US playwright, author and Aids activist Larry Kramer has died at the age of 84.
Kramer wrote the landmark 1985 play The Normal Heart, about the early years of Aids, and 1992’s The Destiny of Me.
He was a pivotal and confrontational figure during the Aids crisis in the 1980s, co-founding the first gay men’s support group and aggressively lobbying officials to take action.
He had made his name as a screenwriter, earning an Oscar nomination in 1971 for adapting DH Lawrence’s Women in Love.
He also published the best-selling but controversial novel Faggots in 1977.
At the start of the 1980s, he put his energies into rallying support and awareness for the fight against HIV and Aids.
‘Behind enemy lines’
Kramer first became aware of the disease after friends living next door in New York died. “No one was saying anything,” he later said.
“I often make the comparison with a war reporter whose parachute drops behind enemy lines and he realises he’s faced with the greatest story he can tell. I was not a political person before all this.”
After a meeting of about 80 people in his apartment in 1982, he helped found Gay Men’s Health Crisis and began fundraising, campaigning and writing about the subject.
“You should have seen the faces,” he said of that meeting. “We all had friends who died… If one of us had it, we all had it.”
‘Heart of gold’
He later formed Act Up, a radical protest group, and in 1989 learned he was HIV positive himself and suffering from liver damage.
He had a liver transplant in 2001 and was given experimental HIV drugs by Anthony Fauci – the medical researcher now leading the fight against the coronavirus in the US.
Dr Fauci told the 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.”
Kramer’s friend and literary executor Will Schwalbe said the playwright’s death was not related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked by the BBC World Service in 1995 whether it was possible to be both an activist and a writer, Kramer replied: “Why not? The question that occurs to me all the time is why so few other writers are.
“What annoys me so much about England and America is most of the writers are so removed from politics.”