In Memoriam: 2018 Notable Deaths

LGBTQA Community Members Leave Their Mark on the World

By Lainey Millen, Staff Writer and David Aaron Moore, Contributing Writer

The year of 2018 saw many challenges and changes on the landscape of the LGBTQ and allied environment. And among those changes were the deaths of several individuals who came from a cross section of society who contributed in significant ways to the world in which we live.

From movie stars to activists, these eight LGBTQ and allied newsmakers were among numerous others whose lives ended with notice.

Anthony Bourdain
61
World Renowned Chef, CNN Host

Anthony Bourdain was a master chef, writer, storyteller and CNN correspondent. He was also a dedicated champion of LGBTQ rights. When a Colorado bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, Bourdain signed a brief arguing that cakes were not protected by the first amendment — and that bakers did not have a constitutional right to discriminate against same-sex customers.

“Even when prepared by celebrated chefs, food retains a clear purpose apart from its expressive component: it is made to be eaten. For that reason, food products are not protected by the First Amendment.”

Bourdain, who struggled with a history of drug abuse and mental illness, took his own life at the age of 61 on June 8 in France while on location for his CNN series “Parts Unknown.”

Angela Bowen
82
African-American Gay Activist, Dance Teacher

Angela Bowen was an influential “dancer, dance teacher, scholar and a passionate voice on lesbian, black and feminist issues,” The New York Times reported upon her death on July 12.

This woman was a remarkable talent who helped to shape a plethora of young lives through the Bowen/Peters School of Dance located in New Haven, Conn. She ran the venture with her then husband Ken Peters from 1963-1982. Students came from non-affluent homes and they became inspired by the instruction as well as being told that they had worth and beauty. Bowen’s marriage ended in divorce and she subsequently came out as a lesbian.

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Her life then took on a different direction as she became a writer and speaker on equal rights and related issues and became active in social justice organizations like the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays among others.

owen earned her master’s and doctorate at Clark University in Massachusetts and then became a faculty member at California State University, Long Beach, where she taught English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. There she influenced another generation of students, the Times added.

In 2013, she married Jennifer Lynn Abod. At that point, the couple had shared more than 30 years together.

In her latter years, she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease which was a contributing factor of her death.

David Buckel
60
LGBTQ Rights Attorney, Environmental Activist

David Stroh Buckel was an environmental activist and an American LGBTQ rights attorney served as a senior legal counsel and marriage project director at Lambda Legal. Noted clients he represented were: Jamie Nabozny (Nabozny v. Podlesny), on anti-gay bullying and abuse; Brandon Teena (transgender man who was murdered and raped in Nebraska and inspired the film “Boys Don’t Cry), lead attorney in handling Teena’s estate; and Lewis v. Harris, stating that “civil union” reduced gays to second-class status.

Buckel was highly respected by his peers and was one of the crafters in the marriage equality movement.

Besides LGBTQ activism, Buckel was tremendously involved in safeguarding the environment, most noted for his work in the composting sector, and wrote a guide for those who lived in urban areas on the subject.

Earlier in his life, Buckel worked as a hospice home health attendant.

He received his juris doctor from Cornell Law School.

Buckel was married to Terry Kaelber.

In April Buckel’s body was found burned to death in Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Prospect Park. The self-inflicted death was a cry against fossil fuels. He left a note to police and had send a copy of the note to The New York Times in which he stated, “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result—my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” He carefully orchestrated his death, leaving his pertinent information nearby to make an identification of the body easier and apologized to the police for “the mess.”

Kyle Dean
21
Gay Porn Star

Brandon Jason Chrisan, known in the gay pornography industry as Kyle Dean, died in September. The actor, who worked for Corbin Fisher and GayHoopla gay adult studios, had won fourth place in an adult physique competition, and lived a storied life. He had been arrested previously on charges of probation violation, contempt of court, drug possession and burglary. Chrisan enjoyed football and participated on a Pop Warner team. Two other young gay porn stars died over the summer — Tyler White and Dave Slick.

Aretha Franklin
76
Music Icon

She was both a 20th and 21st century musical and cultural icon. Her smash hits include “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain Of Fools,” “Respect,” “Freeway Of Love,” “Jump To It” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” a duet she performed with openly gay singer George Michael. Franklin was always LGBTQ supportive, often performing at gay weddings and marveling at numerous drag impersonations throughout her career. A diva even in death, three open casket funerals were held for her at various locations following her death. In each she was dressed differently. Beloved by the LGBTQ community, Franklin died from pancreatic cancer on Aug. 17 at the age of 76.

Givenchy
96
Fashion Designer

Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, otherwise known simply as “Givenchy,” was a French fashion designer who founded the house of Givenchy in 1952. He was famous for having designed much of the personal and professional wardrobes of Audrey Hepburn and clothing for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. He was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1970. Never one to hide his sexual orientation, he was survived by his partner Philippe Venet when he died of natural causes at the age of 96 on March 20.

