I did personally interact with Peter, Jeffry, especially in 1990 and 1991 when he was still very involved with Act Up.
Once he started TAG, he wasn’t around as much, but I still ran into him often enough.
For those of us deeply involved in HIV activism in New York, social circles were pretty small. Besides, he and Anne Northrup were close allies, and I was always close to Anne.
Peter was gracious and charming in person. He was full of optimism and enthusiasm. He could start thinking about a problem and totally zone out for a minute. Then he’d plunge back into the conversation with gusto, waving his arms around, smiling, certain he’d just figured out something profound that he had to share.
I didn’t have a huge crush on him, though. ;-) Not at all!
He and Anne were both well off financially. So were many Act Up members. We called them “trust fund kids,” all the people who didn’t have to worry about earning a living.
But the thing is, they weren’t just sitting back and being comfortable like they could have been. A lot of important work was done by people who were privileged enough to be able to do it.
Hell, I was privileged in a way. My husband was well off, and I lucked into a well paying job with an HIV service agency.
Peter wasn’t only privileged economically, though. He was brilliant. He didn’t just have phenomenonal raw intelligence, he had the formal education that prepared him to become an autodidact virologist.
When he talked shop with scientists from the CDC, he spoke their language. He understood the technical details of what they were telling him, and he was able to contribute right back.
The combination of his money, his intellect and intellectual discipline, and his leadership skills was singular. Made him a singular force.
So, I guess sometimes the right people come along at the right time. Without Larry Kramer, Act Up would never have even started, probably. Without Anne, Act Up would never have mastered media savvy and communication.
Without Peter, Act Up would have remained stuck in confrontation mode with the CDC when it was long past time to recognize that the CDC was workingng hard to be our ally.
Peter’s alliance with the CDC proved amazingly effective, of course.
The right people at the right time. Serendipity. Sometimes it works out.