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Larry Kramer

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Title: Larry Kramer  
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Subject: The Normal Heart, Faggots (novel), ACT UP, Women in Love (film), Gay Sex in the 70s
Collection: 1935 Births, 20Th-Century American Dramatists and Playwrights, 20Th-Century American Novelists, American Health Activists, American Male Dramatists and Playwrights, American Male Novelists, American Male Screenwriters, American Screenwriters, Gay Writers, Hiv/Aids Activists, Jewish American Dramatists and Playwrights, Jewish American Novelists, Lambda Literary Award Winners, Lgbt Dramatists and Playwrights, Lgbt Jews, Lgbt Novelists, Lgbt Rights Activists from the United States, Lgbt Screenwriters, Lgbt Writers from the United States, Living People, People with Hiv/Aids, Writers from Bridgeport, Connecticut
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Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer
Larry Kramer in April 2010
Born (1935-06-25) June 25, 1935
Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Occupation Screenwriter, novelist, essayist, playwright
Nationality American
Period 1960s–present
Subject Gay community, AIDS activism
Spouse David Webster (m. 2013)

Larry Kramer (born June 25, 1935) is an American playwright, author, public health advocate, and LGBT rights activist. He began his career rewriting scripts while working for Columbia Pictures, which led him to London where he worked with United Artists. There he wrote the screenplay for the 1969 film Women in Love, and earned an Academy Award nomination for his work. Kramer introduced a controversial and confrontational style in his 1978 novel Faggots. The book earned mixed reviews but emphatic denunciations from elements within the gay community for his one-sided portrayal of shallow, promiscuous gay relationships in the 1970s.

Kramer witnessed the spread of the disease later known as people living with AIDS (PWAs), and raising awareness of HIV and AIDS-related diseases.[1] Kramer has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his play The Destiny of Me (1992), and has been a two-time recipient of the Obie Award. Kramer currently lives in Manhattan and Connecticut.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early writings 2.1
    • Faggots 2.2
    • Gay Men's Health Crisis 2.3
    • The Normal Heart 2.4
    • ACT UP 2.5
    • Just Say No, A Play about a Farce 2.6
    • Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist 2.7
    • The Destiny of Me 2.8
    • The Tragedy of Today's Gays 2.9
    • The American People: A History 2.10
    • Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies 2.11
    • Later work 2.12
  • Personal life 3
    • Relationship with his brother 3.1
    • Health 3.2
    • Relationships 3.3
    • Residence 3.4
  • Public image 4
  • Bibliography 5
    • Drama 5.1
    • Fiction 5.2
    • Nonfiction 5.3
    • Screenplays 5.4
  • Awards 6
  • Speeches 7
  • 8 Articles
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life

The younger of two children, Kramer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and considered an "unwanted child" [2] by his Jewish parents, an attorney and a social worker.[3] When the family moved to Maryland they found themselves in a much lower socioeconomic bracket than that of Kramer's high school peers. Kramer had become sexually involved with a male friend in junior high school, but he dated girls in high school . Larry's father wanted him to marry a woman with money and thus pressed him to become a member of Pi Tau Pi, a Jewish fraternity.[4]

Kramer enrolled at Yale University in 1953, where he had difficulty adjusting. He felt lonely, and earned lower grades than those to which he was accustomed. He attempted suicide by an overdose of aspirin because he felt like he was the "only gay student on campus".[5][6] The experience left him determined to explore his sexuality and set him on the path to fight "for gay people's worth".[5] The next semester, he had an affair with his German professor – his first requited romantic relationship with a man.[7] When the professor was scheduled to study in Europe, he invited Kramer to accompany him, but Kramer opted not to go.

Yale had been a family tradition: Larry's father, older brother Arthur, and two uncles were alumni.[5] Kramer enjoyed the Varsity Glee Club during his remaining time at Yale, and he graduated in 1957 with a degree in English.


Kramer at home in 2007, reviewing the new Grove Press editions of his work. His WorldHeritage biography is shown on the computer.

Early writings

According to Kramer, every drama he has written derives from a desire to understand love's nature and its obstacles.[8] Kramer became involved with movie production at age 23 by taking a job as a Teletype operator at Columbia Pictures, agreeing to the position only because the machine was across the hall from the president's office.[9] Eventually, he won a position in the story department reworking scripts. His first writing credit was as a dialogue writer for Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, a teen sex comedy. He followed that with the 1969 Oscar-nominated screenplay Women in Love, an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's novel. He next penned what Kramer calls "the only thing in my life I'm ashamed of," the 1973 musical remake of Frank Capra's Lost Horizon, a notorious critical and commercial failure whose screenplay was based very closely on Capra's film. Kramer has said that his well-negotiated fee for this work, skillfully invested by his brother, made him financially self-sufficient.

