BORN: August 2, 1952 in Andover, Massachusetts
DIED: July 8th, 2023, in Los Angeles, California after
being hospitalized with an infection.
Rev. Dr. A. Stephen Pieters became a cultural Icon following his famous
interview with Tammy Faye Bakker in 1985.
Pieters was a long-term survivor of AIDS, having been originally diagnosed
with “AIDS-related complex” (ARC) in 1982, as well as Kaposi's
Sarcoma and stage four Lymphoma in 1984.
His remarkable story of recovery served as an inspiring example of healing
and hope to many across the country and around the world, following
the release of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which won actress Jessica
Chastain her Academy Award for Best Actress. Randy Havens
of TV's Stranger Things played Pieters.
The film, which debuted on Sept 24th, 2021, recreated Tammy Faye Bakker's
historic 1985 interview with Steve Pieters, the first time a
televangelist gave an affirming interview with a gay man living with AIDS.
Pieters' interview was a turning point for him as well as for Tammy
In October 2022, Elton John’s award winning musical “Tammy Faye” opened in
London, where again Steve’s ground breaking interview was portrayed
in the show.
Rev/Dr. Pieters has been a singing member of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los
Angeles since 1994. From 1994-99, he served on their Board of
Directors, and as Chair of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles Board from
1997-99. With the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, he has performed
in some of the great concert halls of the world, including
Carnegie Hall in New York (in 1994 and 2019), Tchaikovsky Hall in
Moscow, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The Rev/Dr.
Steve Pieters received the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles's highest
award, the Humanitarian Voice Award at the annual concert and Gala
dinner, at UCLA’s Royce Hall, on August 13, 2022. This was the first
time in the history of GMCLA’s Gala Voice Awards that they will be
gave their highest award to one of their own.
In October, 2019, examples of his work in AIDS Ministry and of his life as
a person with HIV/AIDS were placed in the Smithsonian National Museum
of American History. Included in that collection is his infamous fairy
wand, now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
Rev/Dr. Pieters is featured in the 2023 documentary feature film,
Commitment to Life. The film shows the history of AIDS in Los
Angeles, including Hollywood’s response to AIDS, both positive and
negative, as well as the experiences of minority communities. Rev/Dr.
Pieters, as a client and board member of AIDS Project Los Angeles in the
1980’s, witnessed and participated in a great deal of the history of
AIDS in Los Angeles.
In 1985, he was a featured speaker at AIDS Project Los Angeles’s,
“Commitment To Life”, the first entertainment industry dinner AIDS
benefit, given by Elizabeth Taylor. In November, 1987 he presented the
Buddy of the Year Award to Whoopi Goldberg at APLA's third Commitment
to Life bemefit. In the summer of 1990, he appeared as himself in
the hit play, "AIDS US/II." His story also appears in the
books, Surviving AIDS by Michael Callen, Voices That Care by Neal
Hitchens, and Don't Be Afraid Anymore by Rev. Troy D. Perry.
Just prior to his passing, Rev/Dr. Pieters offered testimony and the
opening invocation for the second year at the Hollywood Museum’s
annual "Real to Reel: Portrayals and Perceptions of LGBTQ+s in
Hollywood,” with tributes made to Fran Drescher, Geri Jewell, Michael
Feinstein, Lorna Luft, Kevins Spirtas, Jojo Siwa, Lily Tomlin and Jane
His highly anticipated memoir “LOVE is Greater Than AIDS: A Memoir
of Survival, Healing, and Hope.” by Rev/Dr. Steve Pieters, will
be published by Rowman & Littlefield in the spring of 2024. The book
details Rev. Pieters’ remarkable story of recovering from AIDS in the
1980s and his health challenges and many adventures in Hollywood and
beyond since that time.
Pieters says, “I have been amazed at how those 25 minutes I spent with
Tammy Faye have reverberated through Pieters' life, more than almost
anything else I've done. So many people have said my interview with her helped
them come out or even saved them from suicide, by helping them realize
they could be gay and Christian, or that God was not punishing them
with AIDS for being gay.”
Rev. Dr. Pieters was born and raised in Massachusetts, where
his father chaired the Mathematics Department at
Phillips Academy. Steve attended Phillips Andover in preparation for
his theater studies at Northwestern University, where he received his
Bachelor of Science in Speech in 1974.
