One of my best friends from high school, Matt Klir, died of AIDS on September 17, 1992. Another best friend from those days, Laura Gale, wrote this guest post about how much we all still miss him twenty years later.
Crazy about life
by Laura Roy Gale
Modeling, acting, playing music, fun, friends, family, wackiness and more — all fit into the life of a man who was only 32 years old when he died of AIDS. Matt Klir was a ball of fire in high school, clearly more sophisticated than the rest of us. He had blond, classic good looks and dressed impeccably. Even as a teenager, Matt had his own wonderful sense of style — professional photographs of Matt and his sisters taken at modeling shoots by the famed Victor Skrebniski lined the dining room walls of their glorious home. His parents were divorced, he lived with his sisters and a free-spirited mom, and his house essentially had no rules.
We all practically lived in that house during high school, and Matt held his annual Elton John parties there, too. Matt dressed as Elton himself, and insisted that everyone else come in a costume inspired from an Elton John song. No one wanted to miss a party at Matt’s — one girl who worked at a fabric store after school used remnants to dress as “moss” from Your Song, a carrot-topped senior donned Alice Cooper make-up for All the Young Girls Love Alice, and a group of four (with Beth as Dorothy) dressed as Wizard of Oz characters from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Matt and I were good friends, but he never told me he was gay, and I did not know he died of AIDS until well after the fact. We were in high school and college during the 70s, and it still wasn’t openly talked about. I suspect he moved away in order to live his life openly and without the gossip that might have ensued if he stayed in his home town.
While composing this blog post, I started reading Elton John’s new book Love is the Cure: Life, Loss and the End of AIDS. Elton begins by describing the huge impact the life and death of Ryan White had on him, and how it changed his life. As I read this, I thought about Matt Klir and his impact on me.
I still have an intense sadness about the loss of Matt, and I think of him often. He was one of the graduation speakers during our 1977 graduation from York High School in Elmhurst,
and I will always remember Matt as he looks here, full of humor, professionalism, and wisdom beyond his years. His off-beat topic for commencement was “I am a sponge,” and he wowed everyone with his sophisticated outlook.
Our high school years were full of escapades directed by Matt: driving downtown in his mother’s Cadillac convertible to Great Gritzbees Flying Food Show to graze the free appetizer buffet, getting caught by security guards in the stairwell of a Chicago highrise that had a window with a great view of the skyline (how did he find that?), riding his motorcycle — without helmets — of course, sharing a locker which he regularly booby-trapped to play songs I hated (Muskrat Love comes to mind) when I opened it. The list goes on and on.
The two of us went on to the University of Illinois, where Beth had started one year ahead of us. He and I remained close freshman year, and dressed as two of the three musketeers for Halloween our first year. He had to be d’Artagnan, of course.
Matt was wildly successful at U of I, the first freshman to direct a student play (Kismet) at the Assembly Hall. How did I not know he was gay? Naiveté and ignorance on my part, no doubt.
Matt and I drifted apart, and he left U of I without graduating after sophomore year. I lost track of him. Beth did not, and she traveled to Florida with her first SeeingEye dog Dora to be with Matt and his sisters the day he died. Her memories are not as stuck in time as mine.
HIV positive. AIDS. These words do not conjure up a death sentence anymore. Our friend Matt suffered through the disease’s early years and lost his life to what is now a chronic illness and not a death sentence. I could say “I wish…..” or “If only…..” about Matt but I believe life is to be lived for today.
We loved Matt and I think of him often. It is Matt’s life that had a significant influence on my own life, and not his death. He lived fully and gracefully, and I am happy and grateful to have known such an individualist and a guy who was so crazy about life during my formative years. Matt Klir will never be forgotten.
Matt’s partner, who wishes to remain anonymous, sponsors a Ribbons for the Children event every year in memory of Matthew Klir. The event celebrates the great improvements that have been made in the medical care of children and adolescents with HIV/AIDS and benefits children and adolescents with HIV/AIDS who are served by the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center’s in Ft. Lauderdale.