Kramer then began to integrate homosexual themes into his work, and tried writing for the stage. He wrote Sissies' Scrapbook in 1973 (later rewritten and retitled as Four Friends), a dramatic play about four friends, one of whom is gay, and their dysfunctional relationships. Kramer called it a play about "cowardice and the inability of some men to grow up, leave the emotional bondage of male collegiate camaraderie, and assume adult responsibilities".[10] The play was first produced in a theater set up in an old YMCA gymnasium on 53rd Street and Eighth Avenue called the Playwrights Horizons.[11] Live theater moved him to believing that writing for the stage was what he wanted to do. Although the play was given a somewhat favorable review by the New York Times, it was closed by the producer and Kramer was so distraught that he decided never to write for the stage again, later stating, "You must be a masochist to work in the theater and a sadist to succeed on its stages."[11]

Kramer next wrote A Minor Dark Age, though it failed to be produced.[11] Frank Rich, in the foreword to a Grove Press collection of Kramer's less-known works, wrote that "dreamlike quality of the writing is haunting" in Dark Age, and that its themes, such as the exploration of the difference between sex and passion, "are staples of his entire output" that would portend his future work, including the 1978 novel Faggots.[11]


First edition cover of Faggots

In 1978, Kramer delivered the final of four drafts of a novel that he wrote about the fast lifestyle of gay men of Fire Island and Manhattan. In Faggots, the primary character was modeled on himself, a man who is unable to find love while encountering the drugs and emotionless sex in the trendy bars and discos.[12] He stated his inspiration for the novel: "I wanted to be in love. Almost everybody I knew felt the same way. I think most people, at some level, wanted what I was looking for, whether they pooh-poohed it or said that we can't live like the straight people or whatever excuses they gave."[13] Kramer researched the book, talking to many men, and visiting various establishments. As he interviewed people, he heard a common question: "Are you writing a negative book? Are you going to make it positive? ... I began to think, 'My God, people must really be conflicted about the lives they're leading.' And that was true. I think people were guilty about all the promiscuity and all the partying."[13]

The novel caused an uproar in the community it portrayed; it was taken off the shelves of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore—New York's only gay bookstore, and Kramer was banned from the grocery store near his home on Fire Island.[1] Reviewers found it difficult to believe that Kramer's accounts of gay relationships were accurate; both the gay and mainstream press panned the book.[14] On the reception of the novel Kramer says, "The straight world thought I was repulsive, and the gay world treated me like a traitor. People would literally turn their back when I walked by. You know what my real crime was? I put the truth in writing. That's what I do: I have told the fucking truth to everyone I have ever met."[1] Faggots, however, became one of the best-selling gay novels of all time.[15]

In 2000, Reynolds Price wrote that the novel's lasting relevance is that "anyone who searches out present-day responses on the Internet will quickly find that the wounds inflicted by Faggots are burning still".[16] Although Kramer was rejected by the people he thought would be laudatory, the book has never been out of publication and is often taught in gay studies classes. "Faggots struck a chord," wrote Andrew Sullivan, "It exuded a sense that gay men could do better if they understood themselves as fully human, if they could shed their self-loathing and self-deception...."[16]

Gay Men's Health Crisis

Initially, while living on Fire Island in the 1970s, Kramer had no intention of getting involved in political activism. There were politically active groups in New York City, but Kramer notes the culture on Fire Island was so different that they would often make fun of political activists: "It was not chic. It was not something you could brag about with your friends... Guys marching down Fifth Avenue was a whole other world. The whole gestalt of Fire Island was about beauty and looks and golden men."[17]

However, when friends he knew from Fire Island began getting sick in 1980, Kramer became involved in gay activism. In 1981, although he had not been involved previously with gay activism, Kramer invited the "A-list" (his own term) group of gay men from the New York City area to his apartment to listen to a doctor say their friends' illnesses were related, and research needed to be done.[18] The next year, they named themselves the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the New York area. Although Kramer served on its first board of directors, his view of how it should be run sharply conflicted with that of the rest of its members. While GMHC began to concentrate on social services for men who were dying, Kramer loudly insisted they fight for funding from New York City. Mayor Ed Koch became a particular target for Kramer, as did the behavior of gay men, before the nature of how the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was transmitted was understood.

