Styx bassist happy finally to be out

Panozzo: Puts an end to the double life he's led since Styx's heyday.
USA Today - Arlington, Va. - Jul 27, 2001

CHICAGO -- Since deciding to announce he's gay, Chuck Panozzo, the bass player and co-founder of the rock group Styx, says he has never been as happy or relaxed.

"It's a weight off my soul," he says.

Panozzo's decision to speak candidly about his sexuality was prompted in part by his battle with AIDS. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 but didn't seek treatment until he was seriously ill in 1997.

That brush with death made him take a look at his life.

"I realized I was living a pathetic life, a life of quiet desperation," says Panozzo, who at 53 enjoys good health, thanks to new AIDS drugs. "Besides, your secrets come out when you die, anyway, so why not tell your story in your own words?"

He will officially come out of the closet Saturday at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser here, in his hometown. He also has signed on to promote national Coming Out Day in October.

While critics hated the music, Styx, which still tours, was wildly popular. A 1979 Gallup Poll named Styx the most popular rock act in the nation among teens. The band had seven top-10 singles from 1977 to 1983, including Babe and Come Sail Away.

Panozzo worried that any hint of homosexuality in the 1970s would chase away fans.

On stage, he was stoic, nearly motionless when he played. One critic called him the "arbiter of cool" for his frosty demeanor.

He says he was simply petrified.

"I was afraid someone might see something inside of me and say, 'Oh, a fruit,' " Panozzo says. "I put up this great facade. I tried to blend in, and I became a nobody -- to myself and everybody else."

By Debbie Howlett

Source: USA Today