He wasn't supposed to live past 1985, yet here we are sitting down with Reverend Steve Pieters! Hear the incredible life story of this inspiring pastor and long-term survivor of AIDS. His interview with televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in 1985 tu...
E112 – He wasn’t supposed to live past 1985, yet here we are sitting down with Reverend Steve Pieters! Hear the incredible life story of this inspiring pastor and long-term survivor of AIDS. His interview with televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in 1985 turned the Christian and LGBTQ communities both upside down, a storyline featured in the upcoming film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” starring Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, coming out September 2021. Steve discusses his background growing up gay in the 1950’s, his journey into religious studies and leadership, the reality of his sickness in the early 80’s, and his miraculous story of recovery. He explains his near death experience in detail, and tells how this new knowledge influenced how he helped others with AIDS. Hear about his relationship to Albert Einstein, his discovery and career with the Metropolitan Community Church, and his current love with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. He even sings an original show tune “Medical Anomaly!” We hope you enjoy this amazing tale of recovery and hope.
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Steve Pieters: Gay Pastor of Tammy Faye Fame on Queer Life & Near Death Lessons
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<Mark Twain voice> I haven't been so well since my resurrection. For humor? But here it is. I've been listening to my favorite podcast, Mouse and Weens.
Weens! Your nickname is fun to say because it already makes you go “wheeee!” And it brings out your wrinkles. Whoa wrinkle talk. I didn’t say that. You guys, we’re sisters. That's why we're looking at wrinkles. You've always said that you have the dad wrinkles. I got the mom ones. You’re not supposed to back it up and say yeah. Oh, sorry! You're supposed to say no. There's no wrinkles. It’s all… you’re perfect. You're beautiful. It's not true at all. Never. I’m hiding behind my microphone because I had oral surgery. This is Joelle. I'm the mom one. You had oral what?! Oh. Surgery. I had my implant removed. Ready? I'm going to flash it really fast for only those of you who are on YouTube. Ready? <Pause for the reveal. Screams> Aaah! I'm missing a tooth. You need to pop it out a little more. No I don't want to. I don't want to. I'm very embarrassed about it. Look this episode is all about authenticity and being free - being who you really are. I'm not quite there yet. Here's scale of being authentic. I'm not quite there. No you can rewind it if you really wanna sit okay all right. I'm Joelle - Mouse. I'm the mom down in San Diego. I'm weans I'm Julianne. I'm up in LA and I am in the film business entertainment world. Yes she is she is and we have a special guest for you today who she met and is friends with Alison Arngrim who we interviewed before. So go back to those episodes. If you wanna hear the mention. But Steve is an amazing person. I researched him heavily and was like flabbergasted. Does anyone say that word anymore. Yeah all of his accomplishments but just by his life story. You know the past that he's taken so you guys will be interested to learn about him because he is a gay. Reverend minister in a Christian church. Okay first of all. That's just one thing but kind of what launched him into fame is that he was one of the first patients ever to have aids and he was Reached out to by Tammy Faye Bakker of the famous evangelistic couple Jim and Tammy Faye and she interviewed him and it was kind of a life link where we can i just He wasn't the first person to have a. He was the first person to have the drug that antibiotic ground zero. Yeah yes yes sorry. Yeah so he really was a game changer. In a lot of people's lives in the LBGTQ community especially in the eighties during the time of aids and HIV. So we are gonna talk to him. He is a survivor and his story is amazing. He has gone on to be featured in so many publications This interview with Tammy Faye launched him into talk shows. He was written about in multiple books. There are documentaries and he is in them. He has a new film coming out centered around kind of his interview as well We'll talk about it. And Jessica Chastain is in it, a very famous actor. Yeah it's amazing. And Andrew Garfield. He was at a presidential prayer meeting in 1993 with President Clinton and Vice President Gore. He was invited to that and spoke with Clinton. I wrote down his thing. We didn't get to talk about it in our interview. But Clinton about vaccine. And Steve said there there is no vaccine It's mostly about seven and that was referenced. Later a month later in President Clinton's speech about in on world aids day so it was very pivotal stuff. People kind of know about this man that Tammy Faye interviewed that kind of change the world of aids activism and. He has since gone on to help in a million different aids organizations. He's gotten awards Left and right. And he's got yes stuff featured in the Smithsonian institute so it's it's kind of a cool story movie being made right now about his life with very prominent actors and actresses right amazing very. He's touched so many lives with his help. People who are dying and a chaplain he's Yeah just a beautiful person. Still performing sermons of virtually for people.
00:05:02 - 00:10:04
I'm very involved in the community and just a wonderful person and Julianne slightly Gay Men's Choir of Los Angeles that's rate and she's lucky to have him as a friend and I'm lucky to meet him by proxy and hope to in real life real soon so anyway. Let's hear this wonderful interview with Steve. Peters everybody here we go. Oh friend i love you Steve. I'm just gonna start right. There are beautiful. And I'm so glad that you could do this. We are so excited to have you today. Absolutely delighted to be here. I'm so glad that you ask that amazing story. I spent all today. I feel like I'm back in college. I crammed for this interview. I learned everything there is to know. Got you know what you hope lots but oh my goodness the first thing I want to say my first impression I love your hair. I love your fun smile. And you're just you like a fun person. What jillions told me you really are. And you know I love short. Let's that's right. I know so. I heard you sing a song and a lovely song on your Facebook. Page all about your kind of ordeal. But why don't you start us with that. What was your song about the medical anomaly. Yeah right well. You know back in the nineties. I was You know people were people in my church. Were talking about how you're such miracle you know the stories such miracle in all of that and and in the medical world they were the doctors would say. Oh well this. You're a real anomaly. and so. I was thinking about this thinking about it. Think about. I thought and out pop these lyrics to an old Gilbert and Sullivan song. And I wrote them down. And and I've sung them for all kinds of different audiences and and Online and offline and My doctor recorded on her phone so she could play it for at the NIH and CDC and so apparently Dr Fauci asks my doctor Levine after me through the years until seasonal alive. Yeah oh yeah you are. That is amazing. Can we go into that a little bit? Why are you a medical anomaly? Well I got sick with what we now know as HIV disease or aids in nineteen eighty two Not even a year like six six seven months after the first report. The first published report of aids I started getting sick with and I was diagnosed in 1982 with GRID, gay related immuno deficiency. That's what they were calling AIDS back then and you know they didn't they didn't know enough about the disease to even be able to give me a prognosis at that point. But you know as time marched on we all could see everybody got AIDS and died right and In 82, 83 I had hepatitis sidima. Gala virus pneumonia mononucleosis. Herpes shingles a variety of fungal infections including a fungal infection on my foot which caused these huge painful blisters. Asked one of the dermatologists. I went to trying to find a treatment for it Said that oh. He hadn't seen it since he was a medic. In the south pacific in World War II that that it was a fungal infection a came from walking barefoot and sheep dung in New Zealand. So how was your trip to New Zealand? I'd sheep dung. I did however step in some standing water at the gym body was just. It didn't know how to deal with anything. It's immune system is just shutting down actually and people with aids back then picked up all kinds of strange things that nobody ever saw an healthy young people. Before I are an I that was you know that was one of them so I was sick. Call through eighty three and then they came up with this diagnosis called aids They have discovered the virus yet so there was no test for it. But the the the diagnosis of aids was defined by one of five specific diseases. And I didn't have any of them. So I had GRID which was AIDS but I couldn't be diagnosed with full-blown aids until April of 1984.
