ACT-UP | AIDS/HIV | Donna Summer | News

Donna Summer's Never-Before-Published 1989 Letter to 'ACT UP' Asking for Forgiveness

Summer

POZ's Peter Staley looks back at Donna Summer's attempt to mend her divide with the gay community six years after the Village Voice published anti-gay remarks she had reportedly made, calling AIDS "a punishment from God".

Staley writes: Summer2

"As some in the community continued to embrace her, others grew angrier at her hedged denials (words like "misunderstanding" were used), and the issue continued to percolate...By 1989, various ACT UP chapters started protesting at Donna Summer appearances...To everyone's surprise, Donna Summer wrote a letter to ACT UP New York attempting to mend the divide. A few quotes from the letter were reported at the time, and appeared often in recent online obituaries, but the letter itself has never been seen publicly...I don't think ACT UP kept up their demonstrations after she sent it, but that probably had more to do with our priorities at the time, rather than this strange letter. Note to PR agents: when you apologize to the gays, it's probably not best to quote at length from the bible (even though it's a lovely quote)."

Read the second part of the letter and a text transcript HERE.

And in related news, this is a still of Staley (along with the trailer) from How to Survive a Plague, being handled with gloves by police officers afraid of being infected with the HIV virus at an ACT UP demonstration.

Feed This post's comment feed

Comments

  1. remind me again why some people choose to take issue with people like Lady Gaga who are utterly vocal and visible champions of the LGBT communities again?

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Jun 13, 2012 2:08:15 PM


  2. In other words, I'm sorry if what I said and believe has hurt my career at a time when it's already starting to slide.

    Look, 50% of the letter is a quote, in order to avoid her having to say anything more. She's not taking back what she said, or saying what she really feels to clarify it.

    Granted, she was never known as an intellectual.

    Posted by: Randal Oulton | Jun 13, 2012 2:20:59 PM


  3. In other words, I'm sorry if what I said and believe has hurt my career at a time when it's already starting to slide.

    Look, 50% of the letter is a quote, in order to avoid her having to say anything more. She's not taking back what she said, or saying what she really feels to clarify it.

    Granted, she was never known as an intellectual.

    Posted by: Randal Oulton | Jun 13, 2012 2:20:59 PM


  4. I particularly don't get how someone (Ms. Summer) could release a song with a couple dozen orgasm sounds ("Love to Love You Baby") and another all about hookers ("Bad Girls"), and then (allegedly?) say anything even a little bit negative about people who are homosexual -- citing religious beliefs. Makes no sense. People she just didn't think too deeply.

    Posted by: goodville | Jun 13, 2012 2:41:47 PM


  5. correction: PERHAPS she didn't think too deeply

    Posted by: goodville | Jun 13, 2012 2:42:25 PM


  6. For those of you saying she did not think too deeply, I might have thought the same thing, until I heard an interview with her on NPR a few years back. I was expecting a street-smart, gum-smackin' sistuh from the 'hood, but instead I heard an articulate, well-spoken, thoughtful, and pretty well-educated Bostonian discussing her life's experiences.

    So she was far from being dumb, even though it is true she never went past high school.....realize that that is true of very talented entertainers with whom it is apparent by their teens that they are destined for greatness.

    As for your point, Goodville, she later tried to distance herself from those songs and refused to perform "Love to Love You Baby" ever again, citing her religious beliefs.

    So who knows? Maybe she was a bit hypocritical and only "got religion" after she had had her period of fame and fortune--when it was convenient--or maybe she genuinely was "repentant".

    I guess we will never have a definitive answer to any of these questions.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 13, 2012 3:16:46 PM


  7. RICK- you're saying that Summers was your own personal DIVA. Take note guys, RICK had a diva! And she was one who really did dump all over gay guys. No wonder he's bitter about the place of divas in everyone else's life. Now just soften up on the effeminant guys, they are after all, like KIWI, the regular gay man's burden and we have to carry them along because they can't be changed.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jun 13, 2012 3:22:07 PM


  8. @Fred - So if it isn't on Youtube, it never happened? Alrighty then.

    Posted by: DANM | Jun 13, 2012 3:23:42 PM


  9. LET HER REST IN PEACE, SHE WAS AN ARTIST, SHE WAS HUMAN AND SHE MADE MISTAKES LIKE ALL OF US... A BIT OF RESPECT...

    Posted by: XYZ | Jun 13, 2012 3:30:45 PM


  10. @UFFDA Haha! LOL. I knew that was coming from someone, sooner or later.

    Nah, she wasn't my "diva." I was, however, quite the disco boy, back in the day, and loved the music. Donna Summer was only the biggest star of that period, so she is kind of a symbol of it for everyone, gay, straight, male, female.....which is why there is so much interest in her.

    A lot of the disco "stars" were one-hit wonders and a lot of that music was "studio music", which was produced by melding different tracks together so that sometimes it was hard to know exactly who or what you were listening to. But Donna was different--you always knew you were listening to her; there was no mistaking her for someone else.

    That late 70's period was probably the most exciting time in history to be gay--the combination of the new idea of gay "liberation" and "pride" that freed us all from the shackles of the previous generations (and hundreds of other generations before it), combined with the over-the-top nightlife of the discos was very special and can never be duplicated again.

