Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Accidental Participant” best describes my role the night gay history was made on Christopher Street. I happened to be standing outside the Stonewall Inn when all hell broke loose. On the night of The Event launching modern day gay activism my concerns were more focused on the immediate and personal: getting laid.

In those days the stretch of Christopher Street running pass Stonewall was the first leg of the Gay Miracle Mile continuing over Seventh Avenue and sweeping down to the riverfront collection of trailer truck yards and later the abandoned piers. If you hadn't managed to garner a suitor or two after one lap along "the Street of Broken Dreams", you turned around and retraced your steps back toward Greenwich Avenue—the main drag for an earlier generation of Sodomites.

That night Stonewall was the prearranged point for me to meet friend and CP –Cruising Partner--Robin Woodhull. Like all good gay friendships we started out tricking together on a one-night stand, ended up close friends and eventually cruising buddies-- never again the two of us dallying between the sheets.

This time the anticipated outcome of our meetup took a very different turn. Truth be told it was Robin's throbbing libido that got us caught up in those first heady weeks of The Modern Gay Rights Movement. He was hoping to “run into” some horny trick named Marty. A few nights earlier they hooked up at Stonewall. Robin was hoping for a repeat if not a run.

It was late June, weather cool but not uncomfortable; a Friday night when lust dominates a young man's thoughts and actions. Only weeks pass my college graduation making me the first in the family to do so. Hormones peaking and the influx of summer visitors crowding the narrow Village streets made being out and about even more enticing.

As with our protocol, we'd meet-up 11-ish, dance for an hour or two, then going on 2-ish start rounds together-- the “rounds” being assorted bars, all-night coffee dives, side streets, shadowy doorways and recently popular truck yards. Commercial parking lots dotted the West Village especially under the now extinct West Side Highway and High Line rail tracks.

The pitch black interiors of the long distance truck trailers easily accommodated dozens of the sexually liberated. If either Robin or I connected for a stand-up quickie the other stuck around. If the tryst turned into more we parted and talked the next day. Neither of us might be described as wing man to the other so not sure what you'd call our mutual support system. Sisters on the Seek? LOL 

Have I mention that tall, rail-thin, bleached blond, California-born Robin was something of a punk trannie--very much ahead of his time. He often said he felt more like a woman. Only back then he integrated the drag touches into his fetish wardrobe. Wearing full drag after 6 PM would get you arrested in mid-century New York. A reality that makes the uprising doubly significant: drag queens clutching hems, fierce pride and broken bottles took on raiding NYC police.

Just like it had for black civil rights icon Rosa Parks, discrimination had reached the boiling point. This was our Boston Tea Party only instead of throwing the brew overboard, blue coated officers were showered with braking beverage bottles and metal cans. An uprooted parking meter served as a battering ram when cops retreated into the club. 

After years of harassment it was just desserts. Homophobic acts of violence were never counted as crimes as much as they were viewed as 'some faggot getting what's due' for daring to express a love that need not speak out!

Only moments after Robin arrived as we were waiting on line for doorman/bouncer Sasha to let us in, police cars rolled up. No dummies, Robin and I got out of the way, crossing over to the Sheridan Square pocket park fence opposite the bar. 

Gradually others gathered (but certainly not the legions that also claim to have been there!). Initially clueless we watched with increasing agitation as events unfolded before incredulous eyes. Little did we fathom that this was soon to become a shriek heard round the world.

If truth be told after 45 years specifics of that night have faded, others come and go, while a few remain sharply etched in memory. I made no contemporaneous diary or journal entries. It did not struck home until much later that this was the dawn of a New Day for gay Americans.

All these years I've hesitated to put uneven memories on the page or share with those seeking still another perspective of that night. Though some of those impressions were fictionalized in my novel "A Brother's Touch" which oddly enough debuted over a decade later at dawn of the HIV crisis. I've always had reservations about making much of this moment witnessing history.

