"I kind of walked away from it thinking the portrayal of the mayor was some sort of guy partying and having a great time while people were dying all over the place," she said. "It really wasn't like that. It was a really bad time. It was horrible.?. And AIDS was mysterious in 1983. It was just taking shape and not understood."
There was no "organized hush-up," she said. "John made it sound like there was a sinister PR arrangement, which there wasn't. I wish we had known more. We were terrified. Gay men were wondering if they were next. If they were going to be dead by Christmas."
Keith said Heyman did not turn his back on the crisis but did what he could to help — which included contributing "a lot of money out of his own pocket" to a new organization, AIDS Help.
After he decided not to seek reelection in 1989, Keith said, Heyman planned to make helping people with AIDS his life's work. "But of course, he became ill," she said.
Heyman, 59, died Sept. 16, 1994, with Kiraly at his bedside.
At the documentary's end, it states that more than 1,000 gay men from Key West, almost 50 percent of the population living there in 1983, have died from AIDS. The long list from the Key West AIDS Memorial is slowly displayed in white type on a black background.
Keith said those numbers are misrepresentative of the situation in Key West. "If you lived in Michigan and visited Key West once, or you had a sister here or a friend here you could have your name on that list," she said.
She thought the documentary did not focus enough on Heyman's positive legacy — that he was a strong role model to the gay community across the country at a time when many stayed in the closet in fear.
"Right now, I'm working for a gay police chief in Key West," Keith said. "When I interviewed with him, I said I believe you are in this position in part for what Richard did back in the '80s."