Lance Loud was dying and in need of a cat.

Tyler and I alone realized this. The only question left was: Where do two broke college students find a cat?

I was a freshman at Biola University. Since Biola requires students to be involved in a ministry, I chose the most uncomfortable one I could think of—working with AIDS patients. I met Lance in early September on my first day volunteering at the Carl Bean House, an AIDS hospice in South Central Los Angeles.

Lance was the first openly homosexual person on television. The first reality show—a '70s documentary called An American Family—followed him and his family around for a series of weeks. On national television Lance shamelessly announced that he was gay. "I didn't just come out of the closet," he later said. "I shot out like an MK-80 missile."

Everything about Lance was loud. Lance had been a writer, stripper, roadie, model, artist, rock star, band manager, television personality, and icon of gay culture. Andy Warhol was his friend and father figure. Lance toured with the Velvet Underground and started the punk-rock band the Mumps. He discovered and promoted outspoken gay musician Rufus Wainwright. His column appeared regularly in The Advocate, a gay magazine with a circulation of nearly 100,000. A recent PBS documentary, A Death in An American Family, chronicled Lance's life and death (

We spent two afternoons a week together, yet I spent a month with him before learning he was famous. He was a dying gay celebrity, and I was a straight kid. We didn't talk about church or politics during the four months I got to know him. We talked about art, writing, and faith.

Illegal Visitors

Before being hospitalized, Lance always had at least a dozen cats, all rescued ...

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