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Steve Moore

Comedian

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Moore just turned 48 in June. He thought his 40th birthday would be his last. His annual income is under $15,000, but he's got all he needs — a dog, a cat and a modest house in South Side. The HIV-positive comic is facing a brightening future.

Moore enjoyed a brief burst of fame after his HBO special, "Drop Dead Gorgeous (A Tragi-Comedy): The Power of HIV Positive Thinking," premiered in June 1997. Part stand-up comedy, part documentary, the show was a forthright and funny look at Moore's life with AIDS. It won wide acclaim from critics and viewers, and still airs occasionally on HBO.

Afterward, Moore landed a few small roles on sitcoms, but the HBO special didn't catapult him to fame. No longer able to pay $1,500 monthly for his medication, Moore packed up and left Hollywood for Richmond, close to his hometown of Danville.

He found that Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia would give him medicine free — if his income was below the poverty level, or $15,000. Moore jokes on his Web site, "I have to be a millionaire or indigent … and guess what's easier?" So Moore gave his parents his last $10,000 (they used it to help buy him the house) and started a new life.

His health is good. Moore recently decided to take part in a radical research project that takes HIV patients off their medication for long periods of time to reduce debilitating side effects. It's risky, but after three months he's feeling great. "I'm also very optimistic," he says with a smile, "because it's a nine-year study."

Moore supports himself by bartending on weekends at the gay nightclub Fielden's. Quite often, people recognize him, he says. It gets old, he says, but it's also a refreshing reminder: "Oh, I forgot," Moore says with his trademark mocking self-deprecation. "I am somebody."

Moore's currently working on a one-man show. He also gets the occasional gig doing stand-up on gay cruises, most recently with Rosie O'Donnell in the Caribbean. For doing a few shows, he parties for seven days straight with 2,000 gay people: "They're all tan, wearing their Speedos, eating fruit," he raves, still tanned from his last trip.

On one voyage, a young man recognized him as the comedian from the HBO special. "My lover said you were dead!" the fan exclaimed. Not yet, Moore replied: "I have a lot more to say." — Melissa Scott Sinclair

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