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13 Random Victims of an Indiscriminate Killer--AIDS : Some of the Stories Behind the Death Toll Include a Businessman, Wife and Mother, Former Priest, Child and Ballet Dancer

May 24, 1987|LYNN SIMROSS | Times Staff Writer

"We used to have this morning ritual where we'd get the baby and change her and bring her to bed with us to play. I remember right after Nancy died, the baby looked on the bed, then she looked in the dressing room and the bathroom and then gave me a puzzled look. It was horrible."

Sawaya turned his head away for a moment, then continued: "Now she looks at the pictures in the house and points and says, 'Momma and Daddy.' I tell her, 'Daddy loves you. Momma loves you. She's gone, but she's taking care of us someplace else.' "


On March 17, Antonio Lopez, 44, died of complications of AIDS at UCLA Medical Center. He had Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare cancer, in his lungs and externally. His business partner, Juan Ramos, took Lopez's ashes home to Puerto Rico.

Antonio, as he was internationally known in the world of fashion, grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City when he was 8. After starting his illustration career, he was credited with launching the modeling careers of Jessica Lange, Tina Chow, Grace Jones and Jerry Hall.

"He knew (he had AIDS) for a long time," said Susan Baraz, who was graduated in 1962 with Lopez from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and became his first model. "But he wasn't really sick until this last year. I went back just to cook and give him hugs and watch old movies together. He finally came out and was staying with me.

"He was hiding (that he had AIDS) for a long time from everybody. But in the end he was very open about it. Juan and I talked about what to say and decided officially to tell people Antonio died of AIDS because so many people cover it up."

His memorial service in New York drew about 1,200 people, and a fashion illustration scholarship has been set up in his name by the Fashion Institute of Technology Alumni Assn.

"Antonio was a complex person," Baraz said at her home in Santa Monica. "He wasn't very comfortable in this world. He was humble and shy, a really giving soul."

Baraz said that Lopez has a daughter who lives in New York.

Baraz and a few other close friends were with Lopez when he died, she said. "We didn't leave. About 4 a.m. I was putting cold compresses on his head and he opened his eyes for a minute, put his lips together and gave me a kiss. I said, 'I've waited 27 years for that kiss.' "


When television producer Philip Mandelker, 45, died on March 26, 1984, his mother, Doris, and sister, Jane Makowka, wanted it known publicly that he died of AIDS.

"The day Philip died, I cried," said Makowka from her Fairfax, Va., home. "But I had cried my tears for months before. I knew a long time before anybody ever said it was AIDS that it was. . . .

"My mother knew my brother was gay. I knew and we all loved him anyway. Whenever I talked with Philip (when he was ill), I talked about some of the things he had done for me and tried to let him know how much I loved him.

"For a person his age, he had a lot of wonderful experiences," she said. "Lots of people live their lives and never accomplish so much. He was very well loved. And most important was his love of people and love of nature. He tried to bring that, something of quality to television, something people would remember. That's a great loss to the world. He was very fortunate to have been as successful as he was in that short of a lifetime. You wonder what he might have done if it hadn't been cut short."

"His family was very dedicated to him and they insisted on people knowing Philip died of AIDS," said Rob Eichberg, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist who was the first person Mandelker called after learning that he had AIDS in June 1983.

Eichberg, active in the gay community since the mid-1970s, conducts AIDS workshops across the United States and in several foreign countries.

"In 1984, when I did a workshop I would ask how many knew someone who had AIDS, and only a few raised their hands," he said. "In 1985, a third knew someone; in '86, half of the group did. Now, almost everyone knows someone."


Barry Lowen, 50, a television executive widely known for his private collection of contemporary art, died Sept. 24, 1985, from complications of AIDS. "He was a guru of contemporary art," said Eichberg. "I have a couple of hundred letters that were sent to Barry. He wasn't seeing too many people then. Those letters are so wonderful and beautiful that they bring tears to your eyes.

"(There are letters from) people expressing what significant impact he had on people's lives. From TV executives to people who cut his hair. I especially remember one from the shoeshine man at Fox (Lowen was an executive at 20th Century Fox before joining Aaron Spelling Productions where he worked until he became ill). He signed the letter 'Shoeshine' and said in it that very few people treated him with dignity and respect and Barry was one of them."


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