Partner Paul Jacobs

Queer Places:
Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, US

Paul B. Levenglick (March 16, 1938 - February, 1986) was a physics professor. Paul Jacobs's romantic life seems to have stabilized after his return to the United States, however, when Jacobs met Paul Levenglick. They remained partners for 22 years, and Levenglick was executor of Jacobs’ estate. Near the end of his life, when Jacobs could no longer see, he nevertheless attended the launch party at the Lincoln Center for MEC83 by Elliott Carter, with Levenglick.

In 1982, Jacobs was diagnosed with HIV. He was among the earliest, prominent figures in the arts community to succumb to the disease, dying on September 25, 1983. The obituary which appeared in the New York Times, which mentioned nothing of his homosexuality or his surviving partner Levenglick, was later used as an example of the press’s unwillingness to openly acknowledge the fact of homosexuality nor the impact that HIV was wreaking upon the homosexual community.

A few days after Jacobs’ passing, the New York Native, at the time a popular gay newspaper, published a very different obituary: Paul Jacobs, pianist and harpsichordist for the New York Philharmonic and renowned authority on 20th-century music, died on Sunday, September 25, after a long bout with AIDS. He was 53 years old. Although the New York Times obituary made no mention of his sexual orientation and attributed his death to “a long illness,” Mr. Jacobs was an openly gay man who wanted the nature of his illness to be a matter of public record. … He is survived by his brother, John, and by Paul Levenglick, his lover of 22 years. The Native’s obituary, itself a quasi-analysis of the obituary in the Times, had not only named AIDS as Jacobs’ cause of death but also identified Paul Levenglick as his partner.

Paul Jacobs died in his spacious apartment overlooking the Hudson. He was 53. Tributes flowed from the greatest names in music: Bernstein, Boulez, Carter, Mehta, Copland. A memorial concert for Jacobs was presented February 24, 1984. Carter was one of the eulogists. Two new works dedicated to Jacobs were premiered, one each by David Schiff and William Bolcom, who later said, “I believe [Jacobs] to have been the greatest pianist of our age, certainly the greatest I ever knew; he will be, I am certain, one of the very few among the many thousands of twentieth century pianists that has a chance of being remembered years from now.” Organizers of the memorial concert suggested that contributions be made for research on AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), the disease that killed him. "He had a great sense of purpose," said Paul Levenglick. "He felt that there was a reason he was here on this earth, and that he was part of a civilization that he had to contribute to. He was really driven by that idea."

Jacobs finished his final record in June of 1982, about 17 months after he was hit by AIDS. Little was known about the disease when he became ill in 1982. But despite the climate of fear that surrounded it, he never hid the diagnosis, or the fact of his homosexuality. "From about February on he did not feel well and he was very tired," said Levenglick. "Then he developed some skin blotches and asked a dermatologist to take a look. The diagnosis came in April and it was that he had AIDS and he had Kaposi's sarcoma," a rare form of skin cancer that is one of the so-called "opportunistic diseases" to which AIDS victims are vulnerable.

Levenglick said Jacobs "had a pretty good idea" of how long he would live. "In the beginning he read the articles about AIDS in the magazines and papers, and he understood that it was a fatal disease and that people didn't live beyond two years. And he had an idea that he wouldn't survive beyond 18 months, and that's exactly how long he lived."

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