00:10:04 - 00:15:12
I was diagnosed with stage. Four lymphoma and Kaposi's sarcoma and Kaposi's sarcoma is what gave me the diagnosis of full-blown AIDS finally and I was I was given by one one of the nurses. The doctors never gave me a prognosis. Well that's not true. They said one of them said well you might live eighteen months to two years but the a nurse read my chart and said that they didn't expect me lived see nineteen eighty five away so I was given a month to live How does that feel when someone gives you. I know this is a basic question. But were you in a state of panic where you in a state of acceptance. No god. No not not even denial. I was aired to death. I mean you know. I just was terrified And I was scared of how sick. I saw other people with aids being and I didn't know a lot of people who had aids. But I saw their patients at the hospital and I could see how sick they were and I thought, "Oh my God. That's my future." And everybody that I heard of who was diagnosed with AIDS died and so I thought you know at the age of 32 that my my life was over. 32! I wouldn't have a future. Oh my gosh and miss something. I mean it was the early early days of being diagnosed and there was there so much shame associated because it was a gay disease. And we've talked about a lot of your, you know, past growing up in the time that you did. It was a rough time being gay. In what year..? When were you born? Do you mind talking about that all? No not at all. I was born in 1952 so I am now approaching 69 rapidly. You look great! Reo i. Don't even dye my hair. it's still go on. you know noisy. Do have feinstein look. I liked it a lot. We've funny wally?e wrote it down juliana so we have to be sure to ask him about einstein. So what is the connection you were born in that. Say your dad. Vice ad was a math teacher and he was a math teacher at phillips academy andover as well as being the varsity wrestling coach There and they would give the faculty at and over a year's sabbatical when they were fairly young. Still and So my dad decided to spend his sabbatical at princeton where he had done his undergraduate and graduate degrees and he went back to princeton and worked in the math department at princeton. I was sabbatical on his about it. Yeah he loved his job as long. He was very unhappy if he didn't have a lot to do. She cry be related. I was gonna say. I know when you look at his right but Anyway so i was two and dad would take me for walks in the parkin and we would run into this. Old man with white frizzy hair out to here. You know all of that and and this old man would lean down and and you know talk to me or And then sometimes we would sit on the park bench and he would. He would love to take me on his on his lap and and bounce me up and down on his knees and and You know. I had no idea who albert einstein was but it was albert einstein. That's insane a mentor of my fathers. And and einstein was approaching the end of his life and he was retired and take a walk in the park. And you know i was to. Dad was proud at me and he said oh. Here's my little stevie. So he was friends with your dad they would discuss chat and well. I would say more mentor. Nintee- no to department. That's amazing. i had a college friend who's great aunt. I think went on a date with him. Does that lining. Yeah chris bonner. Ucsd anyway so this. So speaking of your dad. I want to kind of hear your story of what it was. Like growing up your. How did your parents were. They lovely people. How do they accept you coming out. When did you first of all. When did you know you were gay. Oh well i. I've known as far back as i can remember that that boys held an extra charge for me but i found a letter that my father wrote to his parents when i was about eighteen months old and and dad was the varsity wrestling coach.
00:15:12 - 00:20:04
As i mentioned at every year they would have the wrestling team down for dinner. And so this year when i was eighteen months old. They came in through the door. And and Dad said in this letter. We're so excited because little. Cv said his first words. Today we had the wrestling team for dinner and as they came in through the door stevie sat up in his highchair and said just as clearly as could be boys. Boy my god oh yeah. Early in the rain is on the wall taking class right now in psychology for life span development and it was a whole article about people around three years old know what gender they're to be associated with the rest of their life so people don't know that and so early. Yeah and you know. I i learned. I learned to be i mean. Obviously i wasn't ashamed. That point but i learned to be ashamed of my feelings off because of the the you know how i heard the grownups talking about homos and And one time. Dad took me to When i was maybe five or six and he took me to the wrestling. Meet on saturday afternoon and the way in before the the wrestling meet happened. I if the boys didn't come in right under the weight that they were supposed to be wrestling at dad had them take off their clothes and weigh-in naked. And and i was like very interesting and i asked my dad abounded afterwards and and and i must have said something about how how amazing they looked or something i i wish i knew and but i do remember my dad going. We don't talk about that and he was obviously ashamed. And and you know There have been studies done of of fathers and gay gheysens and there are. there's a lot of thought that that fathers seed that there's something different in their gay sons at early and they can sense this difference and and they're embarrassed by it and and they they are you know oftentimes they start shaming the other person the the little boy because they feel ashamed of sun At that time. Oh my gosh. I'm you know communicate about this. You support there. Were no images. I mean i thought i was the only homosexual in the world for the longest time we had no will and grace know ellen degeneres no. You're nothing anywhere. no internet. Nothing so how isolating. I went to the library at andover and and looked up homosexuality. The ad love in the library card. Catalog remember those card cat. We you even snl system. But i looked up homosexuality. And i found a book. Ach in the library talked about it. And it was a psychology book and it talked about perverts deviants and how perverts and deviant who you know were in into same sex couple of had were destined to hang out in back alleys and be murdered and stabbed and you know stuff like that and and i thought oh my god is that what boase me so i would i and i was aware of being a little too effeminate for at over boy i would literally wear rulers up by slaves to keep my wrist. If 'cause i ever i've fought on my gosh. That's so hard not to be able to be authenticity not be yourself. That's so tough. But i mean i guess we all do it to certain degree because you know kids are kids and society is at certain way. But wow that's so tough now in you were raised in a church environment to than the extra element of shame. And should and burke i i was raised in an congregational church and my parents were presbyterians and my grandparents were presbyterian missionaries to korea. My uncle was oppressed protean pastor. My parents were very involved in the church and and uh so when i was about fifteen i I went to the pastor of our church and Had an appointment with him.