Robin did manage to hook up again with “Marty”--gay activist Marty Robinson as it turns out--in the predawn hour as street rampages briefly quieted. Through Marty's urging we got involved in early planning meetings held at the pioneering Mattachine Society offices on lower West End Ave and a lecture room on the NYU campus.

We helped handout early informational fliers in the immediate days following what was then-called “the Stonewall riots”. The very first demo Marty called a "Hang Out" to keep up a strong gay presence in the area. These were the very first efforts to organize "the community",to take full advantage of this unprecedented spark of rebellion. 

How I found myself among those early pioneers was Robin's crush on Marty. Soon Marty took prominent roles in creating a formal gay political narrative. At the time leadership roles were assumed by those expressing ideas and following through. For a long time there were no official officer designations or elections per say.

Marty encouraged Robin to come to early meetings. Robin was sure it was an invitation to get laid as well, maybe even begin an affair. Robin brought me and we befriended a tall lanky recruit called Ralph. At the time (unbeknownst to us) Ralph was homeless. We were more warm-bodied supporters than political strategists.

Though flamboyant in attire, at heart Robin was shy. He felt awkward in group situations. Neither of us were much for speaking in public. We were witnessing something important but didn't think it was going to evolve as quickly or as vociferously as it has. It was the values and prejudices of the times and my upbringing that made me a reluctant participant. 

The anti-gay social sentiment that rubber-stamped discrimination was serious cause for thought—and pause. Not only were gay acts criminally prosecuted but the psychological establishment had declared us deviant and mentally defective.

Still an expanding group of brave pioneers recognizing the significance of the night's potential to give gays political presence, worked assiduously to exploit it . In the first few days we went to strategy meetings, passed around informational handouts at ragtag demos, and watched as our legions grew. 

The more public attention the movement got the more ambivalent I was about my visibility. Print media was coming around and nightly newscasts started filming. If caught on camera—either motion or still, and recognized, there could be serious ramifications for one's future in the homophobia of the times.

While not truly closeted it was still a time when making a public display of one's gay sexual orientation was not only socially unacceptable, it was illegal and determined to be a mental illness. It didn't seen an opportune time to become a gay rebel. Perhaps cowardly but nonetheless a reality of the time.

Yet in those fledgling days there was definitely an opportunity to strike out if one had political ambitions. Disorganized and volatile as various factions and ideologies collided and coalesced. Guys who might otherwise be brainy misfits in majority society, were able to maneuver themselves into positions of relative power. 

Others, whose physical idiosyncrasies branded them queer or odd now found themselves on a level playing field. We were all queers and hated by the mainstream. What you brought to the table was more important then what you looked like. If you had a big mouth you ruled.

Later that summer Robin grew disenchanted as he got less attention from Marty. His star rising, Marty stopped dropping by for late night trysts. When he turned up with an obvious "new friend" in tow, Robin couldn't deal. It bummed him out, as we used to say. He was looking for a husband not foot-soldiering a revolution.

It was just as well we started drifting away from being active. I had already started a paid job at a federally funded summer program in the hood. No way would awareness of my participation in gay demonstrations benefit the job and might even get me fired.

While this was definitely a turning point in our history and naturally something I fully supported, it was time to pursue professional interests and turn my energies to learning craft and supporting myself. 

That winter I moved to San Francisco with my first real boyfriend. When I returned the following fall the movement had kaleidoscoped beyond anything I could imagine. The strides being made in recent decades are simply mind-boggling and bewildering but terribly empowering.

I have no regret about how I felt or acted those many years ago. Perhaps one reason I'm reluctant to “dine” on those experiences. So far I have avoided the fatal infection that took so many of my contemporaries. Friends, lovers and acquaintances I might have known a lifetime were taken too early, and horribly, including both Robin and Ralph--and Marty.

In my teens the prospect of two men marrying was inconceivable (but then again so was a Black President). Today's rapidly evolving climate makes all things possible. I can hardly imagine what the Stonewall Revolution has yet to spawn.

"Say it clear, Say it loud: We're Gay, And we're Proud!"

