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Drop Dead Gorgeous (A Tragi-Comedy): The Power of HIV-Positive Thinking.

It's a truism that we all have at least one book in us--our own stories that just need to be written down. As for comedian Steve Moore, he had an hour-long cable special in him, and it's a gem.

HBO's Drop Dead Gorgeous (A Tragi-Comedy): The Power of HIV-Positive Thinking is an unusual amalgam that might be called stand-up autobiography. Written by Moore (who, may be familiar to gay audiences from his appearance on Comedy Central's 1993 comedy special Out There), it combines home movie--style footage with stand-up material shot before an audience at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood, Calif. One minute Moore does a hilarious impersonation of his chain-smoking mom, Wilma; the next minute Wilma herself is puffing away.

The show's title is misleading, since Moore's HIV-positive status surfaces only at the program's beginning and end. The comedian covers his whole life, from growing up in Danville, Va., to living in Los Angeles.

In brief anecdotes Moore touches on his childhood, college years, and period of struggle as a performer. Moore remembers masturbating while perusing male underwear models in the Sears catalog, dating a girl who thankfully didn't want to put out, and having a disastrous first sexual experience. He recalls playing the piano in a Brooklyn movie theater and moving to Los Angeles in search of stardom. He also tells of delivering a singing telegram to Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood--and then having coffee with them.

All stand-ups draw on their own experiences to make people laugh. But Moore, with help from director-producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, takes it a step further: The sepia-toned filmed sections truly bring his story to life.

Perhaps the show's richest moments are the funny, touching portions dealing with Moore's parents, who play themselves. After the comic discovers that he's HIV-positive and that his T-cell count has plummeted below 200, he returns home to Virginia. While fishing, his usually taciturn father says to him, "Well, boy, you've been dealt a bad hand, but you play it well."

Instead of growing maudlin, though, Moore ends on a triumphant note. He returns to Los Angeles, gets free protease inhibitors from a Beverly Hills doctor (thanks to the men who died and left their drugs behind), dedicates himself to educating people through comedy about HIV and AIDS, and has a life-affirming 40th birthday party. He also adopts a dog that "deserves a second chance, because I truly felt like I'd been given one."

Plenty of comics have relived their ups and downs, but few have done it in such compelling fashion. Hats off to Moore for crafting this absorbing reminiscence and to HBO for screening it.
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Author:Stevenson, William
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Television Program Review
Date:Jun 24, 1997
Words:442
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