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Larry Kramer

Noted Playwright And AIDS Activist Larry Kramer, Dead At 84

Larry Kramer David Shankbone / CC BY
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NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — Larry Kramer, a playwright who helped to raise consciousness about AIDS in the earliest days of the epidemic has died. He was 84.

Kramer’s husband, David Webster, told the New York Times that Kramer died Wednesday of pneumonia.

A native of Connecticut, Kramer attended Yale University and eventually landed a job at Columbia Pictures where he got his first professional experience as a writer adjusting scripts for the studio.

Kramer then turned his attention to the stage, where he began exploring themes of homosexuality and desire, starting with “Sissies’ Scrapbook” in 1973. Later renamed to “Four Friends” the production debuted at the off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons and received a favorable review from the New York Times but failed to land with audiences and quickly closed.

In 1978, Kramer wrote “Faggots” a novel detailing the lives of gay men in Fire Island and Manhattan. The novel initially sparked a negative reaction, even in the gay community and was pulled from the shelves of gay bookstores, including Manhattan’s Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore.

However, ‘Faggots’ went on to become one of the best-selling gay novels of all time.

“Faggots struck a chord. 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,” wrote commentator Andrew Sullivan in the introduction of the 2000 Grove Press edition.

In the early 1980s, as AIDS began to sweep through New York’s gay community, Kramer organized a group that would later become the advocacy group Gay Men’s Health Crisis and wrote essays such as “1,112 and Counting” detailing the spread of the disease.

Kramer became known for his confrontational style, taking on political figures such as New York Mayor Ed Koch, and even the GMHC, who he accused of political apathy.

His militancy, and criticism of the organization he helped to found led to the removal of Kramer from GMHC’s board in 1983.

After a visit to Europe, Kramer was inspired to pen what is perhaps his best known work “A Normal Heart” which tells the story of a man nursing his sick and dying lover while doctors attempt to unravel the mystery of the fatal disease.

The play ran for over year at the Public Theater and has since been produced over 600 times in the U.S. and Europe. In 2014, HBO produced a film version based on a script written by Kramer.

In 1988, Kramer learned that he too was HIV positive and suffered from several complications, including hepatitis B, which left him with a damaged liver for which he underwent a liver transplant in 2001.

Kramer maintained a longtime relationship with architectural designer David Webster and the two married in 2013.

Following news of Kramer’s death, social media was alight with tributes, including Sir Elton John, who wrote:

“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.”

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