‘Drop Dead’ Full of Laughter, Tears


He’s a little Joel Grey, a lot Bette Davis.

“Hi. My name is Steve Moore, and I’m a stand-up comedian,” he says. “I’m also HIV-positive.” He lets out a big, Phyllis Diller-type laugh, “Ah-haaaa,” and the camera careens in for an extreme close-up. “Now that’s some funny stuff.”

Feisty, challenging and a little bit scary, Moore is in your face from the opening moments of “Drop Dead Gorgeous (A Tragi-Comedy): The Power of HIV-Positive Thinking,” debuting at 11 tonight on HBO. But beneath the brassy exterior beats the heart of a true son and good friend. In a lively mix of solo performance segments (recorded in front of live audiences) and sepia-toned, home-movie style reenactments, Moore charts the 40-some years of his life from the backyard treehouses of Danville, Va., to the comedy clubs of Hollywood.

Along the way, he searches for love--in bathhouses, in bars, in strangers’ beds. He deals frankly with his promiscuity (“My philosophy back then was: In bed by midnight, home by 3”) and his HIV status, finding ample humor in both. But what makes his story so compelling is the generosity of spirit that he finds in himself and in those around him.


His parents, Skeets and Wilma, appear in the mock home movie segments. They are down-home, salt-of-the-earth types--a little solemn, a little conservative, a little bewildered about where this wild child of theirs came from. But they stand behind him 100%. When a doctor recommends marijuana to suppress Moore’s nauseous reaction to the AIDS drug AZT, Skeets is outraged--not at the idea of smoking pot, but at its market cost. So he grows a private stash in the basement.

The real grabber, though, is Skeets’ simply stated perspective on HIV. “I think of AIDS as a disease, not a disaster,” he says, tears welling in his eyes. “So I don’t really have a problem with it. But I think the people who think otherwise are the ones with the problem.”

Moore went out looking for love, but it was waiting for him at home all along.

* “Drop Dead Gorgeous” airs at 11 tonight on HBO. The network has rated it TV-MA (intended for adults).