New York City

© Owen Levy 2014

Thursday, July 12, 2012

LUTZ VOGEL Survivor of DDR Injustices

Former East German defector Lutz Vogel’s personal history is a classic story of survival against the bleakest odds in a Divided Germany. As a teenager he was active in youth sports clubs, and showed potential to join one of the country’s prestigious Olympic Teams. Athletes with promise were highly sought after to embellish the DDR’s sports reputation abroad. He did not make the cut. Instead Lutz was recruited into the military, East German equivalent of The Marines.

Raised in modest circumstances this was a viable route as any to status and financial stability for himself and his family. At boot camp Lutz worked hard. He always wanted to perform at his best. He took pride in perfecting his military training and he took pride in his personal conduct. His single-mindedness did not go unnoticed.

Lutz was a soldier never a political person. He was loyal to his commanders and to the oath he had sworn to. He held no ideological priorities and took seriously his duty to serve the nation. He was among an elite contingent of East Bloc military ordered to Poland to fight alongside government forces against striking ship workers. Battling in the streets of Gdansk Lutz proved a formidable soldier. 

Decorated for his Polish service he received a Silver Medal recognizing his bravery and loyalty in containing the uprising. Lutz anticipated at some point he would get a promotion and secure a better pay grade. Back in East Germany talk of his valiant service preceded him. This was at a point when he might have used the good standing to leverage favorable connections. But cultivating political ties were of no interest to Lutz. He’d grown accustomed to the soldiering life; it suited him best. He even found a partner and was planning to marry.

Then the nightmare began.

His lack of political engagement annoyed some officers. One high-ranking lieutenant started ribbing him unmercifully about the fact he showed no interest in joining The Socialist Party, membership he might easily obtain as a war veteran. Lutz good-naturedly tried to clarify his position to put an end to the harassment. Matters only worsened.

The officer thought him a fool and dismissed his arguments with disdain. Lutz tried to ignore the insults but they soon grew increasingly vicious and mean-spirited. The stress grew intolerable and one day Lutz lost it. This highly trained and superbly tuned fighting machine had reached breaking point. He beat the officer severely and was promptly arrested.

He was court marshaled based on perjured testimony and subjected to cruel and inhumane punishment. He was kept in damp isolated cells for years. So low and narrow he could not stand straight but always had to stoop in order to avoid hitting the ceiling--no mean feat for a strapping six footer. He was never allowed out in fair weather but made to stand naked in driving rainstorms. He put up with the treatment until it appeared they had broken him. But Lutz was only planning his escape.

As soon as he was released he began preparing to defect, a journey that would take him through four countries in the mid-1980s--the only way young men could get out of the DDR at the time. He was under constant surveillance. Relying on his military training he not only managed to elude Stasi but on foot and in deepest night slipped through border crossings into Poland then Hungary and finally into Yugoslavia. It took weeks travelling only at night, sleeping days and foraging for food and handouts.

In a forest outside Belgrade he was starving and foolishly ate wild mushrooms. He came down with salmonella poisoning and spent an excruciating week alone near death sleeping on the forest floor. He got well enough to continue travel and managed to reach Italy via Trieste. Immediately given asylum at the nearest West Germany consulate and flown back to Germany, West Germany.

At first West German authorities were suspicious of his motives. He was thoroughly interrogated and then debriefed about his military experience. Just as his communist torturers had feared, he was providing the West German secret service with pertinent details from firsthand experience. As was policy for all East German defectors he was provided with housing, financial support and training opportunities.

Lutz soon learned his parents had been jailed. They were accused of knowing about his planned escape and not reporting to authorities, something Lutz vehemently denied; they knew nothing of his plans he insisted. (After reunification they learned from Stasi files that Lutz's older brother had made claims that gave cause to jail the parents.)

The first few years in the West, Lutz was gung ho, eager to test the limits of democratic society and his physical prowess. Always a fitness buff and martial arts fanatic, he went heavily into fight sports, training in Kung Fu, Karate, et al. He used drugs to enhance performance and got so pumped he entered the world of extreme sports. His career was brief but vivid. He was nearly beaten to death in a cage fight before a roaring crowd. That near death experience was his wake-up call.

