Larry Kramer, the prolific and often furious author, playwright, and AIDS activist, is dead at 84, according to the New York Times. Kramer, who had lived with liver disease (and was inaccurately reported as dead after a transplant in 2001) and a long-lasting HIV infection, died of pneumonia. Kramer was a founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in 1981, with which he fell out, and later of the more militant ACT UP, famed for its die-ins and other mass protests during the AIDS crisis. His play The Normal Heart, also adapted into an HBO movie, dramatized the early years of the AIDS epidemic, with Kramer-like character Ned Weeks raising hell at its center. Kramer had become friendly with Dr. Anthony Fauci, now at the center of America’s coronavirus response, who was an antagonist during the early AIDS years.
Kramer had early success writing the screenplay for 1969’s Women in Love, which he also produced. He later scandalized the gay and straight worlds with his 1978 novel Faggots, a scathing depiction of pre-AIDS sexual excess. With the arrival of the AIDS epidemic, Kramer became heavily involved in activism, and The Normal Heart was first produced at the Public Theater in 1985. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his 1992 play The Destiny of Me, which picks up where The Normal Heart left off. Kramer continued to write — and to raise hell against the Establishment — throughout the rest of his life, before and after his liver transplant. Often, he focused on his massive historical-survey-slash-novel The American People, released to limited acclaim in two parts in 2015 and 2020. According to the Times, Kramer was at work on a new play before his death “about gay people having to live through three plagues”: HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, and the decline of the human body.