Main | Friday, April 16, 2010

San Francisco AIDS Groups Get $140K From Estate Of Disco Legend Sylvester

The Bay Area Reporter notes that two San Francisco-based AIDS relief agencies are sharing $140,000 in music royalties from the estate of the late disco diva Sylvester. Matthew Bajko reports:
Twenty-one years after the death of Sylvester James, a flamboyant and openly gay disco superstar from San Francisco, his music is now profiting two local agencies that serve people living with HIV and AIDS. James died December 16, 1988 at the age of 41 from complications due to AIDS. But it wasn't until last week that the AIDS Emergency Fund and Project Open Hand split a check from the drag performer's estate totaling nearly $140,000. "When I came into this job seven and a half years ago, I inherited three bankers' boxes filled with all of the early records from Sylvester's estate. The documents were page after page of all the financial records of his estate, which clearly showed tremendous amounts of debt and no clear path to having them paid off," said Mike Smith, executive director of the AIDS Emergency Fund. "AEF never expected this estate to pay out the way it just has."
Shortly before his death Sylvester had bequeathed his future royalties to local AIDS groups, but as he died deeply in debt there was no money to distribute until the late 90s. Once his advances were repaid, his early-career label Fantasy Records then kept the money in an account until its proper recipient could be legally determined. The advent of iTunes and the recent usage of Sylvester's music in movies means that more money will be coming. Project Open Hand reports that their 25% share of the first distribution will buy 13,000 meals for people with AIDS. Sylvester would be thrilled.

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