By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
It's visitors night at Fort Lauderdale Hospital. A woman behind the front desk buzzes more people into the waiting room. They take a seat, and most stare at a small corner television that flashes "America's New War" in bright red letters. The woman yawns and gestures toward a clipboard.
"Oh," she says, "you're here to see Steinsmith. Take a number."
The initials GS are repeatedly scribbled in the log. In line to see Gary Steinsmith tonight are two attorneys and several friends. And now, after providing Steinsmith's password, AA1985 (the year he got sober), a reporter is next. Guest tags clipped to their shirts, several people are herded onto an elevator. The doors close, then open to the third floor's drab celery-green walls and terrazzo floor slick with ammonia. Dressed in a fluorescent orange jump suit that reads FDLE across the chest, Steinsmith is talking to three nurses. Take the man out of the outfit and the place and you would have a charming host telling a joke to three ladies at a cocktail party. An orderly politely interrupts him. Steinsmith nods his head, excuses himself, and walks with his hand outstretched.
Just as he's about to shake hands, his arms open into a half embrace. "Thank you for coming," he says like an uncle you rarely see. His black, disheveled hair smells of Prell shampoo. With cigarettes and peppermint on his breath, he flashes a Cheshire smile. "Welcome to paradise on the psych ward!"
Another patient, a gigantic man in blue fuzzy slippers, bounces behind him. "Hey, there's another reporter here to see Gary!" He turns the ward's television up full blast. "Gary is really going to be in all the papers, like he told us!"
Steinsmith, who was once regarded as Fort Lauderdale's most influential AIDS activist and gay political insider, rolls his eyes. He had been in the papers just a few weeks earlier. On November 8, the Miami Heraldand the Sun-Sentinel had described the 44-year-old as "ravaged" by the virus he'd contracted nearly 13 years before. The Herald story reported that he was "destitute," a reason HIV agencies -- even those he'd spent years raising funds for -- had refused to treat him.
"It's amazing what a week here will do to you," begins Steinsmith. He means a week of various antidepressants and mental health counseling. "First thing I want you to know is that I'm not crazy, I'm not poor, and I have plenty of time left," he says. Shuffling in his Nike flip-flops to a small conference table, he delicately crosses his bony legs at the ankle. "Sorry about this," he says, gesturing to his jump suit. "I would have dressed better, but I haven't had a moment to shop."
As soon as he closes the door, a nurse pokes her head in the room and tells him to keep it open. This is the high-security area. Steinsmith was moved from the low-security fifth floor, nicknamed The Pride Floor for its mostly gay patients, after he threatened a nurse and kicked a three-foot hole in a wall.
"I'm here because I took a drug holiday that very few people know I was on," says Steinsmith, referring to his decision in late August to stop taking medication for bipolar disorder. "What a vacation, right?"
Over the next hour, Steinsmith gives every reason to believe he's stable. He can recall dates and events clearly, even stopping to spell names. He is witty and self-effacing, attentive and sharp. But moments of lucidity are occasionally interrupted with fantastic promises to team up with Charles Schwab soon so they can go into business together. He cries a split second after he laughs. The volume of his voice yo-yos. But after two months of listening to Gary Steinsmith, it's apparent that this behavior encapsulates who he is -- a man wobbling on a tightrope of sanity. Despite suffering from severe depression most of his life, living with HIV for 13 years, and battling alcoholism, Steinsmith has managed to remain, at least in the public eye, a celebrated political insider and gregarious fundraiser.
But during the past few months, Steinsmith's disguise has slipped, say his closest friends in Alcoholics Anonymous. Rather than rally behind him, AIDS agencies are using Steinsmith as a political football, the friends suspect. More alarmingly, the friends are leery of Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent's involvement in Steinsmith's finances. Recently, the Florida Bar Association determined Kent had mishandled another person's estate trust. Acting since November as Steinsmith's power of attorney, which gives him access to the activist's sizable bank accounts, Kent tried unsuccessfully to obtain legal guardianship. That move, says Steinsmith's criminal attorney, Rae Shearn, was premature and likely unnecessary. What's more, Shearn and two of Steinsmith's friends contend Kent tried to sell Steinsmith ads in his weekly gay newspaper, theExpress -- a charge Steinsmith confirmed three times for New Times. Kent denies any conflict of interest.
"Any number of people could take advantage of [Gary]," says Shearn. "Here's a man who was at the top, was an extremely respected activist. He's now struggling very much to keep his dignity."
