with certainty. More than 500. Less than 5,000. I'm not sure that an accurate head-count would change my original thesis--that, in the fullness of time, even the best-intended actions can yield un-intended, negative consequences.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-29 12:13:36


I'm confused. Did you used to have another screen name? You've only been here since May. Anyhoo, I love your posts, but just think I would caution you about generalizing and creating a "community" out of your own experience. I would also question the narratives people tell themselves to make sense out of their chaotic lives, or the specific motives they ascribe to their behavior in hindsight.

"Medical research changed the reality of living with HIV but the memories--and the anger--of anyone who lived through the 1980s in NYC created a political climate where questioning benefits for people living with HIV was absolutely unthinkable."

It's that kind of statement that I think is more demeaning than not.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Addison D. 2012-09-29 13:05:57


Apologies for the confusion. My SN was slightly different--'Addison DeWitt', perhaps--although the avatar was the same. When I regained consciousness I could not remember my screen name or password and, as my email address had changed, I started fresh.

I will accept the observation that it is dangerous to extrapolate too broad a meaning from one's own experience and I will certainly agree that there is no sure way to separate fact from fiction in the autobiographies that are provided by folks as they pass the pipe. On the other hand, in my capacity as someone who can string (too many??) words together to form a coherent sentence, I spent a lot of hours in the HASA offices helping my "friends" deal with their housing issues, so I will continue to believe in my understanding of 'reality'.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-29 13:12:42


"I will certainly agree that there is no sure way to separate fact from fiction in the autobiographies that are provided by folks as they pass the pipe."

I think those stories become even more mythological (a beautiful tale crafted to help the teller make sense of the utterly unexplainable) when sitting in a circle at a 12-step meeting.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-29 13:38:55


Back to the movie, on the documentary's Facebook page for tonight, Saturday Sept 29:

Attention, New York City! Not only do we have FREE tickets to How To Survive A Plague this weekend--we have a special guest appearance as well.

John Cameron Mitchell will be moderating the Q&A tonight after the 7:40 screening and before the 10pm show. Don't miss it! http://bit.ly/SHYzPw

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2012-09-29 14:32:58


The movie is now On Demand and I'm thinking about watching it today. Not sure I want something this heavy this afternoon but I know I need to watch it.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-29 16:26:03


I hope you watch it, Jordan!

Didn't you notice that I'd disappeared from the boards?

As Dorothy said, "People come and go so quickly around here."

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-29 19:17:18


There's something electrifying in seeing it in a theater with others. I would bet John Cameron Mitchell would be good too.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-09-30 00:20:18


I don't understand the argument above or Addison's point. Is it that some people "game" the system? If so, I think that's always the case and hardly an argument in favor of neglecting those in genuine need.

A friend of mine joined the Air Force, then got lonely guarding a missile silo in Montana. So he faked a nervous breakdown and got a medical discharge with full benefits.

Shall we disband the armed forces to prevent a recurrence?

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by luvtheEmcee 2012-09-30 00:30:40


I wanted to see this so badly, but I missed the Chicago screenings this week, and had no idea they added some for this weekend. I don't have it On Demand yet, but hopefully I will soon.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-30 00:46:27


I watched the movie again tonight, this time On Demand in my living room. We paused the film a few times to point out unidentified friends and acquaintances. ("There's Ron Goldberg!" "There's Keith Haring!" "There's John Weir!" "There's Michael Cunningham!")

I cried a little bit more at the deaths of lovely Ray Navarro, whose delightful rendition of Jesus presages his breathtaking acceptance of death in the face of blindness and deafness...and Bob Rafsky, whose powerful orations inspired my activism and whose public speaking I considered on a level with John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King.

And I am happy to confirm that I am visible, not on the floor of Grand Central during that demonstration, which was my first, and not in the die-in in the middle of the road in Kennebunkport, which I attended with Reginald Tresilian!

No, I am visible as a blur, in one of the meeting scenes at Cooper Union: the one in which the crowd congratulates Bob Rafsky for having confronted Bill Clinton during the 1992 primary campaign, which put HIV/AIDS into the national presidential discussion.

I am in my usual position, standing behind the last row of the auditorium, applauding for Bob's inspiring activism, visible to the camera briefly as the blur of a white shirt, the blur of a full head of thick black hair (I was younger then, and had hair) and the blur of my habitual black-rimmed glasses (chic now, but far from it then).

I am only a blur, but that is appropriate, since that is all I remember of those years, of my friends' deaths and the deaths of so many others, and my involvement with Act-Up.

