Peter Staley reminds us that 30 years ago, today, NBC aired "An Early Frost," the first major movie -- made for TV or feature -- tackling AIDS. It was a ratings shocker, with 34 million Americans tuning in, beating a competing San Francisco 49ers-Denver Broncos game on ABC. (Most advertisers pulled out, however, not wanting to be associated with the disease's homophobia-driven stigma.)
Peter then adds:
As Aidan Quinn portrayed the first signs of PCP pneumonia with painful coughs, my new boyfriend visiting from Amsterdam, Peter Launy, remarked on my similar coughs from a persistent cold, and said "you sound like him." We both laughed, uncomfortably. "I'll see my doctor tomorrow," I replied. And that's how I found out. One blood test led to another, and I joined the swelling ranks of desperate, tainted men.
It's notable that Quinn, while not a huge movie star, was a rising name and heartthrob, having starred in "Reckless" (1984) and "Desperately Seeking Susan" earlier that year, yet smartly chose to be in the film, which his agent told him had been turned down by many actors. (Jeff Daniels, who had played Richard Thomas' lover in Lanford Wilson’s "Fifth of July," was reportedly one of them.) Quinn told Jay Blotcher in The Advocate that he had no qualms about playing a man with AIDS for several reasons:
“You go with the best stories out there and the best journey you want to take,” he says. Coming from the theater, Quinn added, he knew people affected very early in the epidemic. Finally, he was eager to play opposite acting heavyweights Gena Rowlands (LOVE her) and Ben Gazzara as his parents. There was no dissent from management or friends, he says: “Because I wouldn’t surround myself with people that would say something like that to me. And even if they thought it, they wouldn’t say it.”I'm happy to state the obvious that Peter, thanks to medical advances, is alive and well today.