Sunday, August 29, 2010

Star Posts Online Story On Joe Miller's Death And Then Yanks It

Joe Miller shown with former President Bill Clinton at a fundraiser held in the home of former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew
The Indianapolis Star briefly posted an online story yesterday entitled, "Advocate for gays may have killed self," which mentioned the suspected suicide death of Joe Miller before the publication removed the story. Miller owned Great Lakes Products, the world's largest manufacturer of poppers based in Indianapolis. Poppers are a recreational drug inhalant made from a liquid form of amyl and butyl nitrates that are marketed online in small bottles costing $12 to $14 to the gay community. The drug was/is often illegally distributed for sale in many gay bars, adult bookstores and night clubs across the country and around the world. Inexplicably, the Star removed the online story and ran no story in today's Sunday Star. A cached version of the online story since taken down read:
An Indianapolis man who championed the rights and health of gay Hoosiers was found dead in his Downtown home Thursday, police said.

The death of Joseph F. Miller is being investigated as a possible suicide, according to an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department report. Miller, 59, was a wealthy businessman who supported issues relevant to the gay community and helped underwrite the Damien Center's HIV testing and prevention efforts.

Miller helped found Indiana Stonewall Democrats, a political caucus of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Democrats.

Former Gov. Joe Kernan said he and his wife, Maggie, had known Joe Miller since 1996, when Kernan came to Indianapolis as lieutenant governor.

"He was a dear friend to both of us, and we're very sad," Kernan said Friday, a day after Miller's death. Miller, he said, "was generous to his community, to Indianapolis, and in many ways that people are not aware of."

Police found his body in his home in the 400 block of West Michigan Street about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, according to a report.

An autopsy was done Friday. Officials are awaiting toxicology test results, Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew said.
Do you think someone told Dennis Ryerson how Miller made his money, causing him to rethink the statement, "a man who championed the rights and health of gay Hoosiers?" I would agree with the first part of that sentence, but I don't know how you could claim someone who got rich manufacturing and selling poppers to gay men could possibly give a damn about their health.

Miller donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Petesson, U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and the Indiana Stonewall Democrats. Miller was a close friend of former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew, who helped Miller gain direct notice of former President Bill Clinton. Miller also made generous donations to many gay causes, including Indianapolis' Damien Center. A testing center for HIV/AIDS at the Center is named in his honor.

Former Indianapolis Star columnist and fellow blogger Ruth Holladay first broke news of Miller's rumored suicide last Thursday. The mainstream news media has been noticeably silent about Miller's death, despite his stature in the community. Miller is believed to have made hundreds of millions of dollars from his popper business, in addition to other businesses he owned. He once boasted that his company was the largest single advertiser in gay publications. After various research studies and news reports back in the 1980s linked poppers to the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men, most gay publications stopped running advertisements for the product. Early in the HIV/AIDS crisis, some researchers believed poppers were the cause of the disease because so many of the victims shared a common use of the drug. Other studies have shown a causal link between the use of poppers and Kaposi's sarcoma, a disease often associated with persons infected with HIV/AIDS. Poppers are also believed to cause cell mutations and leads to suppressed immune systems in users. Physicians sometime prescribe nitrates in pill form for treatment of certain heart conditions, but it is illegal to market nitrates for recreational use by humans without a prescription.

After laws were enacted to crack down on their use as an inhalant recreational drug, Miller and other manufacturers became creative in their marketing efforts and claimed the product was being sold as a room deodorizer and video head cleaner, although it was no secret that those who purchased it did so for use as a recreational drug during sex. Many gay men began dropping dead from sudden deaths years later when Viagra first hit the market. The interaction of the two drugs for sexual encounters causes a deadly drop in blood pressure. An Atlanta gay activist died in June of this year after combining the prescription drug Levitra with poppers.

Miller was honored, along with U.S. Rep. Andre Carson,  by the Indiana Stonewall Democrats just last year at an event in the home of Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes. Controversial radio talk show host Abdul Hakim Shabazz covered the event on behalf of Bilerico, a nationally-recognized gay blog which promoted the event honoring Miller. Former Secretary of State Joe Hogsett, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the next U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, served as a co-host for the event.

UPDATE: A reader of the Star paper edition (yeah, there still are a few) says it appeared in the Saturday paper. I didn't see it in the Sunday early edition that comes out on Saturday. There are different versions that come out each day. The online version of the story certainly disappeared before it would typically be archived.


John Michael Vore said...

