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Summary

The founder of POZ magazine shares "a captivating...eyewitness account from inside the AIDS epidemic" (Next) and "a moving, multidecade memoir of one gay man's life" (San Francisco Chronicle). As a politics-obsessed Georgetown freshman, Sean Strub arrived in Washington, DC, from Iowa in 1976, with a plum part-time job running a senate elevator in the US Capitol. He also harbored a terrifying secret: his attraction to men. As Strub explored the capital's political and social circles, he discovered a parallel world where powerful men lived double lives shrouded in shame. When the AIDS epidemic hit in the early 1980s, Strub was living in New York and soon found himself attending "more funerals than birthday parties". Scared and angry, he turned to radical activism to combat discrimination and demand research. Strub takes you through his own diagnosis and inside ACT UP, the organization that transformed a stigmatized cause into one of the defining political movements of our time. From the New York of Studio 54 and Andy Warhol's Factory to the intersection of politics and burgeoning LGBT and AIDS movements, Strub's story crackles with history. He recounts his role in shocking AIDS demonstrations at St. Patrick's Cathedral as well as at the home of US Senator Jesse Helms. With an astonishing cast of characters, including Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Keith Haring, Bill Clinton, and Yoko Ono, this is a vivid portrait of a tumultuous era "[with] the suspense and horror of Paul Monette's memoir Borrowed Time and the drama of Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart.... What a lot of action - and life - there is in this gripping book." (The Washington Post). Photo: Iowa City Press-Citizen

©2014 Sean Strub (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

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    2 out of 5 stars

Missed opportunity

This book should have been titled "The Ego has Landed". It's basically 13 hours of the author name-checking who he met and with whom he slept.

There's precious little talk about the impact of HIV, AIDs and the politics surround that but a LOT of famous names whom the author has met. Frankly that's not what I bought the book for.

The narrator is excellent but the book really needs an editor. And to be re-advertised to make it clear what the book is about; the author's ego.

For those who didn't live through the 1980's it could have been a history lesson of the fear of that time. There were the odd flash of that (making HIV+ people eat off disposable plates etc) but most of the book is about Strub's sex life. Nor does he really go into detail about the medical side of how treatments changed and improved. Yes, there's a little about experimental trials and treatments but only in the context of his lovers taking any experimental treatment going.

It's such a wasted opportunity of a book and I genuinely don't understand why the rating is so high. DEFINITELY avoid if you're not from the USA because the content is split 50% Strub's lovers, 30% USA politics, 10% AIDs medical, 10% social history. And I'm probably being generous to the AIDs/social history in that.

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  • Susie
  • 18-08-15

An Inspiration to Act Up!

With page-turning prose and encounters to make Andy Warhol jealous, this exceptional memoir of the AIDS epidemic and Act Up is the only history you need to understand the fight for respect and action when it felt like the world was going up in flames.

Strub takes you from the closeted world of Beltway politicians, where where outward prudery butts heads with acts of desire, to New York City, a place where he finally felt safe to come out, just as strong leadership was needed to get the rest of the world to take notice and take action against HIV/AIDS.

A superb recording with exceptional narration by David Drake, "Body Counts" is an inspiration.

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  • Carter Hooper
  • 05-09-15

A Knockout Account of the Battle Against AIDS

Would you listen to Body Counts again? Why?

Oh yeah, Strub weaves important milestones and facts in the battle against AIDS with personal tales from the front. It's one man's story but you learn a lot of the history of HIV, from initial denial of the scourge by the nation (and by gay men), to the widespread fear and panic, the initial push to get federal funding and recognition from the Regan and Bush administrations, the failure of Clinton's, the fight for treatments and drug approval, all the way to the thoughtful reflections as the author recovered from near death, and as AIDS and HIV, along with the intense activism, moved to back burners. With Sean Stub finding a renewed vigor to fight the mind-boggling horrors of criminalizing people with HIV, my money's on Strub and justice.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Strub himself, of course. One's man's story, struggles and fight that pretty much encompasses the whole history of the disease. He brings to the front important people that may have been lost to time, like the pivotal activism of Stephen Gendin, POZ columnist and important in FDA drug approval reform. Strub recounts his friendships with Keith Haring, Gore Vidal, John Berendt-there's, so there's plenty of celebrities here, though none told just for kicks or name dropping, only for their importance in his amazing life.

Which character – as performed by David Drake – was your favorite?

Strub again. Nuanced performance.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

AIDS. Has. Met. Its. Match.

Any additional comments?

One of the best parts of the book are Strub's accounts of his youthful job as elevator operator in the U.S. Capital. Really funny interactions with some powerful people. Secret passages, alcoholic senators...good stuff.

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  • Debbie Abbott
  • 30-07-20

Fantastic!

This is easily one of my favorite books ever. It is so funny, poignant, and heartfelt. It offers a personal view of HIV/AIDs, the gay community, activism, politics, friendship, and both romantic and sexual relationships. Sean Strub is a wonderful writer that, on more than one occasion, made me cry and laugh hysterically in equal measure. The narrator is wonderful in pace and enunciation. I was never bored and the stories were never dulll. Its just as entertaining as it is truly educational.

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  • Laura
  • 29-05-20

Beautiful and Brave

Such a fantastic illustration of how one person from one community from one family can provide so much value to so many. Thank you for sharing who you are with the rest of us.

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  • SBG
  • 27-04-18

Great

Wonderful book, beautifully written -- a perfect storm of history, science, and honest personal experience. The only drawback -- and not a big one -- was the narrator, who, though clearly talented, added an unnecessary breathy theatricality to the performance. Especially given Sean Strub's own elegant, understated, restrained vocals. The emotions ring loud and clear and don't need emoting. That said, the book is brilliant. A true stroll back down an inspirational if painful memory lane.

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  • Connie
  • 12-01-18

narrator was a bit over dramatic

very powerful and a great follow up to and the band played on. I wish he had read it himself

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  • Irene Z.
  • 31-12-17

Compelling, heart wrenching, inspiring.

This is a wonderfully written memoir. Full of insightful anecdotes, it offers a wonderful viewpoint of the LGBT and AIDS cultures of the latter part of the 20th century. The narration is great, and I felt entirely engaged the entire time. I absolutely recommend this book.