He pulled out of the fight business, became a practicing Buddhist, and operated his own martial arts studio for a while. Picking up occasional jobs as stuntman for Germany’s active movie and TV production industry, he was hoping it might lead to professional acting work.

I met Lutz in Berlin when he was hired to perform stunts for a master class on Hong Kong action film-making conducted by Tsui Hark and organized by European Film Academy. I was engaged to document the working workshop seminar. During breaks we often chatted. He appeared to be in his late 40s, early 50s, cliche handsome and in great shape.

Lutz confided he was writing a film treatment based on these events in his life. He was trying to find some way to get it produced. Naturally he hoped to play himself. We lost touch after the master class ended. I often wonder how close he got to making his dream a reality. Sadly his story echoes the fate of so many forced to flee in the bad old days of East German rule!

Jemand weisst?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

PEIK JOHANN, Lover, Friend, Son, Brother, Writer

The boys in Berlin won't soon forget him. He left a trail of broken hearts and shattered could-have-beens. I was almost one of them. It was nice while it lasted. I still visit our spot, in the Tiergarten city park, under the tree where we first caressed.

I was aloof in the beginning. It tweaked his interest to be put off at first. He followed me deeper into the woods. I led him to the bank along the lake, under the linden that's become 'our' tree. (I wonder if he ever thought of it that way. Probably not; I'm the sentimental one.)

Later, getting acquainted we discovered much in common: business acquaintances, similar work experience, literary aspirations -- why I'd even been dealing with somebody in his office. We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet again real soon.

A couple of days later he called.

I suggested a new cafe in the Goltzstrasse. I liked the high ceilings and widely spaced tables, and there was never a crowd in the early evening. He arrived promptly, dashing in bright blue silk tie, tweed jacket, tailored blue jeans and well-buffed cordovan shoes -- a virtual uniform I came to anticipate.

(Maybe I should have asked for something of his. The tie, or better, one of his monogrammed shirts, or some jewelry: cuff links, a stickpin. I'd settle for a handkerchief, anything that was his, something to remember him by.)

That was the first of several dates we squeezed in before I was due to depart. He was so attentive: always arriving promptly, and always entertaining to be with. It was fascinating just watching him charm us into a table at crowded restaurants. Or how strangers at other tables would often try to ingratiate themselves.

We did make an attractive couple, even if I say so myself. His patrician goodlooks and hoch-deutsch inflection when he spoke made his education and breeding easily apparent. I, in suitable contrast, the exotic companion he lavished so much attention on.

My departure was unavoidable. He prepared a special goodbye envelope. Driving to the airport he presented it to me, first making me promise not to open until I was over the Atlantic. Then at the last minute he bought for me in the terminal gift shop a kitschy bottle marked 'Berliner luft'. The air in Berlin is notoriously bad.

In bits and pieces I learned his history. He grew up in Hamburg, after university jobbed in the film business. He moved to Paris, having always wanted to bask in the breath-taking beauty of the City of Light. He studied French, got occasional freelance work, and become a familiar face in the upscale cafes of Mommartre and in the deep shrubbery edging the Tuillerie Gardens. I believe he had a trust fund but it was never discussed with me.

The years in Paris proved hard professionally as he struggled with the language. He'd always been reluctant to even visit Cold War Berlin. He despised the Wall that enclosed and divided the city, and only traveled in and out by air. He couldn't stand the idea of driving through East Germany, or suffer the humiliation of the infamous passport controls at border crossings. Yet unable to get work that suited him in France when an opening in Berlin came his way, he grabbed it.

Compared to Paris, the Berlin night scene was smaller and easily navigated. He quickly insinuated himself with a succession of casual acquaintances, and just as quickly let them fall by the wayside. He seemed perfect partner material -- attractive, thoughtful and generous -- easy to see why so many fell so fast and so hard.

