'One of America's Most Valuable Troublemakers' Dies

AIDS activist, playwright Larry Kramer was 84
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2020 1:09 PM CDT
Playwright, AIDS Activist Larry Kramer Dies at 84
This June 12, 2011 photo shows Larry Kramer and Daryl Roth embracing after they won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for "The Normal Heart" during the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York.   (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen, File)

In the 1980s, playwright and fiercely confrontational AIDS activist Larry Kramer slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci as a murderer and an "incompetent idiot" for failing to move fast enough on research. But the two later became friends, with Fauci crediting Kramer, who died Wednesday morning, with playing a key role in the development of drug treatments that could help people with HIV live longer lives. Kramer's husband, David Webster, says the 84-year-old died from pneumonia, the New York Times reports. Kramer was an outspoken advocate for AIDS research starting in the early '80s, when the disease was being called the "gay plague," reports the Washington Post. He founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis group in New York in 1982, followed by the more radical ACT UP in 1987.

ACT UP fought to raise awareness with stunts like shutting down the New York Stock Exchange and covering the house of conservative Sen. Jesse Helms in a giant condom. Susan Sontag once called Kramer "one of America's most valuable troublemakers," and Kramer, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, acknowledged that "we’re not here to make friends, we’re here to raise the issues." His largely autobiographical play The Normal Heart, which looked at the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York, won awards on Broadway and became an Emmy-winning TV drama. In March he started work on a play about gay men living through the "three plagues" of AIDS, aging, and COVID-19. "The government has been awful in both cases," he told the Times. "They were terrible with AIDS and they're terrible with this thing. One wonders what will become of us." (More Larry Kramer stories.)

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