I wrote this article a decade ago about Bob. I interviewed Bob in the old/old offices of The Somerville News on Elm St. in Davis Square. I decided to reprint it when I heard he passed.
For all intents and purposes Bob Publicover could have called it quits a long time ago. Publicover, 52, was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS over 15 years ago, when it was known as the “gay man’s cancer.” AIDS also took the life of his long time companion, John Carabineris, a brutal blow to this publisher of the award-winning Somerville News. But Publicover is not only surviving; he is flourishing. He has published the scrappy Somerville News for 25 years, and he is currently working on a new play, THE LAST BRONTOSAURUS. He still tends to his many duties as an AIDS and community activist. Publicover seems to have an endless amount of energy at his command. Thin and lanky, he talks with the rapid-fire cadence of a hard-boiled character out of Raymond Chandler or Hammett novel.
In his small, cluttered office in the heart of Davis Square, Somerville, he decidedly seems to be in his element. He is surrounded by the artifacts of a productive life, with pictures of pols, and plaques lining the walls of his office – all memoirs of his life and times in the city of his birth, Somerville, Ma.
Publicover tells me he was first diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985. At that time it was a death sentence. The average person was not expected to live more than eighteen months. The way the depressing news was relayed to Publicover can best be conveyed from the opening scene of his play, THE LAST BRONTOSAURUS. The stage is dark. The protagonist clicks on his answering machine, and it dispassionately reports: “Hello, Mr. Publicover, this is Doctor Rick Lane at Harvard Health. I just wanted you to know your test came back positive. You should probably call in and make an appointment. Have a nice day!” Publicover recalls, “ I drank for three days. I sat at the end of the bar with a friend, and just talked it over.”
If all this wasn’t bad enough, Publicover’s partner, John Carabineris, was tested in 1988, and died quickly when the virus invaded his brain, only three years later. Publicover says: “I always assumed that since I was the older one, John would take care of me.” Ironically, it was the other way around. John was not only a personal companion, but had worked for The Somerville News for six years. Publicover revealed that he was never one to be bothered by loss. He had lost a father and others, but this really threw him for a loop. But, as often is the case, out of suffering comes art. In this case a book of poetry was penned, in memory of Publicover’s lover, MY UNICORN HAS GONE AWAY (Powder House Press). It was written in a year’s time, and dealt with the years the two men spent together, and the sense of loss when John passed away. The title was based on the fact that John collected Unicorns statuettes. Another creation that was born from this terrible time, is a one man play that Publicover hopes to present to the public, THE LAST BRONTOSAURUS. It will consist of stories that he has collected over the years dealing with people and their experience with HIV/AIDS. The title comes from a song in the play A HIDDEN LEGACY, written for the L.A. Gay Men’s Chorus. Publicover hopes the play will be as successful as “My Unicorn…”, which sold 5,000 copies…not bad for a poetry collection.
Bob Publicover has been writing professionally since age nineteen when he first wrote the BLUNTLY SPEAKING column for the old SOMERVILLE TIMES. Now, he is the sole owner of the SOMERVILLE NEWS. He is one of the few and dwindling independent newspaper owners in the area. Publicover feels his job at the newspaper is to, “get the news out about the people, places and things in Somerville. I never really try to cover hard news, the GLOBE and HERALD do that.” The publisher fancies himself as a community problem solver, and since he has lived here all his life, he can pick up the phone to city hall and get things done. Publicover says: “I am the local paper now. People know me as honest. I have integrity, and I speak my mind.”