AIDS/HIV | Deaths | News | Pedro Zamora | Sean Sasser

Sean Sasser, AIDS Activist Whose Wedding to Pedro Zamora on MTV's 'Real World' Broke Barriers, Dies: VIDEO


Sean Sasser (left), the AIDS activist whose 1994 on-screen marriage to Pedro Zamora shortly before Zamora's death was groundbreaking in giving a face to gay relationships and those living with HIV, has died. Sasser was 44.

Judd Winick, one of Zamora's friends and fellow cast members, announced his death on Tuesday night on Twitter, writing, "Our friend Sean Sasser has died. Our love goes out to his family & husband Michael. We will miss u so much."

Wrote Dan Renzi:

According to his life partner, Michael Kaplan, Sasser died of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lungs. No other information was released immediately about his medical condition, but mesothelioma has been linked to a weakened immune system in some people with AIDS.

Sasser may not be familiar to people who did not see his episodes of The Real World, and he did not live his life in the limelight after the show. But his one brief turn in front of the cameras was enough to make a major impact. Long before Ellen or Will & Grace showcased gay people on TV living mainstream lives, and before the magic of protease inhibitor “cocktails” turned HIV into a manageable disease, Sasser gave a brave face to both issues and brought those taboo topics to educate millions of young Americans.

Watch Sean and Pedro's wedding ceremony from the San Francisco season of The Real World (begins about halfway through) and a 1996 interview with Sasser, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Oh no...Rest in Peace Sean.

    Posted by: Jeff | Aug 8, 2013 8:21:34 AM

  2. I was very sad to hear about Pedro's death, now Sean is gone. RIP.

    Posted by: Jack M | Aug 8, 2013 8:30:58 AM

  3. RIP Sean, very sad. Video - 1996 local news report here -

    Posted by: Valentin | Aug 8, 2013 8:33:41 AM

  4. I am so sad to hear about Sean's passing. He was such a role model to me as a black gay man living out and proud when I was a young man still struggling. I pray for his partner, Michael and his family and friends. Rest in peace sweet angel!

    Posted by: THurts | Aug 8, 2013 9:06:33 AM

  5. Oh my god :( this is absolutely heartbreaking. I've lost track of how many times I've watched RW:SF.

    Posted by: JMC | Aug 8, 2013 9:14:18 AM

  6. For those of you out there who do not know Pedro's story "get thee to YouTube" and anywhere else you can do the research. His story is amazing and he and Sean were years ahead of their time. Two very fascinating, pivotal and important people in the fight to better their lives and all our lives.

    There is even a movie based on Pedro's life but the clips and documentation on line tells so much of his brave and extraordinary life that Sean was definitely a major player.

    Condolences to Sean's friends and family.
    Long live their courageous story.

    Posted by: Max | Aug 8, 2013 9:52:23 AM

  7. I watched Sean and Pedro via reruns for the first time in the late 90's and they made a huge positive impact on my interpersonal life and how I saw myself as a gay man. They were the first portrayal I had seen of gay men and the first positive wholesome portrayal I had seen of gay men in a relationship. I think it helped moved me to a place of acceptance and self love I would not have otherwise had. Even to this day thinking about that show makes me emotional. I would like to think that they are now reunited and having the time of their lives in the hereafter.

    Posted by: spg | Aug 8, 2013 9:53:46 AM

  8. Life is SO precious.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Aug 8, 2013 10:09:29 AM

  9. But wait....being HIV+ isn't a death sentence, it's a manageable disease, like diabetes. Portraying people LIVING with HIV as dead is irresponsible and hurtful. The media should only be showing them full of life and working out and rock climbing.

    Posted by: Rick | Aug 8, 2013 10:57:36 AM

  10. Rick -- I don't understand your point. I mean, I can sense the sarcasm, but not sure what you're getting at. Are you saying that the media only tends to portray people who are living with AIDS in a healthy manner, or ignore the fact that they sometimes die?Are you making some sort of commentary on the marketing of HIV drugs? Please, elaborate.

