In Memoriam, Richy Flash | Letters | Chicago Reader

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In Memoriam, Richy Flash



On October 18, Richard Wilson ["Hey, Richy Flash-Flash," August 13, 2004] succumbed to complications from AIDS, against which he had struggled, both physically and politically, for many years.

Richard was a man of many talents, most notably a genius for the art of photography. He possessed a peculiar ability to render himself invisible, a valuable skill for a photographer seeking candid shots, especially shots of celebrities in less-than-flattering situations. He was nevertheless aggressive with the practice of his art, as he was with the practice of his life. One paparazzi colleague recounts the tale of having the label of his Canon embossed on his forehead when Richard knocked him to the floor at Studio 54 in the 1970s; woe unto him who got between Richard and his shot. And woe unto anyone who got in the way of Richard's political agenda. From the Stonewall riot in the 60s to the Act Up demonstrations in the 80s, Richard was always in the thick of political causes which provoked his refined sense of justice. But consistent with his many contradictions, his aggressive practice sprang from a fundamentally dispassionate perspective. A serious Buddhist, the delicate, almost loving art he crafted belied the cunning skill required to produce it.

A small-town boy from central Illinois, Richard moved at the highest levels of New York society, but the midwest always took first place in his heart.

Openly gay before it was even safe to be out, Richard fathered three sons who, together with his grandson, were the pride of his life. Deeply introspective and seriously bookish, he could shout down the best his adversaries had to offer. His personality encompassed the wild extremes of human behavior, a feat which some at least consider the mark of true genius.

Many of his friends from his later years in Pilsen and Champaign will remember Richard as a professional pain in the ass. And we thank our lucky stars for professional pains in the ass like Richard. Richard made the world more honest, more real, more terribly, beautifully human. We will miss you, Richy Flash. Thanks for sneaking up on us and blinding us with your stunning beauty.

Jerry Boyle


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