Aesthetic Realism is a cult
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Aesthetic Realists who have passed away, while still in AR

by Michael Bluejay • November 9, 2023

By year (29 total)

2023:  Anne Fielding (86)

2021:  Derek Mali (84 or 85), John Stern (97)

2020: Alan Michael (63), Marvin Mondlin (92)

2017:  David Bernstein (80 or 81), Dorothy Koppelman (97)

2016:  Timothy Lynch (58 or 59)

2016?:  Alice Siegel (99?)

2015+: Louis Dienes (90?)

2014+: Joseph Meglino, Robert Jensen, Sarah Weiss (91+)

2014:  Julie Jensen (74 or 75)

2011:  Shirley Jones (79)

2009:  Chaim Koppelman (89), Irene Reiss

2007:  Daniel Reiss (95)

2007: Lois Mason (59)

1984:  Nancy Starrels (62 or 63)

1981:  Martha Baird (59 or 60)

1980:  Helen Vernados (45 or 46), Sheldon Kranz (60 or 61)

1978:  Eli Siegel (76), Errol Siegel

1977:  Jack Musicant (67)

early 1970s:  William Sebring

1964:  Nat Herz (43 or 44)

1963:  Rebecca Fein (52 or 53)

Median age at passing is about 75, though the data is incomplete.  I suspect the median age of the Aesthetic Realists who are alive now is 70-something.

Details about these people are below.

I maintain this list for three reasons:

  1. Some former members want to know whether their AR teachers are still with us.
  2. It helps me keep an accurate count of how many Aesthetic Realists remain.  (See the sidebar on the desktop version of this site.)
  3. The deceased deserve some kind of acknowledgement of their passing, because typically AR itself doesn't provide one.

I didn't make this page to celebrate the fact that Aesthetic Realists have died.  While I'm AR's biggest critic, I take no delight in the passing of individual Aesthetic Realists.  I'll be ecstatic when the organization is no more, but I'd much prefer that happens by more Aesthetic Realists leaving the group, and the few who remain deciding to dissolve the organization.

A recurring theme of these passings is that when you die in Aesthetic Realism, you die alone.  First of all, most Aesthetic Realists don't have offspring, because AR discouraged starting families.  If a deceased AR person did have offspring, and the kid(s) left AR (or never joined in the first place), then the AR person likely dissociated from their kids, since a common cult characteristic is cutting off ties with non-believers.  You might think that the Aesthetic Realists themselves would honor their dead, but you'd be wrong.  When you die in AR, you have no value to the group because you can't promote it any more.  So Aesthetic Realists usually don't make any kind of public acknowledgement when they lose one of their members.  Meaning, no obituary, and no mention on AR's website.  Anyway, it makes me angry that the Aesthetic Realists typically don't acknowledge their members who have passed.  Those members dedicated their lives to the group, and they're lucky if they get even a footnote from the surviving ARists.  It's sad.  Ironically, many of the deceased members are getting more recognition from me than they got from the surviving Aesthetic Realists.  Incredible.

This is a list of people who died while still in the group, meaning they were still loyal members at the time of their passing.  I can't catalog all the people who died after they left the group, because that's probably over a hundred of them.  That compares to only the thirty-something below who died in the group as of May 2022.  Even so, my details are incomplete; it's not like the Aesthetic Realists send me a press release when one of them passes.  I have to hunt around to see what information I can dig up from various sources.

Alice Siegel (b. 1917, d. 2016?).  No relation to Eli Siegel.  Mother of Errol Siegel, listed below.  Her death was typically not acknowledged by the Aesthetic Realists.  Copyright Encyclopedia puts her birth as 1917, and the only death record I can find for an Alice Siegel born in 1917 and dying near NYC listed a 2016 death year, so maybe that's her.

Allan Michael (12/21/56-2/28/20, age 63).  Typically, the AR people published no acknowledgement of his death, and I can't find an external one.  My aunt Alice (who's in AR) put up a video of a talk he did, typically trying to use it to promote AR (as did Mr. Michael in his talk), but at least that's something.  I think Michael was the only African-American in AR, so if so that would mean that there are zero now.  Pretty ironic for a group that claims to have "the answer to racism".  

