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July 16th, 2013

A Totally Gay Tour of Congressional Cemetery

You haven’t lived until you have hosted a game show in a cemetery. There I was, laughing and being silly while standing directly over the remains of more than 25,000 of the dearly departed. And I was doing it with the authorities.

When I asked the president of Congressional Cemetery, Paul Williams, if he would play a game with me on camera for this blog, he took it all in stride. I even suggested he use the top of a gravestone as a buzzer, so he could punch it whenever he knew the answer to a question. He hardly batted an eye.

“You have to have a sense of humor to be in this industry,” Paul told me after a lightening round of “Are you smarter than a Cemetery President?” (Are you? Watch my video blog and find out. Paul’s answers, when wrong, are hilarious.)

Because my blog has always been about living joyfully with HIV, perhaps this video brings that philosophy to its logical conclusion: accepting the passing of our lives with gratitude and happiness.

MarkGrabPICDuring our rollicking tour of the historic cemetery, you’re going to get a quick lesson on one of the pioneers of gay rights buried there, Leonard Matlovich, and his contributions to HIV/AIDS awareness before his death in 1988. If you haven’t heard his name before, or haven’t thought of him in some time, listen up. His legacy deserves our attention.

You’ll also learn about some mysterious happenings around the gravesite of a certain former FBI director, involving high heels and mysterious visitors keeping vigil. Yes, really.

I’d like to thank Paul Williams and hope you will visit the Congressional Cemetery site. If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss their costumed 5K run through the cemetery (“Dead Man’s Run”) held every year.

Thanks for watching, and please be well.

Mark

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PLUS…

WhiteHouseJuly152013smallAt a recent White House event to announce their “HIV Care Continuum Initiative” (more on that later), I was pleased to join friends old and new, including three men involved in reducing HIV stigma, a huge issue to me as you know. Pictured (left to right) are the dapper Tyler Curry, founder of The Needle Prick Project, a campaign to create dialogue on what it means to be HIV positive today; Alex Garner of NMAC, who is the former editor of Positive Frontiers and a big part of the brain trust I’m constantly accessing for my writings; myself; and the witty Chris Richey, co-founder of The Stigma Project, which educates about HIV stigma through social media and advertising.

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10 Responses to “A Totally Gay Tour of Congressional Cemetery”

  1. Jenna Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Looks like you had fun!!! Thanks for sharing

    Jenna

  2. Michael McDermott Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    That was so much fun! Thanks for adding cheer to my day, Mark.

  3. David King Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Mark,

    This was a great video. Very creative, entertaining and informative. You really should think about doing a website and showing people your talent and creativity and love for sharing. Oh wait……..My bad. I love you and am proud of what you do for others.

    David FORTY FO!!!

  4. Jack mcNulty Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I suggest making the acquaintance of David Watt from CARES 629 Pioneer Street. in Kalamazoo, MI> He is the originator of the Mr. Friendly Initiative which promotes the honest discussion of HIV status among both sero-positive and negative folks. His program has received funding from a group with which I am associated (CLAW) and is spreading widely as a means of erasing the stigma of sufferers from their social interactions. His experience and enthusiasm for the effort has intensified over the years with which we have been associated. You seem to be able to help each other in very significant way.

  5. Mike b. Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Boy that Paul Williams is a busy guy, president of ASCAP and the Congressional Cemetery.

  6. Nancy Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Very fun trip to the cemetery! We do need to appreciate the life we are living now and those dear to us. Such a blessing we have you. A true King Family moment to have a game show. Too bad you didn’t offer him a parting gift for participating!

    Love you little brother, Nancy

  7. Linda J. Barnes Says:

    July 16th, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Thank you so much for creating this wonderful video! My husband and I are researching our family histories and recently learned that his paternal grandfather, grand uncle, and great grandparents are buried in Congressional Cemetery. If it had not been for your video we would never have known what a beautiful last resting place it is for our ancestors and all the other departed souls. So thank you ever so much!!

    PS My hubby also has the surname King in his family!! LOL!

  8. Charles Says:

    July 17th, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a cemetery! Oh yes! It was the DC Front Runners 5k June 7, 2013 at the Congressional Cemetery! http://www.dcfrontrunners.org/#!dcfr-pride-run/c1v6

  9. robert allen Says:

    July 18th, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    quite informative mark as always…..today i have learned something

  10. Michael Bedwell Says:

    July 19th, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks for the fun and informative video, Mark. A few additional facts. My late friend Leonard Matlovich specifically chose the plot he did because it is in the same row as J’Edgar AND just five plots from the grave of Hoover’s longtime campanion/maybe lover, Clyde Tolson whose gravestone is, ironically, made out of PINK granite. He meant it as a kind of last laugh on the monster who damaged the lives of so many gays, and loved, as I still do, the idea of current and former FBI agents having to pass his grave with its proud gay tombstone on their way to pay homage to J’Edgar. And while Paul may have meant they were about to have their first gay wedding IN the chapel, there was actually a wedding next to Leonard’s grave in May 2011. Then Capt. Steve Snyder who would become famous that September for being booed by audience members during a televised Repug presidential candidates debate for his question about DADT and his partner drove from their home in Ohio to DC while Steve was on leave from his deployment in Iraq. Asking the local officiant for suggestions about where they might do it that would be special, she told them about Leonard, and they decided to do it there in honor of his having launched the first formal fight against the ban. Photos of the ceremony as well as of other “gay graves” in Congressional Cemetery can be found at: http://leonardmatlovich.com/storyofhisstone.html The site also has video of Leonard announcing he had AIDS on “Good Morning America” in 1987, the same year he was arrested at the White House along with Sean Strub, et al., for protesting Reagan’s AIDS indifference. Thanks again.

    (What a great addition to this post, Michael. Thank you so much for taking the time to add these stories and facts! — Mark)

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