Sunday, September 7, 2014

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight was a singer, songwriter, composer, author, and AIDS activist. He was a significant architect of the response to the AIDS crisis in the United States. Today's Out Spotlight is Michael Callen.

Michael Callen was born April 11, 1955 in Rising Sun, Indiana.

First diagnosed with "Gay related immune deficiency" (GRID) in 1982, Callen quickly became a leader in the response to the epidemic. He was a founding member of the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement among other organizations, and he testified before the President's Commission on AIDS and both houses of the United States Congress.

In 1983, he co-authored the book How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach, which outlined the tenets of safe sex, developed in collaboration with Richard Berkowitz and Dr. Joseph Sonnabend. In 1990, he wrote Surviving AIDS, which received an Honorable Mention from the American Medical Writers Association.

He was frequently seen on television talking about AIDS with appearances included Nightline, Good Morning America, 20/20, and The Phil Donahue Show. He alsp wrote for several newspapers and magazines, including the Village Voice, The New York Native, and Outweek. Some of his articles were included in the collection "Surviving and Thriving with AIDS" published by the People with AIDS Coalition in 1988. He also appeared in German filmmaker Rosa Von Praunheim's 1990 film Positiv - Die Antwort schwuler Männer in New York auf AIDS.

Callen openly questioned the HIV theory of AIDS and was especially critical of AZT monotherapy when it was first introduced: "The HIV paradigm has produced nothing of value for my life and I actually believe that treatments based on the arrogant belief that HIV has proven to be the sole and sufficient cause of AIDS has hastened the deaths of many of my friends."

In the early 1980s, Callen was in a gay and lesbian four-piece band called "Lowlife", playing piano and keyboards, singing, yodeling, and twirling a baton.

He was a founding member of the gay male a cappella singing group The Flirtations, with whom he recorded two albums. He also had a solo album, Purple Heart, which a review in The Advocate called "the most remarkable gay independent release of the past decade." During the last year of his life, he recorded over 40 songs; Legacy, a 2-CD album of 29 of them, was posthumously released by Significant Other Records in 1996.

In partnership with Oscar winner Peter Allen and Marsha Melamet, he wrote his most famous song, "Love Don't Need a Reason", which he sang frequently at gay pride and AIDS-related events around the country.

In 1993, he appeared in the films Philadelphia (as part of The Flirtations) and Zero Patience (appearing in drag as "Miss HIV", a singing virus)

Callen died of AIDS-related complications, December 27, 1993, in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 38.


Congratulations said...

More than seven decades after beginning their relationship, Vivian Boyack and Alice "Nonie" Dubes have gotten married.

Boyack, 91, and Dubes, 90, sat next to each other during Saturday's ceremony, the Quad City Times reports (

"This is a celebration of something that should have happened a very long time ago," the Rev. Linda Hunsaker told the small group of close friends and family who attended.

The women met in their hometown of Yale, Iowa, while growing up. Then they moved to Davenport in 1947 where Boyack taught school and Dubes did payroll work.

Dubes said the two have enjoyed their life together and over the years they have traveled to all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada, and to England twice.

"We've had a good time," Dubes said.

Boyack said it takes a lot of love and work to keep a relationship going for 72 years.

Longtime friend Jerry Yeast, 73, said he got to know the couple when he worked in their yard as a teenager.

Special K said...

Congratulations to Neil Patrick Harris and David Burka who tied the knot this past weekend in Italy.

the real m said...

Lots of weddings to celebrate. I'm not sure if I remembered to tell everyone, but I did recently exchange emails with my old super handsome and sexy protege from my former job. The one i found so hot for weeks. It took a while for the brain to get used to the mantra "he's gay and 20 years younger than you". He and his partner also recently tied the knot. They had been engaged since the law was changed in their state but took some time to plan the event. I am very happy for him.

So sad that the spotlight starts off in the past tense.