Early on June 26, 2006, Eric Rofes died of a sudden massive heart attack in Provincetown, MA. Friends who found him said he looked as if he were sleeping. The New York Times lay on him; his computer was opened next to him on the bed.
Online paeans to him surface each day, memorials in many cities are planned. [see ericrofes.com] Eric accomplished a lot in his almost 52 years ‚Äì books, degrees, articles, organizing projects. It will take many people to finish the nearly finished projects of this one man‚Äôs life. I always suspected he had longer days than the rest of us. Like his partner, friends, lovers, colleagues, co-conspirators and critics, I can‚Äôt believe he is out of days.
We had met for coffee on what was his last morning in Provincetown or in any town. He was a great meeter. So many people at his memorial in Ptown said ruefully, ‚ÄúWe were going to meet‚Äù for coffee, for lunch, for tea dance, for dinner, at The Vault.
After we shared town gossip – a life-force for both of us – we talked about his work, my shows. He leaned in over his chai, with muffin crumbs in his beard, and said, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to do something in your show about these mosquitoes. They‚Äôre nearly biblical, don‚Äôt you think?‚Äù
Eric always had suggestions for material for me – AIDS, S/M, gay politics. He knew more about my lesbian-separatist culture than I did. He knew of me, had my records and was the first gay man to invite me to emcee a gay and lesbian event, a dinner at one of his early Lesbian and Gay Health Conferences in 1986. When I lived in LA, he volunteered me to be the greeter at his Gay Center‚Äôs Thanksgiving Open House for gay street kids. The tables were loaded with food, but no one was stepping up to eat. I froze. He swept in to the awkward moment, made a huge and gracious welcome, picked up a plate, loaded it and sat down to eat. Everyone followed.
In 1988, he insisted I come to the War Conference outside of Washington, D. C. The confab had been called by Larry Kramer at the height of the AIDS epidemic, because as Larry said, ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre making war on us.‚Äù
Eric told me, ‚ÄúCome, you‚Äôll get a lot of material,‚Äù which was his yenta way of getting me to meet Urvashi. After a lovely evening tryst, I was tiptoeing early morning back to my room, when I ran into Eric, doing his best tip toe, delicately dangling huge green Converse sneakers. At eighteen years with Urvashi, Eric was right. I got a world of material.
We finished our tea and coffee. He was going to go work some more and meet a friend for tea dance. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs 70s music,‚Äù he said gleefully. I passed. Of course we made a plan to meet again. With that grand twinkle of his, he promised: ‚ÄúAnd next time, I‚Äôll tell you about all the great, fun sex I‚Äôve been having this summer.‚Äù I rolled my eyes. I believe my last words to him were, ‚ÄúGood-bye, you big ho.‚Äù