On Saturday, Elton and David Furnish came to Toronto's Holt Renfew to launch new limited-edition EJAF candles.
Jeanne Beker (seen with Elton, above) spoke with the philanthropists, and was moved by their commitment to the cause and their drive and determination to make the world a more compassionate and caring place.
Below is a good portion of the interview, with more available to listen to later today, on America's E! channel as well as on Etalk on Canada's CTV network.
Q: Raising awareness, first and foremost, is what youre really keen to do. Tell me about Ryan White and how his plight changed your life.
John: Well, when the AIDS epidemic started and I lost so many friends, I was a drug addict and alcoholic, very self absorbed, obviously. This epidemic was raging and I didnt do anything! I cant figure out why. It mustve been because I was so self-absorbed in that kind of drug-induced lifestyle. One day I read that Ryan White, this little boy from Indiana, was going through terrible problems going to school, and his house was being attacked because of his HIV that he got through a blood transfusion. I was enraged. And I got a hold of his family through my publicist and we became in touch. I helped them move to another place. We became friends, and his whole family and he himself touched me such a great deal that they spurred me into changing my life, making me realize how selfish, self-absorbed, and inadequate I was, not doing anything about this terrible disease when it was affecting gay people, and I being a gay man. Ryan was the catalyst for me. And this little boy, who not only turned my life around and saved my life, also saved the lives of millions of others because until he became a national figure, AIDS was kind of swept under the carpet. It took a child like Ryan to become a national hero for the government in America to actually do something worth mentioning. That consequently led to the Ryan White Act when he died, which has saved millions of millions of lives. So, that boy, if they beatified the last Pope, then they should beatify this boy. He was a saint, he never complained, he was an inspiration.
Q: And for you, David, growing up in our own backyard, what were your impressions of what was going on in those early years?
Furnish: Well, in the 80s, I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality and losing friends from the disease at the same time, which was an utterly terrifying moment and I remember a lot of those people dying very lonely, very sad deaths because we didnt have the knowledge and we didnt have the medications that we have today. If you contracted AIDS in the 80s, it was a death sentence and it was a question of prolonging peoples lives as long as possible. I remember a lot of heartbreak and a lot of sadness.
Q: For those of us who held the hands of those wed loved and lost and stared AIDS in the face, its a different reality from what we see today. I dont think kids today understand just what we went through and dealt with.
John: No . . . Through the horror of dying of AIDS, and the quick, painful death sentence, the Kaposis, the dignity stripped away from your whole being
Furnish: And the rejection from society. . .
John: Kids need to realize thats what people went through. They died very quick and very agonizing deaths. It was so frustrating. But we must never forget the people who died those deaths. And youre right, kids today need to see this, they need to see a history lesson, what people went through.
Q: What an absolute joy that youve come here for Fashion Cares. Youve been involved before David, but Elton, how do you feel about being part of the event for the first time?
John: Its so exciting. Fashion, music, film, candles . . . everything that I love is going on this weekend! This is a great weekend for Toronto. But its a city thats always cared and I know that because Ive been here such a lot, and to be here for the last Fashion Cares, and to perform, and to have my friends the Scissor Sisters come, and Sky Ferreira, who we look after, and all the Canadian acts on the bill, its a tremendous, tremendous thrill for me.
Q: I dont know how much a family affair this trip to Toronto is for you. Did you bring your son Zachary with you?
Furnish and John: Yeah. . .
John: We had a big family dinner on Thursday night, which was wonderful. Davids family is very close to my heart, theyre a great family. Its a big part of Zacharys future, to be close to his family. Its very important that he has a family here and a family in England to be close to, and he does.
Furnish: We want him to have Canadian roots.
John: You know, even before I met David, Canada had a special place in my heart. But now, Im completely sold. I really feel half Canadian.
And as previously mentioned by EJW, both E! and the Fashion Television Channel are to broadcast the Fashion Cares 25 Special, on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.