In this annus horribilis after the passing of so many friends of Bill Percy and the Foundation, it is the culmination of our sadness to announce Bill’s own glide into perpetual sleep at some point in the early morning of Sunday, October 30, 2022. The Foundation’s vice president visited him the previous day and put the phone on speaker so that he and I could talk together with Bill. Bill was resolved that he was ready to die and would not be talked out of it, and without further delay his wish was fulfilled. He had already survived much against the odds: HIV, COPD, prostate cancer, a stroke. He now felt he had no more to give us.
‘A contrarian with joie de vivre’ Andrew Lear A Generous Curmudgeon with a Twinkle in His Eye Richard Yuill ‘A ready wit and a dark sense of humor’ James Dubro Friend, Colleague, Confidante, and Sometimes Scold Avi Eindorot My Memories of William Armstrong Percy III Beert Verstraete
I first became acquainted with him in the fall of 2002, when I was on the East Coast as a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and had been invited to lecture at Boston University. I had reviewed one of his books and Bill had reviewed one of my books for the Gay & Lesbian Review. Through a mutual friend (the foundation’s vice president), Bill invited me to a party in my honor at his antique-stuffed South End townhouse. The following spring, when I was a Humboldt fellow in Berlin, Bill somehow showed up in Berlin, where he and I spent more time together, getting to know personalities as diverse as Erwin Haeberle, Arno Schmitt, and Egmont Fassbinder. Unlike me, Bill was a shameless extrovert. We quickly became friends and visited each other at least once or twice a year until the dismal days of COVID.
What impressed me about Bill was his willingness to defy political correctness and popular Zeitgeist. Opposed to a gay movement that had become corporatized and obsessed with respectability, Bill sought to reclaim the discarded and more frankly sexual elements of historical gay liberation struggles, what he called “the five P’s”: prostitution, pornography, promiscuity, pederasty, and “paraphernalia” (i.e., sex toys, poppers, other sex aids). I suggested and he readily agreed to a sixth P, which was public sex. Bill himself admitted to personal investment in only one (or maybe two) of the P’s, but what he recognized in all of them were historical aspects of gay life that had come to be swept under the rug and denied by mainstream gay media and organizations, even though they continued to play a prominent part in the lives of many gay men. With this insight was born my proposal that we form the Percy Foundation as an effort to pool the resources of the many gay men who wish to see the gay movement return to the heady liberationist goals of the 1970s, before the reactionary assimilationism and political correctness of later decades advanced limited officially recognized rights at the expense of the very qualities that made gay sex genuinely subversive and revolutionary in previous eras.
– Thomas K. Hubbard