RANDY SHILTS, American journalist and author born (d. 1994) a highly acclaimed, pioneering gay American journalist and author. He worked as a reporter for both The Advocate and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as for San Francisco Bay Area television stations. In addition to his extensive journalism, Shilts wrote three best-selling, widely acclaimed books. His first, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, is a biography of the first openly gay S.F. politician, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated by a political rival in 1978. The book broke new ground, being written at a time when “the very idea of a Gay political biography was brand-new.”
Shilts’s second book, And The Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic (1980-1985), published in 1987, won the Stonewall Book Award and brought him nationwide literary fame. And the Band Played On is an extensively researched account of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The book was translated into seven languages and in 1993 was made into an HBO film with many big-name actors in starring or supporting roles, including Matthew Modine, Richard Gere,, Angelica Huston, Phil Collins, Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda, among others. Historian Garry Wills wrote, “This book will be to gay liberation what Betty Friedan was to early feminism and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was to environmentalism.”
His last book, Conduct Unbecoming: Vietnam to the Persian Gulf, which examined discrimination against lesbians and gays in the military, was published in 1993. Shilts and his assistants conducted over a thousand interviews while researching the book, the last chapter of which Shilts dictated from his hospital bed. Shilts bequeathed 170 cartons of papers, notes, and research files to the local history section of the San Francisco Public Library. At the time of his death, he was planning a fourth book, examining homosexuality in the Roman Catholic church.