Long-time gay activist and columnist Paul Varnell was remembered during a memorial tribute April 15 at the Leather Archives & Museum. The event was held just one day shy of what would have been his 71st birthday.
Varnell, who died Dec. 9, 2011, was remembered for his wide range of interests and activism. Greg Nigosian, who organized the event along with Milan Vydareny, started the program with his own memories of Varnell.
Jack Rinella, Dr. David Ostrow, Tim Drake and Vydareny each gave their personal take on the complicated man they knew.
Rinella said Varnell was his mentor into the worlds of hustling and writing. On the flip side, Ostrow spoke of Varnell's intense involvement in AIDS activism and his understanding of the details of AIDS research.
Drake, a fellow member of the Chicago Area Republican Gay Organization ( which operated in the 1980s and 1990s ) said while Varnell was not Republican ( he was Libertarian ) , he understood the need to have gays working inside both major political parties. Drake also said Varnell is often overlooked as a primary behind-the-scenes advocate for fair coverage of gay issues in the mainstream media.
Vydareny spoke of Varnell's strong Libertarian background, and of his vast collection of writings.
The second half of the program featured a discussion moderated by Andrew Patner and Kit Duffy reading from Varnell's columns.
Patner said that those long-ago disagreements that were so fierce at the time now seem irrelevant. The work back then was so often done by fiercely independent people, he said, leading to inevitable strong disagreements.
During the discussion, former colleagues, including Larry Bommer and Gary Barlow, spoke about working with Varnell. Several others also shared memories, including Duffy, who said even though she and Varnell were almost always on opposites sides of an issue, they did both agree on the same goals.
See more about Varnell at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Life-of-writer-Paul-Varnell-remembered/36326.html