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Different people define success in many different ways. What is considered success by one person may be viewed as failure by another person. Randy Shilts, a homosexual newspaper reporter / author, attempts to make fundamental changes in America’s opinion on AIDS. In Randy Shilts’s essay, "Talking AIDS to Death," he speaks of his experiences as an "AIDS celebrity." At the core of Shilts’s essay is the statement, "Never before have I succeeded so well; never before have I failed so miserably"(221). Shilts can see his accomplishments from two points of view- as a success and as a failure. Despite instant fame, Shilts is not satisfied with the effects his writings has on the general public. Shilts’s "success" and reasons for failure can both be considered when one decides whether or not his efforts were performed in vain.

From a superficial stand point Randy Shilts, without a doubt, has become a great success with the release of his book And the Band Played On. Almost over night, Shilts is emerged in all the luxuries of stardom. "I quickly acquired all the trappings of bestsellerdom: 60 Minutes coverage of my "startling" revelations, a Book-of-the-Month Club contract, a miniseries deal with NBC, translation into six languages, book tours on three continents, featured roles in movie-star-studded AIDS fund raisers, regular appearances on network news shows, and hefty fees on the college lecture circuit" (220). These benefits, along with numerous others, mark that of a "successful" person.

Hopes 2

However, a deeper look into the expectations Shilts has for his book can offer an explanation to why Shilts was not a complete success.

Randy Shilts set out to make monumental changes in the world’s perspective of AIDS. He planned to enlighten, motivate, and educate the population on this tragic disease that has already claimed so many lives. He believed that virtually all the misconceptions about AIDS would be corrected and the public would insist that more be done to stop the epidemic. "I had hoped to effect some fundamental changes. I really believed I could alter the performance of the institutions that had allowed AIDS to sweep through America unchecked" (220). Shilts’s immense expectations positioned him for his inevitable sense of failure. He did not accomplished all that he had planned. AIDS was still spreading and people were still dying. "The bitter irony is, my role as an AIDS celebrity just gives me a more elevated promontory from which to watch the world make the same mistakes in the handling of the AIDS epidemic that I hoped my work would help to change"(220).

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