00:20:04 - 00:25:06
I sat down in his office and i. I don't know how i ever summon up the courage to do. But i said i think i may be gay. I think i may be a homosexual and he jumped up out of. His chair started pacing looking at his library. Like he's gonna find a bolt that will tell them how to amicus and he was like totally break at all he said. I don't really know anything about this. I think it's probably just a phase that some boys go through and don't tell your parents they would be upset if they knew you know Now your extra isolated on banning the closet after he summoned the courage to talk about it to said dog telling so. How long did it take you to finally come out and talk about it Well i went to college at northwestern and studied musical theatre and theatre hall add performed a lotta shows did summer stock and that whole and still doing it at the game ends court angeles I drank all through college. And and i and i got the first year out of college. I just drank my shame. You know i was so ashamed. I isolated myself. And i just said my apartment and drank and parents sent me a check every month. So you know that was wonderful but You know. I finally realized that i had to get honest about being gay if i was going to be able to get sober and stakes over but gyros nece about commodore seventy five. I graduated from college and seventy four. So seventy five. Yeah and So i've i met a group of gay sober men and There weren't a lot of resources for us back then but there was a church. That encouraged was not dust encourage but affirmed. Lgbt people for being who they are and and indeed. The church was made up primarily of lgbt. People is called a metropolitan community church. Mcc misses an illinois audio chicago. And i met a group of gay men and lesbians who are happy and in loving relationships. I own my god. This is and so i dove in and i became a gay activist and i and i quickly realized that i wanted to become a minister and minister in the gay community with mcc by went to seminary the i was the only openly gay student at the seminary at the time without bill. Accepting of that was on the faculty. were pretty supportive. But the the students the other students some number of them had problems with me. Some were very supportive And i'm still friends with a couple of them but there were students who just were convinced that it was a sinful lifestyle was going to send me to hell which is still such a prominent thought you know. I have very conservative friends. That i've gotten into that conversation with and it is. It's tough to. I dunno that's great. It's so weird. Being in la. I think people generally you're of the mindset that i don't know how do you feel here's steve because it or you don't remember people know very safe and comfortable here and that doesn't that doesn't deny the fact that there are you know hate crimes that go on all the time with gabe and being beaten. They're lesbians being beaten or especially trans people high. A lot of trans women are murdered. An murder an inordinate number of trans women are murdered. Is this happening in. What areas all over the place Well i think it probably happens more if you know that. There are some trans women who to support their transition. Prostitute themselves Even before their transition but they're dressed as a woman and and they prostitute themselves and the men who pick them up discovered that they're not quite all woman they have a little extra and and they murdered them I mean i've seen that happen with gay men too but i was a pastor in hartford connecticut One of the men. Well i i knew. Two murders of gay man. Were both know men who picked up another man at a park or somewhere and brought them home and when the the other man discovered what the the host wanted to do They went into a rage and killed him.
00:25:09 - 00:30:03
So yeah it's still happening. That's it's always crazy to me. But then it's not crazy after this whole trump wacky nece start associated pillars that gave permission. Yeah yeah You know it's. I'm also all i have to talk about a school these days because it's all in in my native american studies. They did not care who was wet. Men live together People dressed as women who were men and it was no problem in the native american community as far back as have found in a bunch of different tribes in africa. And so we're so strange. Here in the colonized european judeo christian. Tradition is full of homophobia dates way back centuries you know and we're no longer saying homosexual but gay. Can you tell us why. Homosexual is a very the clinical term In my opinion and it describes a person's sex orientation sexual orientation and being gay is so much more than that you know being gay as accepting your homosexuality and and making it a part of your whole identity and you know i i had a friend back in hartford who's long since died from aids but But when i was in hartford he was very brash. Blunt kind of guy and he he used to. He used to say that there was a real difference between homosexuals and gay men. And i was like what And yeah and he would. He would point to a guy who was like deeply ashamed themselves for not being out and proud of he would say that's a homosexual as a gay man who the the one who is proud to integrated his sexuality into his personality and his life. So that's more of a light enticing distinction and then clare queers kind of all encompassing. Maybe this maybe that doesn't describe it Specifically as i understand it. But i'm not as in the community. Yes that's true are is more generic term for some people that describes lesbian gay bisexual and transgender people were different. As queer and queer an epithet. That was used against us. And so we have owned it and made it our own and transformed it. A term pride to positive thing adds a positive thing and straight people can be queer thing up right when you think about the whole spectrum too right. There's a spectrum of spectrum of sexualities and how can straight people want to be clear. I would like take a be fabulous. I think in some ways you are queer julianne only. I don't go well enough to know whether you are but Yeah we're is just like you know. I'm different and i'm celebrate. How different from the rest of the world. And you know. I'm proud of who i am and i don't care who knows how weird i ever up. I or whatever we wanna use. But it's it's like just being proud of being a radically different than your. You know your call at work or something average average joe or jean said this bring so now. We're back at you have come out. You're in college though. I pal olive by the past college. Okay this win. You are part of the community of your church. And what have five seventy six. Well i i have the spiritual awakening that was just a huge huge change because i had basically rejected god and rejected religious crab you know And and now. I was part of a faith community. Church a christian church and i. I'll never forget it. But i Tober seventeenth nineteen seventy six. I was sitting in church after the sermon. And before communion and i had this what some people might call white light experience where i suddenly realized with a clarity that i had never known before that i was supposed to pursue a calling to the ministry.