    Posted by: Sam | Aug 8, 2013 11:10:21 AM

  11. There certainly were out gay couples before Pedro and Sean, though few were on TV. Mesothelioma is extremely rare, mostly associated with asbestos, silicosis and black lung disease after long exposures. However, rare doesn't mean never.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 8, 2013 11:38:49 AM

  12. Pedro and Sean gave a guy like me living in Colorado Springs during the Amendment 2 period a sense of hope. They made a brave and huge impact and I think the only time MTV ever made an important social impact with and beyond their viewers.


    Posted by: jakeinlove | Aug 8, 2013 11:59:30 AM

  13. In fact, HIV is a manageable disease compared to when Pedro's season of the Real World aired. If it wasn't Sean wouldn't have lived 20 years beyond the show. That doesn't mean no one dies of AIDS or complications of HIV, just as many people die from complications of diabetes. Drug ads aren't life. Manageable diseases aren't easy diseases.

    The Real World (then) had a real impact on how people saw AIDS, gay relationships, and gay men. Pedro and Sean's story touched many. Can't say that about most "reality" programming now. RIP.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 8, 2013 12:14:24 PM

  14. Oh Fu*k! RIP dear brother.

    Posted by: greenfuzz | Aug 8, 2013 12:38:46 PM

  15. I think what Rick above so poorly stated is that the Media, in its desire to show everything Gay in a good light, has done a very big dis-service to the current generation of gay men. The media does not show the difficulties and the very real possibility of an early death that living with HIV brings. The movies like Philadelphia and the Band Played On certainly had an impact on the safe sex practices of gay men of that time. Even though HIV positive patients don't die as quickly as then, some attention should be brought to the numbers of People who are still dying from AIDS.

    A little fear is a good thing.

    Posted by: Jason B.p | Aug 8, 2013 12:46:40 PM

  16. I remember Pedro, fondly. It broke my heart when he died. He was so selfless as an HIV+ man and educator. Strange, it was just a day or so ago that Pedro entered my mind, and I remembered his evil antagonist, the pig called Puck.

    Honestly, I really don't remember Sean all that much, perhaps because he lived a very private life. I feel sad for his partner and family, 44 is just so young to die. RIP, Sean. Condolences to his family and loved ones.

    Posted by: Bob R | Aug 8, 2013 2:30:58 PM

  17. These men were trailblazers!

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Aug 8, 2013 3:51:21 PM

  18. Their love changed how I viewed my own prospects for loving someone. And the warmth between them and most of the housemates showed me that the world could change as well. May Sean rest in peace. May Pedro rest in peace.

    Posted by: bravo | Aug 8, 2013 6:11:31 PM

  19. It's odd we know Michael and Sean from when Michael was the Director of Cascades Aids Project in Portland, but we never realized that Sean was THAT Sean. Our hearts go out to Michael at this time.

    Posted by: Patrick | Aug 8, 2013 9:48:37 PM

  20. Oh no! I was just thinking about him the other day. So sad! RIP.

    Posted by: marco | Aug 8, 2013 11:48:46 PM

  21. Ahh, thanks Jason BP

    Posted by: Sam | Aug 9, 2013 12:24:36 AM

  22. The only season of that show that had any revelence to any lives, irrespective of sexuality. R.I.P. Sean and Pedro.

    Posted by: AZXPAT | Aug 9, 2013 1:12:14 AM

  23. This was back when The Real World was actually about real people with real lives, not just a bunch of drunk people on a vacation. Rest in peace, Sean. You were a true trailblazer.

    Posted by: Doug | Aug 9, 2013 9:01:00 AM

  24. Sean was a fearless Gladiator in the fight against this disease. RIP.

    Posted by: Jazzy Jefferoni | Aug 9, 2013 9:10:30 AM

  25. I was raised with them, their relationship, their love and their strength. May they both rest in peace!

    Posted by: Jeremy | Aug 10, 2013 3:50:34 AM

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