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As the AIDS crisis was developing in the early '80s, the Reagan administration was not only largely unconcerned, it apparently thought AIDS was kinda funny.

At three separate press conferences in 1982, 1983, and 1984, President Ronald Reagan's press secretary Larry Speakes responded not only dismissively to questions about the epidemic, but with thinly veiled gay jokes at the expense of the reporter who asked.

The transcripts have been published before, but the audio had never been made public — until today. Filmmaker Scott Calonico managed to acquire the tapes, which he cut into a short film and provided exclusively to Vanity Fair.


The recordings are infuriating — and highly disturbing. (Key passages transcribed below the video).

At the October 1982 press conference, journalist Lester Kinsolving tried to get spokesman Larry Speakes to answer a question about AIDS.

"It's known as the 'gay plague,'" Kinsolving says. A number of the reporters in the room laugh.

"I don't have it. Do you?" Speakes retorts. More laughter.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

Later in the conference, in reference to an unrelated question, Kinsolving jokes, "I love you, Larry."

"Let's don't put it in those terms, Lester," Speakes claps back.

(Translation: Kinsolving — "Hey Larry, what about this terrible disease that's wreaking havoc on hundreds of gay men and spreading rapidly that no one knows how to stop?" Speakes: "#nohomo.")

A year later, Kinsolving was back in the press room asking questions. Over 2,000 people had already died from AIDS.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

In response to another journalist who used the phrase "fairy tale," Speakes says of Kinsolving: "Lester's ears perked up when you said 'fairies.' He has an abiding interest in that."

Because, you know, of the earlier conversation. About gay people.

Kinsolving then asks if Reagan plans to issue advice on whether gays should stop "cruising" in light of the epidemic. Speakes responds, "If we come up with any research that sheds some light on whether gays should cruise or not cruise, we'll make it available to you." (Emphasis mine.) The reporters start laughing.

"Back to fairy tales," another reporter shouts from the crowd. The laughter intensifies.

By 1984, over 4,000 people had fallen victim to AIDS.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

Kinsolving asks Speakes if Reagan has expressed any concern.

"I haven't heard him express concern," Speakes responds.

"Have you been checked?" the press secretary later adds. (Yes, even after thousands of confirmed deaths across the United States and no cure in sight, the idea of Kinsolving being gay and having AIDS continues to be, apparently, pretty funny to Speakes.)

All of this is well-documented, but it's critically important we don't forget.

Photo by Scott Calonico/Vanity Fair.

It's not news that the Reagan administration didn't react with perfect clarity to the early years of the AIDS epidemic. And of course, no one knew the scope of the tragedy that was about to unfold (though many were sounding the alarm).

But it demonstrates how dangerous prejudice can be.

Imagine if, when asked about Ebola earlier this year, President Obama's press secretary had replied, "Psh, no, I'm not African. Are you African?" instead of taking it seriously.

How many more people might have become ill or died if his administration had chosen to ignore the crisis as a result?

Too often, when tragedy strikes, we prefer to see it as someone else's problem.

Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images.

Right now, over 4 million refugees from Syria are in desperate need of food, shelter, and a new country to call home.

"But it doesn't affect me, so I don't care," we think.

Right now, climate change is feeding massive storms and terrible droughts, wreaking havoc on coastal areas and low-lying islands, and displacing millions of people.

"But it doesn't affect me, so I don't care," we think.

Right now, transgender Americans are being murdered at historically high rates.

"But it doesn't affect me, so I don't care," we think.

That's the wrong response. The right response? "It doesn't affect me, but I still care. And I'm going to do something about it."

Not only because one day it might affect you, but because others are suffering.

That should be enough.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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