00:30:03 - 00:35:03
Wow i just knew it. I was short and everything felt he's fall. Everything felt right. That's great and so i did pursue it and and whereas my career Prior to i mean after college bright this consisted of people slamming doors on my face all the time you know when i when i decided i wanted to pursue this calling doors opened flew open and i was accepted the master's program master's of divinity program at mccormick seven university of chicago. And i was just you know. And and i loved it. I loved seminary learn. Did you say were your parents ecstatic at the stories parents. At first while i would be seven their day just thought. Oh he's had a spiritual awakening. Oh come over to our side you know it last and all that and so i came out to the actually when i went to visit them on my first spring break from seminary and i went to see them in and i stayed with them. And every morning we watched phil donahue we are sponsored by dream dinners dream dinners dot com or mouse wings dot com. Click the link and do enter mouse and wings ninety nine at checkout. If you're in the local area of power or san marcos down here in san diego and you'll get ninety nine dollars off your first full order and free delivery if you choose it you guys dream dinners is a meal preparation service. That makes dinnertime so easy. I love doing them with my family. My husband can cook them up. Really quick it's just a wonderful thing with good healthy food that recreates mealtime for us. It's it's given us lots of family time back. Dream dinners uses high quality foods. They cut the prep. They bag it up for you. All you have to do is thank your meal. Look at the recipe card and pop it in the oven or stuff top and it's ready usually in twenty thirty minutes so do go dream. Dinners dot com. Look for your location. Enter masson weans ninety nine and let them know we sent you enjoy this wonderful life. Hack dream dinners. Every morning we watched phil donahue The the talk show. Yeah you have the. He's the one who taught o'brien. He was he's a great guy. I really wonderful so anyway. This one day we. I was there with my parents and The guess was anita bryant. Who for listeners. Who might not know waged a well first of all. She was miss america runner up. Who had a singing career and then pedaled orange juice. She was the orange juice lady on tv and florida. Orange specifically and miami is in dade county florida and dade county had passed And lgbt rights ordinance and she was incensed and she mounted a campaign to repeal the gay rights ordinance in miami and She became the symbol of the ib. There was a huge amount of friction going on in this country around gay rights and rights. And you know there were there. Were victories here. There and everywhere surprising places sometimes. Florida in florida and then fights to repeal the the rights like a nieta bryant led the charge so she the first real like got famous person anti side of that member thereby separating sure there were others before the okay. But i'm sorry. I mean this was this was when gay rights was new. You know stonewall the big riots that started the whole gay rights movement started was in nineteen sixty nine and this was one thousand nine hundred seventy six so not all that much later and So people actually need a bryant had the effect of bringing people out of the closet in droves because people were so incensed get that worked against harvey milk. The san francisco supervisor. The first openly gay person elected to office in this country. He was saying we got to come out the way to fight. This is for all of us to come out so that people can see. Oh my god. My sister is gay or own. My god my brothers trans or a human face Eh the metoo of exactly and and so anita bryant and harvey milk. They they galvanized this whole surge of tens of hundreds of thousands of people. Coming out in the seventies seventies was a great time to be gay.
00:35:03 - 00:40:00
I mean the parades. The demonstrations bars the bath discos. We were in san francisco. Oh yeah was. We were living in our suburban bubble thirty minutes away but in little kids but yeah yeah but we. We got to see a lot of the. Yeah the fun yeah. We got a ceremony at least in on the weekends and early eighties and then we had aunt karen's brother was gay. He was you know his his dude. The whole time that was it was always in our life around. So yeah that's one is nice So so i was coming out. That was telling you the right man. Bryant was on phil donahue. And i couldn't help but make comments like all that woman or all that. Oh she's the anti christ know. I mean i've made my displeasure with her known and was obvious and that night after dinner we were sitting around the dining room table and I my father asked me to think you might be a homosexual and i went. Oh pass the potatoes yes I said yes. My mother started crying and and my father reached across the table and took my hand and said you're my son and i love you enough to change that. That's so great. That's beautiful after i'd gone back to chicago. He wrote me this beautiful handwritten letter saying much the same thing. Oh that's wonderful now. Do you think your mom reacted Out of shame or was it fear for you or just knowing that your path is a little bit harder. Did she come to accept it or well. She told me that she had read a letter of the she had been going through my stuff in my bedroom and found a letter that a gay friend of mine had written to me. Say you just gotta come out okay. Great out here you know the water's fine. And she knew as she knew at that point and you know mothers sometimes just just like fathers do you know and and mother was. Mother was from the school of. Oh my god. I caused it You know i'm the moms and yeah and a lot of issues off so you know. I worked very hard at helping her understand that it wasn't her fault. It wasn't anybody's fault. It wasn't a matter of fall. It was a matter of joyously and bracing who i am and she never quite got there. I mean she. She expressed her love for me. And she. You know she's. She gave verbal support to me. All of that. But It was hard for her. And you know so yeah well. Joe joel relates while as a mom with three kids. Who joel yeah dave. They're you know on great paths for every little stray. You do worry as a mom you know. Is he being too aggressive. Is he not caring about people enough. You know every little thing so yeah and you do kinda or is there. i'm. I'm sorry. I remember a mom to saying we just want your life to be easy and it would you know certain things. Which is you know a moms. Want their kids to walk through life with ease. Non being ridiculed or shame and that was definitely my mother's mine gone. My mother arch was that i was going to be destined to be very lonely And she was very upset that i would never provide her with a daughter in law and grandchildren. You know i had an older brother Just the one sibling and he was married and his first wife died after a two years after she gave birth to a daughter. Who is my niece. jim and Jenin i are very close to this day Anyway then he remarried Neither wife really wanted to take care of mom the way that mom had taken care of her mother-in-law and so she was she got kind of bitter and angry about resentful. That yeah that's right. Yeah and always auto you really good father and i always wanted to be a father and you know and above back in the seventies. You didn't hear a lot about gay couples. Adopting children are having children right. So we watched your tammy faye interview.