Growing up in Merrick, Long Island, Bill Steinsmith never thought his son was "six feet," recalls Valerie Steinsmith. "That's what my husband would always call the other Wall Streeters' sons. That meant they were all tall, strong, young men who played football, sports. They were well-liked. Bill wanted a lot from my son, and I think Gary felt enormous pressure to live up to that."
An honors student and New York state debate medalist, Steinsmith struggled to please his workaholic father, who, Valerie Steinsmith says, spent more time in his financial-district office than at home. Although Gary had a steady girlfriend for three years during high school, "I just felt that things weren't right," she explains. "I asked him several times if he was gay, and he said no."
Not until 1981, when Steinsmith was 24 years old, did his parents learn of his homosexuality. "Gary tried to kill himself," his mother says. "He didn't want to tell his father that he was gay. I didn't even know until his boyfriend called the house and said that either I had to tell Bill or Gary was going to get more depressed and try it again. So I told [Bill] the next day."
The news stunned Bill, who finally muttered, "Gee, I always thought it was peculiar the way that boy acted,'" says Valerie.
The following year, Gary Steinsmith moved to Fort Lauderdale and became one of the youngest brokers at Salomon Smith Barney.Senior Vice President Howard Guggenheim recalls that the young man's talent for selling tax-free municipal bonds quickly earned him the accounts of some of the firm's wealthiest clients. Steinsmith says he began building his nest egg then, which he says is today worth about a quarter of a million dollars, mostly from day trading and money-market investments. "I'm more than secure financially," he says. "The people at Salomon treated me like gold."
Unlike his father, Steinsmith didn't let work consume his life. He teamed with other activists to rally Fort Lauderdale's gay community, then plagued by the disease known as "gay cancer." In 1984, he helped found an assistance agency for men called CenterOne -- now Community Health Care CenterOne. Today, it's the second-largest Broward County one-stop AIDS agency, receiving $2 million annually in federal grants, but it started as nothing more than a shabby office in a Las Olas basement.
"It was like trying to live your life as if someone had cursed you for being who you were," Steinsmith says. "It was a total viral holocaust. I was burying everyone I knew. What I had to do was to admit that no straight person, no straight politician, wanted to acknowledge it, much less advocate for government spending to treat it."
"By definition, Gary was a pioneer who challenged authority in a way I'd never seen before," says Dean Trantalis, a Broward County attorney who helped Steinsmith establish CenterOne. "He does what the situation calls for. If that means speaking in hyperbole to get attention, he does it. He can convince anyone of anything."
By early 1988, Guggenheim had begun to suspect that his protégé wasn't entirely focused on the job. "I noticed that he was taking a lot of time off work for what were doctor appointments," he says. "I started to analyze it. Is it drug-related? Is it just his lifestyle? I knew he had a, uh, roommate. Bottom line, I started to suspect that something wasn't right. I don't know why I did this, but I asked him to come into my office, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, "Gary, do you have AIDS?' He looked at me and said, "Oh my God, you found out.'"
Steinsmith shut Guggenheim's door and sat down. "He told me that he had a problem but that he was going to beat it," he says. "I was sick. I wanted to throw up because I cared for him so much." Guggenheim assured Steinsmith the firm would help him. (Steinsmith says he still receives disability compensation.)
Valerie Steinsmith says her son told her of his HIV-positive status shortly afterward. "When he called me and said that he was coming home, I knew." He went to New York, where his family had gathered in their Merrick home. That weekend, he told each person separately. "Everyone was crying hysterically," she says. "My husband just hugged him for a long time and then wrote Gary a check for $10,000 in case he needed anything."
Over the next five years, as Bill Steinsmith's own health deteriorated (he is now in a Florida rest home, suffering from dementia), he grew closer to his son and even marched with him in Fort Lauderdale's gay pride parade.
But not everyone was as understanding. Shortly after Gary returned from New York, his Pompano Beach dentist turned him away because the staff, having heard he was HIV-positive, refused to treat him. "I thought, I was born Republican," recalls Steinsmith, holding back tears. "I'm a businessman who wears expensive suits. This was who I was. I got into my beautiful Mercedes and leaned over the steering wheel and cried."
Steinsmith drove to CenterOne. "I saw this amazingly handsome counselor, and he looked at me," says Steinsmith. "He looked healthy. He asked me, "Do you have AIDS?' and I didn't respond. "Do you have AIDS?' he kept asking. I said "Yes' finally, and he said, "Me too.' It was like I just let everything go right then and started to live."