When doctors suggested men stop having sex, Kramer strongly encouraged GMHC to deliver the message to as many gay men as possible. When they refused, Kramer wrote an essay entitled "1,112 and Counting", printed in 1983 in the New York Native, a gay newspaper. The essay discussed the spread of the disease, the lack of government response, and apathy of the gay community.[19] The essay was intended to frighten gay men and anger them to the point where they would respond to government indifference. Michael Specter writes in The New Yorker, "it was a five-thousand-word screed that accused nearly everyone connected with health care in America – officials at the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, researchers at the National Institutes of Health, in Washington, doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in Manhattan, and local politicians (particularly Mayor Ed Koch) – of refusing to acknowledge the implications of the nascent AIDS epidemic. The article's harshest condemnation was directed at those gay men who seemed to think that if they ignored the new disease, it would simply go away.[20]

Kramer's confrontational style proved to be an advantage, as it earned the issue of AIDS in New York media attention that no other individual could get. He found it a disadvantage when he realized his own reputation was "completely that of a crazy man".[21] Kramer was particularly frustrated by bureaucratic stalling that snowballed in cases where gay but closeted men were the ones in charge of agencies that seemed to ignore AIDS. He confronted the director of a National Institute of Health agency about not devoting more time and effort toward researching AIDS because he was closeted.[22] He threw a drink in Republican fundraiser Terry Dolan's face during a party and screamed at him for having affairs with men but using homosexuality as a reason to raise money for conservative causes.[23] He called Ed Koch and the media and government agencies in New York City "equal to murderers". Even Kramer's personal life was affected when he and his lover – also a board member on GMHC – split over Kramer's condemnations of the political apathy of GMHC.[21]

Kramer's past also compromised his message, as many men who had been turned off by Faggots saw Kramer's warnings as alarmist, displaying negative attitudes toward sex. Playwright

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Larry Kramer at the Internet Movie Database
  • Video from TODAY Show 1983: A vivid reminder of initial AIDS scare TODAY Show

External links

  • Clendinen, Dudley, and Nagourney, Adam (1999). Out for Good, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81091-3
  • Marcus, Eric (2002). Making Gay History, HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-093391-7
  • Mass, Lawrence, ed. (1997). We Must Love One Another or Die: The Life and Legacies of Larry Kramer, St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17704-6
  • Shilts, Randy (1987). And The Band Played On, St . Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-00994-1
  • "The Making of an AIDS Activist: Larry Kramer," pp. 162–164, Johansson, Warren and Percy, William A. Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence. New York and London: Haworth Press, 1994.
  • "Public Nuisance, Larry Kramer the man who warned America about AIDS, can't stop fighting hard and loudly." Michael Specter, The New Yorker, May 13, 2002.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f g
  2. ^ a b c d Gay Brother, Straight Brother: It Could Be a Play, Anemona Hartocollis, The New York Times, June 25, 2006.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mass, p. 26.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g
  6. ^ Marcus, p. 32.
  7. ^ Mass, p. 27.
  8. ^ a b c d France, David (June 11, 2001). "The Angry Prophet Is Dying", Newsweek, p. 43.
  9. ^ Mass, p. 28.
  10. ^ Mass, p. 34.
  11. ^ a b c d
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ a b Marcus, p. 196.
  14. ^ Mass, p. 35.
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ Marcus, p. 163.
  18. ^ Shilts, p. 90—91.
  19. ^ Mass, p. 39–40.
  20. ^ Specter, Michael (May 13, 2002). Profiles: Public Nuisance, The New Yorker. Retrieved on December 6, 2008.
  21. ^ a b Mass, p. 44
  22. ^ Shilts, p. 406.
  23. ^ Shilts, p. 407.
  24. ^ Shilts, p. 210.
  25. ^ Shilts, p. 358.
  26. ^ Mass, p. 45.
  27. ^ a b Mass, p. 47.
  28. ^ Foreword to The Tragedy of Today's Gays, p. 3
  29. ^
  30. ^ Mass, p. 49–50.
  31. ^ Clendinen, p. 547.
  32. ^ Mass, p. 51.
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^
  35. ^ Kramer, Larry, Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of An AIDS Activist. St. Martin's Press 1994. ISBN 0-312-11419-2, p. 175
  36. ^ Kramer, Larry, Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of An AIDS Activist. St. Martin's Press 1994. ISBN 0-312-11419-2
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ a b Kramer, Larry. "Nuremberg Trials for AIDS". The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. September–October 2006.
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ Mass, p. 56.
  50. ^ Stryker, Jeff (January 8, 2002). "Writer Chuckles Over Report of His Demise", The New York Times, p. 8.
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^ a b AIDS Activist Discusses 25-Year Battle, Harry Smith, CBS Sunday Morning, June 26, 2006, Retrieved on April 19, 2007.
  58. ^ NT2000 One Hundred Plays of the Century, National Theatre online, retrieved April 19, 2007.
  59. ^


