Positive Thinking

It's a good day for Steve Moore. The spring is glorious in Richmond, Virginia, where he lives, and his T-cell count is higher than it's been in more than seven years -- 437 three months ago, it's now up to 672. Moore, a standup comedian who's been stuck with the title "sick comic," still remembers the exact moment when he received his HIV diagnosis ten years ago. In fact, he's been talking about it to audiences almost ever since.

"I had a slight nervous breakdown and went and lived in a trailer," says Moore, who'd been working the L.A. comedy clubs for years before being shocked into coming out. But then he came to terms with his situation, returning to the business of making people laugh with a whole new perspective and, well, a killer routine. He'll bring his unique brand of humor -- AIDS comedy delivered with trademark straightforwardness and honesty -- to Denver this week when he performs at the Comedy Gay-La, an annual event featuring some of the nation's top gay and lesbian wits performing for the benefit of public-television station KBDI-TV/ Channel 12.

These days, that kind of performance is an anomaly for Moore, who, despite the encouraging blood count, has suffered HIV-related setbacks in recent years and has had to curtail his career behind the mike. But for a man who has to take 39 pills every day (how does one take 39 pills daily? "Very carefully," assures Moore), he's keeping busy -- doing a free spot at a healing weekend for fellow HIV-positive people, performing on a gay cruise in the Caribbean ("2000 gay men and me, and I didn't get laid," he notes) and even serving as grand marshal of Richmond's gay parade. "I thought, 'Hell, better here than in New York or L.A. -- sure I'll do it,'" he recalls. "But guess what? There was not one person on the street. There was my convertible, a bagpiper and a gay baton-twirler and two drag queens following me, yelling, 'Hey, Steve, you're such a big draw.'"

Moore also claims to be looking for work: "I applied for a job at Wal-Mart last week. I could be the gay greeter -- 'Roll back the prices, girls!'" But he hasn't heard back: "Job-hunting is hard. When they asked me what my last job was, what could I say? 'Oh, I performed for 2000 gay men in the moldy ocean?'" Perhaps more important, he's working on a memoir, I Never Knew Oz Was in Color. And there's always time to come up with new material to scatter in with the old during his upcoming Gay-La performance. Though he admits it's hard to continually mine his own condition for laughs, he's not sick enough to forget his underlying missions of educating and commiserating in a funny way. Deceptively simple, his material sticks to the bones. "It'll just make people sick," Moore promises, and it's doubtful he's batting an eyelash while saying so.

In the meantime, Moore leads the quiet life, close to his family in Virginia. "I own my own tiny, tiny, tiny house, and I planted two dogwood trees and a weeping willow and I'm wearing my overalls. I'm waiting for a call from Wal-Mart. And now I have a cat and dog," he adds. "Rachel -- Rachel's my dog; Doug is my cat -- likes to watch old Doris Day movies. I'm finally becoming the old lesbian I always wanted to be."

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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