After three decades of hit records and sold-out tours, Styx bass player Chuck Panozzo says these are "The Best of Times'' for him because he is telling the world that he is gay and is suffering from AIDS.
"I was denying who I was. I've seen people have this illness and die cowardly. When you die everyone knows your secrets,'' Panozzo said, explaining why he chose to come out of the closet Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign meeting at McCormick Place.
"By just saying those words . . . 'I want to live my life as an openly gay man,' I'm a whole person,'' he said.
It's a secret that Panozzo's bandmates, including his late twin brother, John, learned years ago. But they may have suspected Panozzo was gay soon after they startedplaying music together in the late 1960s in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood.
"I'm sure they knew because I never went out with girlfriends,'' Panozzo said. "We played a lot of dances so I never had to have any dates.''
Panozzo told band members he was gay shortly before Styx broke up in 1984. Styx re-formed in 1990.
A year later, Panozzo found out he was HIV positive. By 1999, it had developed into AIDS.
Panozzo, 53, takes a combination of drugs, known as a cocktail, and he says his health is improving.
Panozzo joined Styx on stage for 40 concerts this year, including a show at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park. He played just three songs each night, including the hit "Fooling Yourself.'' Panozzo says he hopes to play some upcoming concerts, but he won't join the band for its European tour.