Their Story - He Built the End of His Life Around His Art

Michael Gentile "resigned from his job a month after he was diagnosed and just wanted to make pottery," his partner said.
His name was Michael Gentile. A local artist in his own right, Gentile would never come to a point where anything he ever did would be seen by the public. But he was an artist. In 1993, I was 15 and he was the age I am now. He seemed so much older at the time, but then anyone over 18 was ancient to a 15-year-old. On a rainy fall day that year, Gentile passed away from AIDS-related complications.

This is his story.

“Mike was exciting to be around; he was always full of energy and spontaneity,” Clifford Mulhare said in a recent email. “He would be the only man I think I have ever loved as deeply as I did.”

Mulhare and Gentile met in Chicago in 1985 while attending a funeral for a mutual friend. “I saw him and thought, ‘He’s gay?!’”

Mulhare, a self-described “queen,” had never met a gay man so masculine and comfortable in his skin, “I thought I would just flirt with him at the reception but then decided that would have been superiorly inappropriate following a funeral.”

Little did he know that Gentile would be the one to approach him. “At that time, I was such a nelly queen – more then than I am now – and a man like Mike asking me out for coffee never crossed my mind as being possible, but it happened.”

After continuing to live in Chicago for a couple of years, the couple moved to Kansas City.

“Mike had friends and family here and so did I, so we thought Kansas City would be a great next step for us.”

Many of their Chicago friends had died from the spreading epidemic.

“It was … 1987 and we had no one to stay in Chicago for. … All the death made us want to start fresh, so we could move forward.”

Gentile and Mulhare bought a house in Midtown. “Mike made a little pottery studio out of one the rooms, where he would throw a dish, a pot, a cookie jar, sometimes even a lighthouse; he really liked lighthouses.”

Many of their friends encouraged Gentile to sell his creations, perhaps even open a little store, but Gentile refused.

“He always said that being an artist doesn’t mean you have to receive payment to officially be called what you already are,” said his brother Martin Gentile in a phone conversation from his home in Seattle. “If you saw something you liked, he would give it to you.”

“It was early summer of 1992 that he tested positive,” said Mulhare, “and I was devastated, but Mike wasn’t. I remember he looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I have a year, maybe, so let’s enjoy it.’ Looking back on that now, it seemed Mike knew something I didn’t.”

The couple did not travel the world or throw lavish parties. Both Gentile and Mulhare made pottery.

“Time was the reason Mike didn’t fully pursue his art. He was a counselor for drug users and alcoholics, and he was dedicated to his patients and to the work of that field, but he resigned from his job a month after he was diagnosed and just wanted to make pottery.”

Every morning Gentile would make one new piece of pottery and then another around midday and then on more before he went to bed. Mulhare said that Gentile would mail each new and cooled piece of pottery to friends, relatives, acquaintances, anyone he ever knew. He would thank them for being who they were.

“Mike was always a grateful person and he wanted to be sure everyone was thanked for gracing his life.”

After about eight months of creating his art and the gifts they became, he started to decline.

“The medications never seemed to work, and it was frustrating. Men were getting better, people started to have hope that maybe this disease was losing and we were winning. But not for Mike. It was one complication after another,” said Mulhare. “But he had a will to make the best out of the time he had left. I wish I could’ve been stronger than him for him, but I wasn’t, and that is the one thing I regret.”

Gentile would pass away on Oct. 14, 1993, at his mother’s home in Chicago.

“He wanted to go home,” said his brother, “and so Cliff drove him to our mother’s house.”

As a young friend of Gentile’s, I, too, received a piece of pottery. It’s small, blue and glossy. The note inside said:

To the little man who mows my yard and brings me smiles, I will always remember you for being the one who constantly made me feel young. For that alone I thank you.

Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. On that day and beyond, I will remember those I have lost and those who continue to live with HIV/AIDS. More important, I will pray for significant progress to be made in the search for something that will end this horrible disease, and that whatever is discovered will be made available to every human on this planet.

Join me and the rest of the world on this day of solidarity and awareness.

WhistlePig + Alfa Romeo F1

SHOREHAM, VT (September 13, 2023) — WhistlePig Whiskey, the leaders in independent craft whiskey, and Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake are waving the checkered flag on a legend-worthy release that’s taking whiskey to G-Force levels. The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.

The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.

Keep readingShow less
by Spectrum Medical Care Center

Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

Keep readingShow less

Descanso Resort swimming pool and lounge area

Descanso Resort, Palm Springs' premier destination for gay men, just received Tripadvisor's highest honor, a Travelers' Choice "Best of the Best" award for 2023. Based on guests' reviews and ratings, fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor's 8 million listings around the world receive the coveted "Best of the Best" designation. Descanso ranked 12th in the top 25 small inns and hotels category in the United States. Quite an accomplishment!

Open less than two years, Descanso Resort offers gay men a relaxing and luxurious boutique hotel experience just minutes away from Palm Springs' buzziest restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping. Descanso has quickly established itself as a top destination for sophisticated gay travelers, earning hundreds of 5-star guest reviews and consistently ranking in Trapadvisor's top positions alongside brother properties Santiago Resort and Twin Palms Resort.

Keep readingShow less