Playwright & Lifelong Activist Larry Kramer Dead At 84

Larry Kramer in 2010 (photo: David ShankboneCC License)

Larry Kramer, whose activism shocked the country into addressing the HIV epidemic as it killed thousands of Americans, has passed away at the age of 84.

In addition to his work as an award-winning playwright including The Normal Heart, he helped co-found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (the first public service organization for those with HIV) and the activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) which staged “die-in” protests to draw attention to the mounting death toll from AIDS.

From the New York Times:

Larry Kramer, the noted writer whose raucous, antagonistic campaign for an all-out response to the AIDS crisis helped shift national health policy in the 1980s and ’90s, died on Wednesday morning in Manhattan. He was 84.

His husband, David Webster, said the cause was pneumonia. Mr. Kramer had weathered illness for much of his adult life. Among other things he had been infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, contracted liver disease and underwent a successful liver transplant.

An author, essayist and playwright — notably hailed for his autobiographical 1985 play, “The Normal Heart” — Mr. Kramer had feet in both the world of letters and the public sphere. In 1981 he was a founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the first service organization for H.I.V.-positive people, though his fellow directors effectively kicked him out a year later for his aggressive approach. (He returned the compliment by calling them “a sad organization of sissies.”)

He was then a founder of a more militant group, Act Up (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), whose street actions demanding a speedup in AIDS drugs research and an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians severely disrupted the operations of government offices, Wall Street and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, credits Kramer with playing an “essential” role in the development of drug regimens that could help those living with HIV, and in urging the FDA to streamline its process for vetting and approval of new drugs.

Kramer’s play, The Normal Heart, opened at the Public Theater in April 1985 and ran for nine months. The play chronicled the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis and his often aggressive activism to get people engaged in solving the epidemic.

In 2011, The Normal Heart was revived on Broadway winning the Tony Award for Best Revival. And in 2014, Kramer wrote a television adaptation for HBO (directed by Ryan Murphy) which won the 2014 Emmy for outstanding television movie.

In his review of the revival, Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote, “By the play’s end, even people who think they have no patience for polemical theater may find their resistance has melted into tears. No, make that sobs.”

I encourage you to read the full profile by the New York Times here.

News Round-Up: May 19, 2017

Some news items you may have missed:

• Fitness trainer/model Joss Mooney (above) sees summer just around the corner.

• White House lawyers are currently researching impeachment procedures. You know, just in case…

• In related news, conservatives have started whispering: “President Pence”

You really have to read this terrific profile of Cher for Billboard Magazine. Really captures the personality and flavor of the iconic singer/actress.

• And speaking of profiles, the New York Times writes beautifully about the twilight of legendary AIDS activist/playwright Larry Kramer. In case you don’t know it, Kramer saved countless lives with his fiery activism.

• As President Trump leaves on his first foreign trip abroad, the world prepares to make the homebody happy.

• Check out the first look at the upcoming reboot of 80s TV drama, Dynasty. You know the drill: cat fights, fashion and high drama all wrapped up in some sexy eye-candy. Airing Wednesdays this fall on the CW.

If Larry Kramer Can Accept Hillary Clinton’s Apology, So Can I

In case you missed Hillary Clinton’s very in-depth follow-up to her apology for misspeaking on the Reagans’ history during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s – click here.

While her initial comment was painful for many of us who lived through the early years of the epidemic, her thoughtful and detailed response feels like an honest admission that she was wrong.

If Larry Kramer, the spiritual father of the AIDS protest years, can accept Hillary’s mea culpa, so can I.

HBO’s “The Normal Heart” wins Outstanding TV/Movie at 2014 Emmys

The cast of the HBO film “The Normal Heart”

HBO’s “The Normal Heart” won the 2014 Emmy Award for best made-for-television movie.

The critically acclaimed film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks, the founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group.

“The Normal Heart” was directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Larry Kramer, based on his 1985 play of same name.

Fans and activists on the internet expressed worry that the ground-breaking movie would be shut out of the awards tonight.  Fortunately, not true.

Mark Ruffalo (L) and Matt Bomer (R) in “The Normal Heart”

Larry Kramer (scarf) stand to accept 2014 Emmy Award with “The Normal Heart” team

(via LGBTQ Nation)

New trailer for HBO’s “The Normal Heart”

HBO has released a new trailer for the upcoming screen adaptation of Larry Kramer’s award-winning play “The Normal Heart.”

“The Normal Heart,” directed by Ryan Murphy, chronicles the rise of AIDS in the 1980s during the earliest years of the epidemic.

The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Jonathan Groff.

Debuts on HBO on May 25.