Robert Beers
Excerpt from the Lower East Side Biography Project

Steve Zehentner: Producer, Director of Photography

Writer, painter, performer and wit, Robert G. Beers II, was one of the downtown New York's most eclectic denizens. Anyone who ever met him would not soon forget him, neither his elegance of word and thought, nor his piercing wit, daring humor, his aesthetics or his intellectual hunger and acumen.

A highly self individuated person, Bobby Beers was emblemic of the kind of original thinker and eccentric that New York was once known for and he is deeply missed by all those who knew him. From 1969 to 1972, he was assistant to the editor of ''Crawdaddy Magazine,'' for which he also wrote features and reviews. Beers was an early member of Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, joining Ludlam's Company in 1971 through 1976. He worked on all phases of the troupe's productions, appearing in four of them. Beers later assisted on the rebuilding of several major pipe organs in New York City, including those in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and St. Bartholomew's Church.

In 1981 Beers joined the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art, where he worked for the next 20 years with the curators organizing exhibitions of national and international cinema. He was a founding member of Dignity, The Catholic Gay male activist group. It was Beers who originally coined the expression "Gay Shame" calling for a movement against Gay Pride.

One of the first people diagnosed with AIDS in New York, he was also one of the longest survivors from the original plague and he kept a sense of humor about it and faced every adversity caused by AIDS by stepping up his artistic game. In 1999, he self published a seven-part novel entitled, ''James in Love.''

In 2000, when he became legally blind due to CMV, an opportunistic infection that causes blindness, he started painting water colors and had one-man exhibitions of his work at Cooper Union, New York, the Gallery of the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Aix-enProvence, France. His outrageous wit and radical sense of humor always rode at the top of a deeply philosophical inquiry into what it meant to be human. We know you are going to fall in love with him as we all did.

The Robert Beers Biography is a part of The Lower East Side Biography Project and was directed and edited by Nick D'Benedetto in collaboration with Penny Arcade and Steve Zehentner. Director/Editor: Nick D'Benedetto Producer, Interviewer: Penny Arcade 
Producer, Director of Photography: Steve Zehentner
 Associate Producers: Dean Lance, Rick Jungers
 Second Camera, Lights and Sound: Jodi Wetzel, Scott Wetzel

The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive work to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.

The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed over sixty 28-minute programs, and videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.

The completed biographies cablecast and stream live every Monday at 11 p.m EST, in Manhattan on Time Warner 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and live stream on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Community Channel One.

View the current cablecast and livestream schedule on the project's Facebook page.