Hope. In the 14-year history of AIDS, it isn’t a word that has been used often in connection with the epidemic. But 1996 may be remembered as the year the world was taught to rethink its vocabulary. The introduction of potent new medical treatments — most notably combination drug therapies that make use of protease inhibitors — has suddenly changed the tenor of the disease. People with the virus are living longer, and with a higher quality of life than ever before. Patients on the brink of death have been led back to vitality. Where there was despair, there is now … hope.
On the following pages, in conjunction with World AIDS Day, we present our annual memorial to the members of the entertainment industry who have died from the virus. There are 72 names on this year’s tribute, down from 120 last year. That this is encouraging news is an understatement. But there is much work yet to be done. Combination drug therapies are often hindered by their prohibitive expense and toxic side effects. Nationally, 31,379 adults and children died of AIDS from July 1995 through June 1996 (the latest figures available from the Centers for Disease Control). And the battle for our hearts and minds continues. ”Until our fears are replaced with compassion, it will never end,” says Sharon Stone, who heads a fund-raising drive for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). ”The object is to raise consciousness.”
Yet there is no denying the new optimism. Says Stone, ”I hope that this will inspire people to push on until we find both a cure and a vaccine.” Until then, at least there is hope.
Oct. 26, 1996, age 61
Award-winning theatrical-set designer at L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum. He also worked on the 1974 film Big Bad Mama.
Sept. 25, 1996, age 55
Writer, AIDS educator, and star of gay movies in the ’70s and ’80s, including El Paso Wrecking Corp.
Sept. 12, 1996, age 44
Founding partner of the Douglas, Gorman, Rothacker, and Wilhelm talent agency, where he represented writers.
Aug. 29, 1996, age 34
Poet and essayist whose book City of God was published in 1994.
Aug. 29, 1996, age 49
Dancer for the Alvin Ailey company. He also appeared in 1980’s Altered States as William Hurt’s alter ego.
Aug. 28, 1996, age 48
A tenor with the New York Choral Society and the Zurich Opera. His voice students included Dyan Cannon.
Aug. 9, 1996, age 39
Assistant costume designer for movies (Slaves of New York) and a fashion stylist for magazines (Esquire, Vanity Fair).
Aug. 2, 1996, age 41
Choreographer and leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet. He also taught dance at Princeton University.
July 17, 1996, age 48
Assistant artistic director and a leading dancer with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.