In Memory of Lee Mathis

On Fri, 18 Jun 1999 00:54:04 -0700, in Kathleen Lenkeit wrote:

Today, we will *finally* get to see the beginning of the eagerly anticipated 1999 Nurses' Ball!

There have been many newcomers to RATSA since the Nurses' Ball began in 1994, and recently some folks had asked what the Nurses' Ball is all about. So, I thought I'd take a few minutes and write about "the Ball."

In 1994, the idea for the "Day of Compassion" was born. It is a day for us all to think about, and have compassion for, people with HIV and AIDS. The Day of Compassion is June 21, and all of the soaps are supposed to somehow acknowledge the AIDS pandemic during their June 21 episodes. If June 21 is on a weekend, they do it on the Friday before or the Monday after. Some soaps did nothing more than have some characters wearing the red AIDS ribbon, without any explanation. But, the ABC network has always been good about acknowledging the Day of Compassion with some sort of reference to HIV and/or AIDS on all of their shows, such as the time on AMC when Stuart visited the grave of his wife, Cindy, who had died from AIDS. General Hospital has been incredible with their multi-episode Nurses' Balls.

The year of the first Ball, 1994, had Damian Smith trying to get Lucy as interested in him as he was in her. They made a bet, with the "jackpot" being something very serious, indeed. If Lucy won the bet, Damian would have to turn over some of his stock in ELQ; but if Damian won, Lucy would have to sell Damian her 4% of ELQ, *and* spend one night with Damian!!! Lucy was, understandably, concerned about the ossibility of losing this wager, so she decided she had to bet Damian something that would be impossible for him to do --- she bet him that he could not get the very happily married Bobbie Jones to sleep with him!! He was self-assured (and smug) enough to be certain he could win. And, to make sure that he had a good excuse to spend plenty of time with Bobbie, he offered to underwrite the Nurses' Ball........

As the story went, each year the nurses at GH would put on a Ball, as a fundraiser. It was always a formal event, yet it was fun, too, because there was always a talent show, featuring doctors, nurses, and folks from the Port Charles "society." But, as Bobbie explained to Damian, the costs of putting on the Ball had become prohibitive, so the event had been canceled for so many years in a row that everyone had pretty much forgotten about it. Now, thanks to Damian, GH would once again have a Ball, with the proceeds to benefit AIDS research and the patients in the GH AIDS Outreach Center.

And, each year since then, we've been blessed with some truly wonderful and unforgettable episodes and performances by our beloved actors/characters. Who could forget Mary Mae and her "Pips" (Justus, Luke, and Lucky)? Or Steve Hardy and his rendition of "Casey At the Bat"? No matter how we try, we cannot forget that *every* year, Lucy ends up on stage in her underwear!!! :-)

But for many of us, we also cannot forget the real meaning of the Day of Compassion; to remember those people affected by HIV and AIDS.

GH did a wonderful storyline on AIDS, which played out in real time. Stone, Robin's boyfriend, was unknowingly infected with HIV when he slept with his previous girlfriend, who injected drugs with shared needles. In late 1994, Stone came down with what everyone thought was the flu... until he found out in early 1995 that he had AIDS.

GH has done some lame storylines over the years (haven't *all* soaps?!), but this particular story was incredibly good. It was honest. It was realistic. It was educational. It was a wake-up call for many people.

Our second Nurses' Ball was one of the best ever. The theme was "Over the Rainbow," and there was, of course, a ‘Wizard of Oz' aura to everything. There was even a skit with Emily as Dorothy, Kevin as the Tin Man, Tony as the Scarecrow, and Alan as the Cowardly Lion. I loved it!!!

It was during this Ball that Stone revealed his AIDS status to everyone. Some people were shocked, horrified, and repulsed. But Stone found comfort in talking to Lucy's friend (and co-Chair of the Ball), Jon Hanley. You see, Jon Hanley was HIV+ so he knew exactly what Stone was going through, and he was able to share his experiences with Stone.

What many viewers didn't know was that the actor who portrayed Jon, Lee Mathis, was HIV+ in real life. He succumbed to complications from AIDS on May 1, 1996. It was our love for Lee Mathis, and our desire to do something in real life to sort of 'counteract' the dastardly deeds of the fictitious Katherine Bell on GH, that led Tante Joan, Razz, and me to start up an online AIDS fundraiser. TJ made arrangements with three well-known and highly respected AIDS charities to track contributions made in memory of Lee by RATSAfarians. They don't report *who* had contributed, just total amounts of all contributions that can be attributed to the generosity of the great folks of this newsgroup.