  • Be Very Afraid, POZ Magazine, October 2000


  • The Tragedy of Today's Gays, November 10, 2004
  • We are not crumbs, we must not accept crumbs – Remarks on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of ACT UP, NY Lesbian and Gay Community Center, March 13, 2007








Larry Kramer in Love and Anger, a biographical film about Kramer's life directed by Jean Carlomusto, premiered at 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Public image

Kramer lives near Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Another resident of the complex was Kramer's longtime nemesis, Ed Koch. The two saw each other relatively infrequently since they lived in separate towers. When Kramer saw him looking at the apartment in 1989, Kramer reportedly told him, "Don't move in here! There are people here who hate you!" On another occasion, Koch tried to pet Kramer's dog in the building's mail area and Kramer snatched away the dog.[53]


On July 24, 2013 in New York City, Kramer married his partner, architectural designer David Webster.[52] They have been together since 1991. It was Webster's jilting of Kramer in the 1970s that inspired Kramer to write Faggots. When asked about their reunion decades later, Webster replied, "He'd grown up, I'd grown up."[8]


[51] Kramer received a new liver on December 21, 2001.[8] – which had performed more transplants for HIV positive patients than any other facility in the world – accepted Kramer on its list.University of Pittsburgh at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute Kramer became a symbol for infected people who had new leases on life due to advances in medicine. "We shouldn't face a death sentence because of who we are or who we love," he said in an interview. In May 2001 the [50] in December of the same year to claim Kramer had died.Associated Press to announce Kramer was dying in June 2001, and the Newsweek The news prompted [8], only a few weeks after its opening, forced Kramer into the hospital after it aggravated a congenital hernia. While in surgery, doctors discovered liver damage due to Just Say No In 1988, stress over the closing of his play


Kramer Levin went on to become one of the gay rights movement's staunchest advocates, helping Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on such high-profile cases as Lawrence v. Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court and Hernandez v. Robles before the New York Court of Appeals.[48] Arthur Kramer retired from the firm in 1996 and died of a stroke in 2008.[2]

In 2001, Arthur gave Yale a $1 million grant to establish the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies, a program focusing on gay history.[12]

Throughout their disagreements, they still stayed close. Larry writes of their relationship in The Normal Heart: "The brothers love each other a great deal; [Arthur's] approval is essential to [Larry]."[47]

[2].Aspen, an anti-gay rights referendum, and Arthur refused to cancel a ski trip to Amendment 2 voters passed Colorado, a prominent Kramer Levin client, which Arthur saw as a personal affront. In 1992, MCI Larry called for a gay boycott of [5] Kramer's relationship with his brother,

Arthur Kramer, founding partner of influential law firm Kramer Levin.

Relationship with his brother

Personal life

Kramer's novel, The American People: Volume 1, was published in 2015 by FSG.

Later work

In 2001, both sides agreed to a five-year trial with seed money of $1 million Arthur Kramer endowed to Yale to finance the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies. The money would pay visiting professors and a program coordinator for conferences, guest speakers and other events.[46] Kramer agreed to leave his literary papers and those chronicling the AIDS movement and his founding of GMHC and ACT-UP to Yale's Beinecke Library. "A lot has changed since I made my initial demands," said Kramer. "I was trying to cram stuff down their throat. I'd rather they fashion their own stuff. It may allow for a much more expandable notion of what lesbian and gay studies really is."[46] The program was closed down by Yale in 2006.

In 1997, Kramer approached Yale University, to bequeath several million dollars "to endow a permanent, tenured professorship in gay studies and possibly to build a gay and lesbian student center."[5] At that time, gender, ethnic and race-related studies were viewed warily by academia. The then Yale provost, Alison Richard, stated that gay and lesbian studies was too narrow a specialty for a program in perpetuity.[5] Kramer's rejected proposal read: "Yale is to use this money solely for 1) the study of and/or instruction in gay male literature, by which I mean courses to study gay male writers throughout history or the teaching to gay male students of writing about their heritage and their experience. To ensure for the continuity of courses in either or both of these areas tenured positions should be established; and/or 2) the establishment of a gay student center at Yale. . . ."[5]

Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies

Kramer with his dog Tiger.