I am a blurry freeze frame who once lost friends, acted-up, fought back and fought AIDS.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-30 00:47:23


Jesus Gaveston, I really DID my best to bring the thread back to the topic of the documentary.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-30 00:51:07


PJ, that film and these reactions are living antidotes to Larry Kramer passing out fliers after The Normal Heart saying that every effort had been an abject failure. Nice to find he managed to say something good about it in the movie.

We've talked about this before. I wonder if you and me and Reginald were bodies on the ground anywhere near each other in Kennebunkport? Oh, if only there had been cellphones with cameras back in those days. It would have been the Arab Spring of HIV.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-09-30 01:13:42


I like to think we were. Here is some neckwear I discovered I still have from those demonstrations.



The legend on the reverse of the yellow one reads "CALL GEORGE BUSH 202-456-1414 DEMAND LEADERSHIP."

It's funny the things you discover you held onto while you were letting everything else go…

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-30 10:25:28


Nice collection. I don't think I parted with my "Silencio = Muerte" t-shirt but lord knows where I stashed it.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by YouWantitWhen???? 2012-09-30 11:04:34


I know it sounds weired, but reading te exchanges here almost is like a living history. I sometimes think there is the making of an amazing documentary among these threads and personalities of those who have survived.

In a weird way, it reminds me of the interconnections of the movie Crash.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-09-30 11:41:49


One of the things I totally forgot to mention was that my screening was attended by Mark Harrington, who features prominently in the movie. (And who, at one point in the documentary, somebody at ACT UP accuses of sending anonymous letters to others, a charge he denies; see? we didn't need no internet to have flame wars back in the day!), and I have to say seeing him now, right after watching the time go by on screen, you do realize that through a random mixture of good luck and/or the advent of the drug cocktail, many more of us made came out the other end of the tunnel, making it a lot longer than most any of us assumed we would. Of having, as Peter Staley puts it, "come home from the war."

At a Q+A after the show, somebody asked Harrington about the sense of humor that was evident in so many of the actions and echoing Emma Goldman, he talked about what a crucial factor "play" was in every public protest they did. Play, theatricality. Life.

He also stressed that this documentary is just one story of one small group of people in NYC's chapter of ACT UP and that there were so many more stories to tell from all over the world. What you wrote is what he was getting at YWIW? I am grateful France's documentary exists and while I was watching it, I was remembering coordinated actions timed to coincide with ACT UP NY's events. Things so many of us took part in around the country, each with its own fascinating back story and cast of characters.

It's also important to know there was a LOT of criticism from within the gay community. People often talked about their political concerns and hopes but couched their statements with things like, "I'm not like ACT UP, which goes way too far." I'm actually really grateful those voices were kept from the film, but I remember them well.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-10-09 23:23:48


Please go see this move. Please.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-10-09 23:34:36


I just realized how many people from the old days (not necessarily from AIDS activism, but occasionally) have been popping up in my dreams since seeing this documentary. It really touched something in me.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-10-12 12:33:09


Oh for crap's sake. Ed Koch does movie reviews? Peter Staley has Koch's review of "How to Survive a Plague" on his POZ blog. The disingenuousness begins at the top of paragraph 2:

The plague began in 1981 when a handful of gay men in San Francisco were struck down with a new disease.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by tazber 2012-10-12 12:40:14


It's finally opening here this weekend. Seeing it Wednesday night.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-10-12 12:56:03


How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-12-19 08:00:59





For those who have seen the movie or were lucky to have known him, yesterday brought the sad news that Spencer Cox died yesterday morning. For those who haven't seen it, here is his interview from the outtakes of the movie, which you can download on Amazon Instant Video:

http://youtu.be/unDyouBoo9M

Spencer had been a child actor from the age of 9 or so, and by the time he was in his 20s, he was kind of over the whole actor thing. But he knew every lyric from every musical and every line from every old movie. He passionate activism kind of gave the theater queens of the 80s and 90s the courage to become activists. Remember that before BC/EFA, before 1995, most actors were very closeted and afraid to attend rallies or demonstrations. Spencer had nothing to lose and didn't care.

The activism of Spencer and the other men and women featured in the documentary forced the government in 1996 to release the anti-HIV drugs that stopped the deaths that were happening so relentlessly in the 1980s and early 90s. It also changed the way drugs are distributed today for other diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.

