Divine was interested in interviewing Lester because, of course, you see the high profile of his husband Tom Ufert in the news and all about yet we were conscious that behind Tom, there was a strong and devoted partner in the background helping Tom put his Presidential 2016 campaign together.
And we felt that Lester was also a person in his own right striving to make a difference and sometimes this is overlooked. Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget those people who tirelessly devote themselves to others and to particular causes, and we believed this was one of those times. Think ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ by Bette Midler, one of our all- time favorite tunes.
So Divine caught up with Lester and managed to get pin him down long enough from his busy schedule to answer a few questions. First, as we do, we asked him some silly ones so that we could get a real glimpse of the man.
If you could be a superhero, which one would you be?
Mighty Mouse. He was my first hero as a small child.
Are you wine, champagne or beer man?
Beer. Cheaper, and gives me that macho image my Dad always wanted me to have but my dresses covered up. LOL
If you could change the world somehow with one incident, without it affecting any future timeline, what would you change?
Nothing. There has become a point in my life when I realized to dream the impossible dream was a fool’s wish. I do not mean to offend anyone but why waste your life on what you know is impossible.
Can you impersonate anyone famously? If so, who?
Marvin, the Space Martian, and Yoda are my two favorite voices to imitate.
Do you sing in the shower?
Rarely. It scares me there too.
What horror fiction character scares you the most?
Donald Trump. Sorry, I could not resist. (Divine *sniggering*. We thoroughly understand)
If you were in a band, what instrument/role would you play?
Now for the serious side of Lester Van Huss
Your work with Aids charities such as the rather fun looking United Court of the Lone Star Empire is one of these occasions where you do a job for the benefit of others. Can you tell us a little bit about your work with this organization and the type of things that go on behind the scenes?
My initial involvement with the Charitable Court System started around 1982 while residing in Fort Worth, Texas. Starting out as just a member I would perform within our organizations’ fundraisers in an effort to help contribute to the needs of those less fortunate. Our primary goals, in the beginning, were established to fight for equal rights among the gay community, aids awareness and help feed those who had fallen ill to the dreaded unforgivable sentence of death brought on by HIV and then AIDS. Many of the chapters within our international court system were responsible for aiding and assisting with the initial programs culminating our first Food Banks established for those living with HIV and AIDS. In the beginning, our Chapters were rarely documented through their states as 501-C3/4 until the last couple of decades.
We were solely supported by our own contributions as well as from other community members. Many of our courts depended upon our ability to quietly solicit Food Stores and Warehouses for products needed to help those who had taken ill in an effort to subsidise their finances since medications were so expensive during that era. Now, as a requirement, all chapters are required to be at least 501-C4 or C3 since a vast majority of our food banks are assisted with government funding and it provides us the ability to donate to other charitable 501-C3 government-supported groups and agencies as well.
Many of the food chains eventually declined our request to station ourselves outside their stores with the explanation we made their customers feel uncomfortable. We never verbally solicited, we simply set up outside the store with posters stating who we were and what we needed. Customers were aware of our goals and were able to purchase a little extra food while they shopped and as they left would donate it to our cause. You will still see many stores who do this for food banks today. For example, Kroger Inc. always has a drive to sell prefilled grocery sacks so customers may purchase and then donate to the various food banks in their areas. Alberstons and Walmart have both been known to do the same thing.
During my time with the organization I have held the office of Empress of the United Court of the Lone Star Empire in Dallas, Texas on two separate occasions. Once in 1990 to 1991 and then again from 2000 to 2001. Our process of electing our leaders referred to as Emperor and Empress are held publicly to any and all who live within the jurisdiction of said chapters. Our status is simply that we present ourselves as royalty like that of a King or Queen and your subjects which you lead are from your community or who have joined the chapter. As a group we serve our community through charitable fundraisers and benefits. The Reign lasts for one year, but the work we do is seriously taken. At the end of each reign newly elected leaders generally campaign for 4 to 6 six weeks prior to the Grand Ball and are installed at a yearly Coronation. This act of inducting the newly elected leaders follows the presentation of dignitaries from other realms, then immediately following the stepping down of the reigning Monarchs who pass the torch forward to the succeeding leaders of our organizations chapters.
In your opinion, is there anything else that the world as a whole is not doing to raise awareness of HIV and Aids and perhaps- what else do you think can be done?
We still to this day have a problem with those who do NOT seem to take this disease seriously. Many of our younger generation seem to have the mindset that as long as there is medication which is working they no longer have to worry about it being lethal. Some of them intentionally become infected so they will not have stress worrying about contracting the disease. They have a mind-set of “Now it is done, and I don’t have to worry anymore. I will just take medication.” There are many who dispute their misunderstanding of this horrific demon. There are absolutely no guarantees how your body will react to this ever-mutating viral death warrant. The virus continually bombards our entire world’s population. Whether out of ignorance or stupidity this must stop. There are way too many educational pamphlets, support groups and alliances which totally support my opinion on the part of those who think otherwise. One cause of our youth to feel this way may be they were not there to witness the thousands of lives lost to this plague. Very few of us are left to tell the tale of what we saw happen every day. We lost friends, family as well as saw others mourn for the loss of a loved one. We observed the ravage deterioration of human beings turn to skeletons before our eyes as some died in pain and agony and stood by helpless because there was nothing we could do.
It is now time for all bars to be dropped and doors opened so all can see just how tragic this disease really is. Each and every human should be responsible for making sure no one ever goes uneducated when it comes to HIV/AIDS. If anyone in the least thinks they will survive, they are fooling themselves. You are never guaranteed an extended life to begin with. Why in the world would you want to complicate it further.
