Sean Sasser, whose ceremony with partner on 'Real World' was TV first, dies

Story highlights

  • News of Sean Sasser's death ripples across social media
  • Sasser died from mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, his partner says
  • "Real World San Francisco" highlighted Sasser's relationship with Pedro Zamora
  • He worked as a pastry chef at a Washington restaurant
Sean Sasser, whose relationship with the late Pedro Zamora on MTV's "The Real World: San Francisco" broke cultural barriers on U.S. television, has died, his longtime partner told CNN on Thursday. Sasser was 44.
Sasser, who had been HIV positive for 25 years, died Wednesday from mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer that was diagnosed just last month, Michael Kaplan said. He died in the Washington home he shared with Kaplan.
Sasser was not one of the original cast members but became a household name as his relationship with Zamora was explored during the show's third season in 1994. The couple's exchange of vows during a commitment ceremony, the first ever broadcast on U.S. television, became a landmark moment in TV history.
The couple began dating during the taping of the series. Their relationship and Zamora's battle with AIDS while living in "The Real World" house with seven strangers became must-see-TV for teens and young adults, many of whom had never been exposed to a gay couple, much less someone living with HIV.
Zamora, who had been diagnosed with AIDS at age 17, was a well-known AIDS activist at the time he was cast on the show at age 21. Sasser, who was also working as an activist and educator, also revealed on the show that he was HIV positive.