Mark S. King was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, only shortly after any viable test for the virus was made available. "I call my blog My Fabulous Disease because I refused to be defined by a disease. Now I am defining the disease. I refused to be defined by illness or suffering," he said, adding that he started his video and written blog because he liked the "instant gratification" he got and that he enjoyed the repartee with his audience.
King began his career as an actor in Los Angeles appearing in commercials and even winning a car on the Price Is Right. (You can read and watch this on his blog. According to him, it was a highlight of his life.)
During the early '80s, King worked as a phone sex operator: "You know how actors have their cliché summer acting jobs? Well, I had a non-cliché summer phone sex operator job." That job eventually led to King's own phone sex company "TeleroticWhere our guys know you like the palm of your hand." Eventually, as AIDS emerged as a national health crisis, King sold Telerotic.
"Prior to AIDS I was a shallow gay guy, working out and getting laid. I did my part to spread the gay around," said King. "HIV was my awakening about things that I was doing that were not so important. Before that, my life was the antithesis of what we're all called to do." King expressed his extreme gratitude to still be here after more than 27 years of being HIV positive. "I survived the '80s alone, and a serious drug addiction. Now I have more friends and a better sense of community. It's that kind of community that we should want more of," he said.
When asked what he thought about the new gay generation's possible waning of interest in the AIDS epidemic, King had some poignant advice: "Give them a break! Cut them some slack! People say that 'No one sees this [AIDS] as a crisis anymore'. Thank. God. Isn't that what we've been working towards all of these years? People aren't as afraid anymore. This is not to say that they should be doing nothing. Being involved in the community gives a sense of belonging and meaning. This leads to a greater sense of self-esteem and the taking of fewer unhealthy risks in their lives."
King's blog is candid. Not in a scripted "Real Housewives of New York" way but in a manner that allows a reader and viewer of the blog to understand and relate to King on a deeply personal level. He admitted to a more than 10-year struggle with crystal meth. "Crystal meth, in particular, is an epidemic," he said. "Friends of mine were there one day then just 'poof' gone the next, either from seeking the drug or from an overdose."
In the mid-'90s protease inhibitor-type drugs were made available to those with HIV and suddenly fewer men were dying. "We were happy and relieved. We just wanted to reclaim our sexuality," said King. "As gay men we grew up feeling 'less than' and not feeling a part of any community. We were wiling to go, even to drugs, as a way to change the way we felt. We still do this with alcohol to some extent."
"I quit my job. How could the director of an AIDS agency be caught in a sex club, high on god knows what, and having unprotected sex? I was suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress," he said. "Mind you, I was not the only one who this happened to. There were names bigger and more important than mine doing the same thing."
King's most recent blog posts involve his recent break-up with his partner. Some blogs might gloss over those parts of the blogger's life that are unsavory or unpleasant, but in his own way, King's blog demonstrates for us that life is neither all a bed of roses or a crown of thorns. "I need to regroup. I will be moving back to Atlanta. I'm sure the blog will chronicle whatever transitions await me," King said, adding that he, like many other gay men, seem to need to always be with a man. "I was already thinking about the next man and that is so unhealthy. I was afraid. I was afraid of being alone and unlovable. But I have faith that everything is going to be okay. I really just need to take the time to examine what has happened."
King also dabbled in drag. Drag is either something gay men do because, as Noxezma Jackson from To Wong Foo put it "they have WAY too much fashion sense for one gender." But drag is also something that some gay men fall into and thus King's alter-ego "Anita Mann" was born.
"I became a multi-media drag queen," said King. "Before Anita, I had never even put on a dress. This was raising money and awareness for AIDS. I actually had some problems putting on the dress. I never went out in drag and almost immediately after doing a show, was back in a t-shirt and jeans." Like many aspects of King's life, during his struggles with meth, Anita became a hindrance to his drug use. But after being clean now for more than four years, Anita is back with a vengeance. "Anita only performs for events that raise money and awareness for AIDS or for those people in recovery."
While King's blog seems like full-time work, for him it is a hobby, but one that brings him considerable joy. " I love writing. This is my voice. I gotta tell you though, I cry at least once a week," he said. "I get an e-mail at least once a week from someone who thought that their life was over. But they read something that makes them laugh and somehow, that makes them feel comforted."
King's blog may be unorthodox and provocative, but it is also riotously funny. It is just not mere babble about one's man's life living with HIV like the Lone Ranger and Tonto. We get the unusual treat of interacting with what it means to be a community. We learn what "belonging" means.
You can read and watch My Fabulous Disease at marksking.com/