The book was published as a novel by Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Richard Nixon were gay.[44][45]

Around 1981,[43] Kramer began researching and writing a manuscript called The American People: A History, an ambitious historical work that begins in the Stone Age and continues into the present. For example, there is information relating to Kramer's assertion that Abraham Lincoln was gay. In 2002, Will Schwalbe, editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books – the only man to have read the entire manuscript to that date – said, "He has set himself the hugest of tasks," and he described it as "staggering, brilliant, funny, and harrowing."[1] In 2006, Kramer said of the work, " [It is] my own history of America and of the cause of HIV/AIDS.... Writing and researching this history has convinced me that the plague of HIV/AIDS has been intentionally allowed to happen."[43]

The American People: A History

He recycles the kind of harangues about gay men (and young gay men in particular) that institutions like the Times so love to print – that they are buffoonish, disengaged Peter Pans dancing, drugging and fucking their lives away while the world and the disco burn down around them.[42]

Kramer, again, had his detractors from the community. Writing on, Richard Kim felt that once again Kramer personified the very object of his criticism: homophobia.

Does it occur to you that we brought this plague of AIDS upon ourselves? I know I am getting into dangerous waters here but it is time. With the cabal breathing even more murderously down our backs it is time. And you are still doing it. You are still murdering each other.[41]
Kramer even stated:

The speech's effects were far-reaching, and had most corners of the gay world once again discussing Kramer's moral vision of drive and self-worth for the community he loves but that continues to disappoint him.

Almost 60 million people whom we live and work with every day think we are immoral. “Moral values” was top of many lists of why people supported George Bush. Not Iraq. Not the economy. Not terrorism. "Moral values." In case you need a translation that means us. It is hard to stand up to so much hate.[40]

Kramer found it inconceivable that Bush was reelected on the backs of gay people when there were so many more pressing issues: [33] was a speech and a call to arms that Kramer delivered five days after the 2004 re-election of Tragedy

The Tragedy of Today's Gays

Its recent 2002 London Finborough Theatre production was the No. 1 Critics Choice in The Evening Standard.[39]

This journey, from discovery through guilt to momentary joy and toward AIDS, has been my longest, most important journey, as important as—no, more important than my life with my parents, than my life as a writer, than my life as an activist. Indeed, my homosexuality, as unsatisfying as much of it was for so long, has been the single most important defining characteristic of my life.[38]

The Destiny of Me picks up where The Normal Heart left off, following Ned Weeks as he continues his journey fighting those whose complacency or will impede the discovery of a cure for a disease from which he suffers. The play opened in October 1992 and ran for one year off Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre by the Circle Repertory Company.[37] It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was a double Obie Award winner and received the Lortel Award for Outstanding Play of the Year. The original production starred John Cameron Mitchell, "a young actor who dominates the show with a performance at once ethereal and magnetic," according to the New York Times reviewer Frank Rich. Most powerful, Rich wrote, was the thematic question Kramer posed to himself: "Why was he of all people destined to scream bloody murder with the aim of altering the destiny of the human race?"[37] Kramer states in his introduction to the play:

The Destiny of Me

Kramer directly and deliberately defines AIDS as a Bill Clinton Presidencies.[36]

The central message of the book is that gay men must accept responsibility for their lives, and that those who are still living must give back to their community by fighting for People With AIDS (PWA's) and LGBT rights, for, as Kramer states, "I must put back something into this world for my own life, which is worth a tremendous amount. By not putting back, you are saying that your lives are worth shit, and that we deserve to die, and that the deaths of all our friends and lovers have amounted to nothing. I can't believe that in your heart of hearts you feel this way. I can't believe you want to die. Do you?"[35] The first publication provides a portrait of Kramer as activist, and the 1994 edition contains commentary written by him that reflects on his earlier pieces and provides insight into Larry Kramer as writer.

First published in 1989, and later expanded and republished in 1994, Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist contains a diverse selection of the nonfiction writings of Larry Kramer focused on AIDS activism and LGBT civil rights, including letters to the editor and speeches, which document his time spent at Gay Men's Health Crisis, ACT UP, and beyond.

