On July 3, 1981, a Friday, an article in the New York Times reported on a rare cancer detected in gay men in San Francisco and New York. Of course, this mysterious illness was AIDS, which was initially referred to as GRID. Because it was the start of a holiday weekend, and the article was deep in the first section, many may have missed it or read it the next day. It was a sobering read for a holiday. And it seemed somehow fitting that July 4th that year was very rainy, in fact it was New York's rainiest 4th of July on record. (The appearance of this article is how the 1990 movie Longtime Companion begins.)
At the time I was 24 and not yet a regular reader of the Times but my older/wiser boyfriend at the time brought it to my attention. No doubt it was the primary topic discussion out at Fire Island, and quite a shift from the usual carefree chatter and gossiping that occurred at low tea, on the beach, at house parties or around the dinner table. Many were still coming down from the high provided by the Saint's opening season, but suddenly we were about to enter a very frightening period that lasted through the mid-90s (when protease inhibitors brought hope).
Here are some other posts about AIDs published on ZeitGAYst: