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Doug Houston had already led more lives than most people when he died.
It was April 1996. He was barely conscious in his hospital bed, floating in and out of a "golden meringue" as his family and friends surrounded him. His doctor Trevor Hawkins said he had done all that he could do.
Doug felt a hand on his shoulder. A voice said, "It's not your time yet." It was the voice of his dead father.
That was enough to bring him back.
As a child in Springfield, Illinois, Doug began dance lessons. At 7 he was in New York as the youngest member of the Ernie Flatt Dancers. He was featured on "The Gary Moore Show." For the next decade he traveled between New York and Los Angeles dancing with the company and appearing on television.
While he was on the road his parents moved to Albuquerque where his father started a printing business.
In the meantime Doug enrolled at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. He had a short career as a minister and organist. This ended when he hooked up with friends in Las Vegas to produce the review, "Bare Touch of Vegas." Following a two-year run, the show was produced in both Mexico City and Johannesberg.
Doug was visiting his parents in Albuquerque when his father asked him to take some proofs to Sunstone Press in Santa Fe. The founders of the press impressed him so much that in 1970 he moved to the City Different to become their art director and eventually vice president. He also was becoming involved in community activities when he joined the board of Theatre Arts Corporation.
Some eight years later he opened J.Douglas Gallery on Canyon Road. At the same time he became a partner of a restaurant in the old train station in Tomball, Texas.
By 1982 he had moved on again, running a Cerrillos Road bar called Zorro's and his own full service printing and typesetting store, Professional Services.
Then in 1987 Doug's partner died of AIDS and for a while he withdrew from the world. When he was ready to return, he designed and built a hair salon, became a managing partner of 423 American Restaurant and served on the board of the Santa Fe Symphony.
He moved to Hawaii for a year, returning again to Santa Fe, this time as a manager of Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Suddenly in late 1995 he began getting sick. He was in and out of the hospital several times before being diagnosed with AIDS.
At first Doug was angry to be back. The hospital put him on suicide watch. Eventually he was well enough to be released. "I had an oxygen generator in the house which I was on 24 hours a day," he said. "I used to give myself five IVs a day."
Then the first studies came out on drug cocktails and Doug was approved to try one. "Within the first six weeks of taking those I went from being sick to an undetectable viral load."
"Trevor said to me you're one of the fortunate ones in that you're a drug virgin, you've never taken any HIV medications, consequently anything you take now is going to attack and work."
Doug went from 12 T cells to 460.
It's been more than two years since Doug's near-death experience. The person who has led so many lives is busy with several more. He's active again as a graphic designer with his own company, Alternative Typestyles. Besides his regular duties as a member of the SFC board, he volunteers his design expertise on this newsletter and many other SFC publications. He's about to have a booksigning for a chapbook of his writing about his recent experiences. He also has a contract with Harper Collins for a major book, "Alive and Healing: Surviving the AIDS Crisis."
Doug Houston has led more lives than most people. And he's got a lot more to live.
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