While fortune and fame can seem blinding in unforgiving Tinseltown, neither attraction has misguided this most uncommon man from Buenos Aires. Perhaps it’s because he’s already blind. Eduardo Bar doesn’t consider himself disabled; he considers himself lucky. Then again, words don’t mean much to this man, who sees most labels as just another means to stereotype people we hardly know. But that’s precisely why it’s worth getting to know this man, whose red hair masks his Latin blood in much the same way his outstretched smile hides his daily struggle.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Bar hopped a plane to Los Angeles, embarking on a journey that’s less about where he’s settled, and more about the ground he’s covered. And while it’s not uncommon for kids in Bar’s native Argentina to chase their dreams, not many chase them 6,000 miles away.
As a self-taught adolescent actor, Bar honed his craft alone in his small childhood bedroom, playing out scenes from his favorite movies: pretty much anything starring his beloved Shirley McLaine. And though he practiced alone where no one could see, he was secretly hoping that someday many would. Starting with the small stage, then moving to soap operas, then to stadiums, he worked his way through South America until finally landing at Los Angeles International Airport, pockets still weighted with childhood dreams.
In 1997, Bar went for a hair restoration appointment, only for the doctor to come back with the news that he was HIV-positive. He had already figured as much but didn’t want to deal with the reality of change — a pill he would soon swallow both figuratively and literally.
“I’m an alien. I didn’t want to be kicked out,” says Bar. “I didn’t want to lose my job. I didn’t want to lose my insurance. I didn’t know. I was totally uneducated and I was terrified.”
And so Bar did nothing with his new diagnosis. By the time he finally did see a specialist in July of 1997, his T-cell count was just 15. A normal T-cell count is closer to 1,000.
By October of that year, Bar had contracted bacterial meningitis, causing an inflammation in the protective membranes covering the brain. If not treated promptly, meningitis can be fatal. Bar cheated that dire prediction at first, and he did not know how seriously ill he was until he was rushed to the hospital. And though he staved off death, within days the swelling in his brain had placed such great pressure on his optic nerves that he quickly lost nearly all his vision.
But in losing his sight, Bar was able to find something else. “To be honest, I kind of found spirituality in all of the journey I’ve been going through,” says Bar. “And I realized that everything we go through is just an excuse for spirituality. I don’t regret a second of it. [Going blind] was painful, but it made me who I am today, and I’m very happy of who I became — who I’m becoming — because it’s not finished.”
When he was strong enough, Bar started working on independent short films and continued to perform regularly at the Braille Institute and at private parties — which he does to this day. After landing auditions for both blind and sighted characters, he laughs at the absurdity of having more luck with the latter.
He also laughs at the idea that he’s disabled. He sees himself as just a person taking on the challenges that fall in front of him, unaware that he’s humbly exceeding all expectations but his own.
“I call myself crippled,” he says with a laugh. “To me, words are just silly. To me it’s irrelevant, really. I don’t consider myself — how can I put it — you can call me ‘faggot,’ I don’t care. It’s not about the words; it’s who I am. And I’m more than just blind. I’m more than just gay. I’m more than HIV-positive. To me, HIV is something written on paper.”
Soon Bar will be seen alongside American Horror Story’s Jamie Brewer in My Next Breath, a documentary that highlights David Zimmerman’s award-winning Meet the Biz workshops, which are aimed at making diversity in Hollywood commonplace.
For a man lacking most of his sight, Bar has a remarkable way of seeing the world around him. And that’s what makes this man anything but normal. It’s certainly not the accent, nor the hair, not the virus, nor the cane. What makes this man incredible is his inability to observe the world that the rest of us do, while somehow seeing what most of us don’t.
Photo by Boo Jarchow