In 1977, I was producing San Francisco Gothic, a continuing comic strip for San Francisco's weekly newspaper, The Bay Guardian. It was a kind of adventure/soap, in the style of those wonderful and sorely missed adventure strips that filled the comics pages of our newspapers until about the seventies, when they gave way to three panel gag strips. My other inspiration, besides those old strips, was Tales of the City, the serial by Armistead Maupin that was running in the San Francisco Chronicle, and I said so in an interview that ran in the Comics Journal.
What I didn't know was that Armistead's room mate, Steve Beery, was a comics fan, but I found out soon enough when I got a phone call out of the blue from Armistead, inviting me to a party. Steve, of course, had read about what an inspiration Armistead was to me, shown Armistead the article, and -- voila! instant friends!
Steve later interviewed me for a local gay publication, and among other great words, called me "intelligent and stylish" -- words I treasure to this day.
I was also delighted to collaborate with Steve on a comic for a Gay Pride Parade newspaper, which was then reprinted as a back cover for Gay Comix, and I was especially honored because Steve made it clear that he had a high opinion of me. Since I had such a high opinion of Steve, it was definitely mutual admiration.
By 1992, Steve was so ill that he had moved to a hospice in my neighborhood, where I visited him. He had gotten very, very thin and weak, but otherwise he was still the same Steve. His fortieth birthday was coming up, and I know all his friends were hoping he would make it. His mother and brother had also come to San Francisco to be with him, and they were wonderful people; warm and supportive. There was one thing Steve, a Bette Midler fan, wanted to see -- a Disney movie starring Bette as a witch, but it hadn't yet been released. Armistead managed to get an advance tape of it, and we all celebrated Steve's birthday by watching the video of the Disney movie (which, by the way, was awful!), and eating popcorn and birthday cake.
That was the last time I saw Steve; he died a few days later. I'm happy for even a few years that I got to be his friend, and I'm glad his memory will live on in the Steve Beery collection.
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