Obituary: Kris Kirk
Thursday 29 April 1993
'AS I write, I have been completely blind for seven weeks, the result of cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis,' Kris Kirk flatly stated in a ground-breaking article 'A Descent into Darkness', published in Gay Times in June last year. 'Aids, of course,' he concluded at the end of his exposition.
Kirk was a good enough journalist to know the value of understatement. When the article appeared in print, it provoked many letters in praise of his courage and honesty, it was put on to audio cassette and it formed the basis for an interview on a BBC radio programme about blindness and, specifically, the rising incidence of CMV retinitis. It was also the last thing Kris Kirk ever wrote for publication. Although I had commissioned a followup piece about his coping with blindness, I did not expect him to deliver it: Aids-related illness was progressing too quickly through him.
Born in Carlisle into a devoutly Roman Catholic family (he was christened Christopher Pious Mary Kirk and a television documentary about his life was called A Boy Mary), Kris Kirk had a lively career after graduating from Nottingham University, where he studied American literature. Amongst the more colourful areas in which he worked were as dresser to the entertainer Tommy Steele and in the same capacity on the television production of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
But it was when he arrived at Gay News at the beginning of the 1980s to act as Staff Reporter that he started to come into his own. When I rejoined the newspaper shortly afterwards, he and I formed an immediate bond - in part because of a shared sense of camp and the ridiculous.
'I've always wanted to be Christopher with a 'K',' he told me. And thus the Kris Kirk so soon to establish a reputation as an openly gay man writing pioneering articles and interviews about homosexuality and popular music was born. For almost a decade, Kirk wrote some of the most penetrating journalism in this area - in Gay News, Gay Times, The Face, Smash Hits, Melody Maker and the American Advocate and New York Rocker. On one occasion, despatched to Rome to interview Boy George for Melody Maker, he came back with the most gloriously bitchy interview for Gay Times because - certain I would agree to it - he had promised the star a much-desired cover.
Drag was Kirk's abiding interest after pop and in 1984 Gay Men's Press published Men in Frocks - a collaboration between him and his photographer lover Ed Heath which took the form of sensitive interviews and compelling photographs of several generations of drag acts and drag queens. He planned a book on pop (to be called The Vinyl Closet, a title since hijacked) - but went on researching long after it had become obvious to the rest of us that he would never finish it.
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