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Passages in 2012: a look back
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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—Frank Sieple: A longtime HIV/AIDS activist with ACT UP/Chicago, he spent his last years in San Francisco, where he died at age 51.

—Etta James: The iconic singer who had hits such as "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and "At Last" died at 73. James overcame a heroin addiction, but also opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

—Eric James Borges: Just one month after filming an "It Gets Better" video in support of LGBT youth, gay teen California-based filmmaker Borges took his own life. He worked as an intern with The Trevor Project and as a supplemental instructor at the College of the Sequoias.

—Whitney Houston: The legendary singer/actress ("I Will Always Love You," "Didn't We Almost Have It All?" and many other hits) died at 48 in a Beverly Hills hotel. The official cause was listed as "drowning and effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use."

—Don Cornelius: The creator of the legendary show Soul Train died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Feb. 1. Soul Train began in Chicago as a local program in 1970 before moving to L.A. and going national 1971-2006.

—Bob Green: Green became famous thanks to then-wife Anita Bryant, as they campaigned against gay rights in the 1970s. He died in Miami at 80.

—Andrew Breitbart: The conservative Internet publisher died at 43 of natural causes. Breitbart, who helped start the Huffington Post, broke the photo situation that led to the resignation of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.

—Olga Vives: Vives was the National Organization for Women's executive vice president from 2005 to 2009, and action vice president from 2001 to 2005.

—Adrienne Rich: The lesbian feminist poet died March 27 at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif., of complications from rheumatoid arthritis. Rich was one of the first mainstream poets to write from a lesbian point of view.

—Mike Wallace: The legendary TV journalist was a correspondent on 60 Minutes 1968-2006, and won 21 Emmys. He died at age 93. One of his early groundbreaking reports involved gay people; in 1967, Wallace did a controversial report entitled "The Homosexuals," which looked at the medical, legal and social aspects of homosexuality.

—Maurice Sendak: Author Sendak, best known for writing and illustrating the kids' book Where the Wild Things Are, died May 8 at the age of 83. Sendak had a companion of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007.

—Donna Summer: Legendary disco queen Summer died at age 63. Summer ("Bad Girls," "She Works Hard for the Money") had a long battle with cancer. Summer reportedly believed she contracted the disease after inhaling toxic particles after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in New York City.

—Rosemary Keefe Curb: Keefe Curb, 72, co-editor of one of the bestselling lesbian books of all time, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence, has died of complications from lung surgery. Before retiring and moving to Albuquerque, N.M., Keefe Curb was dean at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

—Erik Rhodes: Gay-porn star Rhodes—who had worked with Falcon, Mustang and Raging Stallion studios—passed away at the age of 30. The cause of death was a heart attack. Frontiers LA reported that Rhodes appeared to be in a very dark place after reading his blog, in which he candidly talked about using drugs and steroids.

—Robin Gibb: Gibb, a founder of the Bee Gees with his two late brothers, died May 20 after a battle with cancer at age 62. The Bee Gees actually premiered in the 1960s but really hit its stride in the late 1970s with the monster-hit soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

—Nora Ephron: Ephron—the author/screenwriter behind such movies as Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia, Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally—died June 26 in New York City at age 71. She also directed several films, including Julia, Sleepless, Mixed Nuts, You've Got Mail and Bewitched, among others.

—Armando Montano: Montano, who worked this summer as a news intern for the Associated Press in Mexico City, was found dead in the elevator shaft of an apartment building; he was 22. Montano, a native of Colorado, belonged to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Assocation (NLGJA).

—Sally Ride: Physicist Ride, 61, a pioneering woman in space, died of pancreatic cancer July 23. She is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy. NASA chose Ride as an astronaut candidate in January 1978, and was a mission specialist on her historic ride on STS-7, which launched June 18, 1983.

—Sherman Hemsley: Hemsley, best known for playing George Jefferson on the sitcom The Jeffersons, died at age 74 of lung cancer. Hemsley, rumored to be gay, was not actually buried until months later because of estate issues.

