Fans of “The Big Gay Musical” — a campy, cult film that tries to find peace between homosexuality and religion — received a shock earlier this week when its writer, co-director and producer Fred M. Caruso posted a suicide note to the film’s Facebook page. The note is chilling and heartbreaking in turns, filled with dark jokes and heartfelt observations.
“I have some good news — I will no longer be sending out BERNIE s—,” the note read. “Its not because I support hiLIARy — its because I’m no longer alive. (yes I’ve been making bad jokes for 41 yrs and I intend to end things the way it began.)”
The note explains he “was forced to send this out” on the movie’s page because Facebook doesn’t allow users to delay posts on their own personal pages.
Actor and lyricist Rick Crom, a frequent Caruso collaborator, confirmed Caruso’s death Tuesday evening via Facebook:
Dear Friends. Our friend and creator of “The Big Gay Musical” Fred M. Caruso has left us. To all of you who are fans of the movie, know that it was Fred’s proudest and most loving gift to our community. The messages in the film were from his heart and it changed many lives for the better. As an artist Fred was a tortured soul and ultimately that pain took him from us. I just want you young people struggling with your identity to know that Fred loved you. Your success in life will be the best tribute to him.
Rest in Peace, Fred
“The purpose of this message is to make sure that there is no confusion or questions about what happened to me,” Caruso wrote.
He has been suicidal for some time, he wrote in his note, which includes several spelling errors and odd punctuation and capitalization.
Those of you that know me well, know that I have been dealing with ending things for a while. LIKE many years. For my most of my life I have been absolutely miserable — exact for when I was creating. I have nothing left in me to create. I truly don’t think I have any idea what love or happiness is.
“Know that I have done a lot of research and made sure that it would fast and relatively painless and more importantly not a mess or something that is going to hurt others,” he wrote, adding that he attempted to kill himself the week prior by taking 30 Ambien pills, which gave him “heart issues.”
we lost a really kind soul yesterday in Fred Caruso. <3 rip
— da cat (@coolfelix) June 15, 2016
RIP to Fred M. Caruso, writer & director. Thanks for such lovely movies. Big Gay Musical is one of my favorites. Hope you found your peace.
— Sandra Phillips (@thedivaliciousd) June 15, 2016
Caruso, who was openly gay, wrote or produced — and often directed — several LGBT-themed films, including “Go Go Crazy” and “A Four Letter Word,” and he produced the off-Broadway news spoof hit “Newsical.”
But Caruso was best known for “The Big Gay Musical,” a film which follows two gay actors starring in a (fictional) off-Broadway musical titled “Adam and Steve Just the Way God Made ‘Em” while struggling with questions of sexuality, faith, family and dating. Caruso himself left the Catholic Church when he was 12 but wanted to create something showing a happy marriage of sorts between homosexuality and religion.
“So many gay people have been screwed up by religion, but gay shows and movies about religion always end up being so depressing,” he told Advocate, a magazine focused on LGBT issues, in 2009. “I wanted to create a show with a positive message about being gay and religion that was funny, campy, and crazy.”
He took the film’s message seriously, only casting gay actors if they had come out, and including material on AIDS to the chagrin of many audiences, because he thought it was important.
“At our reading of the film, the one criticism I had is that I bring up AIDS,” he told Advocate. “I was told that there’s no reason to do that anymore. At the same time, I’m still meeting kids in their early 20s who are HIV-positive, so I think we do need to keep talking about it, and we need to keep talking about it a lot. So much porn out there today is unsafe and dangerous. There’s better medication than there was before, but the AIDS crisis is certainly not over.”
This decision was partially inspired by his 25-year-old gay friend, who learned he had contracted HIV while Caruso was penning the script.
“When he called the people he’d been with in the last six months to let them know they should be tested, he found out that three of them were positive and never even told him,” Caruso said.
Even in his death, Caruso continued to advocate for the LGBT community, asking in his note that friends and fans who want to do something as a memorial forgo having a service and instead make a donation to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention agency focused on LGBT youth.
“They help people that can be helped,” he wrote. “I, to be clear, can not be.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to their heterosexual peers. One study of transgender youth found that a quarter had attempted suicide.
Finally, Caruso wrote that he doesn’t regret his decision.
“I regret nothing especially the choice that I am making now,” he wrote. “I have spent the last few days driving all over trying to find a different solution — I couldn’t.”
He added, “I am finding peace.”
WELL… Hey everyone –
I have some good news – I will no longer be sending out BERNIE s—. Its not because I support hiLIARy – its because I”m no longer alive. (yes I’ve been making bad jokes for 41 yrs and I intend to end things the way it began.) I have been forced to send this out through the BGM page – cause Facebook doesn’t allow you to delay posts on your personal page.
Those of you that know me well, know that I have been dealing with ending things for a while. LIKE many years. For my most of my life I have been absolutely miserable – exact for when I was creating. I have nothing left in me to create. I truly don’t think I have any idea what love or happiness is. I have been incredibly lonely and at the same time – I hate being around people. I hate meeting new people and I’m always waiting for someone to stab me in the back – lets just say I already have a whole culinary collection.
To be clear – I haven’t forgiven anyone. All the grudges I’ve carried for years – I continue to carry. To those people that I hate – I hope I have the ability to haunt you for the rest of your lives.
The purpose of this message is to make sure that there is no confusion or questions about what happened to me. I wanted everything to come from me. PLEASE don’t post things on my wall (I don’t think you can) I’m not trying to have a memorial page.
I also want to be clear – that I have tried to deal with this. I have moved all over the country doing all different jobs. I had 2 great jobs here in Las Vegas – with great people and decent money. And tho I loved work, I was miserable all the rest of the time. This is not anyones fault or was there anyone or anything that could have prevented this. Tho is there were strippers here I might have found a way to hang on a little longer.
Know that I have done a lot of research and made sure that it would fast and relatively painless and more importantly not a mess or something that is going to hurt others. When I first tried last week – it was very impulsive and i learned that 30 Ambien doesn’t kill you – or make your stronger. I have been heart issues since I tried.
I ask that you don’t feel guilty or bad or anything negative. I am finding peace. If you want to do something – I ask that you give a donation to the Trevor Project – where they help people that can be helped. I, to be clear, can not be. Please don’t have any services or anything for me. I hate holidays and celebrations. BUT if you want to think about me – put on a little liza and have a cocktail (or a non-cocktail if you’re sober)
My last couple days have been great. I have used up my comps – had great steak dinners and stayed in jacuzzi suites on the strip.
To all of you that have touched my life I thank you from the bottom of soul. I hope I have touched a few of yours (and I know I’ve touched a few of you). I have achieved more in my life then I ever should have been able to. I grew up on government cheese, food stamps, and public housing. I have produced great theatre, movies (two of which i wrote and directed) and I traveled all over the world. I regret nothing especially the choice that I am making now. I have spent the last few days driving all over trying to find a different solution – I couldn’t.
Most Sincerely (and for my only family (D PHI) forever YITB)
Fred M Caruso