00:40:00 - 00:45:00
Oh you did An interview you talked about like yeah. People now are starting to adopt kid. Gay couples are adopting children. Now just been having. Mid eighties was tammy. Faye's interview with me was nineteen eighty-five. Wow so it was happening so it was like nine years later. Had come to be on her show because now yeah how did you. You're kind of famous. You are tell the viewers and at and you know when the feature film comes out in september About tammy faye. With jessica chastain as tammy faye and randy havens from the tv series. Stranger things was playing me. No one's ever heard of that. Steve this is so playing. You can't exciting so he was the ap teacher. i'm just looking at the picture he was he was a science teacher. Yeah he ran the av club. He's the science teacher right. Yeah he's attractive he's well thank you well all right. So we're jumping ahead. You fill in the gaps to how you got to tammy faye from kind of coming out and then and then we need to talk with lovie we talked about. We talked about getting sick and eighty two and being six grew and in nineteen eighty. Five when i did live to see nineteen eighty five. My doctor invited me to be patient number. One of the very first antiviral ever tried against hiv. It was an experimental chemotherapy and And i was the first patient to go on the drug and within six weeks my cast lesions disappeared and my lymphoma stage four lymphoma. I've gone into complete remission. And so they put eighty nine other people. On the drug around the country it killed percents. A large percentage of the And it was a rugged rugged drug and very nearly killed me and i did have a near death experience The the end of october of nineteen eighty five and it was just. Can you tell me about you. Know my favorite thing in the world is near death exchanges. Watch i never did what. Wow okay five times made me throw my scarf. What can you tell him. Just one of the most profound where will the first one was. Perhaps the most profound. Because i'd never had one before you know. I was terrified of dying alone and of sermon destroyed my adrenal glands. And they didn't figure that out until it was almost too late and they called me to come into the hospital immediately. And i was sleeping twenty two hours a day and and losing weight. I didn't have to lose. And i was just a skeleton with skin and they brought me into the hospital and Before they before they gave me the drug. I needed to deal with the adrenal insufficiency. They they see all these tests and the red blanket room. The triage and They they tried to draw blood from my left arm. Had my blood wasn't flowing. And they and they said pump your hand steve poker hand to get the blood flowing And i looked down on scene. And i wondered why he wasn't pumping his hand like they were telling him to and then just getting over your sauce. You're in the room looking down. I say oh my god. His blood pressure his blood pressure when he came in was fifty thirty and it dropped rapidly as disappeared. I went. I remember the feeling of leaving my body and and I was at peace. Like i've never known a piece. That i felt when i was called to the ministry was just a fraction of the piece that i felt my life and finally understood everything about myself in the world. You know. I just didn't. I didn't have a i felt whole i felt whole and i was surrounded by loving beings Kind of loving shadows and there was this great light and and and One of the one of the shadows spoke to me and said steve marino. And i realized it was. The mailman brought our mail. I was little and us and you know and then i was back in my body. I was pissed. I've heard that okay.
00:45:00 - 00:50:02
Can i ask you a couple of questions was was anyone said. They were beings and shadows. Okay can you bring back anything that you felt. What is the purpose of life. What are we doing here or was it just in a it. Was it what i realized. That dying alone was irrelevant because we're never alone for one thing. We're surrounded by loving beings from the other side the other side And the love that we have experienced in life with people whether they're still with us or not that love is what is eternal and that is what we carry with us when we leave our bodies And i realized to that the most important thing in life is relationship and really looking in each other's eyes and see each other And that was what what i learned and that there was nothing to fear undying to. You're not afraid at all afraid anymore. I hear that from everyone who's had the near death experience. It's amazing. I think i when i was in the hospital room. Our dads steve died in two thousand and i was in the room with him when he passed and he did. Have a moment of. You know waking backup. He died of kidney cancer but he had a moment of clarity right before he passed and he almost sat up and said we all just love each other. We all just love each other. And i really do think saw something and came back to pass that message on and then he passed. But so i'm all for cleanses. Love is all there it. It really is right. You rives chamber. How have you carried that. Is it something that is deeply within you now. Or forget i will i forget but i i'm human but I think i've a much more loving human being that i used to be. Did you change anything when you came back from that in your life from at some people are vegetarians and people volunteer. More some people so it wasn't like that okay. no it was more. I paid attention to the people. I loved more Got it. I valued them more and you are a chaplain in hospital too right. Well i i got well i mean yeah well wait a minute when jumping so so i was in complete remission but i was dying because of the toxic side effects of the drug And that's when i went on the tammy faye bakker show okay. Two weeks after that near death experience. Say they already calling you a miracle. This was a miracle that you survived through this drug in your cancer went into full remission after four stage that's cottage. She finds you what was well. Apparently herbert is. She decided that she wanted she and her husband. Jim baker decided that they wanted to Have a gay man with aids on the show for her to interview. They didn't think that it would be good for for the interview to be on of maine. Pt elle's you know the flagship show they so they they had me come on well. They decided that they would have someone. Come on. the tammy faye's little talk show called tammy's house party and So her producer searched. They really wanted to be the first televangelist ever interview again with eight at and so she did and and so her producer called all over the southeast and and the eastern seaboard. Anybody who's willing to come on the show and talk to her. Why was that. It was because televangelists had a reputation for aiding gay. People and aids was god's punishment against us for being gay. I mean that was a real dynamic of televangelism and conservative christianity. In general anyway. They wanted to have a more affirming interview. Then what other televangelists might do so Anyway they couldn't find anybody. They finally called the aids project in atlanta. And and the fella who was the executive director there cans out. Reverend ken south had been a parishioner reminded in atlanta as and we were still in touch and and he referred them to me so the producer he called me. I tell daphne of it was okay to give my contact info.
