The Last Lovers on Earth (book)

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The Last Lovers on Earth: Stories from Dark Times (ISBN 0966345428) is a 1999 book of short stories by Charles Ortleb. Three of the stories became the basis for a 2004 film directed by Ortleb and Michael Cimpher.

The stories have been described as "a funny and disturbing series of portraits of the gay community as it faces the challenges of survival in a world of AIDS propaganda and collaboration." (Oxman 2005) AIDS activists, scientists, doctors, and academics are all skewered in satirical fashion.


  1. The Retraction
  2. Ex-gayville, Connecticut
  3. Bruschetta on the Beach
  4. Daddy's Little Clown
  5. The Coma
  6. The Last Lovers on Earth
  7. Banned in Boston
  8. The Kimono Party
  9. The Swans

Three Stories

Below are plot synopses of the three stories used in the film. These are directly taken from Ortleb himself (Oxman 2005).

Bruschetta on the Beach

Eddie is a gay man who is cursed by extreme ugliness. He moves to New York hoping that the gay community will give him the love that he was denied all his life. Instead, no one will have sex with him. He never finds a lover even for fifteen minutes. In his first few years in Manhattan, he figures that 1.2 million gay men have rejected him. His luck gets worse when he gets severely ill and is diagnosed with AIDS – even though he has never had sex with a single soul. The diagnosis changes his luck, because only when he is thought to have AIDS is he loved and honored.

DVD cover of the 2004 film.

Daddy's Little Clown

A gay man grows up in a family in which the father is obsessed with clowns. His greatest hope is that one of his children will one day become a clown. When his youngest son tells him that he is going to become a "gay" rather than a clown, the father is crushed. Only when the gay son later becomes a leading AIDS activist in New York and his parents see his wild, over-the-top AIDS activist behavior on television, do his parents realize that he has not disappointed them, for he has truly become one of the great clowns of the twentieth century. The son’s behavior and leadership is so out-of-control and loony that he turns AIDS research and activism into a three-ring circus. With his loud, hysterical and menacing antics, he succeeds in getting all the AIDS activists, the AIDS research establishment, and the government to do his bidding. Tragically, he falls victim to his own ridiculous clown act.

The Last Lovers on Earth

[This story] begins with the premise that the AIDS epidemic is over and all gay men are dead. All Hell breaks loose when two gay men are found to be still alive in Cape May, New Jersey. The entire AIDS research establishment suddenly realizes that the historic AIDS research effort has not been a complete success. The two gay men are invited to appear on a leading talk show to explain why they are still alive and every other gay man in the world is dead. Billions of viewers tune in to hear them explain that they have survived by not doing a single thing that the government’s AIDS researchers or the AIDS activists have told them to do. Shortly after their appearance on the talk show, they are shot to death by a disgruntled AIDS researcher. Thus, it seems that the AIDS epidemic is finally over.


  • "After reflection, some of Ortleb's most shocking and outrageous statements emerged as expressions of common sense and decency in a world going viciously mad. The first story, "The Retraction", has the most brilliantly hilarious satirization of Schadenfreude since Mark Twain's "Emmeline Grangerford" episode in Huckleberry Finn. Two of the stories, "Bruschetta on the Beach" and "Daddy's Little Clown", are masterpieces on a par with the best of Somerset Maugham or Katherine Mansfield." (Lauritsen 2000)

External links


  1. Lauritsen, John, 2000. Amazon review, 27 February 2000.
  2. Oxman, Richard, 2005. "Oxman on Ortleb: The Interview and Vice Reversa", 16 January 2005.
  3. Ibid.