Lance Loud, a freelance entertainment journalist, died in Los Angeles on Dec. 21 from complications with AIDS and hepatitis C. He was 50.
The eldest son of Pat and Bill Loud, he and his five siblings and parents became famous overnight when the landmark PBS docu series “An American Family” aired in 1973, presaging the current vogue for reality TV. The multi-part series drew record audiences for public television, as well as much criticism, when it ran from Jan. 11, 1973 to Mar. 29, 1973. A national phenomenon, the Loud family landed on the cover of Newsweek that winter.
The “American Family” docu was filmed in 1971 by producer Craig Gilbert, cameraman Alan Raymond and sound technician Sally Raymond, who spent 7 months with the Loud family in their home in Santa Barbara. The team recorded over 300 hours of film, which were edited into 12 one-hour episodes. The eighth and ninth episodes detailed the breakup of the Louds’ marriage. Even more controversial was the second episode, in which Pat visited her openly gay son, Lance, in his Chelsea Hotel apartment in New York City.
In Lynne Yamaguchi Fletcher’s book “The First Gay Pope and Other Records,” Lance Loud is listed as “the first person to come out on television.”
“His homosexuality was completely accepted by the family, which was another first for TV,” said David Ehrenstein, author of “Open Secret,” a study of gays in the media. “When the parents split up, there was an undertone of criticism from the media that what was wrong with the marriage was that they had a gay son. On the contrary, Lance held the family together.”
Loud wrote entertainment-related articles for Details, Interview, Buzz Weekly and The Advocate, where he was a columnist for several years. His final byline appears in the current issue, in which he wrote about his battle with hepatitis C and AIDS, of which he was diagnosed in October 1987.
Loud often wrote with self-deprecating wit. His last offering in The Advocate (“A Death in ‘An American Family’ “) was no exception: “In a sea of ‘Advocate’ winners, some loser’s musings on his own mortality might just provide a fitting reflective glory to further flatter our issue’s winners. I don’t mind that; I am glad to help out.”
At Loud’s request, Alan and Sally Raymond recently filmed his day-to-day life at the Carl Bean House, the L.A. hospice where the writer died.
In addition to his mother, Loud is survived by his father, Bill, and siblings Kevin, Grant, Michele and Delilah.
A memorial service is planned for late January in Los Angeles.