In 1988, David Brudnoy, a longtime libertarian radio personality and frequent contributor to REASON throughout the 1970s and '80s, was diagnosed with AIDS.
Brudnoy, who says he contracted the disease through homosexual oral sex, kept his condition to himself, telling only a few close friends. In October 1994, he collapsed, spent two months in the hospital, and reluctantly went public with his HIV status. Brudnoy, whose Boston-based radio program has one of the largest audiences throughout New England, has responded to new drug therapies and continues his life more or less as before: In addition to his five-hour show, he teaches media criticism at Boston University, writes movie reviews, and regularly hits the lecture circuit. He has also created the David Brudnoy Fund for AIDS Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and has written a memoir, Life Is Not a Rehearsal (Doubleday), a frank account of his life, career, and politics. Brudnoy recently spoke to REASON over the phone from his Boston home.
Reason: You describe yourself as a conservative-libertarian. What does that mean?
David Brudnoy: Labels are useful. We need them because otherwise we don't know how to seat people at the dinner table. But they're not as precise as I wish they were. If you take Murray Rothbard libertarians on the one hand and people like Bill Buckley on the other, I fall somewhere in between. In general, I'm for free minds and free markets. I think sometimes our friends in the more [rationalist] tradition get a bit forgetful of the cultural impeti that lead people to do things on cultural bases rather than on pure reason bases. Then again, when it comes to some of the more crackpot nonsense on the conservative side, I certainly recoil from that.
Reason: How do you feel about government-sponsored AIDS research?
Brudnoy: My hope is that we would have sufficiently limited government so that it wouldn't occur at all. The fund I created at the Massachusetts General Hospital is specifically targeting corporations and individuals to demonstrate that people, without being taxed, without being forced to do it, will contribute. If someone asks, "Should AIDS be the only disease that isn't funded by the government?", I'd say no. But if someone said I could have my druthers and the government would be cut down to [its proper size], that would be the end of it.
Reason: The gay lobby seems left-liberal. Does it accurately reflect its constituency?
Brudnoy: To people on the left, or among the apolitical masses, it's always a surprise that there are people like me because the mouthier gays are always on the left. There's a very strong cohort of people who are libertarian and homosexual, but such people just don't make noise. If we were to ask gays and lesbians privately, many of them would be far less left-wing than the public spokesmen.
Contributions may be sent to: David Brudnoy Fund for AIDS Research, Development Office, Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114.