Steinsmith threw himself into activism, spending most of his time volunteering at CenterOne and lobbying state politicians for gay-friendly legislation. Like-minded advocates gathered at his home every week. One of those people was a fast-talking, leather-jacketed, 23-year-old ex-flight attendant named Brad Buchman.
"He just showed up one night and started smoking in my living room," recalls Steinsmith, sounding like a teenager describing a high school romance. "I told him he had to put [the cigarette] out, and he told me to get over it. So you can understand how fast I fell head over heels." For four years, he and Buchman were lovers. They also worked together, in 1991 forming United Citizens for Human Rights, which raised thousands of dollars for South Florida AIDS charities. Steinsmith jokingly admits Buchman's influence over him was so great that "I registered as a Democrat. It was the most painful but necessary thing in the world. Brad was very smooth."
The two sometimes fought, and Trantalis says Buchman was "unrestrained at times." The heated relationship with Buchman triggered episodes of depression, something Steinsmith had been formally diagnosed with in his 20s. But Steinsmith, always "on" at public functions, hid the condition from most of his political colleagues. Trantalis says he lost touch with Steinsmith around this time.
Steven Steiner, an early South Florida gay-rights advocate and current CenterOne board member, remembers that Steinsmith would "be at every party and then at none at all for months at a time. That was just the way it worked with Gary. He would disappear like that. You would hear things like, "Oh, Gary's visiting his family.' No one was concerned because there was this assumption that he had a close group of friends watching out for him."
But Steinsmith's friends were all but gone. As a spokesperson for CenterOne in 1991, he weathered public pressure to dismantle the agency after a state audit revealed that $146,000 meant to pay for housing was missing. CenterOne was not shuttered thanks to, among other things, efforts by Steinsmith and his friend, CenterOne public relations talent Matthew Klir. But Steinsmith was left to handle the next crisis on his own when Klir died in 1992.
At home, Steinsmith's relationship with Buchman became even stormier. Steinsmith was hounded by the media in 1994 when his lover, then president of the Dolphin Democratic Club, admitted to withdrawing $2500 from Steinsmith's bank account. Four months later, following his breakup with Buchman, Steinsmith buried friend and substance-abuse counselor William Schwartz. Two more great losses were ahead: In 1997, Buchman, who'd turned to cocaine and liquor to numb the effects of his own HIV-positive status, was found shirtless, barefoot, and dead in a friend's garage. And in September 2000, another ex-lover, 41-year-old Barry Teeters, an activist and club promoter, died from an overdose. With Steinsmith, Teeter had cofounded the Fort Lauderdale Chapter of ACT UP. "Those were what I call his hell years," says Valerie Steinsmith. "I'm sure Gary did a good job looking like he was OK. But he was really, really depressed."
True to form, Steinsmith dealt with loss by embracing his public persona. In 1998, he became Dolphin Club president and formed a political consulting firm that was hired to help Democratic state Sen. Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach turn out the gay vote. Says Geller: "Gary was the most recognized gay leader in maybe the state."
The only people who offer an explanation for Steinsmith's downfall are friends from Alcoholics Anonymous. Allan Derning, a friend and regular hospital visitor, believes the attacks September 11 probably triggered Steinsmith's erratic behavior.
"I called him about 7 that night, and he'd been sleeping all day," Derning says. The next day, Steinsmith bought American flags to hang in each corner of his home so that he could salute them at every turn. Steinsmith began calling other AA friends in the middle of the night, muttering gibberish, swearing, and making wild claims.
"He was saying that he was going to bring me onto his Cabinet when he was the president of the United States," Derning recalls. "Another one was that bin Laden had moved into the apartment next door."
A week after the attacks, Steinsmith invested thousands of dollars from his savings in the stock market. He went on a shopping spree, purchasing two gold bracelets, a watch, a gold ring, and two wedding bands. ("For the future," he now says.) He also walked into Alpine Motors on Sunrise Boulevard and leased an $85,000, silver, 2002 XK convertible.
"I wanted to do something for our country," he explains. His voice is shaky, and he nearly breaks down crying. All of a sudden, he straighten ups, wipes his eyes, and says directly, "I'm a gay man with AIDS, so I can't serve in the military. I thought, "I'm going to help the economy like President Bush is saying.'"
