The bathhouse beat
April 13-19, 2006
Guilt By Disassociation
By Brian Hickey
More than a decade ago, before Rick Santorum fed at the political teat of whoever nurtures easy-to-loathe right-wingers, the owners of the 12th Street Gym got jammed up. As in, they shelled out $35,000 to the estate of a customer who, after his death at the age of 35, won an AIDS discrimination suit against them.
According to a very-easy-to-find-by-Googling account of the 1995 case, gym customer Irving Silverman went to the front desk seeking a Band-Aid after cutting his finger. There, owner Robert Guzzardi allegedly told him, "We don't want your kind in here. You're careless. You could infect everybody."
In the Philadelphia featured a year earlier in the film Philadelphia, the incident would seem offensive enough that gays and lesbians should've started divesting their money from a business located in the heart of their 'hood. Instead, 12th Street went on to become one of "North America's most gay-popular gyms" according to Gay.com and the place where "all the gay boys go to train," according to the Philly Gay Calendar.
This is what I got to thinking about—Silverman's case, not "gay boys"—when a couple dozen people turned up outside 12th Street armed with stickers, placards, leaflets and a bullhorn Monday afternoon. Not far from a sign declaring the gym has been "stubbornly catering to members since 1986," the protesters, through threats of a boycott, took credit for forcing Guzzardi to sell his majority stake in the business. His so-called crime? Nope, he didn't break out a new repertoire of HIV zingers. He merely donated some $4,400 this year to the campaign coffers of a U.S. senator who equates the love lives of many 12th Street customers to nailing the neighbor's yellow lab.
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