To preface this, I want to make clear that I do not intend to place any blame on the cause of Dave’s death. However, as someone who was very close to him, I feel compelled to shed some light on some of the complex issues that afflicted Dave’s daily life, because they are things many of us can relate to and moreover, learn and grow from.
If you had the pleasure of meeting Dave, you were probably struck, as I was, by his perfect mix of refined disposition and magnetizing personality. Dave’s generosity and graciousness knew no bounds. He carried within him the pulse of the community, of which he was so proud to be a part of. It is Dave’s overwhelming contribution to our lives and the industry as a whole that makes this loss so devastating.
To remain resilient in the name of progress, we need to accept and support one another. We have seen far too much evidence of what happens when we don’t.
In the months before Dave’s passing, he and I were quite literally attached at the hip … if you catch my drift. We shared the deepest secrets of our pasts and I was more than delighted to be a part of his present. He was the epitome of everything I had ever hoped for in a companion — engaging, refreshingly honest, funny and always smiling. However, behind the façade of smiles and self-starting attitude, his reality was far from perfect.
As you might know, Dave was a recovering addict. His discipline was remarkable. Even more remarkable, was his habitual honesty about his past as a drug user and the encouragement he extended to others, whether they shared his struggle with recovery or were going through a divorce. His bravery made it possible for others to have the courage to open up and embrace themselves. He truly wanted people to know that they were not alone, no matter the problem.
At three and a half years sober, addiction was still something he battled daily. At the age of 23, he embarked on his journey of sobriety and ultimately found solace in this community. The enterprising individuals that make up this industry were hospitable and empathetic towards him and his past, whereas the stigma of addiction in our society prevented other industries from extending the same accommodation.
At the core of Dave’s courage is the most valuable lesson he taught me; to be vulnerable, wholeheartedly. Easy, right? As a performer in this industry, you’d think we would all be experts at this. We expose ourselves in front of a camera for thousands of people to watch and make unsolicited comments. That sounds like the definition of vulnerability. However, that sense of exposure doesn’t always bleed into every aspect of our lives. We face obstacles that many people never encounter, like the incessant shame society projects onto sex workers.
Dave overcame that and embodied fearlessness by remaining open in every regard, despite the stigma and judgment he encountered. The ability to be vulnerable is the birthplace of courage and growth and Dave was just that. Courage and authenticity are undoubtedly emblematic of his legacy. Although he’d probably attribute his accomplishments to his diligence and calculated intellect, those aforementioned qualities were most imperative to Dave’s success.
Being so strategic in all of his endeavors, he surpassed the role of a performer, to mentor and successful entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his success made him subject to an abundance of scrutiny, reaching far beyond the struggle of maintaining sobriety.
As a bisexual, Dave walked a fine line between different communities in society and within the industry. He felt as though if one person was pleased with his work, another person would take offense. As praised as he was, this praise coincided equally with disapproval and judgment regarding the nature of his sexuality and the “authenticity” of his work. He was constantly bombarded about his lifestyle, having his sexuality being dissected by strangers, and false allegations like being “gay for pay.” This type of malicious behavior is not a characteristic of a community that had once accepted and fostered Dave for who he was.
If you take your job as seriously as Dave did, this business is inherently contingent upon mutually beneficial collaborations — so is it in our best interest to alienate or criticize our colleagues because they don’t adhere to outdated and offensive ideals of sexuality?
As members of this community, we should be the momentum behind dismembering these types of prejudices and stigmas, not perpetuating them. We are all too familiar with the feeling of being subjected to discrimination. There are masses of people who take every chance they can to discredit us as the business people that we are. That problem can’t be solved if we don’t solve our own problems first.
The answer to this lies in solidarity. The practice of hate, judgment and alienation within our community is not conducive to progress or success. Fragmented communities cannot aspire to such ideas. Negativity and malice never manifest positivity and growth. To remain resilient in the name of progress, we need to accept and support one another. We have seen far too much evidence of what happens when we don’t.
In his memory, I encourage everyone to consider their responsibilities to our collective growth and to exemplify all of the values that Dave loved about this community.
Ask yourself this, What Would Dave Slick Do?