Finally, considering that recent studies indicate up to 47% of Americas homeless population is made up of LGBTQ youth which has been rejected or alienated from their families and their communities. These individuals are highly susceptible to the ravages of this disease as well as crime, violence and prostitution. We must focus our attention on bringing these poor souls out of the darkness through outreach support and education.
You are obviously an advocate of making people’s live better though your work with food charities and cancer research. What has drawn to you to this calling and why do you feel it is so important to contribute?
I above many others have remained among the few. Those of us in comparison to the multitude of lives lost is who I call the few. Not only did I witness this terrible tragedy happen to others, but I have been blessed and fortunate to be among the survivors. You see I am living with HIV as a non-detectable soul. I saw, experienced and watched all of this godown. We went through being outcasts for years before society stepped up and started the fight to help us. We were the forbidden and the sufferers of Gods curse upon humanity as if we created the disease ourselves. The truth of the matter is HIV has been around for centuries. It was never a problem until it ripped through the gay community due to their sexual lifestyles and the Addicts who would shoot up using dirty needles. Eventually, it crossed over into our blood donor system and became widespread among all. Unfaithful spouses and all sexually oriented preferences were guilty. It proved before long that it was NOT just the gay man’s disease.
As a small child, I watched my 2 and 1/2-year-old cousin fights her battle just prior of her 5th birthday as she succumbed to cancer. That is my reason for my fight against one of the oldest death sentences called cancer. I also witnessed the lingering effects of lung cancer as I watched one of my best friends die in front of me as I held his hand. We have made great strides in the effort to bring both to an end. As long as there is breathe in my body I will continue the fight for others. May I add Food Banks are on the front lines of assisting these people with both illnesses. They help sufferers overcome the dreaded decision of affording food or medication.
Your life partner and husband Tom Ufert is currently running for the 2016 Independent U.S. Presidential Campaign. Divine did an interview with Tom recently on this topic. It’s a tough job for anyone, let alone Tom who in his own words, is a ‘triply disabled individual’ and for whom you are primary caregiver. Tell us about this circumstance and how you manage your day to day activities along with everything else you might be doing. Let’s hear what a day in the life of Lester Van Huss is typically like.
I generally get up and assist Tom each morning. I have been doing this going on 16 years now, and the love I have for him is my strength. His determination to not allow his disabilities get him down is a strength for me as well. To know Tom, you would not see a man in a wheelchair, but one who just sits down a lot. His mental state of mind is clear, educated and one of the most supporting roles in my life as I am physically for him. We lean on each other for encouragement. We are absolutely meant to be life partners, and I would have it no other way. Tom is dependent for transfers in and out of his wheelchair when it comes to showers, going out of the house on errands and transporting him back and forth to his doctor appointments. Many of the household chores are completed by his home health aide or myself who works part time as his aid as well. Managing it; I do not give it a second thought. There is no time for that. A person who cares for someone will do whatever it takes to get through the day and assist in whatever is necessary to accomplish that goal. It is definitely a labor of love that constantly reminds me the best way to conquer one’s own troubles is helping someone else with theirs.
Tom credits you with being the wind beneath his wings to enable his status of best- selling author, community activist and giving him the confidence to run in the Presidential campaign. You’ve been together fifteen years, and it must have been tough at times. What advice do you have for others in similar situations – not necessarily having the partner running for President *grins* as that’s quite unique -but trying to keep the daily grind of life from dragging you down and enjoying your time together.
My advice to anyone is to like them before you think you love them. You can love anyone and not like their ways. If you are in a relationship with someone, and you cannot get along, then you are doomed right from the start. You do not have to have everything in common. The ability to adjust and compromise with one another allows self-identity on both parts as long as it is consensual. The trials and tribulations which generally follow a couple’s decision to become united depend greatly on their ability to approach each and every obstacle with common sense and understanding. When one of us gets bogged down in stress and worry the other is generally right there to help support and at times guide us through that moment.
You’re an author in your own right, with books such as ‘Quotes for the Soul’ and ‘Their Innocence Shattered’ and ‘Little Bit of Pride’ to your credit. Tell us more about life as a writer and how you find the time to both write and promote sales.
In all actuality, I was blessed for this to happen during a time in my life while working part time. My writing was achieved by coinciding with the time Tom was busy writing his books. He would be at his computer, and I would be at mine. Many times we used each other as novice editors to help one another out. I literally never had the intention to write a story let alone a book in my entire life. Then for some reason or another, my past life began to drag me down, and I sat down to alleviate my stress by writing about it. The next thing I knew I had written a book. The book of quotes was suggested by Tom as an endeavor to compile various favorite quotes and use it as a marketing tool to help familiarize my name with the public. Following those two published works, I sat down and wrote my first short story “Little Bit of Pride” the gaining of self-confidence. Tom and I both discovered I had a niche for writing them due to my overly descriptive sentences. There were times I had to return to the scene of the crime and edit it down just a bit so my reader would not run out of breath. All in all, though, I have learned to like writing, but unfortunately, I still have a dislike for reading. I am one of those people who cannot retain what I read from one paragraph to the next. I find myself reading, then re-reading to the point of frustration. Seems odd that a person loves to write but cannot stand to read. Surely I am not the first. As far as promotion of my sales I did what I could do. Let’s just not go there because I do not have time to write another book at this moment. All I can say is promotions are a lot more work than writing. Anyone most likely can write. Selling it is a different story altogether.
We’d like to thank Lester for coming along and sharing his story with us. It’s fascinating glimpse into the lives of two extraordinary men.
If you’re interested in seeing the books, Lester has written, follow the link below.
Tom was good enough to give us an update on his Presidential Campaign, and you can see this in the Political column he writes for Divine Magazine.