Larry Kramer in 1989

Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist

Continuing his commentary on government indifference toward AIDS, Kramer wrote Just Say No, A Play about a Farce in 1988. He highlights the sexual hypocrisy in the Reagan and Koch administrations that allowed AIDS to become an epidemic; it concerns a First Lady, her gay son, and the closeted gay mayor of America's "largest northeastern city." Its New York production, starring Kathleen Chalfant, Tonya Pinkens, and David Margulies, was prized by the few who came to see it after its crucifixion by the New York Times. Social critic and writer Susan Sontag wrote of the piece, "Larry Kramer is one of America's most valuable troublemakers. I hope he never lowers his voice."

Just Say No, A Play about a Farce

Two decades later Kramer continued to advocate for social and legal equity for homosexuals. "Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal, which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you," he wrote in 2007. "You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you."[34]

[33] offered his opinion of why Kramer fought so relentlessly: "In a way, like a lot of Jewish men of Larry's generation, the Holocaust is a defining historical moment, and what happened in the early 1980s with AIDS felt, and was in fact, holocaustal to Larry."Tony Kushner Playwright [1] states "ACT UP put medical treatment in the hands of the patients. And that is the way it ought to be... There is no question in my mind that Larry helped change medicine in this country. And he helped change it for the better. In American medicine there are two eras. Before Larry and after Larry.Anthony Fauci Immunologist [32] Engaging in civil disobedience that would result in many people being arrested was a primary objective, as it would focus attention on the target. On March 24, 1987, 17 people out of 250 participating were arrested for blocking rush-hour traffic in front of the FDA's

In 1987, Kramer was the catalyst in the founding of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center in New York City. Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. He began by having two-thirds of the room stand up, and told them they would be dead in five years. Kramer reiterated the points introduced in his essay "1,112 and Counting": "If my speech tonight doesn't scare the shit out of you, we're in real trouble. If what you're hearing doesn't rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?"[30] Their first target became the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which Kramer accused in the New York Times of neglecting badly needed medication for HIV-infected Americans.


He accuses the governmental, medical and press establishments of foot-dragging in combating the disease—especially in the early days of its outbreak, when much of the play is set—and he is even tougher on homosexual leaders who, in his view, were either too cowardly or too mesmerized by the ideology of sexual liberation to get the story out. "There's not a good word to be said about anyone's behavior in this whole mess," claims one character—and certainly Mr. Kramer has few good words to say about Mayor Koch, various prominent medical organizations, The New York Times or, for that matter, most of the leadership of an unnamed organization apparently patterned after the Gay Men's Health Crisis.[29]

In a review for the New York Times, Frank Rich said:

Despite Kramer's promising never to write for the theater again, The Normal Heart is a play set between 1981 and 1984. It addresses a writer named Ned Weeks as he nurses his lover who is dying of an unnamed disease, the doctors puzzled and frustrated by having no resources to research it, and the unnamed organization Weeks is involved in and is eventually thrown out of. Kramer later explained, "I tried to make Ned Weeks as obnoxious as I could ... I was trying, somehow and again, to atone for my own behavior."[26] The experience was overwhelmingly emotional for Kramer, as at one time during rehearsals he watched actor Brad Davis hold his dying lover played by D.W. Moffett on stage; Kramer went into the bathroom and sobbed, only moments later to find Davis holding him.[27] The play is considered a literary landmark.[1] It contended with the AIDS crisis when few would speak of the disease afflicting gay men, including gays themselves; it remains the longest-running play ever staged at the Public Theater, running for a year starting in 1985. It has been produced over 600 times in the U.S., Europe (where it was televised in Poland), Israel, and South Africa.[27] Actors following Davis who portrayed Kramer's alter ego Ned Weeks included Joel Grey, Richard Dreyfuss (in Los Angeles), Martin Sheen (at the Royal Court in London), Tom Hulce and then John Shea in the West End, Raul Esparza in a highly acclaimed 2004 revival at the Public Theater, and most recently Joe Mantello on Broadway at the Golden Theater. Upon seeing the production of The Normal Heart, Naomi Wolf commented, "No one else on the left at that time...ever used the moral framework that is so much a part of Kramer's voice, and that the right has coopted so skillfully. Conscience, responsibility, calling; truth and lies, clarity of purpose or abandonment of one's moral calling; loyalty and betrayal...."[28]

Astonished and saddened about being forced out of GMHC, Kramer took an extended trip to Europe. While visiting Dachau concentration camp he learned that it had opened as early as 1933 and neither Germans nor other nations did anything to stop it. He became inspired to chronicle the same reaction from the American government and the gay community to the AIDS crisis by writing The Normal Heart.[25]

The Normal Heart


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