Vito Mastrogiovanni – I loved saying the name, as it flows so mellifluously off the tongue – was this guy I met when I first went to Binghamton Central High School. My group from Daniel Dickinson met up with like-minded folks from MacArthur and West to protest the VietNam War and fight injustice. Even a straight guy like me knew how good looking Vito was. My sister Leslie had a major, unrequited crush on him.
I kept in sporadic contact with him over the years, then saw him again for the first time in a long time at his 20th high school reunion in 1990. Actually, I don’t know that he actually went, but the old group of us hung out together before and after the scheduled event. Vito, who was working behind the scenes in theater, both on and off Broadway, was extremely angry because he had AIDS. I’m happy to know that by the time he died the following summer, he was more at peace. Vito was the first person I knew personally who died from the disease, but was hardly the last.
Every year at this time, a part of the AIDS quilt comes to Albany, and I always go to see it. In fact, for three years, I was a “guide” at the event, helping people who might become emotionally distraught over seeing these representations of lives cut short. Today is the last of the three-day World AIDS Day Events at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The Memorial Quilt will be on display today from 9am-3pm, followed by closing ceremonies at 3pm.
(In spite of recent efforts, the number of HIV/AIDS infections continue to mount worldwide.)
Off the main page for the AIDS Memorial Quilt/The Names Project, here’s Vito’s quilt; he’s represented in the upper left, quilt number 2409. It’s simple design, and not nearly as dynamic as Vito was in life.