In 1976, he joined Good Shepherd Parish Metropolitan Community Church in
Chicago, where he decided to pursue a calling to the professional
ministry. He received his Master of Divinity Degree from McCormick
Theological Seminary in 1979, at which time he accepted a call as Pastor
of the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, Connecticut.
In Hartford, he served on the Board of Directors of the Hill Center, Inc.,
and Center City Churches, and on the Executive Committee of
the Sexual Minorities Task Force of the Capitol Region Conference of
Churches. The “Gay Switchboard” for the region was kept in his home,
and he was interviewed in the print media, as well as on many TV and radio
shows as one of the few local gay activists.
In April, 1982, Steve began experiencing the first symptoms of what we
now know as HIV infection, but then was called GRID: Gay Related
Immunodeficiency. Steve resigned his position in Hartford, and moved to
Los Angeles, where he experienced a series of illnesses, including
hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, mononucleosis, Cancer and pneumonia. That led
to his diagnosed with ARC: AIDS-related complex. In April, 1984, he
was diagnosed with AIDS/Kaposi's Sarcoma and stage four lymphoma, and
he was told by one health professional that he would not live to see 1985.
There were no treatments available, and his doctor, Alexandra M. Levine, M.D.,
told him, "You in the church have more to offer at this point
than we do in medicine." She also challenged him to
"do everything you can to create the conditions for medication
to work when we find something," adding, "If 0.001% end up
surviving AIDS, than why not believe that you will be among that
0.001%, and act accordingly?"
Not only did he live to see 1985, but during that year he
became "patient number 1" on the first anti-viral drug trial
to treat HIV. He took suramin for a total of 39 weeks. Within six
weeks of treatment with suramin, both cancers went into complete
remission. Due to toxic side effects, the drug was discontinued for use
against AIDS. However, Rev. Pieters continues to enjoy a complete
remission of his cancers, according to his physician, Alexandra M. Levine,
M.D., Chief Medical Officer of City Of Hope.
Since his diagnosis, Rev. Pieters had served on the Boards of Directors
of AIDS Project Los Angeles, the AIDS Interfaith Council of Southern
California, the AIDS National Interfaith Network (USA), and the first Los
Angeles City/County AIDS Task Force, and was Field Director for the
AIDS Ministry of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan
Community Churches from 1987 to 1997. He has written a series of
articles for Journey magazine about his experiences with AIDS, which
have been collected with other writings of Rev. Pieters' in the book, I'm
Rev/Dr. Pieters was one of twelve guests at the first AIDS
Prayer Breakfast at the White House with U.S. President Bill Clinton,
Vice President Al Gore, and National AIDS Policy Coordinator
Kristine Gebbie on November 30, 1993. The President talked about Rev.
Pieters in his World AIDS Day speech on December 1, 1993.
Rev/Dr. Pieters has received awards for his ministry in the AIDS
crisis from the Board of Elders of the Universal Fellowship
of Metropolitan Community Churches; Evangelicals Together, Inc.;
the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles; The Lazarus Project of the
West Hollywood Presbyterian Church; and the West Hollywood City
Council. In 1989 he received an Honorary Doctor of Ministry Degree
from Samaritan College, the seminary of the Metropolitan
Community Churches. In 1990, he received the prestigious Sheldon
Andelson Award from the Stonewall Democratic Club, and the Sandra L.
Robinson Award from Community Unity in Dayton, Ohio.
Rev/Dr. Pieters received an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from
Antioch University in 2003, and subsequently worked as
a psychotherapist for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center;
Alternatives, Inc.; Teen Line; and the Westminster Counseling Center.
Reverend Pieters has served as Staff Clergy at Founders Metropolitan
Community Church of Los Angeles. He has traveled the world, teaching,
preaching, and sharing his belief in God's healing and sustaining power
while living with HIV/AIDS. Everywhere he spoke, he carried a fairy wand
to teach about the importance of believing in fairies when so many
good fairies were dying, of believing in each other and in ourselves,
enough to do the work of healing, whether that be healing into life,
or healing into death.
Donations in Steve’s honor can be made to AIDS Project Los Angles, City of
Hope, The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Project Angel Food.
by James Franklin, Courtesy of the Rev/Dr Steve Pieters Estate
additional information please send an email to email@example.com
or call 626.296.3757