Every year when the Nurses' Ball rolls around, I post blatant pleas for contributions. It seems, though, that the farther we get away from the time of the Stone/AIDS storyline, the easier it is for folks to forget about the real meaning behind the Day of Compassion, and to only think about what great fun this years' Ball episodes will be. (Any bets on how Lucy will end up in her underwear AGAIN?!?)

Recently, however, I've learned of some folks who have found out that they are HIV+, and it's all come rushing back to me. And that's why, once again, I am making a blatant plea for donations. There have been great strides made in HIV/AIDS research since Stone found out that he had AIDS. Look at Robin, for example she's on the "triple drug cocktail" which suppresses the virus in her system to such a low level that it's virtually undetectable. Fortunately, this is available in real life. And, the reason that it's available is, simply, because of the generosity of individuals and corporations who have made donations to AIDS research.

We can't stop now. We can't stop until there is a *cure,* or at least a significant enough treatment that those who are infected will know that they will not die from complications of AIDS.

We also need to show compassion for those already infected. Many folks lose their jobs, and their homes, not to mention their self respect when they are shunned by their families.

So, on the 1999 Day of Compassion, in honor of the GH Nurses' Ball and in memory of Lee Mathis (Jon Hanley on GH), here's my plea: Open up your hearts and your wallets, and send a donation to one (or more) of the following charities:

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA); the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR); and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF).

Broadway Cares is run by Actors' Equity, and for direct services to PWAs (Persons with HIV+ or AIDS) the family of Lee Mathis has requested that gifts be directed to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the New York City-based AIDS charity. (As some of you may know, Lee spent most of his career in the theater as a dancer, first as a "gypsy," and later in some featured roles.) Housing becomes a serious problem for PWAs, especially for those unable to work and evicted from their homes. Recognizing the need for a residential alternative to hospice care (reserved for those who are near the end of their lives), the Actors' Fund, in cooperation with BC/EFA, has secured several floors in the Aurora apartment complex in NYC. Your donation to BC/EFA will help to continue to provide housing to PWAs.

The American Foundation for AIDS Research funds biomedical and clinical research dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS. It is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research, AIDS prevention, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Your donation to AmFAR will help to continue their very important work.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is the leading U.S. national nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying, funding and conducting basic pediatric HIV/AIDS research. On GH, Jon Hanley volunteered at the Bradley Ward House, where babies with HIV and AIDS were the recipients of his loving care. You can help real children who live with HIV and AIDS in real life by making a donation to EGPAF.

Your gift will be tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Whichever charity you choose, Lee's family will be notified of every gift made in Lee's memory, and we will provide you with periodic updates on totals raised to date. Remember, unlike at the fictitious Nurses'Ball, these dollars count! Please don't think that if you only have $1 or $5 to spare that it wouldn't be "worth it," or that it "wouldn't matter." You're wrong. Each and every dollar counts, and each and every dollar is important. Someday there will be a cure, or at least a significant treatment, for AIDS. Your donation will help.

Show your compassion. Please be generous.

Thank you. Please make your check payable to the charity of your choice, and write the words "in memory of Lee Mathis/RATSA" in the "memo," or lower left hand, portion of the check. Here are the addresses for the Lee Mathis Campaign charities:

Broadway Cares
Attn: Skip Mooney, Director of Development
165 West 46th Street, #1300
New York, NY 10036

American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR)
120 Wall Street, Thirteenth Floor
New York, NY 10005

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
2950 31st Street, #125
Santa Monica, CA 90405

The three charities we have linked with are set up to track RATSA gifts, but the important thing is, as always, to give. If you have a local program you wish to support, you can do so in Lee's name, and notify one of us. We won't be able to track dollar amounts, but we can report that "Gifts in Lee's name were also sent to the following AIDS programs..."

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact any one of us.

Kathleen Lenkeit Tante Joan Razzleberry Peel

In Honor and Memory of Tony Bruno 05/23/56-09/29/94

In Lee Mathis' Words...

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