00:50:02 - 00:55:07
And i said sure. So that's how it happened and were you nervous. Did you have to grapple with this idea of god. I in talking to them. I i told the producer. I did not want to have to debate homosexuality and the bible be clear that i'm gay and i'm proud. I'm gay christian. How do you think she handled. It and everyone should go to youtube to watch this. Absolutely everything in our show nuts too but okay good good. Yeah well she care. I guess i'd really clear that she did. And and she was very genuine in her Caring and concern and you know she asked the law of what you might consider to be stupid questions you know or just like oh come on. Really you really eighties. You know. but it was the eighty s and people didn't know especially her audience and so she spent the first fifteen minutes talking about being gay and You know a a reporter recently told me that that. He suspected that she was dealing with issues in her own marriage. In trying to feel me out about You know how can you be. Sure you're gay and you know maybe you just haven't given women fair try and was her husband. Did he come out no. He did not come out but her his her husband was reputed to have rumored to have almost sexual liaisons This was jimmy bigger julianne. Tim did jim baker. Sorry what something came out in the news recently did he did they have. This might have been someone else. The pool boy that they were having a secret that somebody else though. We won't go okay. It wasn't it wasn't them. I don't think i have to tell you a quick story. Though about about the whole you know jim baker being homosexual thing you know. I don't know that he was but I was having dinner with a friend of mine at her father's house and And my friend. This was nineteen eighty-seven when jim and tammy we're being destroyed basically by monetary falwell and jim My my friend told her father you know. Steve was interviewed by tammy faye bakker Just eighteen months ago and and And and his father said oh really Well so do you think that That Jim baker is gay. And i said well you know my gay friends. And i have talked about that. We we We've decided that no self respecting homosexual would let a woman where make up like that and and the thought of my friend's father said right away while that's just the point isn't it. He wasn't self respecting. Uh any interesting smart fall and she has since your interview so she did the interview with you. You were able to explain to her what you're dealing with and it really did kind of breakdown some stigmas about hiv and aids is that right. Oh it did at about gay issues. Moi was the first time televangelists had done such a positive affirming interview at. She got a lot of trouble for jesus. She was crucified review. And that is that we follow. Yeah this one of the reasons why falwell brought them down. I'm told he was such a dirtbag. Her sonn their saw. Jim and tammy son j baker so friend of mine and He you know. He's told me that my interview with heard changed. Not only her but the whole family. What she started bringing j j and his sister tammy sue to. Mcc's to to lgbt events. Pride parades She even brought some to hospitals and hospices to visit people with aids and she and j told me it changed him. you know because of of what transpired between me. Dami c. n. mississippi beautiful. You got the calling to do what you did. You ended up on that show if it were someone else. You never know if the person would have handled the interviews will but you are able to really represent in this beautiful open hearted way and change people's lives it's great testimony to you. Steve that i've all through the years. I've had people come up to me every once in a while and actually quite quite often and say things like you know i was twelve years old when you're interview with tammy faye was on tv and my mother always at pt l. On and i was twelve. And i was really grappling with you know whether i would live whether i would not whether kill myself and i decided not to because of your interview.
00:55:07 - 01:00:09
I've decided i could be gay in christian as thank you amazing. I've had all kinds of people. Tell me similar kinds of things go. I just saw suicide rates for people. Who are it's crazy. Maybe we can insert statistics. 'cause it's especially it's mental editor now until health month too and that was one of my questions was was mentally. You went from. Death's door a couple times right because you got well and then you got sick again It's gotta do number on you mentally understatement of the year. Do you have advice for people who i mean. Because now that we're looking at the time of cohen and people have lost loved ones or are dealing with sickness themselves It's very similar. This whole pandemic kind of feeling and then people that are against you know this division. It's it's kinda crazy so just curious. If you have advice for people going through things. I mean what was it that kept you kept you kinda going or what did you go through. I can't imagine well my doctor. I was when she diagnosed me with those stage. Forlan chaos and aids. She told me you know. If there's going to be one in a million people that survive aids why not believe that you're that one and after accordingly and I i bought it. I took it. I'd be iran with it. What was her name. Alexandra levin And she is a top notch scientists and researchers. He was the the head researcher. I don't know what you call them. But she was the in charge of the sermon. Trials in our notorious sermon trials and Anyway so and then she also said your mission. Should you choose to accept it. A home to is to stay alive long enough for us to find a way to manage this disease. She didn't say cure she. I remember back in eighty four. She said we'll find a way to manage it someday. I don't know about your but will manage it and they have an did. I did say so smart. That is that gave you the shred of hope the absolutely. And and that's what i you know when i got well in eighty seven My denomination the denomination made me the field director rates ministry for the entire denomination. And i started traveling all over the world. All these different. Mcc's and teaching and preaching about hope in the face of hopelessness. Wow okay now does this. Where does the ferry wand come in. there's the smithsonian has your fairy wand s authored a couple of years ago that the smithsonian. I asked for a my work. A lot of what written and resources i developed and that sort of thing and at the end i thought you know I carried this very not this very well but very one just like it. Only pink off to all the places. I preached and taught and lectured and i would hold this up and say you know. Remember peter pan where peter teaches us that ferries are dying because people don't believe in fairies anymore well a lot of good ferries are dying from aids and this is to remind you to believe in yourself as a good ferry to believe in each other as the ferries so that you believe enough so that you will do the work of healing and weather you heal into life or he'll into death. I don't know but if you do the work of healing amazing things will happen even as you approach staff you know and in my work as a hospice chaplain the at the aids hospice here in the lesion bar of the They i i would help people die. I found i had a great give. I mean i knew what i know what. It's like to be on my deathbed. And so i had a a way of understanding People who were dying that not many have and so i was able to bring that to the bedsides of people who are dying you know and people believe different things about what happens death And i it was not my job to try and persuade them of you. Know one thing or another but to learn what they believed and try to support that belief with hope For instance if people believe that death is the ad that's it kaput over Hope for them means that they're finally going to be out of pain.