Alarmed that Steinsmith had missed two AA meetings, Derning and another AA friend, Bob Ullman, decided to visit Steinsmith's Hollywood apartment on September 29. "We didn't know if we were going to find him on the bathroom floor unconscious, so we tried to prepare ourselves for the worst," says Ullman. "He looked terrible. He was so out of it, talking about the end of the world."
Derning and Ullman tried unsuccessfully to check Steinsmith into Broward General Hospital. But because it was Memorial Day weekend and there was no psychiatrist to examine him, nurses told Steinsmith to make an appointment with his regular therapist for the following week. "We felt that he was OK and we might be overreacting," recalls Derning. "We didn't want to insult him." Steinsmith didn't call his therapist.
On October 3, Steinsmith disappeared. Derning filed a missing-persons report with the Hollywood Police Department. At 3 a.m. the following day, Aventura police spotted Steinsmith waving a flashlight and tugging on the doors of the Turnberry Jewish Center. "These cops pulled up and asked me what I was doing. I said, "I'm Jewish, and you're bothering me.'" The arrest report says Steinsmith used more choice words and claimed he was the messiah. Police found three Ritalin pills, a medication he's taken for years, in his pocket and charged him with possession and trespassing. He spent several days in the Miami-Dade County Jail without medication. "I couldn't remember anyone's phone number, but I just thought, well, I'm an American Express platinum-card holder, and they always say that they can get you out of any jam," he says. "So I called [AMEX] and told them to get me the hell out of this place."
Unaware of the arrest and assuming their friend might be hurt, Derning and Ullman called Valerie Steinsmith in Las Vegas. She already knew that something was wrong with her son. He had called her on Yom Kippur, September 26, and told her that he was selling his stock and emptying several money-market funds as an act of patriotism. ""Ma,' he says, "I'm gonna buy a helicopter,'" she recalls. "He was incredibly agitated and upset. I was talking to him two and three times a day."
While Valerie considered hiring a private detective to find her son, she received a phone call from a bondsman who helped get Gary out of jail. Feeling that she had no choice, she invoked Florida's Baker Act, which mandates that anyone deemed a threat to himself or others must undergo psychiatric supervision and evaluation. Fort Lauderdale Hospital evaluated her son and released him in three days.
The same week, she says, Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent called her. "He told me that he was Gary's power of attorney now and that he was concerned about whether Gary's finances were all straight," she says. "He said that he was an old friend, and I believed him."
During several interviews over the past two months, Steinsmith has wavered on whether he regrets giving power of attorney to Kent. During his second of three weeks in Fort Lauderdale Hospital, a time in which he appeared stable and coherent, Steinsmith said, "I'm stuck in a hospital, and he's someone who offered to help me. I need Norm. I can't do anything in here, and I trust him."
The owner and publisher of the Express, a free weekly paper catering to gay readers, Kent recently wrote an open letter to readers admitting that he "should have been more disciplined" while "administering my law firm's trust account several years ago."
The short, eight-paragraph letter printed in the paper's on-line edition (which can no longer be found in its archive system) came less than a week after New Times interviewed Kent's attorney, Alvin Entin,concerning an October 29 Florida Bar ruling that Kent mismanaged the estate of Robert Patterson, who died of cancer in 1994. The letter does not detail the 1999 complaint that Patterson's widow filed with the bar asserting that Kent sold estate jewelry to a pawn shop without her knowledge, nor does it mention that she accused him of selling her husband's truck at a reduced price as well as peddling two BMW motorcycles, then depositing the proceeds into his law firm account.
According to bar records, Kent "failed to place certain funds into an estate account. Instead, he placed said funds into his own trust account." In an April 2001 hearing before the bar, the records show, Kent "admitted to writing numerous personal checks from the trust account including paying personal bills, buying season tickets to sports teams, and writing checks to cash." When the bar's independent audit found "actual shortages in the trust account," Kent testified that he performed "sloppy bookkeeping" and was at the mercy of what he called his "hedonistic spending habits." A committee of lawyers determined that he had violated eight ethical codes, saying the violations were unintentional. The attorneys recommended that he be admonished for minor misconduct, but the Florida Bar Board of Governors threw out that recommendation, urging a more serious response. The case awaits final review by the Florida Supreme Court.Entin says his client is guilty merely of being an incompetent accountant. "There's a canyon of difference between stealing and bad bookkeeping," he says. "Norm Kent did nothing intentionally wrong."
