“THANKS TO HANK”— An Unsung Hero of the AIDS Epidemic


An Unsung Hero of the AIDS Epidemic

Amos Lassen

Director, writer and producer Bob Ostertag’s “Thanks to Hank” is the inspirational story of a true unsung hero of the gay liberation movement and the AIDS epidemic that followed—Hank Wilson. Wilson is unknown to many, but beloved by those whose lives he touched. He Hank was a behind-the-scenes activist who, with uncompromising zeal and pathos, radically altered LGBTQ+ life and rights in the Bay Area especially for queer youth in the early days of AIDS.

Through archival footage, animation, and interviews with collaborators and friends (Tom Ammiano, Lea DeLaria, Donna Lisa Stewart, Gerry Kirby, and Blackberri to name a few), we see the impacts of Hank’s efforts that we still feel today in AIDS service and queer youth organizations, cultural outlets, and local politics.

The documentary spans forty years of Hank’s work that was focused on the most marginalized in the community. We learn about Hank’s legacy and come to love his nature. He was a “selfless man…who neither judged nor discriminated. He helped, he made a difference… he took on everything, whether it was housing, support, respect, respite, remembrance…or, holding a hand when the last breath leaves. He did it. He did it all…and, now, his friends, pay their respects.”

Lea DeLaria tells us that during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, “the gay community let the gay community down…people turned their backs. Hank Wilson didn’t.”

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