One of the early stars of MTV’s long-running reality franchise "The Real World" has died. The New York Times reports that Sean Sasser, whose romance on the show with Pedro Zamora was one of the first real-world gay relationships on TV, died Wednesday. Sasser was 44.
The cause was mesothelioma, his husband, Michael Kaplan, said.
Sasser and Zamora started dating when Sasser was working on opening a restaurant in San Francisco and wanted to publicize AIDS issues, the story says. As teenagers, each had contracted HIV.
Their romance was one of the most interesting story lines of "The Real World," the article notes, with the couple holding a commitment ceremony in the "Real World" apartment. It wasn’t the first time two gay men had pledged commitment to each other on TV, with "The Joan Rivers Show" holding a gay wedding in the early 1990s, the piece notes.
“For a whole generation they made AIDS and they made same-sex relationships very real,” said gay rights historian Eric Marcus. “Pedro Zamora and Sean Sasser reached a much larger audience than anyone had to date.”
Zamora died of complications from AIDS several months after their ceremony.