Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family
Lance: His Life & Legacy
*About the Film
*Lance: His Life & Legacy
*Lance the Writer
*Lance & Andy Warhol
*Images of a Life
*The Mumps
*Memories & Tributes
*Hepatitis C and HIV
*An American Family

Lance Loud, 1973
Lance Loud was the first reality TV star — the eldest son in a family made famous by the groundbreaking cinema vérité series An American Family, which premiered on PBS in 1973. As the first openly gay person to appear on television, Lance was vilified by the media. But the American public loved him. Lance was an inspiration to legions of young people, both gay and straight, for daring to live his life on his own terms.

Wanting to take advantage of his "fifteen minutes of fame" after the broadcast, Lance moved back to New York City in 1973, where he had briefly lived during filming of the series. He was soon sought out by his childhood idol and pen pal, Andy Warhol. Warhol had seen An American Family on PBS, and wanted to meet the boy with whom he had corresponded years earlier. A long friendship quickly developed. Warhol and his talent for the outrageous had long been a major influence, but Lance soon saw him as a father figure of sorts as well.

While in New York, Lance and high school friend Kristian Hoffman resurrected the band they had started in Santa Barbara, the Mumps. The band quickly developed a loyal following, regularly selling out clubs such as CBGB and Max's. Unfortunately, the Mumps failed to attract the interest of a record label, and the band disbanded in 1980.

After the breakup of the Mumps, Lance returned to Los Angeles and became a magazine writer. Over the next 20 years, he wrote dozens of articles for publications including Circus, Interview, American Film, Details and Vanity Fair. Lance also had a regular column in The Advocate, "Out Loud," in which he wrote about his role as a gay icon.

On December 21, 2001, at age 50, Lance died of liver failure caused by a hepatitis C and HIV co-infection. He received major obituaries in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. His passing was recorded in a full page People magazine "Farewell" piece. He was remembered on Time magazine's "Milestones" page as the person who famously said, "Television ate my family."

Lance Loud, 2001
In the end, Lance Loud found his particular kind of fame rather hollow. Nothing could ever measure up to that initial burst of fame and notoriety, and he spent years struggling to find himself. He went to some dark places in his life as a result, including years of substance abuse. Lance wanted his story to be, in part, a cautionary tale. He saw himself as a role model of what not to do in one's life.

In fact, Lance often spoke of not wanting to be perceived as a gay icon and a publicly homosexual figure. He preferred to be seen as an outsider, a rebel, someone always living on society's edge. His life was a comic tragedy that spoke volumes about pop culture, sexuality, fame and family life.


Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family is a presentation of WETA and ITVS, and was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service.

Copyright © 2002 WETA. All Rights Reserved.