Tuesday, 27 November 2012

465: AIDS 1 - Earliest Days

By the late 70s/early 80s, an accepted element of a healthy life on the gay scene was the regular trip to the VD clinic and then a few pills or shots to clear up the STD of the moment. A cartoon that appeared in the gay magazine “Christopher Street” in the summer of 1981 (and which I’m sure was reprinted in “Gay News”) showed two men at a bar with one saying to the other: “What do you say you and me pool our viruses”. If printed in a straight magazine, it would almost certainly be condemned for homophobically suggesting the diseased quality of gay life, but when printed in gay magazines it’s a twist on contemporary mores. Either way, it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.


“National Lampoon” 1982

(The headline alludes of this piece alludes to a famous "NY Daily News" headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead". This is a surprisingly early piece alert to one small blip in a small subset of the American population. On the one hand this can be read as satirising the casual bigotry and religious condemnation in the dismissal of the rising deaths in the gay community. On the other hand, it’s just as likely to provoke laughs in its unconcerned readers, for whom satire is breaking taboos, saying the unsayable, and joyously anaesthetising the heart so as to appreciate finer graduations of cruelty and vitriol. In retrospect, this piece is unfair to Dianne Fehrstein whose AIDS budget for the City of San Francisco was bigger than President Reagan's AIDS budget was for the entire nation for several years in the 80s)


A little over a year later and AIDS is a word to conjure with in this glib concoction.

“Punch”, 18 May 1983


Auberon Waugh’s Diary
Private Eye 26 August 1983

In fact, there are only 14 confirmed cases of AIDS in Britain, as I keep telling everybody. The disease is no less fatal than rabies, and the health authorities have managed to control rabies by a strict policy of quarantine. Would the Gay Community take it very badly if I suggested that American homosexuals visiting Britain should be required to spend six months in kennels before being allowed out to take their pleasure with the natives. My purpose is not to annoy English gays, many of whom are terrifically amusing, talented, artistic, etc, but to protect them. Scientists are working on an idea that a prophylactic against AIDS might be to eat huge numbers of cucumbers every day, but it would be foolish to rely on this.

Illustration by Brian Bagnall

(What is intended here in a sententiously high-toned and blithely semi-nonsensical opinion-proffering manner would later go on to be offered as serious advice by numerous media and political pundits. Where the cucumbers come into this I don’t know, other than the tendency for people to use them as demonstration models for the application of prophylactics.)


Eddie Murphy, Delirious (recorded August 17, 1983)

http://ukjarry.blogspot.com/2007/12/27-faggots-eddie-murphy.html (I’d already covered this piece of stand-up before, but mostly just looking at Murphy’s manner, rather than his extended piece on AIDS)

Ladies be hangin' out with gay people. Ladies be saying, "Gay men are the best friends to have. 'Cause they don't want anything from you and you don't want anything from them and he can just hang out and you can be with him and it's fun and you can talk to them" and all that bullshit and they be hangin' out with them.

You know what's real scary about that? That new AIDS shit. AIDS is scary 'cause it kills motherfuckers, AIDS. That ain't like the good old days when venereal disease was simple. In the good old days you'd get gonorrhea and your dick hurt, Go get a shot, clear it right up. Then they came out with herpes. You keep that shit forever like luggage. Now they got AIDS. That just kills motherfuckers. I say what's next? I guess you just put your dick in and it explode (mimes sex and an explosion) and the girl will be on the bed and go "Maybe I should see a doctor about this."

Kills people! And it petrifies me because girls be hangin' out with them. And one night they could be in the club havin' fun with their gay friend and give them a little kiss (lip-smacking sound) and go home with their AIDS on their lips. Get home with their husband and like five years later it's "Mr. Johnson, you have AIDS." He goes, "AIDS? But I'm not a homosexual." "Sure, you're not a homosexual."

(In an October 1990 interview with Spike Lee, Murphy apologised for making these jokes about AIDS. He explained that he had been only 21 at the time, and that AIDS was then a new disease that nobody knew enough about at the time., and that he wouldn’t joke about it now because it’s a much more sensitive issue.)

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