I was channel surfing Friday night, July 13, when my eye caught a familiar name in a strange location: Judith Light on Home Shopping Network. I’ve known Judith since the early 1990s when she was so courageously ubiquitous in fighting and showing up for people with HIV/AIDS. She was a famous television star, after all, and people couldn’t get over her being there, so elegant, so eloquent and so authentic – a straight woman who really got the depth of spiritual horror PWAs and LGBT people struggled with every day. It helped that she had the strong backing of her smart, handsome actor/writer husband Robert Desiderio and her brilliant and creative managers Herb Hamsher and Jonathan Stoller, a longtime gay couple who lived with Judith and Robert as extended family. BTW – the whole crew did the seven day California AIDS Ride in 1995.
A few years ago, the family transferred to New York City where Judith has been wowing folks on Broadway. Last month, she won a Tony Award for her role in “Other Desert Cities.” Jonathan, meanwhile, has had a regular weekly feature on their friend David Mixner’s blog Live From Hell’s Kitchen, displaying his incredible nature photographs. Last year, Jonathan turned some of those photos into a book Fragile Planet with poetry. Now, it seems, Judith and Jonathan have collaborated on a fashion jewelry collection based on his photographs.
I’ve only watched a shopping network once before – keeping my late friend Connie Norman company at the Chris Brownlie Hospice many years ago. Connie loved to imagine what she would do with the different pieces on sale – usually noting whether she could afford something or not or perhaps she could buy this AND that. None of the items were to my taste – but I enjoyed watching Connie enjoy herself. Now here I was watching Judith Light for what turned out to be more than an hour! I don’t wear jewelry – but I was fascinated by her stories of how the pieces were designed based on something in nature and how that could transfer into inspiration for the buyer. But best of all, there was Judith just being herself and sharing – “I know you’re like me,” she said – meaning it, too.
Judith – thanks in large part, I’m sure, to Robert, Herb and Jonathan – is also an inspiration in how someone – anyone – can keep active, creative, and authentically re-inventing yourself.