Diseased Pariahs And Their News
6/20/2012 4:30:00 PM
By Alex Garner
Where do you turn if you’re looking for smart tips to keep weight on while fighting HIV? Where can you get the latest dish on a plastic toy doll and her AIDS adventures? Where do you find sexy centerfolds with no clothes and single digit T-cells? Disease Pariah News in the answer. And at a time when pain and heartache was all around, DPN’s dark humor, and clever style was just what the doctor ordered.
If you’ve never heard of DPN, don’t despair. It’s now been archived online and it’s available here for your enjoyment.
Diseased Pariah News was a humorous magazine about HIV/AIDS published in San Francisco from 1990-1999, in 11 issues, each with a print run of up to 5,000. Publisher Beowolf Thorne (b. Jack Henry Foster) and editor Tom Shearer initially produced it as a zine and surreptitiously photocopied the first issue in the basement of the Standford Medical Center, where Thorne had previously been an undergraduate
This radical magazine exemplified gallows humor. The writers were able to look beyond what was, in many ways, a miserable situation and find the laughs. They were HIV-positive people who were the opposite of stigmatized. They owned their predicament and maximized its humorous potential.
They gave us stories such as, “The Dead Boyfriends Society,” which lamented the shortage of boyfriend material due to the epidemic. They also provided recipes for many tasty treat with the, “Get Fat, Don’t Die” diet. And who can forget that unsinkable AIDS Barbie, complete with KS lesions and shingles? The tagline was, “Nice girls don’t use condoms. Nice girls can’t say no. Now for all those nice girls, there’s AIDS Barbie.”
The writers at DPN greatly contributed to poz culture and left behind a legacy of smart, clever and irreverent work, which helped many people get through the darkest time in their lives.
I was 24 and newly positive when I first saw a copy of DPN and I immediate realized that these were people like me. It was always very important to me to find the funny in AIDS. When I wrote The Infection Monologues, my primary concern was that it be a play about HIV that was full of humor. When I looked for contributors to the script, their ability to find the humor in HIV was paramount.
I stuck gold with the very talented and lovely Brody Brown. He perfectly captured the way many HIV-positive people search for various, creative ways to make HIV funny. He wrote
This marked the debut of my new, “I’m going to laugh it off chapter.” Where every zit that popped up I’d announce, “Uh oh, guys. Could be a leeesion!” or I’d pull a, “Hey, could you pay for the cab…I’ve got HIV.” Or “Yes, I’ll have a diet coke, the meatloaf and then that last AIDSy looking piece of apple pie in the display case.”
People like to go on and on about how witty the gays are. To some extend that is true. Wit, sarcasm and dark humor are our stock and trade. But our humor isn’t some defense mechanism that helps us survive. We survive for the humor. AIDS without humor would just be so depressing.
So where is the AIDS humor now? Is it time for more Diseased Pariah News?
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