I guess I could have easily fallen into that category but I intuitively cultivated a friendship rather than make romantic demands. Once he said he didn't believe in flaunting his preferences, and of course he would never want to live with a lover.

"Imagine having to see someone every morning before you've brushed your teeth or combed your hair. That's not for me," he said, reaching over to touch my hand after shifting gears. He would sometimes whisper that he loved me. I luxuriated in the glow of his affection.

We never really became lovers in the conventional sense, he wasn't looking to settle down and I wasn't living full time in Europe. But whenever I was in town he was good to me. Then when I finally came for an extended stay he had already decamped back to Paris.

We stayed in touch by letter and the occasional phone call, and planned on spending New Year's together in Paris. I got stuck in New York that winter, but I figured we still had lots of years ahead, and there was time enough for other New Year's Eve celebrations in Paris or wherever we wished.

The phone rang one September morning in New York and it was he. He was in town for a few days on business, would I join him for dinner that evening? Would I!

We had drinks at his hotel and then went on to a restaurant I suggested on the West Side. It proved the perfect choice, just what foreign visitors consider very New York: a French-style bistro featuring live jazz.

We went back to his hotel. I waited in the lobby. He went to his room to freshen up. (Perhaps he'd gone to take medication. I now know he was on AZT.) He came down about fifteen minutes later and we got into his rental car. I wanted to show him my hometown from the standpoint of the places that had meaning for me, and he was game for the whole tour.

I showed him how the city sparkled from Brooklyn Heights promonade and the maze of crowded streets that formed Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho. In the wee hours, we walked arm and arm up, down and around Christopher Street spooning out of cups of Hagen-Dazs ice cream and drawing the appreciative smiles of passersby.

It was past four o'clock in the morning when he dropped me off. He gave me a goodnight kiss, nothing lingering -- that wasn't his style -- but not passionless either. I remembered half-hoping he'd want to come up even as I knew he probably wouldn't. I also knew it was pointless to ask him or suggest we try to meet once again before he left town. If he had time I knew he would call. I watched him drive away.

It wasn't until a year later that we saw each other again, this time in his hometown. He picked me up at friends where I was staying and drove me out to see his parents in the suburbs for afternoon tea. His sisters and their husbands joined us. Somehow I saw fledgling status as a significant other in this domestic picture.

His family had other dinner plans so we went to a favorite Italian ristorante not far from the waterfront. We drove across town chattering away. At a stoplight he turned to me and said, "You are very patient, aren't you?"

I was startled by this out of the blue comment but readily agreed, "Yes, I'm willing to wait for something I really want."

He nodded approvingly.

"Shall we spend our old age on the French Riviera?" he quipped gamely.

"Sounds divine," I said. "We can trade off gigolos over lunch everyday."

He laughed and readily agreed.

How was I to know this was to be the last time I would see him. The only hint of what was to come would be in a letter he sent the following spring from France. It was just a casual mention, almost a metaphor for life in bohemian Paris. He said he was getting over the flu but couldn't seem to get warm.

I was busy that spring and summer and the months flew. I finally managed to dash off a note to him in early September. I probably even alluded to our standing invitation to spend New Year's in Paris together.

A few weeks later I received a letter that immediately struck me as curious. It had a foreign postmark but no return address. I barely had a foot in the door when I tore the envelope open. At first I thought it was some kind of a wedding announcement. His name, some dates, a black border.

Gradually it dawned on me: this was not good news; this was a death notice. He was dead! Even as I thought it I couldn't fully grasp it. I really couldn't believe it. It was just past 7 PM New York time, well after midnight in Central Europe.

Shaking, I retrieved his parents' phone number, and though it was late felt compelled to call. His father answered, obviously in bed, perhaps even asleep. I told him who it was and apologized for calling so late. He said it was okay and not to worry about it. He asked me how I was doing?

"I'm fine, but I wanted to call about the card I received. What's happened?"

"Cancer," his father said quietly. "It was cancer," he repeated more emphatically. "My wife and I are very sad."

"Please give her my condolences. What kind of cancer?" I pressed.

