TODAY IN HISTORY:
Closeted Anti-Gay Activist Dies of AIDS: 1986. Terry Dolan, who helped to found the National Conservative Political Action Committee, was pretty well known in elite gay circles. According to Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On, when playwright Larry Kramer recognized him at a Washington, D.C. cocktail party, he walked up to Dolan and threw a drink is his face. “How dare you come here?” he shouted. “You take the best from our world and then do all those hateful things against us. You should be ashamed.”
Among those awful things was sending out fundraising letters for NCPAC, which claimed that “Our nation’s moral fiber is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement and the fanatical E.R.A. pushers (many of whom publicly brag they are lesbians).” Meanwhile, Dolan had, at the time of that 1984 encounter with Kramer, had just ended an affair with a male epidemiologist at the New York City Health Department, and was then enjoying everything the gay social scene had to offer.
Dolan knew how to raise money. “The “shriller you are,” he said in 1982, “the easier it is to raise money.” That’s been the recipe for anti-gay activists ever since. But four years later, Dolan himself was dead of AIDS at the age of 36. The following May, The Washington Post published an article about “the cautious closet” of Terry Dolan. His brother, Reagan White House speechwriter Anthony Dolan was livid, and took out an two-page ad in The Washington Times, arguing that “the greatest and most malicious falsehood in this story was its entire thrust, its basis: the claim that my brother lived and died a homosexual.” But he did live and die a homosexual, and a deeply closeted one at that. But despite his and the family’s best efforts, the secret was out, and no amount of wishful thinking otherwise would ever change that.
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