The most recent news story to hit the airwaves has to do with the suicide or supposed asphyxiation of the grandson of the famous screen siren Rita Hayworth - a film actress who flourished in the the forties, fifties and sixties. This young man, who just happened to be gay, allegedly took his young life by placing a plastic bag over his head in bed, and was found that way by a close friend in his Chelsea apartment.
Another tragic end to another gay man who had a life with clear advantages being the grandson of a world famous actress and the only child of her princess daughter, who chose to live his life by making some poor choices that ultimately led to his early demise. Another American tragedy that continues to affirm the fact that there are still too many gay men in our society that have very difficult personal issues which often prompt them to act in self destructive ways.
This young man’s death clearly serves to amplify the ever-increasing statistics with regards to gay suicides or accidental deaths due to self-destructive behavior.
All of us are probably still reeling from the spate of recent gay suicides. The death of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student and talented musician who ended his young life by jumping of the George Washington Bridge following public humiliation perpetrated by his roommate served to amplify other gay suicides, most as a result of gay bullying or hazing.
Clearly the case of Andrew Embiricos, the 25-year old grandson of Rita Hayworth and only child of Princess Yasmin Aga Kahn, is still being investigated as to whether it was suicide or a death due to accidental circumstances. To me, however, placing a plastic bag on one’s face strikes me as clearly a self destructive act despite its potentially sexual gratification.
A dear friend of Mr. Embiricos, the singer Brian Kent, is presently waging a one-man campaign to question the statements made by Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto echoed by a recent OUT Magazine article in which Musto opines about the details of the young man’s death and his HIV status, drug usage and ventures into amateur porn videos.
Brian is now asking friends of Andrew to sign a petition to take OUT Magazine to task for their emphasis on Andrew’s HIV status and his drug and sexual behavior rather than the positive aspects of this young man’s brief life: "This is about respect, about honoring our own and recalling the wonderful things he did and was to our community. About the positive things he has done and not painting a picture that merely interests readers who want dirt and drama."
I sympathize with Brian’s outrage and grief. But as a professional therapist and educator, I still have to question the circumstances of his friend’s death as being potentially evidence of poor self worth. Andrew acted in a risky manner and ended up dying in a manner unnervingly similar to that of David Carradine who was found hanging in his Bangkok hotel room in June of 2009.
This was also a man who had lived a privileged life and whose death suggested emotional turbulence.
I hope that we do not let this young man’s death go unnoticed for what it truly was: a cry for help. It is just so unfortunate that, like similar deaths of other young gay men, we cannot ignore the continuing struggles that many gay men struggle with on a daily basis, even those who live in a relatively permissive and accepting environment like Manhattan.
We need to listen to signs that suggest that perhaps a dear friend is in trouble. We need to also remember that it can be very difficult to perceive such signs if the person in pain is masking his true feelings from those close to him -- as this young man obviously did.
"We ran into each other in front of my apartment the day I left town and made plans to see each other when I got back," Brian wrote in his Facebook wall post. So how was Brian to know what Andrew was planning? A smile is not a smile if it is only covering up pain.
So please: Speak up. And if you’re hurting, talk to someone. Nothing gets accomplished if we continue to hide our pain in the same closet in which we as a community have for so long hidden our sexuality.