I created an "info-graphic" about this four hours ago...which you might have seen at Ruth Holladay's blog? Since you commented on it?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for sharing, John.

Unknown said...

From reading your post I assume you did not know Joe Miller personally. When people said that he was a champion for peoples health it was because he was deeply involved in HIV/AIDS education. I met Joe when I was involved with IYG, a gay youth group whose focus was to educate at-risk youth. He was very generous with not only his money but his time. I was fortunate to be his friend and whatever lead to his untimely death, he leaves behind a legacy of truly caring for people, no matter how he made his money.

Andrew37 said...

Joe Miller was a dear personal friend. He called, two weeks ago, to let me know that his company, Great Lakes Products, had been raided by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and that he loved me. He sounded emotionally distraught at the time. His suicide was obviously a response to the CPSC raid.

I have read every single CREDIBLE journal article on alkyl nitrite compounds (i.e., open chain nitrite compounds, the type of poppers that are illegal). They are among the safest compounds known to man. Joe knew that and it is why he had no ethical qualms about engaging in that business. It is also why his company, Great Lakes Products, was LICENSED BY THE US GOVERNMENT TO MANUFACTURE AND EXPORT THESE PRODUCTS. The US Government knows that poppers are safe and that's why they allow them to be manufactured for export.

The ban on poppers, as it exists in the US, was enacted as a knee jerk response during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when some misguided junk scientists thought there was a causal relationship between their use and HIV transmission. The same could have been said about water because all gay men at the time were consuming both substances liberally . The law that banned poppers went through Congress unnoticed as part of a big, unrelated omnibus bill and has never been revoked, despite the fact that there is no valid scientific evidence to support that poppers are in any way harmful.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is indirectly responsible for Joe Miller's untimely death. They relentlessly pursued him like pit bulls throughout the decades and finally raided his factory, causing him great emotional distress. They are trying to keep this quiet and are the reason why the details of Joe's suicide were pulled from the papers. Big brother screwed up again and, as a result, one of our dearest and most philanthropic brothers is gone.

The raid on Great Lakes Products was part of a giant, misguided, coordinated, nationwide effort by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to remove poppers from the marketplace. Every business in the US that sold poppers on the internet has been sent a cease and desist order by the CPSC. You won't see poppers on the web sites where they were staples before. You would think that the CPSC would have something better to do (like perhaps protecting our children from faulty toys, which is more aligned with their charter) than to spend millions of our tax dollars ridding the marketplace of substances that have been proven to be harmless. The irony is that the cyclic nitrite compounds that were manufactured to skirt the law, and are now legal, are actually harmful to humans because they remain in the body and are known carcinogens. You would think that the CPSC, operating with full awareness of these facts, would lobby to have straight line nirties made legal and cyclic nitrites made illegal. Does the CPSC care about the health of the US populace, which is ostensibly why they are here in the first place? No. Their sole concern is looking good, and they do so by intentionally and misguidedly focusing their efforts on an illegal product that they know to be safe. How sad is that? The same ego-driven and rewards-driven behavior that drove the CPSC to enforce the ban on known safe products is what led them to cover up Joe's suicide. I know better!!!

Anonymous said...

The man made his fortune selling inhalants that are known carcinogens, mutagens, and damage the immune system. To gay men, in gay periodicals. For decades he helped kill gay men.

He spread his money around and used it to conceal how dangerous his products were. He was a corrupter, a fraud, a liar. Pretending that this man gave a damn about the health of gays is farcical.

To all his wonderful "close friends" posting how great he was, I have nothing but contempt and scorn for you toadies. Do the world a favor and imitate him.

Seth29 said...

Thank you, Andrew37 for your fact-based information and your kind and accurate account of our fellow dear friend, Joe Miller.

For those of you who didn't know Joe personally and are making venomous attacks on his business ethics and character, I pity you. How dare you accuse a man who gave so much of himself to others of being cold-hearted, cheating, and ruthless.

First of all, in addition to what Andrew37 posted, did you know that in the wake of all of the falsities that emerged decades ago that poppers caused AIDS, Joe spent millions of dollars of his personal money to do extensive research on the products he sold to ENSURE that there was no link between poppers and AIDS? If Joe would have found a link, he would have, without question, ceased his operations. Joe was a bleeding heart for human rights and health issues, and he would have never contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS or to the decline of human health.

