elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Dan Turner (1947 - June 4, 1990)

Daniel Francis Turner, born in 1947, was an actor, author, composer and gay/AIDS activist. Turner was reared in Bloomington, Illinois in the Hotel Rogers where his father was manager. In 1962 the family moved to Cheboygan, Wisconsin where Turner began acting in high school drama productions and graduated in 1965. He received his B.A. from Fairfield University in Connecticut in 1969, spending a year abroad at Exeter College in England and traveling in Europe. During the late 1960s, Turner also traveled to Malawi in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and to Alabama as a VISTA volunteer, where he wrote and produced his early play "Cottonmouth." (Dan Turner (foreground). Photo: Paul Sjoberg, courtesy Ulysses L. D'Aquila)

In the early 1970s, he studied play writing with Kenneth Cameron at the University of Iowa, writing and producing a play entitled "Light Years." He was, however, asked to leave this program during an anti-gay pogrom, Turner then went to Texas where he was awarded an internship from the Dallas Theater. Center. During this program Turner also experienced homophobic prejudice, being "called before the entire theater company and ordered to choose between gay liberation and the theater." In spite of this prejudice, Turner wrote and produced several plays and musicals in Dallas including: Getting to Know the Natives (published by Samuel French Inc., New York, 1974); and "A," a musical based on The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He received his Masters of Fine Arts from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas in 1974.

AIDS Quilt

In the mid-1970s Turner moved to San Francisco, California where he began his professional acting career, participating in the productions of both regional and gay theater companies and collectives. Turner was associated with several prominent San Francisco gay and straight theater organizations, including Theater Rhinoceros, Gay Men's Theater Collective, Gay Theater Alliance, Bay Area Theater Critics Circle, and the Earnest Player, which he helped form with Daniel Curzon. At the Eureka Theater Turner also taught a course in playwriting during the late 1970s. While he appeared throughout San Francisco and Bay Area theaters and cultural/performance spaces he also performed in Texas and traveled to Los Angeles for numerous acting and publishing opportunities. His theater reviews and interviews also appeared in the Bay Area Reporter (B. A. R.) and other gay newspapers and "bar rags." One example found in this collection is an interview Turner conducted with Armistead Maupin, ca 1977.

Besides his own original work and his collaboration with Daniel Curzon and others, Turner directed and acted in many local productions including the "Sex Show." He helped found "The Ernest Players," a gay male focused theater group. Besides Turner's journalistic and critical articles for local gay papers, he continued to write poetry, novels, and short stories, some with erotic content that appeared in gay magazines such as In Touch and Blueboy. At this time he also produced a series of educational slide shows for Harcourt Brace Javonovitch. In 1976 Turner contracted hepatitis. In the summer of that same year also became secretary to Tennessee Williams. During 1976 Turner traveled with Williams to New Orleans, New York and Cape Cod. Williams inspired Turner to continue to fight to live and write and, indeed, the late 1970s and 1980s became
his most prolific period.

On returning to San Francisco, he wrote and produced three musical plays, two of which were in collaboration with Curzon. He also directed several plays including "Beneath the Surface" and "Beer and Rhubarb Pie" for Theater Rhinoceros. In February 1982 Turner was diagnosed wish Kaposi Sarcoma and was one the first patients of Dr. Paul Volberding and San Francisco General Hospital. From this time on Turner, became an aggressive AIDS activists working for and participating in many new and experimental drugs. He visited hundreds of AIDS patients and was invited to speak, as a "long-term survivor," before groups of doctors, scientists, and Persons With AIDS (PWAs). He sent messages and attempted to see both Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa during their visits to the Bay Area in the late 1980s.

Turner was the recipient of several awards including the "Silver Award" (1979) from the Chicago international Film Festival and the "Certificate of Creative Excellence" (1980) from the U. S. Industrial Film Festival in Chicago. Turner begun writing his autobiography in 1981 and continued released an updated version in 1988 with the help of Stuart Rawlings entitled, "One Day at a Time, My Life With AIDS." After eight years of battling the disease, Turner finally succumbed to AIDS on June 4, 1990. At the time he was believed to be the longest surviving PWA. "Dan played an important role for HIV-infected people across the world," said Holly Smith of the Shanti Project, an AIDS support group. "He showed people they can live, they can accomplish things after a diagnosis. He lived every moment." His memorial service was held at Grace Cathedral.

Source: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt5199r16v/admin/

Further Readings:

Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality by Patrick Moore
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press (January 14, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080707957X
ISBN-13: 978-0807079577
Amazon: Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality

The radical sexuality of gay American men in the 1970s is often seen as a shameful period of excess that led to the AIDS crisis. Beyond Shame claims that when the gay community divorced itself from this allegedly tainted legacy, the tragic result was an intergenerational disconnect because the original participants were unable to pass on a sense of pride and identity to younger generations. Indeed, one reason for the current rise in HIV, Moore argues, is precisely due to this destructive occurrence, which increased the willingness of younger gay men to engage in unsafe sex.

Lifting the'veil of AIDS,' Moore recasts the gay male sexual culture of the 1970s as both groundbreaking and creative-provocatively comparing extreme sex to art. He presents a powerful yet nuanced snapshot of a maligned, forgotten era. Moore rescues gay America's past, present, and future from a disturbing spiral of destruction and AIDS-related shame, illustrating why it's critical for the gay community to reclaim the decade.

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Tags: activist: dan turner, gay classics

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