Flamboyant performer Liberace was known best for his piano prowess, virtuoso performances, and extravagant wardrobe, homes, and cars. At the height of his fame, he was the highest-paid entertainer in the business, playing for celebrities and dignitaries and headlining a very successful Las Vegas show. Throughout his career there were rumors of his affairs with men, prompting Liberace to file numerous libel suits against publications in an effort to mask his sexuality. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1987, but he and his personal physician had tried to hide his AIDS diagnosis from the public. However, the official cause of death was confirmed on the coroner's certificate filed by the Riverside County, Calif., coroner.
Gia Carangi (1960-1986)
Carangi has been dubbed the “World’s First Supermodel,” having appeared on the cover of four international editions of Vogue, in five editions of Cosmopolitan, and in advertisements for Armani, Versace, and Christian Dior, all before turning 23. She openly loved women, having flings with female photographers, makeup artists, and designers. Sadly, at 26, Carangi became one of the first famous women to die of AIDS-related complications, having reportedly contracted it through injection drug use. HBO Films later paid tribute with an Emmy-winning 1998 drama, Gia, starring up-and-comer Angelina Jolie.
Elizabeth Glaser (1947-1994)
Glaser became a leading AIDS activist after she received an HIV-contaminated blood transfusion while giving birth to her daughter Ariel. Ariel later died after contracting the illness through breast-feeding, and Glaser’s son Jake contracted it in utero. After Ariel’s death in 1988, Glaser cofounded the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to raise awareness about HIV in children. At the time of Ariel’s death, Glaser told The New York Times, "She taught me to love when all I wanted to do was hate. She taught me to help others when all I wanted to do was help myself." Glaser died in 1994 of AIDS-related complications, but her legacy lives on. The foundation reached an estimated 20 million women worldwide, testing 17 million, and enrolling more the 2.2 million in its HIV care and support program.
Perry Ellis (1940-1986)
Ellis is best known for his casual American style of sportswear. His use of khakis, hand-knitted sweaters, and oversize jackets led The New York Times to proclaim that he “glorified the clean-cut, all-American look.” At the time, his cause of death was listed as viral encephalitis, but rumors of Ellis’s HIV-positive status made news after it came to light that his lover and business partner, Laughlin Barker, died of Kaposi’s sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer. The Los Angeles Times ran a 1986 series on journalistic ethics and whether it was appropriate to include AIDS rumors in news stories, with Ellis serving as the focus.
The revered fashion designer’s style was known for being minimalist, and the designer often used cashmere and Ultrasuede. His most famous clients were Jackie Onassis, Andy Warhol, and Liza Minnelli. He was also a figure of '70s nightlife in New York and was a staple at the famed disco Studio 54. His long time love was rumored to be window dresser, Victor Hugo. Halston died in 1990 in San Francisco of Kaposi’s sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer.