QUOTE: The Dawn Of The AIDS Crisis Was “Normal Life And The Most Insane Thing You Could Imagine”

You would go to the symphony or the Castro Theater or the opera and all during the performances you would hear around the room ‘beep beep, beep beep.’ People would have pill timers, because people were taking 20-30 pills a day that had to be taken at regular intervals… It just became so much a part of the audio track of regular life: 30, 40, 50 people in a room with their pill timers going off. I had completely forgotten that but you would just hear it all the time.

It was a terrible thing and yet, you know, we hung out, we had sex, we danced. Life went on. It was an incredible juxtaposition of normal life and the most insane thing you could imagine, just completely coexisting. That’s the thing that I find most perplexing looking back, is how normal it was in so many ways.”

We Were Here director David Weissman discussing the realities of life during the early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.


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  • Jim Hlavac

    It was indeed a normal and insane time. From 1981 when it first struck NYC, where I was living, until the “beep beeps” started in 1985, for there were no drugs in the first few years, it was eerie. People you knew as robust young men one week would come in to the bar the next week and look absolutely emaciated. The next week they would be dead. Week after week, guys were dying, sometimes one or two a day. We healthy ones spent so much time tending to the sick, for they had few family members who would help. We brought food, cleaned their apartments, and just sat with them and watched them whither away. And we visited them in the hospitals, mostly St. Vincent’s in Greenwich Village — whose Catholic workers and clergy were the nicest most welcoming nonjudgmental people I ever encountered; never a negative word did I hear — and I spent much time in St. Vincent’s trying to bring some mirth to men who were dying – which is hard to do. And we all discussed who would be next. We looked long and hard at each other and wondered — will you be next? And there was no information, no knowledge, no nothing, except somehow we knew we would survive.

    Yes, it was a normal time, for me, for I kept my job, went to college, had my life, engaged with my family, and then, well, then there was all this death, which was the insane part. I went to over a 100 funerals in three years. Which is but another reason I’ve never been proud I’m gay, but proud I survived the onslaught of it all. But we did something, whatever we could, and it felt good. But it was a weird time indeed.

  • Riker

    @Jim Hlavac: Its a shame St. Vincent’s had to close. On the upside, a nice new modern hospital is going up in the area.

  • Ricky Rocky

    I imagine what we went thru was parallel to the great influenza outbreak in the early part of the 20th century. Except that people hated your guts and tried to kill you for simply having an illness.


  • edfu

    @Riker: There is NO hospital going up in the area. Where are you getting such nonsense? Would that it were true. Why do you think there is such a neighborhood uproar?

  • Mike in Asheville

    Still have my pill time beeping watch. Fortunately, I don’t need it now, it rests with my collectibles. While the pill taking regimen has simplified much, alas the costs remain an insurmountable obstacle for more than not.

  • ewe

    I refuse to get all melancholy about what could’ve been. It only depresses me.

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