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Kramer, Larry


KRAMER, LARRY (1935– ), U.S. writer and social activist. Born in Bridgeport, Conn., Kramer earned a B.A. degree from Yale University in 1957. Entering British films, he produced and wrote dialogue for Here We Go Round the Mulberrry Bush in 1967. Three years later he adapted the D.H. Lawrence novel Women in Love and produced the Ken Russell film. His adaptation won four Oscar nominations, including best screenplay. He also wrote the screenplay for the 1973 remake of Lost Horizon, which Kramer called "the only thing in life I am ashamed of." Nevertheless, the film was a financial success for him. In 1978 his sexually audacious novel Faggots appeared, and it remained in print for more than 20 years. The book was an indictment of a homosexual lifestyle on Fire Island, n.y., that equated promiscuity with liberation. His 1985 play about aids, The Normal Heart, had more than 600 productions worldwide.

Kramer was among the early public figures to identify and publicize the disease aids and became one of the leaders in the decades-long history of aids advocacy in the United States. He responded to the spread of the disease among homosexual men by founding the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City, the first and largest aids service organization in the world, and later, frustrated by what he saw as the medical community's inadequate response to the epidemic, he founded act up, the international aids advocacy and protest organization. The latter organization used guerrilla-style protests and extensive negotiations to accelerate the development of treatments for the disease. He caused scenes on several television programs, identifying homosexuals who were hiding their sexual identity, in an effort to call attention and jolt public action into finding a cure for a disease that had been a scourge since its identification in 1981. He himself contracted hiv and hepatitis b some time in the 1970s, he said, but the treatments for the disease damaged his liver. In 2001, after a change in policy by several transplant centers, Kramer received a new liver. He then began agitating for changes in the organ-donor system to make more organs available.

He published a collection of essays, Reports From the Holocaust: The Making of an aids Activist (1989); a short play, Just Say No (1988); and The Furniture of Home (1989). The Destiny of Me, which had its premiere in 1993, continued the story of the main character in The Normal Heart.

In 2001 Kramer donated his papers to Yale for the creation of a Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies. Kramer's brother, Arthur, also a Yale graduate, gave $1 million to set up the study program.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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