Tab Hunter
86
Actor

As a young actor in the 1950s and 1960s, Tab Hunter starred in movies and television, making a name for himself in such acclaimed films as “Damn Yankees,” “That Kind of Woman,” “They Came to Cordura” and the TV series “The Tab Hunter Show.”
Although his openness about his sexual orientation impacted his career during the mid-1960s, he made regular TV appearances throughout the 1970s and bounced back in 1981 with a role in John Waters’ “Polyester,” staring opposite drag queen Divine. He continued to work consistently and released an autobiography in 2005. Hunter died on June 11 at the age of 86 from cardiac arrest.

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Mathilde Krim
91
AIDS Research Pioneer

Dr. Mathilde Krim, amfAR’s founding chairman and an inspirational leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, fought against the stigma of the disease in her work.

She was among the first to recognize in the early 1980s that HIV/AIDS raised grave scientific and medical questions and that it had the potential to spread rapidly and sow the seeds of a deadly epidemic, amfAR shared. She dedicated herself to increasing the public’s awareness of AIDS and became personally active in AIDS research through her work with interferons — natural substances now used in the treatment of certain viral and neoplastic diseases.

Krim dedicated her life to helping others after seeing a newsreel depicting the survivors of Nazi concentration camps. It defined her philosophy of life. She was a fierce opponent of prejudice and discrimination wherever she encountered them as a result of seeing the experience of Nazi survivors.

A recipient of 16 honorary doctorates and other honors throughout her career, including being a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.

Dick Leitsch
83
Pioneering Gay Rights Activist

Richard Joseph Leitsch (aka Richard Valentine Leitsch) was a noted LGBTQ rights activist during the rise of the movement in the 1960s. The Kentucky native served as president of the Mattachine Society and conceptualized and led the “Sip-In” at Julius’ Bar. The event served as one of the first LGBTQ legal rights actions in U.S. history. Leitsch was also a gay reporter who recanted an account of the Stonewall Riots. The Advocate published his account in September 1969. On a lighter note, Bette Midler was the subject of a print media interview, a first for the actress.

Leitsch was in a long-term relationship with Timothy Schoffeld that lasted for 17 years prior to Schoffeld’s death in the late 1980s after an AIDs diagnosis. Leitsch died from liver cancer in June. Two months before his death, he contributed his personal papers, along with ones from the Mattachine Society, to the New York Public Library.

Jamel Myles
9
Gay Youth

Jamel Myles became the focus of news stories during 2018 when it was reported that the youth committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. The event occurred in just a matter of weeks after he came out over the summer.

Jamel, who was a fourth grade student in Denver, Colo. hung himself in his bedroom in August 2018. The constant taunting by his classmates became unbearable for him.

His mother, Leia Pierce, is angry and blames the school for their failure in doing more to help her son.

David Ogden Stiers
75
Actor

The “M*A*S*H” star came out late in life, at the age of 66. In an interview in 2009 he said, “I am [gay]. Very proud to be so.”
Ogden Stiers joined the cast of “M*A*S*H” in 1977 as Charles Emerson Winchester III. In addition to starring in the sitcom, he voiced the characters for a number of Disney movies.

A change in U.S. political atmosphere prompted him to come out in 2009. “I wish to spend my life’s twilight being just who I am,” he said. “I could claim noble reasons as coming out in order to move gay rights forward, but I must admit it is for far more selfish reasons. Now is the time I wish to find someone, and I do not desire to force any potential partner to live a life of extreme discretion with me.” Stiers passed away on March 3 from bladder cancer. He was 75.

Joel Taylor
38
Reality TV Star

Oklahoma native Joel Taylor, best known for his work on the Discovery Channel series “Storm Chasers,” was a passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean ship that had been chartered by gay cruise producer Atlantis Events at the time of his death in January. Taylor’s cause of death was deemed an accidental overdose.

The reality star’s life was cut short on the party-hearty cruise (the culture is wide-spread among cruises of this nature), which was known for the use of party drugs and non-stop fun on board. Unfortunately, Taylor was taken back to his cabin by friends instead of to the ship’s medical staff after he was rendered unconscious on the ship’s dance floor. The ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the time. Taylor had consumed a fatal mix of drugs, People magazine reported. Ships often punish, detain and/or kick off passengers who seek help for drug overdoses.

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2 Replies to “In Memoriam: 2018 Notable Deaths”

  1. Yet you forgot ryan lee burtis a local nc actist but a damnnporn star makes the list. I guess if he lived in Charlotte he would have be listed.

    Reply

    1. We attempted to feature more nationally and internationally known subjects for this piece. Of course, Ryan Lee Burris was a remarkable person and did much for the community. It would have not mattered if he was in Charlotte or elsewhere if we were to recognize our own Carolinians, rest assured. We appreciate being made aware, nonetheless, of community contributors who have died. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if someone you think should be recognized. We sure will put that information into consideration.

      Reply

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