01:00:10 - 01:05:12
The pain will be over. The suffering will be through and you know of course the traditional beliefs in heaven. And hell that a lotta people in our culture by into I had any number of guys on their deathbeds. Say i'm going to hell. No because i'm gay so i would try to help them change their mind about that. Gotta understand that they were loved. God love them and they would be fine. What was the harder one to change. Was it the what was it. Must be that to change the mind. Someone who believes or going halverson. Someone who does feels like they're atheist and of catholic with purgatory right. I've heard that's just right now. Well in that was hard because that is so deeply ingrained in people and You know it's been said that. That the god you believe is the god that you learned about it. Your mother's knees when you were three. Who that deep down inside. That's the guy that you really believe it you for people to just change. Their mind can happen if it wasn't going to happen but i could help them by being present with them with love with the kind of that i experienced. In-depth steve looking in their eyes. The them seemed them and letting them see me. It's amazing you are an angel. You're an angel on this earth. new really are very. we'll say fairly good fairy portrayed in a film that i looked up on. Imdb it's supposed to come out. September twenty twenty one this year over twenty four th of two thousand twenty one date and you could talk about it now because we're going to interview steve before and he couldn't talk about it. Yes tell us the process an and are you excited. Have you seen anything. Well i you know. I didn't know about it until jay baker. Jim tammy son told me A year or so ago that there was going to be a film. Starring jessica testing That would feature my interview. Can you say who is what is she from. So all the viewers new justice in A lot of people know her from her academy award win for best actress in zero dark. Thirty miss sloan is another one that a lot of people seem to love. Love that She does a lot of very challenging kind of characters and she's a great actress. I think has had four oscar. Nominations i believe and to win uniform at had rights. Redknapp scored gorgeous. He was in terrence tree of life and Oh she's just done a ton of stuff and look at an andrew garfield i saw. He was in that and he's playing. Jim baker the amazing spider man himself so incident. Oh frio is playing the jerry falwell villain the movie but you know he's he's the one brings down brings the empire down and randy havens plays me. Oh i love that is crazy. So what is your. Do you have an idea of where you are in the story line. Did they tell you anything. Jessica tweeted me privately that My interview was the main center of the film. What that means. I don't know. I haven't seen i've seen but she told me that she decided to do the this movie because of my interview. Oh that just back image. And she's a teacher of it so she she put it right there in the middle amazing so i mean it's such a pivotal thing for so many people and it turned christianity. Probably upside down and Yeah so i. it's a great story. Yeah i've had people tell me who worked at pg l. back then that everybody was talking about it for like two years what's l. Praise the lord. Pt l. network It was jamaican heavies. Twenty four hour satellite network and they were frigging he array. Were huge huge. Like i don't know if people understand that they were the largest The richest the biggest televangelists in the world at that time and they had the largest audience. They had the most They built a waterpark to go along with the timeshare condominiums that they built right outside the studio.
01:05:12 - 01:10:02
I mean it was all called heritage village. usa say and And that's one of the reasons why. Jim got a lot of trouble for selling more timeshares than he. Okay okay and so that lauding people. Do you happen to know how many people saw that interview with you. Yeah i'm sure. It was millions when i saw somewhere billions. You had the only copy of it is that right for yeah yeah and and I was fortunate that one of the mc passers in in. I think she was in fort worth or arlington texas. She watched jim and tammy every morning and when she saw that i was going to be on it. She put in a vhs tape and recorded it and sent it to me and if it weren't for that we wouldn't have it. They didn't record of their own show. That's crazy they didn't record their own. Show your head. But when p. t. l. fell everything was lost in the hands of the fbi somewhere in some closet. Oh my god. I mean this is amazing that you were instrumental in the shift in a lot of people's lives just from that interview i i heard too. I had no idea either. I mean i remember coming home from the interview itself that day and my neighbor. Lucia came over and we sat there and laughed. Rory asli about my having on tammy faye's house. And i told her on my god. I did a terrible job. I should have done this. I should have said that. I shouldn't have said this. Oh my god. I was so narrow. I'm so glad nobody will ever see an except obviously let you know. And him chastain is now oh my god that's so crazy and tammy faye has become icon of sorts in the gay community too. Because was it because of that that the beginning that was the beginning of it And and you know. People don't know my name generally but they know that tammy faye interviewed this gay pastor with aids Way back in the eighties so And she became iconic after that because she after that interview as i said she started taking her children around two gay events to the mcc's and auspices and that sort of thing and then when pto fell it was the gay community that embraces her and apparently helped her survive all of that and she she became a cult. Figure you know grand marshal of of lgbt. Pride parades and wasn't that resent palm springs or something. I know there's a big gay community there. Yeah i play at. She had tv show with That talk show with jim j. bullock who was openly gay flamboyant And i remember that. Yeah and i mean. She became i she. She became iconic and it all started with that interview. Yeah yeah we'll look for that that's the eyes of tammy faye you know with her big eyelashes of course in the campy makeup. Which i'm sure goes well with her singing and dancing and her champing of Lbj t q stuff. That's great so what else can we look for you. Where can we find you. You've got Oh well you're i you know i'm being interviewed all of you. You have looked up your yar and only want to talk about jimmy. Jim and tammy for the most part a really. Yeah and. I don't know why this resurgence in interest in her right now with the movie. And all these interviews the interviews have nothing to do with the movie but they still wanna talk about tammy faye but what do you wanna talk about because you have a book you yes. I'm imagining god. My memoir. I'm on my third draft at. I think i'm finally getting it. You know it. I i spent covid writing this yes. I can't believe we're doing it every day every day. I would say on into friday or saturday sometimes too and you did not leave the house you were. You stayed locked in. I was locked down. you know i was locked is your health. Are you still immuno-compromised. Or how are you now. But i'm i'm very healthy for someone who's had aids for forty years. I'm very healthy and You considering what i went through. I got very sick again. And twenty twelve and That's when i had my last three near death.