    Add to that that it was pre-AIDS and you could have as much sex as you wanted without worrying about "being safe"--and people (gay and straight) felt free to do so because we were also just on the heels of the sexual revolution of the 60's. And of course, for me personally, it was my time of greatest physical attractiveness, being in my late teens and early 20's, which buoyed my social life even more.

    People actually dressed up when they went out back then and many of the discos had chandeliers and were quite luxurious.

    All of those of us who lived through it will always be so nostalgic for those times--and I really feel sorry for the generations that have come after because they will never be able to experience anything like it.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 13, 2012 3:51:49 PM


  11. Hey can some of you divas-in-waiting read...
    SHE SAID SHE DIDN'T SAY WHAT SHE WAS ACCUSED OF SAYING...unless you got proof to the contray you should believe what she said. You know like you would want to be believed if rumors about you were passed around like tic tacs... Jeeze

    "I did not say God is punishing gays with aids, I did not sit with ill intentions in judgement over your lives. I haven't stopped talking to my friends who are gay, nor have I ever chosen my friends by their sexual preferences."

    See Reading is a good thing...maybe some of you really need to.

    Posted by: kevin | Jun 13, 2012 4:23:28 PM


  12. Jason has daddy issues, just like every "conservative" or "republican" homosexual. Jason, your daddy still hates you no matter how much you try to act like him because you still like having sex with men.

    Posted by: Bobby | Jun 13, 2012 5:21:46 PM


  13. Donna was a personal friend of mine for almost 30 years. She was not homophobic. Quite the opposite. She could not understand how some people could possibly think she said such hateful things. These mischaraterazations really hurt her. I don't know how she stayed so calm and understanding when she was constantly asked to comment on this. I would have been very angry, but she wasn't. She would ask me, "how can people think I fell like that?"

    My friendship with Donna spanned to long term relationships for me. She always considered me and my husband family. Invited us to dine with her and her family. When I was single, she would even try and fix me up with other guys. I know if I try and list my experiences with her that were gay-positive, some will read the list as the, "some of my best friends are" lame excuse so I will refrain.

    Donna and her family always included us in events, including her funeral (which was very very small and private).

    Posted by: Brix | Jun 13, 2012 10:07:17 PM


  14. I'm glad she went to be with the Lord. Now she doesn't have to hear all this racket of; "My cousen heard from a janitor at the Village Voice who heard 3rd hand that you called us something bevause I have a lot of free time to believe rumors."

    RIP Donna. You were a testament to your craft and to your faith

    Posted by: RQC | Jun 13, 2012 11:12:49 PM


  15. I don't think anybody is forcing anybody to support re-issues of Summer's albums so why include it in the argument? I think people have enough intelligence to determine for themselves whether her music is still relevant in their lives.

    As for the letter itself, personally I felt some of it contrived but then again I have to remember that NO ONE is perfect - I can only take it for what it is - a flawed but honest attempt to explain and ask forgiveness. I don't recommend that the LGBT community take it along the lines of how I understood it but to read more of our own humanity into it.

    Posted by: Homer | Jun 14, 2012 12:55:02 AM


  16. "If I caused you pain", isn't that what all who have caused others pain say? She slapped in the face all the gay party boys who danced to her music in the discos of the 1970s and 1980s.

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 14, 2012 1:29:41 AM


  17. "If I caused you pain", isn't that what all who have caused others pain say? She slapped in the face all the gay party boys who danced to her music in the discos of the 1970s and 1980s.

    Posted by: andrew | Jun 14, 2012 1:29:49 AM


  18. RICK - I'm glad you had a wonderful time in the 70's, lots of people did but it got crazy and led directly to AIDS. I was basically appalled and drew back, which probably saved my life. I thought the whole counter cultural scene of the time was stupid. It was so phony, unfulfilling and unpromising to me that I was driven towards my own genuine life and interests which paid off enormously. Being out of the mainstream was always my calling.

    So thanks, glad you enjoyed my post as I often do yours...in my way.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jun 14, 2012 3:16:37 AM


  19. wow, I can't imagine being so perfect as to pass judgement on anyone else. By the way, you can love God, read the bible and be gay. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

    Posted by: Exxnavyman | Jun 14, 2012 1:28:02 PM


  20. Why even bring the matter up? She's dead. Let her rest in peace. Those who love her; still will. Those who did not; still will not. It all matters not.

    Posted by: Jerry6 | Jun 14, 2012 8:15:59 PM


  21. No one has ever come forward with any real proof that Donna Summer ever made those anti-gay statements! To base something solely on some paragraph in a gossip column or what a friend of a friend told you really says a lot about an individual!

    Posted by: David | Jun 17, 2012 4:51:37 PM


  22. Im gay and I knew Donna. She was nothing but the sweetest, honest, loving and caring person I knew. All this anti gay crap is soooo false. Im sure some nasty Queen started the rumor who was probably annoying her. Maybe she snapped at him. Who friggin cares. DONNA SUMMER- Live & More quote. "This is a song I think most of you ladies will identify with... AND maybe some of you men too.... Some day he'll come along, the man I love" Hmmmmm Doesnt sound homophobic to me! Snap out of it queens!!

    Posted by: Xavier | May 16, 2013 6:43:07 PM


  23. « 1 2

Post a comment







Trending


« «'Obama Boy' Has a Crush on Barack: VIDEO« «