"Cancer," he said and would say no more.

I told him I would stay in touch and asked for their address. "And certainly the next time I'm in Europe, or you're in New York, I hope we can meet." We said goodbye.

At first I was angry that Peik hadn't told me he was sick. That probably had a lot to do with the schoolboy sex we had. On further reflection realized I was better off not knowing while he was still alive. What could I have done except offer to help him anyway I could. There were others more capable and they did for him, as I was later to learn. My memories of him will always be when he was at his best.

A few days later I received another copy of the death notice, this time from Paris with a note from one of his friends who said she had found my last letter to him in the mail, and since it was obvious we cared for each other, it was her sad duty to inform me.

I wrote Michelle back immediately, thanked her, and said that I was hoping to pass through Paris soon and would very much like to meet her. But I didn't get to Paris that winter either and so a few months later she sent me a photograph of him, one that captured him in all his golden glory. He was as I remembered him so vital and disarming.

A year or more passed and finally I had a chance to stop in Paris for two days. As soon as I knew I called and left a message for Michelle. No message for me when I got to Paris. I called her the first morning. She was glad I reached her but unless I could come right then she was afraid there was no other chance to meet.

"If only you'd given me more warning but now I'm afraid its too late to change anything, they're all business appointments and very important." She and Peik were partners in a business venture she was now running alone.

"Why don't we talk now," I suggested.

And we did, for a long time. She sketched in the last eighteen months of his life; beginning with the first time he became seriously ill. She said it began with a case of what appeared to be the flu but it just didn't seem to want to go away. Running a 40 Celsius fever he flew to Germany and was immediately hospitalized. It was then he was diagnosed Positive.

After a hospital stay and home recuperation he was put on regular medication. In a few weeks he felt well enough to return to Paris and did so. The first indication that she had of anything serious was one night they had a date for dinner. As they pulled up to a parking space, he said that he had to go home, that he was too sick to go into the restaurant. She complied immediately, of course.

He was bedridden for several weeks and finally it got so bad his father flew in to bring him home. Once again he recuperated and was soon back in Paris. And then one day in March she returned home late to find a series of desperate messages from him on the answering band. He was at the prefect of police and needed her to come immediately.

As it turned out he'd been picked up wandering the streets barefooted and disoriented. He later explained that he was having an epileptic seizure and afraid of being alone in the apartment rushed out into the street in the hope of finding help. Now it was apparent he was no longer able to take care of himself, so arrangements were made for him to return to Germany.

His health stabilized and in July he accepted an invitation to visit friends in Majorca. They had no idea about his precarious condition. The flight was shaky and it was apparent when the friends came to pick him up at the airport he wasn't well. They insisted he return to Germany. Instead he flew to Paris, his beloved Paris.

Michelle was not prepared for the man she picked up at Orly that sultry summer day. He was thin, emaciated, and his hair, his full dark silky hair was severely thinning. She knew immediately he had to go home. But it was impossible for him to travel alone for at least a few days. His conditioned worsened, and once more his father was summoned to Paris to bring him home.

Last summer I called his parents and his father included me in a family outing. Over the course of the evening I got to see what caring loving people my friend had left behind, leaving a void in their lives that would probably never be filled.

After dinner I asked the sister closest to him in age and expression, where his grave was, and she said she would take me. The next morning we drove to the cemetery, one she'd said they'd chosen because it was small and intimate.

As she led me to the gravesite she talked about his final days. He was hospitalized and the doctors weren't too reassuring. He'd rally for several days and just when it seemed he might be released, he'd relapse and uncertainty would return. And then one afternoon the family gathered at his bedside for the last time.

At the end of a long path beneath shade trees like the ancient linden under which we first encountered each other, stands a imposing grave marker of polished granite carved simply with his full name and dates.

I finally said goodbye.