01:10:02 - 01:15:03
Experiences and all Anyway i was very sick with pancreatitis and a whole bunch of other things and very near and i was telling a reporter about this and and how i kept coming back and she said if it's so wonderful why do you keep coming back and i just blurted out without thinking about it because i love life anything. That's it and you're helping so many people to know that's a that's a lovely thing that's happened but I just. I love singing dancing with the game and scores of los angeles. I love all of my friends. That i made on zoom a you know all over the place and i mean it's just remarkable and i'm so grateful today for the good health the fact that i survived. I mean each new birthday as a triumph. I wasn't supposed to see thirty. Three so sixty nine feels pretty damn great now. Nineteen eighty five to now amazing. What a beacon of hope you are. You really are and jillian talk so highly of you. She's been talking about you. Know it's amazing and just to see you in your community. That's so wonderful. I love it. What a story. Yeah now are you still doing. Are you still preaching at c. To occasionally okay usually I preached at jay bakker's church few weeks ago. He invited me to preach at his church Which is in seattle. But of course you know we joke or does all over the world now I preached right here at my laptop and it was fantastic. I mean full circle kind of experience to have him introduced me and then to get to talk about what that interview meant to me. You know after the tammy faye bakker interview which was in november. I got sicker and sicker and sicker with The ceremony side effects. I went blind eye on the left side of my body. I lost all my hair all over my body. And i wasted away to nothing but a skeleton with skin again and Everybody was convinced that i was dying. My cancers were still in complete remission but everybody was convinced that was died. Well tammy faye had sent me her albums which were on cassette tapes in those days And and she sent me these cassette tapes with her albums of singing. All these christian ends and everything and most of it was like There was this one song she sang. Which really engaged me. I got me in heart and it was. Don't give up on the brink of a miracle. Don't give up on the bring gov Don't give in. God is long. The throne. don't invoke on the bring. Call the miracle. Don't give up. Remember your off low. And i sang that with her over and over and over. I sang a by myself over and over and over again and I got my miracle started. Well and i was well for twenty years after that i love those gotta be healing and in music and connection with people and and that's part of your heart so oh my gosh in the reminder of your near death experience i mean. That was what you knew to be true. I'm gonna make meaning out of that as you had this near death experience and that was it. You're never alone and we're not alone. It's so hard to remember that. Sometimes what's really important is the connection of the heart connection a heart. How do we do that. Steve will you give us a little of your ministry. How do we become more so caught up in our lives in our craziness and now we're going back into the world. Well you i mean you know people for people who are still wearing masks Or people who aren't wearing masks you look in people's eyes and you try to see them and you and just focus on loving the person you see in there is that soul and that way you can engage with a homeless person who may have been asking you for money you can look in their eyes and see the human being in there and love them. What about some. And you really don't like and that has wronged you with all. That's i know.
01:15:03 - 01:20:01
This is a hard question. But i really do wonder when someone though is the hardest. One is true You know. I think that it's important to realize said at the end. You wanna feel you wanna feel peace with everyone at. It's important to realize your part in why you don't get along with that person or why you don't like them you look at your own part in that My mother and i have had She's gone now but she she and i had a a lot of difficulty in in our relationship in in the later years of her life. You know i had to realize that It was hard for her to have me for son. You know it was really hard for her with all of my frailties in my humanity and all of that and that helped me love her and be with her as she died. I was there with her for the last ten days. And that's where. I made amends to her. You know and so. I was able to be there and love her and i hope she felt that love but what was important was that i felt loving towards her. I made those amends and that gave me peace about our relationship. That's important unifil send. That's the forgiveness and seeing the humanity and everybody good for you. It's hard sometimes it's amazing. Oh steve you're an inspiration. You're beautiful person. You're famous and both have gorgeous hair. I control the air waving in the air. If you guys wanna see this we are going to post this on youtube. So or pay everything in our show notes to list your bio. Because it's so impressive. The awards you've won you've you've been with presidents. i mean you've been so recognized and they were honored. you're with us. Thank you so much love to be with you. I know my friend. Alison aren't grim. Had a great time. She just really enjoyed it and said to say okay. We love her. He brought me some homemade apple pies today. Of course she did what she wearing. A bonnet to this is nelson talking about you so no. She wasn't wearing a bottom. She was wearing a mask that said That had a picture of her. As nellie olsen and caption what would nellie do to happy came a huge media recently. Nelly do yeah. She had a resurgence. What a beautiful person. Really big part of the aids movement. But that's how she met you originally. That's right it's project. Los angeles back in the eighties and you married her and her husband right. I i appreciate that night. At at the end i pronounce them. Put your husband and wife with this. And i married. I'm married married by ferry. I love it a good any last words from anyone any last stories. Any last well to single the medical anomalies. On if you right. That'd be a great cleanser part thing if a loved it goes. I am the very model of medical anomaly. I've had chaos and palma hepatitis residency. Embiid be bacterial pneumonia. Adrenal insufficiency all this and more. Because i got a virus. It's called hiv and then. I took an antiviral chemotherapy. It may be my hair fell out. I suffered neurologically but hey it worked stopped all of the hiv activity bioinfomatics in remission and there is no more kfc the remission and there is no more bullets in remission and there is no more famous emission. There is no more chaos chaos to see now. Many years of pastime is healthy as a horse can be certainly a miracle for anyone with face to see but still internals medical. in science and oncology. I am the very model of medical enormou- league. Everybody steve peters love him one. we love you. You just made me cry. But it's it's joy also phase one of the members of the chorus. We had aids for a long time to came up to me afterwards. And said aids in gilbert and sullivan out. Did you ever put those two together.
01:20:01 - 01:21:37
Well it worked for you. it works were just. Maybe you are a miracle your medical anomaly and we love you so murtadji on our show. Thank you so much. I hope to meet you in real life real soon. I hope open up. Do you have a website or anywhere. You'd like to send people to watch for your book coming out or well I don't i don't really need. I mean i'm on facebook and twitter and instagram And people can find me there And everyone can find us on mouse and weans dot com. That's our main hub. Everywhere at masson weans than also find his over on mouse means we have a patriots fan site. We would love you to visit and visit the wonderful steve. Peters i will link everything in our show nuts and we appreciate all of you listeners. And we appreciate all of our guests and you love you Weens. You too Steve. And have a lovely evening everyone. Goodbye. And I look into your eyes before we go. Missile goodbye. eyeballs thinks so much. You've been listening to podcasts of the fixed network discover more audible gyms like this podfixnetwork.com. Make sure to catch up to the minute network shenanigans by following @podfix on twitter official_podfix on Instagram at pod fixed network on Facebook and make sure to subscribe to fix presents. Wherever you choose to podcasts. The podfix network. Artist owned and loved.
Rev. Dr. A. Stephen Pieters is a long-term survivor of AIDS. Diagnosed with AIDS-related complex (ARC) in 1982, and AIDS/Kaposi's Sarcoma and stage four Lymphoma in 1984, his remarkable story of recovery serves as an inspiring example of healing and hope.