Anne Fielding (1/30/36-1/15/23, 86).  Fielding was noted for winning an Obie award (a fact that AR never failed to use), and for being married to the first man whom AR supposedly "cured" of being gay, Sheldon Kranz who died in 1980, noted below).  She was near the top of the AR hierarchy, serving as a Consultant.  Perhaps because I've been castigating AR about not properly honoring their dead since I put up this particular page in 2022, AR put up a full-page obituary for Fielding on its website, though typically, it's more about AR and their founder Eli Siegel than about Fielding herself.  There's virtually nothing in it about her that's separate from AR, which is understandable given that she spent almost her entire adult life in AR, from age 20 until her death, and when you join AR, your normal life is essentially over.  Note, AR puts her birth year as 1933, but all other sources say 1936.

Chaim Koppelman (12/6/09, age 89).  Noted artist, and husband of Dorothy Koppelman.  AR did have a memorial exhibition for him, though it seems mostly as a way to sponge off his greatness to promote AR.

Daniel Reiss (1912-2007, age 95).  Despite being the father of current AR leader Ellen Reiss, the Aesthetic Realists paid no public tribute to him when he passed, except for one of Ellen's articles which is more about Aesthetic Realism than her father.  The Copyright Encyclopedia put his birth year as 1912.

David Bernstein (2017, age 80 or 81).  He was my uncle, married to my mother's sister, Alice.  Unlike some Aesthetic Realists who die with nearly no acknowledgement, Alice was decent enough to put up a detailed memorial page.

Derek Mali (2021, age 84 or 85).  Mali is maybe the best example of how when you die in AR, you die alone, partly because you've disassociated from any family not in AR.  Mali publicly bragged about this disassociation, complaining about his stepson who left the group, "[He left] over 100 unwanted telephone messages, pleading and cajoling, asking me for personal contact."  The Aesthetic Realists are so clueless they actually published that piece, not realizing how horrifying it looks to a normal person.  Ironically, I'm the only one noting Mali's passing.  There was no obituary, and the Aesthetic Realists offered no acknowledgement on their website.  In fact, when they updated his profile on their site, all they did was update his faculty description to describe him in past tense.  Be thankful you're not an Aesthetic Realist.

Dorothy Koppelman (1920-10/25/17, age 97).  She was the most important Aesthetic Realist outside of AR's founder, Eli Siegel.  Of her own volition, she both started AR's Terrain Gallery, and pushed for the group to buy their building in SoHo early on (the latter over Eli Siegel's objections).  Being of such importance to the group, she was one of the few to get a memorial page on AR's website, but they waited a year and a half after she passed to do a gallery presentation of her work, which they seem to have held foronly a single day.

Eli Siegel (1978, age 76).  The death of AR's founder is notable because he committed suicide—though he'd railed against it as a "form of contempt" before his health failed.

Errol Siegel (1978).  No relation to Eli Siegel.  While doing a public AR presentation at their headquarters, he collapsed from a heart attack, probably because he'd had to state that he'd changed from homosexuality and knew it wasn't really true.  To their shame, the gay rights activists outside who were protesting AR's supposed gay cure intentionally blocked the ambulance.  They thought it was Eli Siegel, AR's founder, who had the medical emergency, though that still wouldn't have made it right.  Ironically, they prevented help for someone they should have been sympathetic to, one of AR's gay-cure victims.  Here's an excerpted exchange from one of the protesters, after she emailed me out of the blue.  Although the Aesthetic Realists have said a lot of pretty ridiculous things over the year, the final message below from one of their critics could be far stupider than anything any Aesthetic Realist has ever said.

Denise Coffin Jesse:  I was present at a rowdy Gay Activists Alliance demo in front of AR in 1978 when Siegel had a heart attack and died. People blocked the ambulance from getting to him and shouted "DIE!" when this creep and sawdust Hitler was being taken out on a slab.  I guess the wages of homophobic bigotry are death.

Michael Bluejay:  Siegel didn't die from a heart attack, and didn't die at the foundation building.  He died at the home of one of his students from an intentional overdose of drugs.