—Marvin Hamlisch: Hamlisch, the composer of musicals like A Chorus Line and songs like "The Way We Were," died at age 68 after a brief illness. Hamlisch was nominated for 12 Academy Awards for his score and song contributions to films like The Spy Who Loved Me and Sophie's Choice.

—Gore Vidal: Literary legend and political activist Vidal died at age 86 of complications of pneumonia. Vidal wrote 25 novels, including The City and the Pillar, which featured openly gay characters, and Myra Breckinridge; he also penned the Tony-nominated play The Best Man. Vidal once stated that "there are not homosexual people, only homosexual acts," as he refused to be put in a sexual category.

—Helen Gurley Brown: Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine who many say helped bring about the sexual revolution, died Aug. 13 at 90. Gurley Brown wrote Sex and the Single Girl (1962) about her single life, urging women to have sex freely, regardless of their martial status.

—Ron Palillo: Ron Palillo—famed for his role as Arnold Horshack on the '70s TV show Welcome Back, Kotter—died of an apparent heart attack Aug. 14 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., at age 63. He is survived by Joseph Gramm, his partner of 41 years.

—Hal David: David died of complications from a stroke at age 91. David and singer/songwriting partner Burt Bacharach won an Oscar for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Grammys and Tonys for the songs from the Broadway musical Promises, Promises.

—Michael Clarke Duncan: Duncan died at age 54 following complications from a heart attack. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Duncan appeared in dozens of films, including such box-office hits as The Green Mile, Armageddon, Planet of the Apes and Kung Fu Panda. He also played a gay virgin in Underground Comedy Movie in 1999 and was in the lesbian film D.E.B.S.

—Sahara Davenport: Davenport, who competed on the second season of Logo's RuPaul's Drag Race, died at age 28. Davenport was partner to fellow Drag Race participant Manila Luzon.

—Bettye Lane: Lane, renowned for capturing the feminist movement during the 1970s and 1980s, died of cancer at age 82. Her work covering the 1969 Stonewall Riots appear in the 2010 documentary Stonewall Uprising, about the seminal gay-rights event.

—Arlen Specter: Former U.S. Sen. Specter died Oct. 14 in Philadelphia at age 82 after battling several illnesses, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Specter battled liberals and conservatives as a senator, killing the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court but preserving Clarence Thomas' bid for the same judicial body.

—Lou Rispoli: The gay activist was fatally beaten in a brutal attack. A witness saw an SUV pull up with the victim and three other men, two of whom started walking with Rispoli. Rispoli, 62, was "hit in the head with a blunt object with such force that neighbors who heard the assault but did not see it thought he had been shot."

—William Brandon Lacy Campos: Poet/activist/author Campos passed away in New York City at the age of 35. Campos, who had been HIV-positive for the past 10 years, was the co-executive director of Queers for Economic Justice and a prominent figure within the country's social-activist and "artivist" communities.

—Takenori "Tak" Yamamoto: Yamamoto—a pioneer Japanese-American gay activist and a longtime leader of the Manzanar Committee, which sponsors annual pilgrimages to the site of the Manzanar War Relocation Center—passed away Nov. 9 at his home at the age of 74 of natural causes.

—Martin Richards: Broadway producer Richards, 80, was part of the New York City theater scene for more than a half-century, producing shows such as On the Twentieth Century, Sweeney Todd and La Cage aux Folles.

—Josh Weston: Gay-porn star Weston died from HIV-related complications at 39. Weston—who was featured in numerous films from Falcon Studios, Hot House, Colt and C1R—got his start as a dancer in San Francisco at the Nob Hill Theatre, where Chi Chi LaRue discovered him.

—Spencer Cox: Cox was an AIDS activist who helped spearhead research on lifesaving protease inhibitors, died of AIDS-related causes in New York City at age 44.

—Daniel Inouye: The pro-gay U.S. senator from Hawaii died of respiratory complications at a Washington, D.C.-area hospital at 88. He became one of the most influential politicians in the country, playing critical roles in Congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals.

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