Since he was young, David Mixner made it a point to stand up for people. When he attended Arizona State University in Tempe, in the 1960s, he helped fight for garbage workers to unionize. Years later, Mixner began organizing against the Vietnam War with a group called Moratorium To End the War in Vietnam. After coming out as gay, Mixner continued organizing for social justice and focused on discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
From labor rights, the anti-war movement, LGBTQ equality and HIV/AIDS advocacy, to working on political campaigns, Mixner has lived what he describes as an exciting and noteworthy life. Newsweek once called him “the most powerful gay man in America.”
Tonight at a fundraiser benefiting young LGBTQ students at the El Rey Theatre, guests have a chance to hear Mixner and do what he loves best in his one-man show “Oh Hell No!” — tell stories.
But, it’s not about him, he insists. It’s about everyone — especially everyone who was involved in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and subsequent support movement, Mixner said.
“Everybody deserves credit. Anybody that went through that time, that went through and emerged on the other side, handled themselves with courage and nobility,” Mixner said.
Throughout his years as an activist, one of the constants in his life has been a love for writing and storytelling, he said.
Mixner said he’s working on preserving LGBTQ history, especially of those that lost the fight against HIV/AIDS. Many of the people that went through the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are now in their late 60s and 70s, he said.
“If we don’t preserve it, we’re going to lose it. And I’m working very hard on that,” Mixner said.
Mixner has written extensively, publishing several books, such as “At Home with Myself: Stories from the Hills of Turkey Hollow”, “Stranger Among Friends” and “Brave Journeys”, which Mixner co-wrote with Dennis Bailey. Mixner has also written plays and screenplays, such as “Dunes of Overseen”, “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Fire in the Soul”, which Mixner also co-wrote with Bailey.
“I’m really very eager to try to preserve oral histories. I think we’re on the verge of losing our history. Many of the young men who were involved in the 1980s, many of their families destroyed any record that they were, in fact, gay men. So it’s important to tell those stories,” Mixner said.
Mixner, who will be turning 69 this year, is fueled by activism, he said. “Oh Hell No!” will blend the personal, the comedic, the sad and the political, such as sharing stories about the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“I think all of us would agree that it was one of the most extraordinary stories of our times, and certainly one of the greatest movements, the AIDS/HIV civil rights movement,” Mixner said.
It’s the memory of his fallen friends, many of whom have succumbed to HIV/AIDS, that keeps Mixner going.
“When you see all of us who went through that epidemic, and you see the resilience of the human being, the ability for people to reinvent themselves … I think when you’ve gone through that, you realize how fortunate you are to have the gift of life,” Mixner said. “I’ve lost hundreds of friends to AIDS. Each and every one of them would have given their right arm to be right here, to be creative, to be engineers, doctors, choreographers.”
Mixner said he is a spiritual person and a follower of liberation theology, a subset of Catholicism that incorporates a Christian theology about the poor, that was founded in South American in the 1950s and peaked in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.
“It has guided my life. Liberation theology is being at service to others. When you say that, that sounds very noble but the fact of the matter is that I have had very flawed moments. I’ve made mistakes. I wish I had done things differently. We are all poor vessels for change but we are the best we have. I’ve done my best. I had failures. I had triumphs. But I have never deviated from attempting to help others,” Mixner said.
Proceeds from Mixner’s “Oh Hell No!”, directed by Stephen Brackett, will go toward one of Mixner’s favorite organizations, the Point Foundation, which offers LGBT students scholarships, mentorships and other resources to succeed in higher education.
“[The Point Foundation] gives full scholarships to dozens of students — many of them who have stories of being disowned by their families, who have counted on their families to send them to college, but were disowned. We have had people become doctors and lawyers, all giving back to this planet,” he said.
The El Rey Theatre is located at 5515 Wilshire Blvd. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $100. For information, visit www.davidmixner.com.
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