Lance Loud: Age 50 | Cause Of Death: AIDS

(d. 21 December 2001)

Lance Loud – “first person to come out on TV” – dies
By Robert Hofler

NEW YORK (Variety) – Lance Loud, a journalist who found fame in the early 1970s when his family was profiled on the PBS documentary series “An American Family,” died in Los Angeles on Dec. 21 from complications of AIDS (news – web sites) and hepatitis C. He was 50.

“An American Family,” which aired in the first quarter of 1973, presaged the current vogue for reality TV. The multipart series drew record audiences for public television, as well as much criticism. A national phenomenon, the Loud family landed on the cover of Newsweek that winter.

The documentary had been filmed in 1971 by producer Craig Gilbert, whose team spent seven months with Pat and Bill Loud and their five children in their Santa Barbara home. Craig, along with cameraman Alan Raymond and sound technician Sally Raymond, recorded more than 300 hours of film, which was edited into 12 one-hour episodes.

The eighth and ninth episodes detailed the breakup of the Louds’ marriage. Even more controversial was the second episode, in which Pat visited her openly gay son, Lance, in his Chelsea Hotel apartment in New York City.

In Lynne Yamaguchi Fletcher’s book “The First Gay Pope and Other Records,” Lance Loud is listed as “the first person to come out on television.”

“His homosexuality was completely accepted by the family, which was another first for TV,” said David Ehrenstein, author of “Open Secret,” a study of gays in the media. “When the parents split up, there was an undertone of criticism from the media that what was wrong with the marriage was that they had a gay son. On the contrary, Lance held the family together.”

Loud wrote entertainment-related articles for Details, Interview, Buzz Weekly and the Advocate, where he was a columnist for several years. His final byline appears in the current issue, in which he wrote about his battle with hepatitis C and AIDS, with which he was diagnosed in October 1987.

Loud often wrote with self-deprecating wit. His last offering in the Advocate (“A Death in ‘An American Family”’) was no exception: “In a sea of ‘Advocate’ winners, some loser’s musings on his own mortality might just provide a fitting reflective glory to further flatter our issue’s winners. I don’t mind that; I am glad to help out.”

At Loud’s request, Alan and Sally Raymond recently filmed his day-to-day life at the Carl Bean House, the L.A. hospice where the writer died.

Loud is survived by his parents, and two brothers and two sisters. A memorial service is planned for late January in Los Angeles.

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