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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Buddies like David

Actor David Schachter was twenty when AIDS Crisis began. While both the US Government and Hollywood were slow to respond to the spreading pandemic, the first film to explore the mounting casualties of the disease was Buddies, a film released in 1985, that was Schachter's first leading role.

The film never received a UK release, but now, Peccadillo Pictures are released a remastered version so UK audiences can see this seminal movie for the very first time. The Pink Lens caught up with Schachter to reflect on the movie and its legacy, thirty-four years later.

Thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions, I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you and was greatly moved watching Buddies for the first time. What was the reaction from the public and the press when it was first released?

Buddies played mostly at art houses and at benefits. The response from the general press was mixed, but mostly kind. The gay press responded in a much more visceral, affirmative, and nuanced way.

Are you surprised that it took until the release of Longtime Companion in 1989 for a film about the disease to get a major studio release?

I was extremely moved by Longtime Companion. I’m just so glad that these stories were getting told at all. It was an incredibly bleak time. You have to remember there were no drugs in the 80’s, and getting an AIDS diagnosis was basically a death sentence. Misinformation and disinformation were rampant. And the homophobia wasn’t hidden, either. It was all out there.

Why did you decide to perform in the movie?

Artie and I had known each other since 1979 – we met cruising on Christopher Street, and we remained good friends. We stayed in each other’s lives and followed each other’s careers. In February of 1985, he told me he was going to make a film about a person with AIDS and his buddy, and asked if I would I like to play the buddy. He wrote the part with me in mind. We shot the film in 9 days in May and it had its world premiere at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco that September.

Geoff Edholm and David Schachter on the set of Buddies.

How did performing in a movie about AIDS affect your acting career?

I thought being in Buddies was going to change my life. It did, just not in the way I expected. I was getting better auditions after the film (e.g. Broadway and National Tours, a soap opera), but I wasn’t getting the higher profile parts. And, then, life started to imitate art. Being a gay man in the 80’s in New York, well, more and more of my friends were getting sick, and getting that next big audition eventually became less important to me. I started volunteering at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1988, and in 1989 came on as a Community Organizer with them on their large-scale events (AIDS Walk New York and the AIDS Dance-a-Thon).

Did you stay in contact with Geoff Edholm and Arthur Bressan after the film was released?

I stayed in contact with both Artie and Geoff after the film up until they died in 1987 and 1989 respectively.

What do you think is the movie that most reflects the reality of what life was like for the gay community during the pandemic?

Buddies. It’s an historic artefact that captured a very specific moment in time.

What do you think audiences at the start of this new decade will take away from watching Buddies for the first time?

When we find ways to engage—as opposed to disengage—to make this world a better place, it is amazing what a group of people can do.

If you could tell all young LGBT+ People one thing about the AIDS Crisis, what would it be?

It’s so easy to demonize communities. There’s a never-ending supply of people to marginalize. Just look at the state of the world now – the hyper-nationalism and partisanship in our political and policy discussions. The LGBT+ community was marginalized to such a degree at the onset of the epidemic, and we proved ourselves to be stronger and more loving than the hate surrounding us.

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