In this 7 1/2 minute distillation of the WOW documentary Drop Dead Gorgeous (A Tragicomedy): The Power of Positive Thinking, comic Steve Moore talks about his world view, his life, and the disease that became a major part of his life. It’s a wonderful tribute to someone who made us laugh and touched our hearts.
Drop Dead Gorgeous premiered on HBO in June 1997. Part stand-up comedy, part documentary, the show was a forthright and funny look at Moore’s life with AIDS. It won wide acclaim from critics (winning a CableACE award) and viewers alike. Written by Moore (who was known at that time primarily from his appearance on Comedy Central’s 1993 comedy special Out There), it combines home movie-style footage with stand-up material shot before an audience at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood, Calif. One minute Moore does a hilarious impersonation of his chain-smoking mom, Wilma; the next minute Wilma herself is puffing away.
From The Free Library:
The show’s title is misleading, since Moore’s HIV-positive status surfaces only at the program’s beginning and end. The comedian covers his whole life, from growing up in Danville, Va., to living in Los Angeles.
In brief anecdotes Moore touches on his childhood, college years, and period of struggle as a performer. Moore remembers masturbating while perusing male underwear models in the Sears catalog, dating a girl who thankfully didn’t want to put out, and having a disastrous first sexual experience. He recalls playing the piano in a Brooklyn movie theater and moving to Los Angeles in search of stardom. He also tells of delivering a singing telegram to Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood–and then having coffee with them.
All stand-ups draw on their own experiences to make people laugh. But Moore, with help from director-producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, takes it a step further: The sepia-toned filmed sections truly bring his story to life.
Perhaps the show’s richest moments are the funny, touching portions dealing with Moore’s parents, who play themselves. After the comic discovers that he’s HIV-positive and that his T-cell count has plummeted below 200, he returns home to Virginia. While fishing, his usually taciturn father says to him, “Well, boy, you’ve been dealt a bad hand, but you play it well.”
Instead of growingmaudlin, though, Moore ends on a triumphant note. He returns to Los Angeles, gets free protease inhibitors from a Beverly Hills doctor (thanks to the men who died and left their drugs behind), dedicates himself to educating people through comedy about HIV and AIDS, and has a life-affirming 40th birthday party. He also adopts a dog that “deserves a second chance, because I truly felt like I’d been given one.”
Plenty of comics have relived their ups and downs, but few have done it in such compelling fashion. Hats off to Moore for crafting this absorbing reminiscence and to HBO for screening it.