January 27, 1958 – February 5, 1991
Michael, I guess I met… I certainly met in the mid-80s because I cast him as a gay cowboy – as a singing cowboy and that whole gang of punks. first I cast them as the gay cowboys in “Kipling meets the Cowboys,” then “Pink Pimpernel” a couple of years later, and they were all caring for, hanging out on the roof with you – the Dandies, the apolitical Dandies, but lurking within their ranks are the hardcore activists. So, it was fun to cast the activists as the Dandies. And Michael… Michael also did, was involved in a bunch of video collective projects, “Veggie Daddy,” these sort of AIDS awareness vids that – loose collectives were formed and fell apart and there was a… that one was a hip hop, “Veggie Daddy” was a hip hop one. They sort of were… I actually, I can’t really retrieve them. In fact, they are available because one of them is in the compilation we put together at V-Tape. And so that’s retrievable in terms of V-Tape’s got it. But yeah, Michael was, you know, one of the forces of nature in the community on so many levels, and you know greatly missed. – John Greyson (AAHP transcript, p. 11-12)
He was a proud anarchist and when we had that debate about the scope of AIDS ACTION NOW!’s mission, he was on the side of arguing for a wider scope. He was one of the folks who stayed with us even though we made the difficult decision. And some of his anarchist friends were the ones who left. But he stayed on, with his sense of humor. What did he bring? Spark. He brought spark. He always wanted us to be in the streets and having fun while we were doing it, even though it was very serious work. That’s what I recall about him. – Glen Brown (AAHP transcript, p. 37)
Alexis: Michael Smith –
Glen: Well first off, he was a proud anarchist and when we had that debate about the scope of AIDS ACTION NOW!’s mission, he was on the side of arguing for a wider scope. He was one of the folks who stayed with us even though we made the difficult decision. And some of his anarchist friends were the ones who left. But he stayed on, with his sense of humor. What did he bring? Spark. He brought spark. He always wanted us to be in the streets and having fun while we were doing it, even though it was very serious work. That’s what I recall about him.
Alexis: He did a play, right?
Gary: “Person Livid with AIDS.”
Alexis: Did you see that play?
Glen: I did. I remember it being critical of AIDS ACTION NOW!, but again with wit.
Alexis: Oh really. Okay, I didn’t know that.
Glen: He thought we were way too polite.
Glen: I think he might have even renamed us “AIDS ACTION PLEASE!” [laughter] It was something like that. And none of us took offense, because…
Alexis: Yeah, because that was Michael.
Glen: It was a very Michael thing, yeah.”
Interview with Glen Brown (AAHP transcript, p. 37-38)
Oh before I forget, Michael Smith also, when his father came to visit him from England, insisted that I was the only person he wanted his father to meet. I don’t know why? And so I got his father to tell the tales of Michael Smith, of how Michael – I think he had an upper class background – would play the piano and Michael was so embarrassed because he liked to portray himself as this grungy anarchist. … Yeah. And so he did that and he had a privileged upbringing against which he rebelled. But I don’t know why he wanted me to meet with his father. His father was nice enough. But Michael was a very sweet and nice person – very bright too. Like this is the thing, right, when we lost the anarchists, when we drove them out of AIDS ACTION NOW!, we lost a lot of energy but also some very smart people, and we suffered because of that. I think AIDS ACTION NOW! could have been much bigger and stronger and the whole AIDS movement could’ve been bigger and stronger.
– Sean Hosein (AAHP transcript, p. 29-30)
He was a great guy, and his funeral was quite interesting too. … He had the Christian minister, to the Radical Fairies, to the anarchists. So, there were many different symbols of the different things, right. And it was quite fun. They did a Fairy march or something, if I remember, right at the end.
– Brent Southin (AAHP transcript, p. 28-29)
I could talk a little bit about Michael Smith. He was on the steering committee of the TIE project, and he was a lovely person in my experience of him in terms of his involvement with the TIE project. What he was able to do was mobilize the moral force of a person with HIV identity almost all the time in a really compelling fashion. I remember him, for example, screaming at somebody who was making a point with, it was either to get some kind of service or maybe it was some kind of research project that somebody participate in and they set the meeting at nine a.m., and like, “how ridiculous!” “What idiot who knows nothing about HIV would set an appointment with someone living with HIV at nine in the morning?!” He was just enraged and it was so great. He had this incredible energy and he was like a hippy, a real hippy; but a gentle, really gentle person. I have this memory of him in this mini-bus thing – you know, cars with little small wheels? Minis. We went somewhere and it had something to do with the TIE project, I can’t remember. Maybe he borrowed this bus from somebody or maybe it was his? I have just this vision of being in this little – you know, those little buses. Like, those little mini-vans with the little wheels. It was some shitbox. I don’t know where it came from, and we were driving around getting something. I can’t remember. But he would come to the meetings of the TIE project and was very committed to the vision of what was going on and brought this really strong PWA voice to the work that we were doing. And unfortunately, he did get sick fairly soon and died, but he was great. – Eric Mykhalovskiy (AAHP transcript, p. 27)
To learn more about Michael Smith, we invite you to check out our Toronto interviews. We invite you to read our interviews with Julia Barnett, Glen Brown, Renee du Plessis, John Greyson, Sean Hosein, Gary Kinsman, Eric Mykhalovskiy, Brent Southin, Sri and Robin Turney. We also invite you to peruse memories of Michael in our Omeka collection.