The Official Website of Paul Michael Glaser


"Our ability to love is our truest power, our greatest power as human beings." PMG

June 23, 2007

HELLO! Magazine, March 16, 1996; #398

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The former star of "Starsky and Hutch" speaks for the first time about his wife's death from AIDS 15 months ago.


Paul holds his newborn son Jake and Elizabeth and Ariel, then three, join in the strike a happy family pose (right). At the time there were still no signs of the tragedy that would strike them, As a publicity-shy couple, the Glaser's first tried to keep their plight to themselves but when their story broke out, Elizabeth used the image of her daughter to campaign for greater awareness (below)

Last July when Paul Michael Glaser walked on to the set to direct the family movie Kazaam, the cats and crew expected to see a grief-stricken husband and father. He had lost his daughter, Ariel, to AIDS in 1988 and in December 1994, his wife, elizabeth, one of America's best-known and most-respected AIDS activists, also died of the disease. INstead, they saw a man who at least seemed upbeat. He didn't isolate himself from the cast and crew: he ate lunch with them everyday instead of in his trailer.

"Paul's losses could have closed him down", says his producer, Bob Engelman. But, he says, Glaser could not have been more open and caring. when he heard that his assistant director, Gary Marcus, planned to celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary at a hotel, "Paul somehow found out which hotel and sent us a beautiful bottle of champagne." says Marcus.

It was in 1986 that Paul Michael Glaser, former star of "Starsky and Hutch", learned that his family had been dealt the worst possible hand of cards. His wife had hemorrhaged when she was nine months pregnant with Ariel in 1981 and unknowingly contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. Ariel was delivered safely, but after she became seriously ill almost five years later, doctors determined that elizabeth had passed the AIDS virus to her daughter through her breast milk. Tests showed that Elizabeth had also passed the virus to her 18-month-old son, Jake, during pregnancy.

"There was a choice of how to make this difficult journey," says Glaser, who has tested negative for the AIDS virus. "I could have been a victim: "Why did this happen to me?" But if you use it not as a badge of sympathy or a badge of specialness, but as an opportunity, then you get to discover a lot of amazing things about being here."

Glaser has had little to say publicly about his long ordeal, but he is carrying on Elizabeth's legacy through the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which she helped found in 1988, and he agreed to meet in his cramped and chilly movie-set trailer. Few personal effects are here: a burner holding a stick on incense is a sign of his love of meditation, and an A4 sheet of paper tacked to the wall warns, Don't Go There (he'll explain its meaning later). The tape deck plays James Taylor (the singer recorded children's songs for Ariel, which inspired the fundraising album For Our Children that also features Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand and Carole King).

"You spend 20 years with someone and you miss them everyday in one way or another," he says softly, sitting with his knees up. "You've heard that before, but not until it happens do you realize how intense it is. Many times I'd like to have Elizabeth see how Jake's doing or what I'm doing."

Glaser knows that as someone who has lived in a marriage and a family with AIDS, he can help others. But he rejects the notion of himself as an extraordinary man. "I'm just in extraordinary circumstances, " he says. It's not easy, but this is my lot and I'm going to make the best of it. When people look in my direction I'd like them to understand that they have the same power and ability that I have. My life and my journey are an example."

Paul and Elizabeth Glaser did not want to play out their personal crisis on a public stage. But in the spring of 1988, Ariel was dying, and Elizabeth was determined to save her son, who fortunately showed no signs of AIDS. Although she risked compromising her privacy, she went to Washington, DC, to plead for more funds for pediatric AIDS research. She made an incredible impact. Almost overnight the federal pediatric AIDS budget increased from $3.3 million to $8.8 million. In August, Elizabeth started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation with her close friends Susan DeLaurentis and Susie Zeegan. At their first fundraiser in 1989 in Washington, DC, she sat unidentified at the back of the room. Two months later she would lose her anonymity.

With supermarket tabloids about to break their story, Elizabeth and Paul felt forced to come forward and tell it themselves. After she went public, Elizabeth barnstormed the country, raising $30 million over the next five years and persuading elected officials such as Senators Howard Metzenbaum and Orrin Hatch to become her allies.

Although Elizabeth became increasingly more comfortable in the spotlight, her husband, who had abandoned acting to write screenplays and direct, shunned it passionately. "Paul has never liked being a celebrity,: says Josh Baran, a public relations executive who advised the couple when they went public. "Elizabeth would be in the living room with a news crew, and Paul would be out back writing a script, It became clear he needed to work, and Elizabeth became the crusader."

