(Photo Credits: David Shankbone / CC BY-SA)
US playwright and AIDS activist Larry Kramer passed away due to pneumonia (not related to COVID-19 pandemic) on Wednesday, according to multiple news agencies. He was 84. The news was confirmed by Kramer’s husband David Webster to The New York Times and his biographer Bill Goldstein who spoke to The Associated Press.
Kramer, a two-time recipient of the Obie Award, is best remembered for his autobiographical play titled The Normal Heart (1985). Its HBO movie adaptation by Ryan Murphy in 2014 had earned Matt Bomer a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his “heart-wrenching portrayal of Felix Turner, a closeted New York Times writer who begins a relationship with Mark Ruffalo’s character Ned Weeks.” Kramer also wrote the screenplay for the 1969 adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s novel titled “Women in Love” that earned him an Academy Award nomination.
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Larry Kramer. I don’t have the words to properly express my gratitude, admiration , and love for you. Your writing was bold, courageous, and urgent. It educated, stirred people to action, and saved lives. A towering intellect and an amazing wit. My time with you is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Rest In Peace my friend.
His other works included Lost Horizon (1972, screenplay), Faggots (a 1978 novel), and the following plays: Sissies’ Scrapbook, aka Four Friends (1973), A Minor Dark Age (1973), Just Say No (1988), The Furniture of Home (1989), and The Destiny of Me (1992) which was finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993.
Most importantly, Kramer—who reportedly lost many friends as well as a lover in 1984 to AIDS—was at the forefront of the fight against the AIDS epidemic. In 1981, he co-founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), said to be “the first AIDS service organization in the world.” He later founded The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) with other activists in 1987. ACT UP is reportedly a “militant group that became famous for staging civil disobedience at places like the Food and Drug Administration, the New York Stock Exchange and Burroughs-Wellcome Corp., the maker of the chief anti-AIDS drug, AZT.”
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Larry Kramer’s passing is the saddest news. We have lost a giant of a man who stood up for gay rights like a warrior. His anger was needed at a time when gay men’s deaths to AIDS were being ignored by the American government: a tragedy that made the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP movements so vital. He never stopped shouting about the injustices against us. His voice was the loudest and the most effective. Larry Kramer captured the outrage and spirit of these turbulent times in his brilliant play “The Normal Heart” along with his many other writings. I was proud to know him and his legacy must be maintained. My heart goes out to his beloved husband David Webster. Love, Elton @ejaf #RIP
In 1989, Kramer learned that not only was he HIV positive, he was also suffering from liver damage. According to BBC News, Kramer had a liver transplant in 2001; he was also “given experimental HIV drugs” by Dr. Anthony Fauci—American physician, immunologist, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Fauci, who is now at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus in the US, said of Kramer in an interview with New York Times, “Once you got past the rhetoric, you found that Larry Kramer made a lot of sense, and that he had a heart of gold.”
Take a look at what others are saying about Larry Kramer and his passing online:
“I’m tired of people coming up & saying, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing & saying.’ They mean it as a compliment, I know. But now I scream back, ‘Why aren’t you doing it & saying it too?’ Why are there so few people out there screaming & yelling? You’re dying too!” #LarryKramer— @lgbt_history (@queer_history) May 27, 2020
I am HUGELY wounded by the loss of #LarryKramer today. Having lived through the AIDS holocaust of the 1980’s/90’s myself (& luckily survived), his voice, HIS UNRELENTING SCREAMS for help for our community, whilst our friends died slow painful deaths around us, was a …… pic.twitter.com/ZcmFVgPAh0— Jason Jones (@trinijayjay) May 27, 2020
Kramer was working on a new play prior to his death, says Mr. John Leland of The New York Times. “It’s about gay people having to live through three plagues,” he explained to Mr. Leland, “H.I.V./AIDS, Covid-19 and the decline of the human body.”