Email from JUNE KEITH, Heyman’s friend and assistant during his terms as mayor.
From: J/M Keith
Sent: Thu, Feb 18, 2010 1:40 pm
Subject: About the film
Hi John: Jeez, it was emotionally and intellectually stunning to watch the film last night, and to see all those old faces and old places and remember all those ideas and ideals and struggles at the mayor’s office. After much thought, I believe that if Richard were here, to see your film, he would tell you that he wouldn’t have done anything differently. It was a strange and awful time you document in the film, and we really didn’t understand in those days to what extent this disease was going to affect us all. During Richard’s two-year break from politics, I worked at the dePoo Hospital in public relations. I ran blood drives for the American Red Cross. There was a paragraph in the brochure about giving blood that promised that AIDS was definitely not spread by blood. Whew!! I wrote it and stated this claim many times. I’m telling you this just to show you how in the dark people, as well as huge organizations like the American Red Cross, were, and how anxious they were to not terrorize people with the far-fetched idea that AIDS could be spread like the common cold. No one really knew.
When he was well enough to work again, Richard was re-elected to the mayor’s office, serving from ’86 – 88. By that time he was heavily involved with AIDS Help, Inc., the organization founded here in Key West, contributing massive amounts of money. His health was robust and the question of whether or not he might have AIDS was put to rest within our immediate circle of friends and family. It was also at this time that he decided to leave politics (at the end of his term) and devote himself instead to AIDS education and research. He was very excited about this new place he was going. And while John was at home taking meticulous care of himself and monitoring his health, treating himself with many concoctions, vegan diet, no booze, lots of pills, etc., Richard was living happily, staging lots of family get-togethers at his house on Eagle Ave., cooking, eating, socializing, and enjoying himself. He claimed to be a “fatalist” and told me, on his 50th birthday, that he never expected to live that long. This happy period came to and end, of course, when he became ill in 1990. It was then that he had an AIDS test, and on the date of February 6, 1990, learned that he had AIDS. The date is clear in my memory as it is the date of the birth of Michael’s and my first grandson.
Michael said about your film that it promotes Richard’s legacy and shows people what a gentle and yet gregarious man he was. He loved people, he loved being mayor, and he really did have an image of Key West in the future as a place where people preferred it to any other. And that’s the way many of us DO feel, so his vision was not so off the mark. On his death bed he was asked by city fathers, via me, if there was a place or a street or a building he would like to have named in his honor. He said that among all of his accomplishments as mayor he was most proud of stopping raw sewage from being pumped into the ocean. He asked that his name go on the sewage treatment plant. Not very glamorous, but the triumph of his political career he was most proud of.
One more thing I recall is that Richard said to me that he had to be particularly outstanding in his dress and his actions, because he was a gay man. He felt that his responsibility was to be a man self-actualized and at his very best — who happened to be gay. Also, as Michael also pointed out, did Obama thank the blacks of America in his inauguration speech? If the gay populations of Key West was 15% in 1983, how could they have so greatly influenced his election to office? He won by a landslide! Certainly not totally thanks to Key West’s gays. They didn’t have that kind of power in voting.
When I think of AIDS, I think of how different this lovely place would be today had AIDS not appeared. I think of the brilliant people — artists, creators, writers, visionaries, who died so very young and un-realized. We would have been a cultural and arts Mecca, thanks to Richard and people with like vision. It’s a very sad truth, and it is good to be reminded of how powerfully and terribly we have been hurt by this strange event of AIDS. And how tragic it is that Richard, who had huge powers of charm, intelligence and insight, died before he had grown into full bloom as an influence in America.
Email from PETER ILCHUK, Richard Heyman’s campaign manager & political advisor- 1979- 1989
Sent: 8/3/2009 3:22:54 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: Heyman and Key West
From Bob Kerstein’s untitled new book on Key West
After being elected, Heyman did not propose gay rights legislation. He later remarked that there “was no need for gay issues in Key West,” and suggested that legislation along these lines would be “superfluous.”