It was during Elizabeth's final months, in 1994, that Paul seemed more accepting of a high profile role as he made appearances with her at fundraising events and on Prime Time Live. As Deluarentis recalls, "Elizabeth became more dependent on Paul. He made her feel safe. She wanted him to be there, and he stayed by her side, day in and day out."

In Hollywood, where husbands are not known for their staying power in martial crises, Paul was clearly committed to his wife. "Some nights I would just lie there ad think how trapped Paul must feel." Elizabeth wrote in her 1991 book, "In The Absence of Angels. "I knew that he must have wanted to run away at times. Part of me would have wanted that, so part of him must have also."

Leaving was never a choice, Glaser says. "You have to look at the experience and the difficulty as an opportunity to find greater love and awareness not only for each other but for yourself. I understand that this was the path I had to take and Elizabeth understood it and we did the very best we could. And sometimes we failed and sometimes we succeeded, and we had happier and sadder moments and estranged moments, periods when we could reconcile and when we couldn't"

Underneath there was always fear. "Of course, there's fear of the virus," says Glaser. "That's natural. But you have to understand that for five years, when we knew nothing, my wife and I had a very intimate, normal sexual relationship. My daughter spit up on me, vomited on me, even bled on me, and I never got this virus. And I don't look at my son and think I'm going to catch the virus from him.

Eleven-year-old Jake, who has never developed symptoms of AIDS and is a participant in the Pediatric AIDS Foundation's long-term survivor study, is Glaser's mainstay. It is Jake who has taught his father how not to dwell on the past or think too much about the future. "Children have a capacity to stay in the moment that comes from their hearts." explains Glaser. "Jake deals with his mortality, and still has the ability somewhere between denial and acceptance to live in the moment. It's a blessing."

Which brings us to that stark reminder Don't Go There, hanging in Glaser's trailer, "When I slip into the past or future, that's like going to hell for me," he says. " Those words tell me not to slip out of the moment."

When Elizabeth's health took a turn for the worse in 1994, Jake became anxious over being abandoned, admits Glaser. Both father and son are trying to help each other move on. "We ride our bikes, go to the beach, go bowling once in a while," says Glaser with such tenderness that you can almost feel his attachment to Jake. "We fish and hang out and go to the movies."


Despite her physical deterioration she remained an indefatigable crusader who managed to rally support for the foundation she set up and found help from the likes of Hilary Clinton.




Paul keeps active and healthy

If the past year was the beginning of a new life for Paul and Jake, it was also one marked by bittersweet memories. Elizabeth was always keen on celebratory rituals: the tequila toast at her November 11 birthday; the releasing of balloons on August 4in memory of Ariel's birthday; the annual star-studded A Time For Heroes Pediatric AIDS Foundation's fundraising carnival in Los Angeles. Last June's carnival was the first without Elizabeth, and it was the first at which Paul chose to appear at the press conference.

Paul was not prepared for the effect the experience would have on him, says DeLaurentis. "He was very emotional at the end of the day. One of the things we'd always done afterwards was go back to their house, drink tequila, and jump in the pool with our clothes on. There was no way to do that this year, so everyone came to my house. There was a sense of sadness and relief that the day was over."

The biggest challenge for Glaser has been carrying on Elizabeth's activism. Before, Delaurentis says, "He was her support, the silent partner." But a month after her death, Glaser volunteered to join the foundation's board. He has become a visible figure at the Pediatric AIDS Foundation events , and in May was at the White House to help launch the foundation's campaign to encourage women to volunteer for prenatal HIV testing. "Research has found that there's a way to impact transmission of HIB from mother to child,' he says. "Wouldn't you rather have that opportunity than not? One choice speaks of hope, the other of victimization."

As time passes and Jake stays healthy, Glaser thinks sometimes about falling in love and marrying again. "Yeah, I'd like to see it happen." he sighs. "I'd like to have another family." But he quickly backtracks., "I don't know if marriage and family are on the cards."

Glaser is needed on the set. And Jake has arrived as he often does after school. In a voice filled with longing Glaser says, "Elizabeth was vital, strong, and passionate, and was a tremendously huge part of my life. she taught me so much about love. I carry that experience of her with me every day."

report:Jane Birnham for Hello Magazine, March 1996




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