This “Ask Hazell” question deserves a post of its own.
Q. “Whatever I Do” features in a very steamy scene in “It’s a sin” what was it like being so involved in the gay scene at the start of and throughout the AIDS era.
Did you lose friends to AIDS? Were you ever afraid to be near people who had the virus?
HD – Back in March 2020 I received an email asking if I would be happy for “Whatever I do” being used in an upcoming TV series entitled “Boys”
As the track was to play in the background of a sex scene, I was asked if I was happy for it to be included and was sent the following synopsis –
“Roscoe is dancing in a pub with Richie, Ash and Gregory. They’re all having a blast. Cuts to Roscoe in his bedroom having sex with another guy. “Whatever I do (Wherever I go) plays in the background for the duration of the song.”
I first started performing in gay clubs in 1983, right at the start of the “AIDS” era.
It was really weird because at first I wasn’t really aware of what was happening, even though there were reports of a mystery illness filtering through from America from 1981 but nobody knew what it was.
For me it was the start of my career long relationship with the LGBT family.
Clubs in the UK, across Europe and America would be packed.
Muscled topless boys twirling with their fans. Checked shirts and bleached ripped jeans (or very tight cut off shorts!) Moustached clones like a Tom of Finland Army. The air heavy with the smell of Kouros, Aramis and poppers. It was hedonistic and very promiscuous.
Then it happened – “The Gay Plague”.
Like most people I started to read about it in the newspapers. Few will forget the terrifying tombstone TV adverts.
The clubs were very quiet for a few months, but slowly people started to return.
Many of the venues I worked in were exclusively men only and if they were mixed they were male dominated, so when the virus started to take hold it was very noticeable – beautiful boys started to go missing from the audience, and it was impossible not to be affected by the void they left.
I started to receive requests from charities like the Terrence Higgins Trust to appear at fund raising events across the country, which of course I always did.
Terrence Higgins was among the first people in the UK known to have died from the AIDS virus, he was 37 years old when he died on 4 July 1982 – one of too many strong, vibrant young men annihilated. A generation decimated.
People were frightened. Gay men were ostracised, vilified – It was “Gods punishment”
I met so many people affected by the virus. I witnessed them disappearing.
Yes, or course I lost friends I lost close friends and people I knew from the club scene, but no I was NEVER afraid of the men who were ill.
I would always hug, shake hands, get kissed on the cheek etc, nothing changed for me, at no point did I ever fee uncomfortable with my HIV+ fans.
I visited AIDS units, and one Christmas sang carols at three of the London hospital specialist units – that was really emotional, and I must admit, I did come home and cry.
Another incident that stands out in my memory took place at an airport.
There was a guy in a wheelchair who recognised me. It was obvious that he was very ill from his dramatic weight loss and lesions.
I sat on his lap, and we had photos taken together, We laughed and chatted and I hope for that few minutes we spent together he felt like the handsome man he once was before he became so very ill.
I got on the plane, and again I cried.
Our community lost so many so quickly, it was total devastation.
For those of you who weren’t around to witness the “Gay Plague” up close and personal, watch “Its a sin” Russell T Davies has done an amazing job or recreating the era.
For those of us were there, we know that we will NEVER EVER forget the ones we lost or the way they were treated.