Although I'm Aesthetic Realism's biggest critic, shouting "Die!" at a dying man is a horrible thing to do.  Anyone who did that is no better than Siegel or his students—worse, in fact.  I can't imagine him or his students doing that to anyone.

[In any event], at the demonstration in question, it was ERROL Siegel who had a heart attack and died, not ELI Siegel, the founder.  Errol was essentially one of Eli Siegel's victims.  So, nice job, protesters.  Blocking the ambulance, you made sure an innocent victim died.  Even if it had been Eli Siegel, it's still reprehensible.  Neither Eli Siegel nor his followers would ever do something so despicable.  The protesters certainly didn't get the moral high ground—quite the opposite.

Denise Coffin:  After I posted here saying I was present when , during a protest, Eli Segal [sic] was carted off in an ambulance as we shouted "Die!" (he did) I received a strange email from a "Michael Bluejay" saying AR did nothing to deserve this and it was Errol Segal [sic]. Bullshit. I realize you may have guilt being a member and this a supporter of AR's life ruining crimes but I am clear in my opposition to them. Get some backbone. Saying you are an ex fascist and are now against them but attacking those who fought them is hallow. [sic]

[For the record, I (Bluejay) have likely put in more time and effort at fighting Aesthetic Realism than all the Gay Activist Alliance members combined.]

Helen Vernados (1934-1980).   In the "We Have Changed from Homosexuality" ads that the Aesthetic Realists ran in the newspapers, she was one of the seven (1979 version) or six (1980 version) who claimed to have changed from lesbianism.  (Note that the count went down from 1979 to 1980, not the other direction.)

Irene Reiss (1915-2009, age 93 or 94).  Despite being the mother of current AR leader Ellen Reiss, the ARists had no public tribute.  The only external obituary I could find is a mere two sentences long.

Jack Musicant (d. 11/7/77).  He was my grandfather and died of a heart attack in his 60s.  I couldn't find an obituary.  His daughter Alice, my mother's sister, published a sorta tribute blog about her parents, though the real purpose of the blog was to stump for Aesthetic Realism.  The blog, "A Daughter is Grateful", is more than a tad hypocritical, since Alice was furious at her mother (my grandmother) for leaving AR, never visited her mother in her final years (much less lift a finger to help with her care), and didn't come to the funeral.

John Stern (1927-2001).
  His friend told my friend that he passed, which was necessary, because the ARists made zero acknowledgement of his death, and couldn't even be bothered to change his verbs to past tense.  (Source for the years is from an ex-member.)

Joseph Meglino (2014+).  As with many members, the Aesthetic Realists didn't even give him a footnote when he passed.  The most recent article on the AR site by him was Nov. 12, 2014 (and there's no prior instance of the same article with an earlier date in the Internet Archive, as there is with John Stern), so it seems he passed some time after that.

Julie Jensen (2014, age 74 or 75).
  The Aesthetic Realists gave her only a three-sentence obituary, and 2.5 of those were about what she did for AR.

Lois Mason (b. 1948, d. 2007?, age 59?).  She was a public school teacher, pushing AR in the classroom.  A former member told me he saw an acknowledgement of her death on AR's website, but if so, it's certainly not there now.  There also doesn't seem to be an external obituary.  From the Copyright Encyclopedia, she was born in 1948, and Local Ancestors lists a Lois Mason of NY born in 1948 who died on July 3, 2007 at age 59, so maybe that's her.  The last article she wrote for AR was dated 2007.

Louis Dienes (b. 1925, d. 2015+).  The Aesthetic Realists haven't even acknowledged his passing so I can't even find out when he died.  There is no obituary anywhere that I can find.  This poem of his is copyright 2015, so if that's accurate then he lived until at least then.  He was one of the residents of the communal house that 13 of them lived in.  He was born in 1925, according to Copyright Encyclopedia.

Martha Baird (1981, age 59 or 60).  Founder Eli Siegel's widow.  When Eli Siegel killed himself, he wanted her to kill herself also, as a show of loyalty, with the idea that she couldn't bear to live without him.  To her credit, she refused—earning the ire of some of AR's leadership.

Marvin Mondlin (7/1/27-3/6/2020, age 92).  Technically, he wasn't a member, since he was kicked out, but since they ARists employed him to write an attack piece against me on their "Countering the Lies" website, and since he was certainly loyal to the group, I'm counting him.

