Randy Shilts (1951-1994) was a prominent, openly gay journalist and author. A freelance television and newspaper reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area, Shilts covered issues facing local LGBTQ communities, most notably the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Shilts published three books: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982), And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS epidemic (1989), and Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf (1993). In 1982, Shilts published his first book, The Mayor of Castro Street, about Harvey Milk and LGBT political power in San Francisco. Shilts’ extensive research on the development of the AIDS epidemic, a topic assigned to him by the Chronicle, led to his second book, And the Band Played On in 1989. This book chronicled how the national political climate shaped the epidemic’s growth and examined its social ramifications. Critics have commented that Shilts’ final book, Conduct Unbecoming, about how military culture historically shaped a particular kind of homophobia, enabled mainstream readers to see lesbian and gay issues as matters of human rights worthy of national and international priority. In 1987, Shilts was diagnosed as HIV positive; he publicly disclosed his status in 1993. He died of fully developed AIDS on February 17, 1994, in Guerneville, California. Linda Alband was Shilts’ longtime friend and his business manager for the last five-and-a-half years of his life. Alband lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s and 1990s. She graduated from San Francisco State University in 1994. She worked for several organizations that protested the disempowerment of minority groups, and on a few films related to gay and lesbian and women’s rights. Alband also led efforts to assemble and complete Shilts’ personal and professional papers for donation to the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. She later donated her own materials on Shilts to the GLBT Historical Society. The Linda Alband collection of Randy Shilts materials documents Shilts’ personal and political work, and dates from 1966-1999. Linda Alband assembled the materials in the collection during Shilts’ life and after his death, working to preserve his legacy. Collection number 2003-09.
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