Larry Kramer was a writer and an activist.
In 1981, with five friends, Larry Kramer founded Gay Men’s Health Crisis, still the world’s largest provider of services to those with AIDS.
In 1987, he founded ACT UP, the international AIDS advocacy and protest organization. It is because of ACT UP and its supporters that the life-saving drugs now available to those with HIV were forced into birth and being.
After receiving his B.A. from Yale in 1957, he entered the film industry, becoming Assistant to the President of, first, Columbia Pictures, and then United Artists. He lived in London from 1961-1970, where he produced and wrote the screenplay for the film of D. H. Lawrence’s classic novel, Women in Love. His screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.
His play about the early years of AIDS, The Normal Heart, has been produced all over the world. It was named as one of the Hundred Greatest Plays of the Twentieth Century by the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain. It was originally produced by Joseph Papp at this very theater in 1985, starring the late Brad Davis, followed by Joel Grey. Other actors who have performed Ned Weeks include Richard Dreyfuss (in Los Angeles), Martin Sheen (at the Royal Court in London), and Tom Hulce and then John Shea in the West End.
The Destiny of Me, the continuing story of the life of Ned Weeks, ran for one year off Broadway at the Lortel Theater, was a finalist for the Pulitzer, was a double Obie winner, and received the Lortel Award for Best Play of the Year. Its recent 2002 London fringe production was hailed as the Best Play in London during its brief run there. The Destiny of Me is rarely performed.
His Just Say No, A Play about a Farce, (1988), is about how sexual hypocrisy in the Reagan administration allowed AIDS to become a plague; 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 Chalfont, Tonya Pinkens, and David Margulies was prized by the few who came to see it.
His 1978 novel, Faggots, continues to be one of the best-selling of all gay novels.
All of this work, including his screenplay for Women in Love, is in print from Grove Press.
His collection of AIDS journalism and essays, Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist, was published by St. Martins Press.
He was a recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the first creative artist and the first openly gay person to be honored by a Public Service Award from Common Cause.
In the year 2001 one of Kramer’s most cherished dreams came true with the establishment of the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale. Funded by his brother Arthur and supported by the University, the LKI has quickly become one of the most outstanding centers for gay studies in the world.
On December 21, 2001, Kramer was the 22nd person co-infected with HIV and hepatitis B to receive a liver transplant, from which he has miraculously and spectacularly recovered.
Kramer lived in New York and Connecticut with his lover, architect/designer David Webster.
Of all the many things said about him, Kramer was particularly proud of the following: “Larry Kramer is one of America’s most valuable troublemakers. I hope he never lowers his voice.” (Susan Sontag) And: “There is no question in my mind that Larry Kramer helped change medicine in this country for the better. In American medicine, there are two eras. Before Larry and after Larry.” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a director of the National Institutes of Health and America’s leading AIDS doctor (As quoted in The New Yorker).
Larrry Kramer died at the age of eighty-four in May, 2020.