Onetime ABC 7 entertainment reporter Paul Wynne decided in 1990, after being diagnosed with HIV and beginning to show the deterioration signs of AIDS, to document the final period of his life in a video diary. As part of their ongoing coverage and promotion of the docu-drama miniseries When We Rise, which premiered Monday on ABC and continues with a second installment tonight at 9 p.m., ABC 7 has done a segment, embedded above, remembering Wynne's journals and how they came to be.
An unfortunate fact that seems a bit buried in the coverage is that Wynne was unemployed for the last six years of his life, after working for multiple local stations and after KGO/ABC 7, for reasons not explained, chose not to renew his contract in 1984.
"I want my TV work to be a legacy, and a history of this epidemic," Wynne said in one of his first video journals, which began airing on January 11, 1990 and would ultimately gain worldwide attention for its frankness. Wynne would be dead less than seven months later, at the age of 46, and as the New York Times said in his obituary, "Even in San Francisco, a city probably more sophisticated about AIDS than any other in the nation, the segment was stunning television, shocking for some viewers, inspiring for others and a 'reason to get up in the morning' for its dying star."
As friend and ABC 7 News photographer Lorne Morrison, who encouraged Wynne to tell his story publicly via the journals, recalls, "It was painfully real at times, painfully real."
In one late segment, his face gone gaunt, Wynne would say with the blunt plainness of a journalist, "I'm very sick and I'm very weak; my life is very joyless and I'm very afraid.''
You can watch all of Wynne's 20 video journals here, archived by Willamette University, his alma mater.
When We Rise was shot as eight separate one-hour parts, but it's now airing in four installments of two hours each, beginning on Monday with an episode that covers a period from the late 1960's to early 1970's. The series, written by Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, is based in part on a newly published memoir by SF activist Cleve Jones, who had this to say about Part 2, which airs tonight (Wednesday), and focuses on the early days of the AIDS epidemic.