Thursday, December 29, 2016

RIP: Debbie Reynolds, Early Hollywood AIDS Activist

Like many, I am still reeling from the deaths of Hollywood stars Carrie Fisher - she will always be my Princess Leia - and her mother Debbie Reynolds the following day. I was a dedicated fan of both of these Hollywood stars and will confess that I have seen EVERY Star Wars Movie (some multiple times - Luke Hamill was a secret major crush object) and many of Reynolds' biggest hits.  What many of the reports on Reynolds' passing have failed to reflect is that she was an early AIDS activist and was among the first Hollywood stars to support the cause of the LGBT community as the AIDS crisis progressed.  Blogger friend Karen Ocamb thankfully has a piece that corrects this omission. Here are article highlights:
The LGBT community—reeling from the deaths of icons George Michael and Carrie Fisher and AIDS Project Los Angeles co-founder Matt Redman—was stunned again Wednesday by the news that Fisher’s funny and vivacious mother, Debbie Reynolds, died the day after her daughter. Reynolds’ son Todd told the Associated Press that she died of a broken heart saying “I want to be with Carrie” moments before she died.
Reynolds’ long and tumultuous career includes the gossip scandal of 1958 when pop singer Eddie Fisher, the husband of the “girl next door,” left her for sexy actress Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds and Taylor later reconciled their ‘50s friendship, even having dinner with her second husband and Taylor and Taylor’s next husband, Richard Burton.
Another interesting note in the less-than-six-degrees-of-separation relationship between Reynolds and Taylor is that Reynolds was an AIDS activist before Taylor. In fact, along with comedienne Joan Rivers, singer/actress Rita Moreno, and actor Robert Guillaume, Reynolds was among the first of the Hollywood celebrities to publicly appear in AIDS fundraisers at a time when HIV/AIDS was still a mysterious killer and gay men with AIDS were labeled lepers.
In 1983, Reynolds performed at an AIDS fundraiser with friend and Hollywood rival Shirley MacLaine. . . . . In his book “And The Band Played On” about the beginning of the AIDS crisis, Randy Shilts wrote about that June 23, 1983 AIDS fundraiser in San Francisco: “The fund-raiser for the National KS/AIDS foundation had all the raciness of a true San Francisco event. When host Debbie Reynolds introduced the surprise guest, actress Shirley MacLaine, with the comment that MacLaine had great legs, MacLaine responded by pulling down the top of her long strapless gown, demonstrating that she had other equipment to match. The crowd cheered enthusiastically: “We love you, Shirley!” Not to be outdone, Reynolds lifted the rear of her slitted gown to reveal her brief black underwear.
On August 28,1983, Reynolds appeared with comic Rip Taylor at the first AIDS benefit in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl.
Though Elizabeth Taylor eclipsed Reynolds in the AIDS activist/fundraising world after the AIDS death of Taylor’s dear friend Rock Hudson, Reynolds was known to always be available, without perks, to lend her name and talent to fighting the AIDS epidemic. And her fondness for the gays never disappeared either, landing the role as Kevin Kline’s mother in the satirical 1997 film “In & Out,” and playing her Emmy-nominated role as Deborah Messing’s eccentric mother in NBC’s “Will & Grace.” Her last role was Liberace’s mother in the 2013 HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra.”
Some "godly folk" and scamvangelists have attacked the memory of both Fisher and Reynolds for their "pursuit of fame and worldliness" but when it came to actually following the Gospel message they and Elizabeth Taylor walked the walk while their critics demonstrated only hate and hypocrisy.  RIP to all of them

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