The AIDS Quilt Cover
The most painful event of the Eighties was the death of Ed Lowry in October 1985. He was one of the Chronicle's original founders, a statement which only begins to describe his influence on this paper and those who knew him. He was a friend and teacher, whose knowledge of and passion for film was limitless, and whose commitment to the Chronicle and the establishment of its standards of excellence still provide a guiding (and largely unmatched) example to this day.
Ed died of AIDS. Even in death he was part of the advance guard. 1985 was a time before cocktails, a time in the throes of Rock Hudson's public outing and diagnostic death sentences. Ed's death happened so fast, although the moments spent watching him die seemed so incredibly long.
When the AIDS Quilt came to town on tour in 1989, we wanted to contribute a panel in memory of Ed. Art Director Martha Grenon took matters in hand and created this sewn patchwork panel that we also used as the issue cover on April 28, 1989. The panel contained images from some of Ed's favorite movies, and the cover became one of our -- and Martha's -- all-time favorites.
I've learned so much of what I know about movies from Ed -- and I know the same is true for Louis, Nick, Joe, and many, many others. To this day, there are movies that remain vivid to me even though I'm not sure if I've actually seen them or just had them described to me by Ed.
Death has been particularly harsh to the Chronicle's Film department and has claimed a disproportionate number of its members over the years. Another beloved film writer and teacher, George Morris, died in June 1989, also of AIDS. He wrote mostly on older films for the Chronicle, and the films he loved knew no greater champion. He was also a friend of Richard Linklater's (Slacker is dedicated to his memory) and a driving force behind the formation of the Austin Film Society. Chuck Schapiro is another of the film department's departed. Chuck was the Chronicle's first video editor and an old cohort from the CinemaTexas days. He died in 1999.
The litany of names is almost too painful to go through. Gone is Bejou Merry, the Chronicle's longtime arts and features writer, whose humor and unique outlook on life is irreplaceable. She was last heard in these parts, before her move to Pennsylvania, telling friends that she was leaving Austin to "teach comedy to the Amish." Had she lived, I bet she would have liked Kingpin. We also miss the company of Susan Grady, one of the Chronicle's first ad reps -- and certainly one of its first successful ones. Susan could light up a room; it was no doubt the secret of her success in sales. The world is a dimmer place in her absence. And Phil Born, who wrote for us on food and books -- also gone. A man about town, known to so many in so many different capacities, Phil was another person I first got to know while working at CinemaTexas.
Then there's Jeff Whittington, from whose recent death we are all still smarting and about whom enough can never be said. One of the Chronicle's founding editors, Jeff deserves his own story. His rock & roll musings in the Chronicle, and The Daily Texan before, influenced an entire Austin generation with their clarity, integrity, passion, and belief. We were all lucky to have Jeff for the time that we did.
We mourn the way-too-early deaths of these and all the other friends of the family who are not mentioned here. We are diminished by each of their deaths, and any story of this paper's history would be incomplete without crediting their contributions.
The irony of the Chronicle's longevity is that this paper has outlasted so many of the people who worked so hard to make it thrive. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Even any half-assed gambler would have bet that the lives of these people held more durable prospects than did the future of this paper. Sadly, their silenced voices cannot be part of this 20th anniversary tapestry of remembrances. But those who remember the dead already know, and those who did not know them should be advised, that these voices and examples still echo loudly in the pages of the Chronicle. The physical absence of so many loved ones makes this anniversary celebration a bittersweet affair. But this marker should also serve as a celebration of their lives. Their contributions are as indelible as the ink on these pages.