For me, Kit Winter is a transformational person. I was working on Park Avenue in New York City, managing advertising accounts for what was, in 1988, the world’s largest circulation publication, PC Magazine. I was miserable, unable to share with my homophobic coworkers that I spent nights after work everyday caring for friends who were covered in KS and worse. Even most days at work were interrupted with that reality.
That’s when I met Kit. He had placed an ad in the Village Voice seeking advertising sales representatives for OutWeek Magazine, an upstart weekly “gay magazine.” It was called “radical,” “a militant mouthpiece for ACT UP,” and New York Magazine called it “the hippest next wave.” My friend Bill Chafin, who had seen the ad, urged me from his hospital bed to meet Kit. He called, pretended to be me and literally forced me to go to the meeting.
Kit, when I arrived, was wearing ACT UP issue combat boots and go-go boy shorts yet was somehow very butch. To the other workers in the office, I was a novelty in my suit and tie and formal manner.
“Sit here,” he said, sloughing magazines off a chair and into the floor. He picked one up, “This week’s magazine,” he asserted. “Mayor Dinkins’ Health Department choice quarantined people with AIDS,” screamed one headline. “100,000 dead and counting” read another. I was engrossed and Kit said, “Now tell me about you.”
The rest is history, literally.
Last week Kit wrote a daily diary for Los Angeles Blade about his AIDS/LifeCycle journey and so much of what he wrote as he trudged 545 miles down the California coastline brought me back to that moment we met. I reflected on the person he has become, so powerfully on display in his diary and all the intersecting things that transpired in my life because I met him, too many to go into here.
One ALC diary passage explores a topic many of us in our 50s are now struggling to comprehend: “In the hours and hours on the road over the past six days, I have had moments of unbearable grief, missing my friends so much. Something about seeing groups of gay men in their twenties, laughing with their friends, hits me like a gut punch. When I was that age, half or more of the men in such groups died, leaving us survivors reeling with trauma and grief. How to describe this to those who weren’t there? Contemplating the scale of our AIDS armageddon by mapping my friends onto the beautiful riders around me reminds me that what I lived through is unimaginable, unspeakable, grotesque. The thought of half of the members of one of these happy teams dying over the course of a few years – then half of the members of all of these happy teams, dying – how could the rest of us go on? Yet that is exactly what happened, and here we are, going on. I don’t need to light a candle this year, this year I am the goddamn candle. Eric, Phil, Bill, Anthony, Frank, Mark – I love you and I miss you.”
He is husband to Patrick and loves their Silver Lake home . He became sober along the way and engaged his significant brain power in UCLA School of Law. He is a go-to lawyer for many newly sober people in LA, famous for taking his role as a 12-step sponsor very seriously. He is a social justice warrior who devotes both money and time to the causes he believes in, including numerous local LGBT non-profit and political initiatives. If he believes in you, you know it.
Kit was one of the first of my New York family to pull up stakes and head west for a reboot. He showed me how it was done and when I told him I was thinking about leaving New York for Los Angeles to startup a new LGBT newspaper, he was an instant champion.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since 1983, when I was 17. My parents were the hardest.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
Describe your dream wedding.
The wedding I had.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Racial justice ( not exactly a “non-LGBT issue”).
What historical outcome would you change?
The destruction of the library at Alexandria in 48 B.C.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Seeing Queen in concert in 1978.
On what do you insist?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
” If only President Trump were as concerned about the Russian agents embedded in his campaign as he is about the FBI agent embedded in his campaign to keep an eye on the Russian agents embedded in his campaign.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Probably the same as my epitaph, “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Start a GoFundMe to provide access to sexual orientation change for straight people.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I don’t think there’s anything that’s not in the physical world.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Have values that you’re not willing to sacrifice for the sake of fundraising or political expediency.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My husband, my dogs, my friends and my family. And good cheese.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That gay men are all fabulous interior decorators. I mean, most of us are, of course. But some aren’t and there’s no shame in that.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’m not the covetous type.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Life is not a puzzle to be solved. Being comfortable with ambiguity and rolling with the punches will serve you better than trying to figure everything out in advance.
Why Los Angeles?
The weather, the parks, the culture and the people.