In his personal life, Joe was also a health NUT. He exercised rigorously every single day, watched everything he ate, and when we dined out together, skipped dessert 99% of the time. He also, for years, used his own products on a regular basis. Joe got regular physicals from his doctors, and always boasted to me that he was always ranked in the top 99% healthiest people in his age group. Do you think that a man obsessed with his own health and well-being would use a product he thought was going to harm his body or somehow make him more vulnerable to HIV? Obviously, the answer is "NO". So get off your 30 year-old soapbox and let's be reasonable. As a businessman, Joe Miller was ethical and conscientious about the products he sold. And yes, he was very successful.

As a philanthropist, Joe was one of the most concerned and committed advocates for the health, welfare, and fair treatment of the gay community. Joe gave millions of dollars over the years to advance causes for the improvement of the gay community both locally and globally. In Indianapolis, Joe was a pioneer for the GLBT community, and every GLBT person in this city should look to him with gratitude for his commitment to us.

Before you cast your stones full of venom, lies, and misinformation, I suggest you ask yourself what you've done for your community. Joe gave his life to helping others, and those of you who want to tarnish his legacy will soon be overlooked and outshone by those of us who really knew Joe and will ensure that he is remembered as the great man he was.

Unknown said...

Does any have any links to public information about CPSC action? Typically, they do not conduct 'raids' but rather product recalls. It's not quite the same thing as the FDA or the USDA inspecting and shutting down a sausage factory - and even those get some publicity.

I would think that if the CPSC had determined that Rush and other PWD products were dangerous, they would have issued a press release to warn the public, just like they do with the baby cribs and other consumer products. I can't find anything like that, nor any other publicity from the feds, even though I've spent a couple hours Googling it. Generally they also like to publicize enforcement actions to demonstrate to taxpayers that they are doing their jobs and to serve as a warning to others who might be in the same business.

Unknown said...

So sad. As Freddie Mercury put it so short and sweet about our brothers dying in many different ways but basically for what their sexual orientation was. To the beat of Another One Bites the Dust...

Duuent Duuent Duuent
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone
Another one gone
Another bites the dust
How do you think we're going to get along without your nitrate poppers?

Duuent Duuent Duuent
Another one bites the dust
Joe Joe Joe
Another one bites the dust
You can eat me you can beat me you can treat me bad but don't you touch my poppers

Duuent Duuent Duuent
Another one bites the dust
Joe Joe Joe
Thank you Joe
See you see you see you
On the other side
Another good man bites the dust
Bites the dust
Bites the dust
Bites the dust
Damn it

Randy Petree said...

This seemingly great person was linked to my uncles death in 1980 who was 15 at the time. Joe Miller was known to hang out with young boys and sell his drugs to them.Tell me what was so great about a man who was linked to my uncles death, who was thought to hang with him and take him on drives to Brown County.

To this day my uncles death is unsolved and I fear that the one person who had ties to him during the time of my uncles death and who was in bed with politicians and a marion county prosecutor

( which with money and ties like it can help distort a police investigation, like my uncles which from what I read was all messed up )
and had a wealth of money took secrets of my uncles death to his grave. He looked like a great person to many for his contributions but he had a dark past obviously that he probably Im sure covered up with this money he had.

It was not known for sure if my uncle was gay but digging up the past has turned up new evidence linking my uncle to Joe and the gay community. I dont care if he was gay and it doesnt offend me, but my uncle was thought by many not to be.

So dont think for a second that this is a slight to his gay ties, because my brother who I love dearly is also gay. Im just pointing out bad things,things about this guy who people thought was so great. He obviously had a shady past.I guess when you throw your money around like that people will look at you in a different light.

John Michael Vore said...

Dear Mr. Petree:

Mr. Miller has left a "very complicated" legacy, in the words of many of his supporters. I've partly been exploring this in a series of blog entries called "Hoosier Hysterias" at my Ideas Without Ideology blog.

Mr. Miller is dealt with from contemporaneous news accounts of his selling amyl nitrate, arrests for selling marijuana (1976) and underage sodomy (1977). While the circumstances around those arrests suggests that what we get in court documents may not completely reflect what in fact happened, especially during a very corrupt period in the Indianapolis justice system--this is what we have on the record.

Mr. Miller lived a compartmentalized life in which folks in one area of his life often knew little about what went on in another. I am attempting to understand this period by reconstructing facts as best we can understand them, three decades later. So I would be interested in more information on what happened in 1980 with your uncle.

Hoosier Hysterias series entry which focuses on Miller's arrests can be found here:

bruce.davis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.