Had he surviced Peik would be late 50s today.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Fledging Artist, Gay Activist, Promiscuous Dreamer,
Heroin Addict, O.D. at 24

It is hard to believe that Timothy has been dead nearly four decades. His striking presence remains vivid in memory. Like Rebel Owen, I met Timothy via personal ad he ran in the defunct counter-culture weekly East Village Other. Before the Internet (Hehe!), a way to make connections was placing print classifieds and only certain alternative publications took gay ones--this was pre-Stonewall. He described himself as 19, a college student, artistically inclined, and looking for friends and/or lovers. I had just moved to the East Village starting my Junior year and responded. A few days later he called.

We had our first meeting in my East Second Street walk-up. He was tall, slim, with pleasant facial features, sparkling green eyes, freckles all over and an unruly shock of coarse red hair—classic Irish looks. He was very verbal and very intense. As we got acquainted I discovered he was sixteen, not nineteen and still in high school. Nevertheless we became fast friends, and soon he insisted we become lovers.

I respected his crush on me though I hardly shared the infatuation. He started to visit regularly and began writing poems to me and creating art and sculptures that he gave as gifts. He was a very talented artist in several mediums and I was charmed and impressed. I assumed one day he would fulfill his promise and be hugely successful.

Timothy grew up in Queens, in a large very conservative Irish-Catholic family. His father was extremely strict and Timothy was the only son, the youngest child, growing up with several older sisters. He was always having problems with his father for staying out late, not going to classes, skipping church, and just generally not being a good Catholic boy. They had no use for his artistic aspirations and saw it as a detriment. There was no way he could tell his father about his sexual orientation.

We remained friends though the contact was not as intense as in the first year. Timothy was very sexual and incessantly cruised subway bathrooms and public parks. Though he had an enormous uncircumcised penis he preferred being the passive partner. He was primarily attracted to men of color. After graduation from high school he enrolled in Parsons School of Design.

I clicked with a musician and joined him on an extended trip to San Francisco. When we parted I arranged for him and Timothy to meet; they had a brief affair. Timothy called to tell me first. I was amused. I knew it would never work so it never bothered me. Eventually Timothy met a man, a bus driver on the 14th Street cross-town line, and they became live-in lovers. Ironically, years earlier Timothy had given me a surreal painting dominated by a dark-skinned man with a green bus driving across his open chest. It now seems prophetic: the lover eventually died of a heart condition.

Timothy dropped out of Parsons. The relationship ended. To support himself he took retail sales jobs. He moved to a small studio across from the Kips Bay highrises and was soon receiving overtures from men who could see into his bedroom through the un-curtained windows. The attention amused him and he began purposely walking around in states of undress. Some made offers he couldn’t refuse. I had no idea he had become addicted to heroin.

I left the East Village and moved to the Upper West Side. By then we had fallen out of contact. One day I got a call from Marie, one of his female friends whom he had introduced to me when we first met. She told me that some months earlier Timothy had died of an overdose and long buried. I was sad I had missed the last days of his life, and my first thought was what became of his art.

I called the family home and spoke to one of his sisters. She filled in the details of his passing and when I asked what the family planned to do with his sculptures, paintings and poems, she told me that the father had destroyed it all. He blamed the artistic inclinations as the cause of his son’s destruction. I was shocked and angry but there was little I could do.

I dedicated my first novel A Brother’s Touch (www.amazon.com) to Timothy though I only used his initials out of respect for the family’s feelings. I did send one of his sisters a copy but never heard back from her. When the book was reissued, I changed the dedication to include his full name.

Sometime after learning of the overdose, I was looking through flyers on a bulletin board at the newly opened Gay Center in the West Village when I spotted a protest announcement illustrated with a picture of Timothy, prominent among participants in one of the first gay pride marches. I immediately took it and put it with the art, writings and pictures I kept in a small archive dedicated to his memory.

I always wonder if drugs had not intervened so fatally, if Timothy would have realized the precocious promise he showed so young. It will always be an open consideration. I cherish the pieces of art I retain to this day, including a ceramic rose he made me for Valentine's Day.

Even if he survived the scourge of dope addiction, most likely he would not survive the Plague to come!

Timothy would be approaching his 60th birthday in the coming year.