Earlier in 1991, Shucker, 33, received awards from Dramalogue and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for his score of "Babes," a reflection on the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland "kiddie musicals" of the 1940s. Much of the lyric writing and composing of "Babes" was done as Shucker struggled with his illness, friends said.
After being hospitalized on and off for 2 1/2 years since contracting the disease, Shucker was told by doctors he had developed a brain tumor.
Friends said Shucker seldom spoke of his illness, choosing instead to focus on his work.
Although visibly weakened, Shucker attended an audition session in March 1991 to select the cast for a production of "Babes" at the Matrix Theater in West Hollywood. From his hospital bed, using a portable keyboard, he rescored one of the play's pieces titled, "Give It a Whirl."
It was the second run for "Babes" in Los Angeles, and it opened on Friday, April 12, 1991, the day Shucker died.
Brian Shucker was an award-winning composer and lyricist who wrote the score of Babes, a 1940s-style musical that opened in L.A. the day he died of the complications of AIDS. In the early 80s Shucker met Bill Sawyer, his collaborator and companion. Sawyer wrote the book for "Babes," and was in the process of completing what would have been their second full musical together. Bill Sawyer died exactly four months after his companion. They are listed side by side on the AIDS quilt project.
"The production kept him alive and going," said a longtime friend and colleague, Michael Michetti. "He was the last one to want sympathy. He wanted to get better. He wanted his work to happen."
Shucker grew up in Huntington Beach, not far from the Newport Beach hospital where he spent his final weeks, said Debbie Matthews, a friend who worked with Shucker in the early 1980s at the Curtain Call Theater in Tustin.
A pianist at the time, Shucker also performed as a vocalist, and eventually became the musical director of the dinner theater club. He honed his skills as he worked with cabaret acts performing on the local dinner theater circuit. Later, he toured the country with vocalists for whom he did musical arrangements.
At the Curtain Call Theater, Shucker met Bill Sawyer (March 28, 1953 - August 12, 1991), his collaborator and companion. Sawyer wrote the book for "Babes," and was in the process of completing what would have been their second full musical together.
Although the score of "Babes" includes rousing, uplifting numbers characteristic of the Rooney-Garland movies--"Babes in Arms," "Babes on Broadway" and "Strike Up the Band"--the quieter, deeper pieces better reflect Shucker's personality, Matthews said.
"He was never someone who would want to be the center of attention," Matthews said. "He always appreciated the little nuances of life. He never hits you over the head; he thought the audience was more intelligent than that.
"Those soft moments that catch you unaware, those were Brian."
William "Bill" Sawyer died exactly four months later his companion, on August 12, 1991. They are listed side by side on the AIDS quilt project.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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