Gay History – October 12th: Matthew Shepard Dies On This Day In 1998
1774 – Adolph Jans van Oldeberkoop of Frisia Netherlands, a fifty year old customs officer, was convicted of seduction to sodomy and banished for two years.
1971 – The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs recommended the repeal of a law prohibiting homosexuals from working in or frequenting bars. This occurs 2 and a half years AFTER the Stonewall Riots.
1979 – The National Coalition of Black Gays sponsored a conference in Washington DC, The First Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference. It was one of the first organizations to initiate HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the black community, including pamphlets that used coded terms familiar in the black community with men who would never identify with the gay community. The group fades from existence by 1986.
1985 – Andy Warhol appears on The Love Boat. REALLY! Warhol made a guest appearance on now the Pacific Princess naturally playing himself. The plot of the episode concerns a Midwestern housewife played by Marion Ross (yes, Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days), who is startled to find Warhol on board since she doesn’t want her husband, played by Tom Bosley (aka Mr. Cunningham) to know that in her dark and misty past she hung out at Warhol’s Factory in New York. A sample bit of dialogue: Warhol wanders the deck with a camera, and Isaac the bartender quips, “When did Andy Warhol become the ship’s photographer?” Cue laugh track.
1998 – College student Matthew Shepard dies five days after being beaten and tied to a fence post in Laramie, Wyoming by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson
Media reports contained the graphic account of the pistol-whipping and his fractured skull which shocked the nation. It was reported that Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by his tears.
Matthew suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He experienced severe brainstem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate his heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face, and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. While he lay in intensive care, and in the days following the attack, candlelight vigils were held around the world.
Shepard was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital, in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was 21 years old and the world still mourns for him.