Steinsmith says he was unaware of Kent's bar record when he signed over power of attorney. After a reporter describes the case to him in the hospital, Steinsmith says, "Well, I don't know, but I know I can't do anything from here. The way I see it, he's helped me."
Steinsmith friends Derning and Ullman, as well as attorney Rae Shearn, contend that Kent's bar record supports their position that Kent should not have access to Steinsmith's money. Their concern arose in November, when Kent requested that Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren grant him legal guardianship over Steinsmith. Shearn objected that guardianship, which would give Kent total control over the ill activist's person and property, was premature.
"It wasn't known at the time that this was a temporary mania treatable with medicine," Shearn says. "It was also legally inappropriate, because you can't go into a county court and ask to be appointed guardian. There's a long process involved there, and Judge Lerner-Wren doesn't have jurisdiction to do that. If for some bizarre reason she would have granted it, it would have been an illegal order that could have circumvented Gary's civil rights."
Shearn grew more suspicious when Steinsmith told her that he had written several checks to Kent.
Kent maintains that the checks were to pay for Gary's outstanding personal bills. To some degree, Steinsmith confirms this. To cover his outstanding bills, Steinsmith says, he wrote Kent a check for $25,000. He also cut a $5000 check to Kent for his legal services and a $3500 check to Shearn for her work on his case.
Shearn says the $3500 check bounced. "We had agreed that I would work Gary's case pro bono because he's a friend," says Shearn. "I didn't need the money; I didn't necessarily want the money. And I certainly don't know what Norm was doing asking for $5000."
When contacted by New Times, Kent said he was partnering with Shearn on Steinsmith's case. Shearn says that's not true. "I never agreed to work with him; I don't need to work with him," she replies. "I can handle this case by myself."
Kent would not discuss with New Times whether Steinsmith wrote checks to him, nor would he explain why he requested guardianship. "All I can say is that I had taken care of Gary's outstanding indebtedness. Gary did retain me as his power of attorney, and I am pursuing all legal remedies that enable me to pay for his bills."
Steinsmith says he has not tracked whether the $5000 and $25,000 checks have been cashed. But he told New Times repeatedly that Kent asked him to buy ad space in the Express while the lawyer knew of his mental instability. Shearn confirms that Steinsmith told her the same thing. "He called me from the hospital and said that Norm had called him about buying ads," says Shearn. "Gary was asking me if I thought it would be a good investment."
Kent denies calling Steinsmith about buying ads while he was still in the hospital. The lawyer and Expressowner provided New Times with a series of e-mails that he believes shows the ads were Steinsmith's idea. Beginning October 25 -- before Steinsmith was hospitalized -- Steinsmith sent two missives: One described his Miami-Dade County arrest, and another stated that he would like to "underwrite ads for worthy non-profits." Kent replied on October 26 by suggesting Steinsmith pay $6,000 for 12 advertisements. In subsequent days, Steinsmith e-mailed that he would make a check payable to the Express.
"This was the last and only conversation I had with Gary about his financial participation in my paper," says Kent. "The next thing I heard, he was in court after being jailed by Fort Lauderdale police."
Although the e-mails illustrate that Kent knew of Steinsmith's Miami-Dade trespassing arrest, the attorney maintains he never questioned Steinsmith's mental health. "He told me that the charges had been dropped. I had no reason not to believe him, and I thought that was that," Kent says. "He came to my office in his new Jaguar telling me that he'd invested in the stock market and had made a lot of money. To me and others, he appeared lucid, cogent.
"All I know is that I've done what's right by Gary," he continues. "I just don't think anyone, including myself, really understood the gravity of his situation before he was in [mental health] court."
On October 26, during the week that he corresponded by e-mail with Kent, Steinsmith was ticketed for driving his Jag around a road barricade. Just hours later, he was pulled over and ticketed for speeding on Interstate 95 near Davie Boulevard at 2:48 a.m. About a week later, he wrecked the $85,000 car by hitting a median. He left it in a Walgreens parking lot. Rather than have it fixed, he visited Alpine Motors again to lease another one. Derning knew of Steinsmith's plans and called salesman Brad London, who had leased Steinsmith the first Jaguar. Derning told London that Steinsmith was mentally ill.
"It would have been unbelievable to me if he would have sold Gary another car," Derning says. "Gary is so incredibly vulnerable, I thought for sure it was going to happen."
