MARCH 21, 1986/MONTROSE VOICE 5
Controversial Documentary to Air Tuesday on Channel 8
Fabian Bridges: 'Let Me Be Somebody'
By Pete Diamond
Montrose Voice Staff Reporter
On Nov. 17, 1985, a 30-year-old man who
died of AIDS was given a pauper's burial
in the Harris County cemetary. His family
was unable to pay for a funeral service or
attend the burial. Despite the controversy
he created during his last months of life
and the AIDS hysteria that followed, he
died quietly and in relative obscurity.
Fabian Bridges, an alleged male prosi-
tute, became the center of "a media circus"
last summer when said he would continue
to have sex even though he had been diagnosed as having AIDS, When producers of
the PBS documentary series Frontline
heard of this, they scratched their original
plans to do an AIDS program on four
"He was just to be part of our report
until, during an interview in Cleveland,
Bridges said he was still being promiscuous with other men," David Fanning,
Frontline executive producer, said at a
PBS briefing reported by the Houston
Chronicle earlier this year.
It was at this time that WCCO-TV, the
Minneapolis public television station that
had been filming Bridges, notified Cleveland health officials of Bridges' statement. From this point on, WCCO reporters
and cameramen closely followed Bridges
and became part of the story themselves.
They backtracked Bridges to Houston
when he left a $29,000 a year job and then
to Indianapolis and Cleveland, Ohio,
where he was turned away by his mother
and sisters. Although able to allude reporters and return to Houston, Bridges later
contacted the TV crew to ask for their
financial assistance. The crew immediately returned to Houston and once
again began their filming of Bridges.
The film collected by the reporters has,
since Bridges' death, been made into a
controversial hour-long documentary,
which is scheduled to be shown on Tuesday, March 25, from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. on
Channel 8. A live panel discussion focusing on different aspects of the documentary will follow, with speakers from
Houston, Denver and San Francisco participating.
Some ofthe controversy stemming from
the documentary involve journalistic
ethics: WCCO reporters admit offering
Bridges money to pay for such items as
food and lodging. Gay activists in Houston, as well as Minneapolis, have charged
WCCO of using Bridges and manipulat
ing the story of his plight.
In October 1985, a WCCO producer was
quoted as saying, "The man is indigent.
We made a choice <to pay) on humanitarian grounds. We figured if we didn't do
that, he'd find somebody to stay with and
maybe have sex with them."
Other people, such as John Barnich, an
attorney for the KS/AIDS Foundation of
Houston, who also took Bridges into his
home, offered a different interpretation.
"We're not dealing with a documentary
but a paid performance. They made
Fabian a media consultant," Barnich
He explained that when Bridges was
admitted to Houston's Jefferson Davis
Hospital, where he eventually died, he
stood 6' 2", weighed 126 pounds and was
suffering from a severe case of rectal and
genital herpes. Considering Bridges deteriorating physical condition, Barnich
says "I feel he could not have given it
away let alone sold it" (in reference to
Bridges' alleged prostitution).
Furthermore, Barnich adds that a person suffering from AIDS generally has a
greatly diminished sexual drive. "What
more appropriate form of denial (that he
has AIDS) than to say he is still having
sex and getting paid for it," Barnich asks.
During the documentary, Bridges says
that when he was diagnosed as having
AIDS in July, his "world just started
crumbling." "It's hard for me to sit here
and realize I have it," Bridges says during
an interview with WCCO reporters. He
goes on to say "I guess I'm just at the point
where I don't give a damn."Later, Bridges
tells the WCCO crew he has had sex with a
man in Cleveland, but did not let the man
know he had AIDS.
Ray Hill, a Houston gay activist, said
the sexual encounter Bridges describes in
the documentary came across as a "sex
story." "It appeared to me as a Homosexuals Anonymous story of'tell a spicier story
and get a greater reward.'"
Frontline producers do not see it this
way, however. They maintain the documentary serves several purposes, including raising various questions about the
repsonsibility of health departments and
people with AIDS, informing the public
what the risks are concerning AIDS and
what safe sexual practices are.
Hill and Barnich do not dispute that the
documentary raises the issue of repsonsibility. They agree that a lack of responsibility existed throughout Bridges' ordeal
until he returned to Houston and was
given a place to stay by Barnich. The two
men also agreed the documentary does not
accomplish the latter purposes as
expressed by Frontline producers.
