"Four Weddings and an Elvis", "Surfing Secret Agents.", 1961, 1982, AIDS, Bryce Cannon, CDC, Character Analysis, Gaëtan, GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), HIV, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, San Francisco, Vanessa Wells, VD/STD
Upon arrival for my first rehearsal of “Four Weddings and an Elvis,” my director asked about the backstory of my character, Bryce Cannon! I’d had the script for 70 hours and I’d spent what little time I’d had thus far with said script concentrating on learning my lines, not character analysis. Ever a goer, I went, and described one aspect of Bryce! (I always say “my” name with an exclamation mark) to which the script alluded- a 1982 scandalous event for the closeted gay me.
As Bryce and Keith are of a vintage, I had already decided that we are the same age, and one very common element among gay men (and women) my age and older is that most tried not to be gay. Society dictated heterosexuality through prison terms, violence, and blatant, applauded discrimination against gays. If you ask gay people born on or before 1961 if they tried to be heterosexual before accepting their true sexual orientation you will get more yeses than nos, a terribly sad, mindbogglingly evil reality.
The script’s 1982 year and San Francisco location put me in mind of bath houses and orgies, something we all thought was safe at the time as any VD (we still used the term VD in ’82, STD did not become common until the late 80’s) one might pick up through sexual contact could be cured with a shot of penicillin. (FALSE! That was the thought, not the reality.) Bryce, at 21 years of age, cast off his chains of self and societal repression and his denial of his personal reality and accepted his true sexual nature.
Badabing, badabang, badaboom!
Except the author, Nancy Frick chose 1982. And San Francisco. Whoa, Nelly!
Though AIDS had been in the US since the 1950’s, (who knew?) 1981 was half way done before the uptick in the very rare and deadly pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and Kaposi’s Sarcoma among gay men in San Francisco and NYC came to the attention of the Centers For Disease Control (CDC.) In June 1981 the medical world starts to get an inkling of what will come to be known as the AIDS and HIV crisis; even so, 99.9% of Americans remained completely unaware of the change in possible consequences stemming from the exchange of bodily fluids during unprotected sexual union of any sort and between same or opposite sex participants.
“My” sexual revolution moment came on 05/11/82, the day the term GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) was loosened on society by well-meaning agents of public health. (Terrible name. AIDS and HIV do not discriminate based on sexual orientation, they are merely transmitted sexually.)
Bryce, like Keith, found sexual awakening F-ing Fascinating and Fantastic but Bryce dove in head first and to the hilt. He also suffered from the need to keep his sexual proclivities under cover lest he suffer possible imprisonment and loss of his spectacular job as one of two leads in the hit TV show, “Surfing Secret Agents.”
It was Gaëtan who gave “me” the confidence to embrace who I am and “my” letter to Gaëtan is in response to a drunken confession I made to my co-star Vanessa Wells concerning my new found sexual freedom. Sadly, Gaëtan would be dead less than two-and-a-half years later and he would remain wrongly vilified as Agent Zero for decades to come.