Tuesday, December 10, 2013



Yes the things that make a movie memorable are all elements that make Dallas Buyers Club one of the best films of 2013. There are some remarkable performances by a ensemble cast lead by Matthew McConaughey- Ron Woodroof, Jared Leto- Rayon, in a breakthrough performance that finds the brazen humanity and sassy refusal to be anyone but vself in the face of derision as a homosexual and a cross dressing trans person, Jennifer Garner- Dr. Eve Saks as the conflicted Aids doctor and Denis O'Hare- Dr. Sevard, as the play-it-by-the-rules AIDS doctor and many secondary players . Storytelling that brings to life in an actors'dream script the complicated , messy tragedy of AIDS in the dark days of thousands dying and quilts made remembering them before they disappeared forever.

It took 20 years for the script written by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack to be brought to the screen. By making the lead character ( Ron Woodroof) based on a real person who is a homophobic sex and drug addict (behavior many PWAs also shared (no,not all)) that made it finally possible to be made. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB it is the most important film about the people who got and get sick with AIDS ( Ok the race and gender representation can be debated) It is a hanky movie with a much needed gallows humor to balance the sadness and anger .See it!
    But there is something more I want you to know about: The new campaign to rewrite AZT history.
I am not surprised to see the attacks on DALLAS BUYERS CLUB from AIDS Inc and the
TAG activist boys who the FDA let in to sit at the table (read Elinor Burkett chilling history of this cooperation THE GRAVEST SHOW IN TOWN) . Its the AZT defense gang telling us how wonderful the cancer drug was that proved to be in fact carcinogenic and was withdrawn from the market. Until AIDS hit and it had a new new life it was suggested by its manufacturer for those incurable people facing a fast moving AIDS death. It was a leading AIDS activist, Martin Delaney the founder of Project Inform, who proposed that all healthy gay men in SF be given AZT with its DNA changing effect and its serious side effects as a prophylaxis (and that same kind of protocol is being proposed today by the Centers for Disease Control with a current equally serious aids drug. The program is called PREP ), The defense of the FDA by Peter Staley, the pin up star of Plague is reverberating in well place stories around the country is shocking as it rewrites history. So lets go back in time to the days that AZT is the only approved drug. The “take it or die” days. When the singer and founder of the National PWA Coalition Michael Callen compared AZT to draino and refused to take it. He with the support of his Doctor Joe Sonnabend gave birth to the first Buyers Club, the NYC PWA HEALTH GROUP.

Both SF and NYC had buyers clubs organized by People with AIDS who wanted to live; who cared about the quality of their lives that for the most part AZT was ruining. Alive but at what cost? I was on the founding Board of Directors of the NYC PWA Health Group's Buyers club. Neither it or nor the San Francisco buyers club was set up as profit making business such as in the movie and I don't recall in NYC non-gay PWA's being involved in setting it up. What the film gets right was the dismissive way AIDS doctors disrespected the right of PWA's to make an informed choice over what they would or would not do or take..And AZT was proving to be a nightmare with many people on it dying horrible deaths. Yes some people thrived, although it was anathema back them to suggest that all bodies were not the same and would not respond in the same way to all treatments. But most, like the Matthew McConaughey

character in Dallas Buyers Club were made sicker by AZT. Yes there were many treatment straws desperate people wanting to live were grabbing at ...and some had promise and gave hope.

I think there is more authenticity to the portrait of PWAs that I knew and loved in Dallas Buyers Club than the dishonest fairy tale construed by David France in that terrible PLAGUE film. The two doctors in the film rang true to me. Denis O'Hare captured the desperate desire to find a cure that put data above the quality of life of any individual PWA. Jennifer Garner 's role honors all those health care provides who knew they were failing by sticking to protocols officially designated as the only treatment allowable treatment. These health care providers saw that the side effects of AZT upclose and saw how the Buyers Club gave individuals not only hope but also choice over their treatment their participation in their treatment. 
It was the Denver Principals issued by PWAs at the 2nd International Aids Conference in Denver role-modeled this change in the relationship of the PWA with the AIDS industry growing up around people dying. Dallas Buyers Club also also breaches one very taboo subject: SEX. PWAs wanted to be sexual beings and were grappling with this reality when no one in AIDS inc want to talk about it. Again it was Michael Callen, his lover, drummer Richard Dworkin, his fellow PWA the sex worker Richard Berkowitz along with Dr Sonnabend who had the courage to talk about how to have sex in their radical essay HOW TO HAVE SEX IN AN EPIDEMIC Dallas Buyers Club captures all of this and from the point of view of people with AIDS desperate to live. Some like Michael Callen as in the case of Ron Woodroof survived years longer than the death sentence they had been given. All of this is in Dallas Buyers Club...and it is an inspiration for any person or their family facing a health crisis who demands to know ALL their treatment options and how to make informed treatment choices..and be supported by their health care provider in their informed choice. It is not just about AIDS... and what is remarkable about this film is it resonates not only death but the humor of looking death in the face and saying ..hold it . I am not ready.

Oh.... I got bounced from the board of the PWA Health Group when I objected to a very serious treatment protocol that could be proven fatal  if not administrated by a professional health care person. I was over ruled and bounced! And that defined for me the difference between being sick and being told you were dying and being healthy and caring.

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