My evening at David Mixner’s “Oh Hell No!”
It was a a stupendous night on Thursday at the El Rey Theatre where the remarkable David Mixner told some stories.
He was introduced by two-time Tony winner Judith Light who described her friend as ‘icon, hero and a legend in the LGBT movement. I know he doesn’t like when you say it but it needs to be said because it’s true.’
In Oh Hell Know! all he needed was a desk, a chair and a few photos as he then took us through his personal history from the 1970s through the 1990s.
And what a history.
He suffered a nervous breakdown after being rejected by his parents when he came out but recovered and found his voice.
A chunk early in the show is dedicated to the uphill “No on 6” campaign to stop the anti-gay Briggs Initiative which sought to ban gay and lesbians from teaching in public schools. We got a fascinating look inside the effort, how the money was raised, who stepped forward and how Mixner met with Ronald Reagan and found a way to convince him to come out publicly against the initiative.
I loved the part about him nervously stuffing Reagan’s trademark jelly beans into his mouth.
When the initiative was voted down, Mixner shared how he felt: “Never do I remember such joy in a single night. It was one of the most joyful nights of my life. We were on the road to freedom, sexual liberation, a community coming together – we had it in our hands.’
But then came AIDS.
“This part’s hard,” Mixner said. “How do you talk about something you want to forget? It’s hard to believe that many of us made it through or that it even happened to us.’
In the darkest early days, ‘no one wanted to have anything to do with us overnight, there ws no hope. Back then, some died in a couple of days and some struggled to live for a couple of years. … Friend after friend was dying. I gave 90 eulogies for young men under the age of 40.’
Mixner wiped away many tears during this part of the show as did some in the audience. But he is reliving these memories so that people don’t forget and so that younger generations will know about all that happened.
The final section of the show focuses on Mixner’s work on behalf of Bill Clinton first presidential election and the betrayal he felt when Clinton signed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell into law in 1993. He pointed out that 14,000 people lost their careers under the policy and 32 soldiers killed themselves.
When he looks back on those decades, Mixner says it is “an incredible gift having taken this epic journey for freedom’ and that despite the “cesspool of hate directed at us, we never stopped loving. We didn’t become like them.’
Mixner was joined on stage during different parts of the show by performers Dave Koz, Rory O’Malley, Emily Swallow and Chris Bolan.
It was all very beautiful and moving.
My friend Jim Key and I rushed backstage after the performance and David’s first words to me were: “Thanks so much for making me a Morning Man!”
I can’t think of a classier Morning Man in all the years of this site and how great that David did this performance and one in New York recently to benefit The Point Foundation which has awarded $18 million in 14 years to LGBT students pursuing higher education.
Find out more about the Point Foundation HERE.