"Fabian comes across as a poor, not too
bright, stalking menace who is trying to
spread his disease," says Hill. "Overall,
the documentary reinforces every fear and
myth that the most radical population of
people hold against gay people and
In the documentary, a reference is made
to the fact that the KS/AIDS Foundation
refused offering Bridges meals or shelter.
Barnich says, however, one ofthe reasons
the foundation was unable to offer Bridges
shelter at the McAdory House was
because of media attention that would
likely be focused on the house. When Barnich decided to let Bridges stay with him,
the media instead turned their attention to
At this point, the Minneapolis TV crew
returned home. "Bridges was in the care of
the gay community and they wanted it
called off." producer Fanning said. "The
crew was not with him when he died...This
crew was very bruised and battered by
what was going on. They didn't know
what to do any more than anyone else
Barnich disputes this as propaganda,
saying the TV crew was more concerned
about their documentary than Bridges
welfare. "Off the street Fabian wasn't
news. They didn't want him off the street,"
he says. "They (WCCO) created havoc in
Houston and dumped it in the lap ofthe
foundation. They left with a documentary
that will probably win awards and left us
to deal with Fabian. ... with the AIDS
hysteria, ... Louie Welch, ... the quarantine issue, ... and the health card issue."
Hill adds that "when you watch the documentary, try to place yourself in Fabian's shoes and try to view it from that
perspective." By doing so, it might be easier to understand what Fabian Bridges (a
man who in his final days of life found
what Barnich calls "unconditional love
from two old senile cats") was feeling and
what he needed.
As Fabian said during an interview in
Cleveland with WCCO, "Let me go down
in history as being I am somebody, somebody that'll be respected, somebody who's
appreciated and somebody who can be
related to. There's a whole lot of people
who just go, they're not even on the map,
they just go."
Group Deals with "Life Issues"
Women's Network Begins 2 New Programs
By Connie Woods
Montrose Voice Staff Reporter
The Women's Network, a social/ educational/ support alternative located at 900
I/Ovett, has announced two new programs
for lesbians in the Houston community.
The Life Issues Group, which meets on
Wednesday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to
7:00 p.m., offers women a place to talk
about problems in a group setting.
"The Life Issues group is designed for
lesbians where they can talk with each
other about 'coming out,' family or any
problems they are having to deal with,"
said Karen Hanson, the director of
"It's one ofthe few places that lesbians
can talk about what's going on with their
lives ... where you don' have to explain
about being gay," she added.
She went on to say that group therapy
can be very helpful because members can
get feedback from their peers. "It is confidential so no one has to worry about what
they say," she explained.
The second new program which will be
offered is Lesbian Couples. The meetings
will be held on Monday evening from 6:00
p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Montrose Counseling Center.
"There are no other groups for lesbian
couples where they can talk and deal with
their relationship," said Hanson. The
group will be led by professional therapists. She did point out that both members
of the relationship must attend the meet-
She explained that the group will focus
on communication skills to learn more
about one's self and to express what one
wants in the relationship.
"The point is for women to talk about
their lives and their relationships," Hanson said. "It's an opportunity for women
to talk about what they want in their
relationships—the closeness, distance,
intimacy, sexuality, what they like and
don't like. It's very difficult for people to be
honest about what they want and what
they don't want," she added.
Hanson pointed out that it is difficult for
women in particular to be honest. "They
put other people's needs first. It's just
accepted that way," she said. She focused
im the fact that the only role models for
lesbian couples is the male/ female relationship. "They are not clear about they
want. They don't feel the right to get what
they want if it is in conflict with the other
person," she continued.
She also pointed out that lesbian couples do not get the support that straight
couples get. "The only support the relationship can get is from the lesbian community," Hanson said.
Diana Storms, a staff therapist with a
Master of Social Work degree, and Carmen Zepeda, a staff therapist and clinical
social worker, will be conducting the two
Hanson also talked about the Women's
Network meeting held March 12 at which
time the women discussed death following
the murder of Marion Pantzer, owner of
"Just" Marion and Lynn's.
"We need to talk about loss and to talk
about our feelings and to trust each other
enough to talk it," she said. "What Marion
stood for is the same thing the Women's
Network stands for. She represented what
the network believes and is."
Hanson emphasized the importance of
these two new programs for the lesbian
community. "The main point is that this
has not been offered before," she added.
The cost ofthe programs is based on a
sliding scale. Interested people can call
the counseling center at 529-0037 for the
MERIDIEN LEASING INC.
'86 MERCEDES BENZ
CALL LEE BORBA
NO DOWN PAYMENT • LOWER MONTHLY PAYMENT • CASH FOR YOUR TRADE