In the YouTube clip here, Spencer describes what it was like in 1995 to go from knowing death was imminent to knowing death could be halted, temporarily. These are his words:

"What I learned from that is that miracles are possible. Miracles happen, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. I wouldn't trade that information for anything. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what'd going to happen day to day. I don't know what's going to happen next year. I just now, you keep going. You keep evolving and you keep progressing, you keep hoping until you die. Which is going to happen someday. You live your life as meaningful as you can make it. You live it and don't be afraid of who is going to like you or are you being appropriate. You worry about being kind. You worry about being generous. And if it's not about that what the hell's it about?"

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Roscoe 2012-12-19 09:09:55


Very sad news about Spencer. I knew him only very slightly many years ago, and we were facebook friends, and I'm not claiming a particular friendship with him or anything, but I'm very saddened by his passing. Flights of angels sing him to his rest.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2012-12-19 09:16:17


“Spencer single-handedly sped up the development and marketing of the protease inhibitors, which currently are saving 8 million lives,” says TAG executive director Mark Harrington. “He was absolutely brilliant, just off the charts brilliant.”

Talk about your acts of kindness. Thank you, Spencer Cox.

Love,
The World

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Roscoe 2012-12-19 11:04:32


Is the film still available on demand?

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by henrikegerman 2012-12-19 14:13:39


I saw it at Sundance. It's extraordinary as history, as political document and as filmmaking. I believe it's still on Time Warner Cable "on demand" Roscoe. In the interest of full accuracy (shill transparency), the director David France is a friend of mine.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2012-12-21 09:01:29


Spencer's obituary in the NY Times today:

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by tazber 2012-12-21 09:49:57


I was just going to post that, PJ.

RIP.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2013-01-10 10:17:46


How to Survive a Plague was nominated for an Oscar this morning.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2013-01-10 10:32:45


I'm glad for that.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by doodlenyc 2013-01-10 11:58:58


I cant see how, but I've missed this thread over and over!

I'm so glad this film was nominated this morning. If for no other reason than as a tribute to those who fought so valiantly for ourselves and each other.

It takes me back to my early days in NYC, where it seems I probably crossed paths with so many of you! Working at the Community Health Project, now the Callen-Lorde center helped me grow up quick and meet amazing people...I dont want to say it was the best time of my life, but it was very special (and seems like yesterday!)

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by tazber 2013-02-26 07:36:14


Out today on dvd.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by broadwayjim42 2013-02-26 08:07:22


Saw the movie in January with my best friend, who participated in some of the protests shown and knew a lot of people in the movie. He loved Bob, broke down every time Spencer appeared on screen (he visited him during his final weeks) and would say "oh there's so and so" every time someone he knew showed up.

The movie itself was incredible...I lost it almost completely twice (Bob's passing and the final reveals) and seeing itwith my friend enriched it that much more. Have watched it twice since on Netflix and definitely plan on getting the DVD.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2013-02-26 14:14:03


One of the most insightful articles on the movie and the topic in general by Atlantic Monthly writer Garance Franke-Ruta. She was just a teenager when she volunteered for ACTUP and then for TAG.

Her insights are startling:

ACT UP worked because America worked. I'm not sure we expected that, even as we hoped for it. It taught me that everything that is marginal and powerful in American life eventually becomes central, part of the great churning from edges to mainstream that is one of the most underheralded but deep-seated patterns of our politics. That politicians only ratify social changes that start elsewhere, while true leadership comes from the grassroots, and the people. And that whoever has the most energy in any political battle usually wins. ACT UP was a fireball of energy.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by SonofRobbieJ 2013-02-26 14:30:12


Ooooof. That was a tough read.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by FindingNamo 2013-02-26 15:43:09


Thank you for that link, PJ. I know just what she means when she describes the sensation of not being able to process one more bad thing.

I was shocked to see Sydney Pokorney's name among the list of the dead. I had no idea. I was deeply involved in the creation of the paper that published her groundbreaking Madonna piece in1989 that is covered in her Wikipedia entry linked in the article. I am sad to learn this.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2013-02-26 16:44:10


She is an extraordinary writer and intellect. I remember her at those meetings--she looked like a kid tagging along with the smart guys--and at 16, she was! She was like Anybodys in the all-ACTUP production of West Side Story, but when she opened her mouth and spoke, it was with the wisdom of the woman she has become today.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2013-02-28 15:54:58


OMG. A Miniseries.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Roscoe 2013-02-28 16:02:56


Hoo boy. Probably won't happen.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by Jordan Catalano 2013-02-28 16:03:58


On ABC? This material would be much better suited for HBO.

How to Survive a Plague
Posted by PalJoey 2013-02-28 16:32:27


For those of us who sat-in, died-in and risked arrest back then, this article reads like something from The Onion.

But life, I guess, is stranger than reality.