But London says he did not sell Steinsmith another Jag.
Before the week was over, Steinsmith was arrested again. Close to midnight on Halloween, he pushed past security at the Marriott Hotel marina, where the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was taking place. Claiming that he was the owner of the yacht Lil Sis, he awakened the owners by tossing luggage aboard and announcing that he was moving in. Police quickly subdued and arrested him for trespassing.
At Fort Lauderdale City Jail, he tore apart a restraint chair because, according to the arrest report, "I wanted to see how strong it really was."
This time, Steinsmith's friends did not bail him out. "We didn't know what to do," Derning says. "But we knew that if we got him out and back into society, he would really hurt himself."
Out of desperation, Steinsmith looked up Broward County Commissioner Lori Nance Parrish's home number in the phone book and called her at 1:30 in the morning. "It was hard to understand him at first," she says. "But when I figured out who I had on the phone, I knew I had to get him out of there and get him some help."
She tried to call Broward House and CenterOne. Parrish says Broward House's CEO, Tom Shidaker, would not take her call. "I told them finally that I was a commissioner, and that's when he called me back," Parrish says. (Shidaker denies that he avoided Parrish's call.) Parrish says she couldn't reach anyone at CenterOne with the authority to help Steinsmith.
Parrish accuses the county's largest AIDS agencies of not reaching out to the ailing activist before he ended up in jail. Broward House and CenterOne counter that they don't have the facilities or staff to treat the mentally ill. Kathleen Cannon, director of CenterOne client services, says the agency is strapped enough without searching out clients who are not willing to come forward and ask for help first.
"There are 11 HIV case-management agencies in Broward," Cannon says. "We have seven case managers responsible for about 300 clients each. It's incredibly hard, a real struggle for everyone. If we had a cap on our caseload, then we could make multicontact and home visits.
"It's unfortunate that people are saying that no agency reached out to Gary. If his family or friends would have come to us and said there was a problem, we would have tried to contact him and do a needs assessment. But we haven't heard from Gary since 1991."
But Parrish contends that Broward House and CenterOne must help people like Steinsmith. "They are the only two large AIDS agencies we have," she says. "If they can't help someone, then where are we as a community? There have to be hundreds of people like Gary."
On a breezy Monday after Thanksgiving, Steinsmith packed his bags at Fort Lauderdale hospital. He was finally going home.
For the second time in Judge Lerner-Wren's courtroom, he sat handcuffed to his chair -- a reminder of the criminal charges still pending against him. He told her simply that he felt fine thanks to a cocktail of antidepressants. Psychiatrist Sherrie Bieniek wrote in a release report that he would continue treatment on an outpatient basis and attend hospital group therapy three days a week.
As part of his treatment Bieniek suggested that Steinsmith should "resume his presence in [the] community."
Three representatives from Broward House, including Shidaker and clinician Joanne Hendee, were there to assure Lerner-Wren that Steinsmith would receive psychiatric home services. "We'll have a case manager come by his home on a regular basis and check whether he's taking his medication," Hendee said. "They'll also look for any strange behavior."
The judge appeared satisfied, ordering Broward House to explain in detail how it planned to stay in close contact with Steinsmith, emphasizing that she should be given regular reports on his progress.
Kent was also in the courtroom. He promised Steinsmith a shrimp lunch at Nathan's after the judge officially released him from the hospital.
"I just want to get back to doing what I do," says Steinsmith. "I want to start working with PWA [People with AIDS Coalition of Broward County]. When you're helping other people, you can forget about yourself for a while."
But less than a week after Steinsmith was released, he stopped showing up at the court-mandated hospital outpatient program. And his Broward House case manager says she dropped by his apartment to check on him but claims he told her not to come back.
"Gary stopped going to therapy because it was for people just beginning recovery," Shearn explains. "He's been sober for 15 years and didn't see the point. I explained to him that he simply had to do what was agreed to. As far as the case manager, Gary tells me he didn't say that to her. She showed up without making an appointment, and he was leaving. He told her to come back another time."
He's also retreating from media attention. He's far less open than he was months ago, and Shearn says he regrets the public scrutiny his situation invited. After several weeks at home, Steinsmith infrequently returned New Times calls. "I'm trying to move on. To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed." His voice is soft and trails off. He's too polite to say, "No more questions." And for the first time in months, it seems appropriate to leave Gary Steinsmith alone for a while.