Nancy Starrels (1921-84, age 62 or 63).  Of the various Aesthetic Realists who penned a letter to protest the New York Times' dismissive review of AR's gay cure book, she was the only one who was not a relative of mine.

Nat Herz (8/6/20-1964).  One of the very first Aesthetic Realists, studying with Siegel in 1940.

Rebecca Fein (1910-63).  Seems to be the first Aesthetic Realist to pass.

Robert Jensen (2014+).  AR mentioned him and his wife Julie briefly on their site, including that Julie had passed in 2014, but made no mention of Robert's passing, so he must have died some time after that.  Because, like Louis Dienes, the AR people wouldn't even give him a one-sentence obituary.

Sarah Weiss (b. 1923, d. 2014+).  Typically, no acknowledgement by the Aesthetic Realists when she passed.  Not sure when she passed, but the last article with her byline I could find is dated Aug. 2014, and in it she mentions that she just turned 91.  Started a bike shop with her husband Conrad in 1972, selling it in 1997. (source 1, source 2) 

Sheldon Kranz (1980, age 60 or 61).  The first person to undergo AR's alleged "gay cure".  Survived by his AR wife, Anne Fielding.

Shirley Jones (12/19/31-6/15/2011, age 79).  She's one of the rare Aesthetic Realists who got an obituary published outside the group.

Timothy Lynch (2016, age 58 or 59).  Significantly, he was married to AR's current leader, Ellen Reiss.  As a result, unlike Mali (above), he got a paragraph on AR's site praising him and noting his passing.  Which is good, since there doesn't seem to be an obituary anywhere else.

William Sebring (d. late 1960s or early 1970s).  He was present at my lesson with Eli Siegel when I was two.

Former members who passed

I can't easily track this because there are hundreds of them, but I do want to recognize the passing of Ellen Mali, since she was at one time AR's leader.  She then left and wasn't very vocal about her prior involvement, but when she did talk about it, she was decidedly critical of AR for being a cult and hurting people, noting her own culpability in that regard. (e.g., Jewish Times article)  After I started this site, the ARists stupidly assumed (and falsely proclaimed) that she and her son Adam were the real operators of this website, simply hiring me for my web expertise.  In fact, not only were they not involved, but unlike many other former members, they didn't even contribute a writeup of their own experience, much less a debunking of any of the crap on AR's ironically-named "Countering the Lies" website—a disappointment to me since as the former leader, Mali knew where the bodies were buried, so to speak.  Anyway, Mali passed in June 2023.

Aesthetic Realism at a Glance


The Aesthetic Realism Foundation




Eli Siegel, poet & art/literary critic.
Committed suicide in 1978.


To get the world to realize that Eli Siegel was the greatest person who ever lived, and that Aesthetic Realism is the most important knowledge, ever.


We have a tendency to look down on others to make ourselves seem superior by comparison (contempt).  Every single problem in the world (including homosexuality) is the result of contempt.  By studying AR, we can learn to purge our contempt so the world will be perfect.  Also, beauty comes from the contrast of opposites.


New York City (SoHo)


About 66, as of 4/22, as ~23 teachers + ~43 teachers-in-training.  (In 2009 it was ~77 (33+44), and ~29 regular students.  You could consider them members, but I'm not including them in the total.)  Anyway, with only ~66 committed members, much for world domination.

All members call themselves "students", even the leaders/teachers.  Advanced members who teach others are called "consultants".
StatusIn serious decline.
They might have ten years left.

Method of study

Public seminars/lectures at their headquarters (in lower Manhattan), group classes, and individual consultations (three consultants vs. one student) (usually in-person, but also remote).

Cult aspects

  • Fanatical devotion to their leader/founder
  • Belief that they have the one true answer to universal happiness
  • Ultimate purpose is to recruit new members
  • Feeling that they are being persecuted
  • Wild, paranoid reactions to criticism
  • Non-communication (or at least very limited communication) with those who have left the group, and family members who refuse to join
  • Odd, specialized language.

  • More about cult aspects...
The best bits:  Cult aspects of ARDream to NightmareA journalist infiltratesAll the articles

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