Playwright larry myers and gay politics
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Worldwide protests erupt after reports of a gay concentration camp in Chechnya
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He is a legendary—and controversial—figure in the gay rights movement. Larry myesr diagnosed with HIV in the mids. He ans died in from hepatitis B in the Playwrifht. He is now over 70 mywrs old. Larry Kramer joins us today in our firehouse studio. Plauwright to Democracy Now! Thank you for having me here. It moves me to see the footage of the ashes. I never saw that film, and so many of those faces are dead. Whatever was happening happened in my group of friends inwhen the first article appeared in The New York Times saying 41 cases. Friedman-Kien at New York University. And I just knew he was right. What did you understand it was at the time? Well, I mean, he said he thought it was a virus.
He said the same thing that the government refused to say: And no one wanted to hear any of that. I just knew it. We had had so many illnesses in our population before then—a lot of syphilis, a lot of gonorrhea, a lot of amoebas, a lot of hepatitis. And it was like everything was being escalated. And, as I say, my friends first died; in my population, the kids on Fire Island, all the houses around us at Fire Island Pines, were the first people who died. Friedman-Kien spoke to us.
And there were just a handful of us who started meeting regularly, as regularly as you could get a bunch of people together in those days. That was a major disappointment to me. They would not take a stand. The president was in the closet, and all they wanted to do was pass out information about what might be happening — no recommendations, no political pressure of any sort. I was not a political person in I had been a film producer. I had been assistant to the president of United Artists and then Columbia Pictures, never participated in gay politics, never marched in a gay parade — basically a shy person.
And I learned my lesson slowly, what you had to do to fight. And it was a long lesson, and one is still learning it, and one still is sad to see that so few other people have learned it. What do you mean the president was in the closet? He was an executive with what was then called Irving Trust Company. And he was in the closet at work, so he would not appear in public. Go out there and be our spokesperson. So there were a lot of fights about visibility. How do you see that? And so, I wrote a piece in the L. Times recently saying this is hate. If you could talk about the actions—to say the least, they were creative—over the years, quite astonishing actions. It was a further demo.
And we were basically making the statement: And they did lower the price because of that. However, they raised the price of another drug, but we made a point. We had success from the very beginning, I must say. Larry Kramer is our guest. We are showing video images of various protests through this broadcast, and for those who are listening on the radio, they are available at our website at democracynow. Larry, as we were watching, you were commenting. An awful lot of people helped that happen. Takes a lot of government inaction to allow 70 million people to get infected. They actually published a letter of mine about Ronald Reagan being a monster and that he was responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler, because his entire seven-eight years in office, next to nothing was done on HIV, on AIDS.
So, during those seven years, just about every gay man who had sex anywhere in the world had been exposed to the virus. It was in an amfAR benefit in Washington, D. He said it in a very derogatory way. Everybody that was gay in the audience booed him. And he was really upset that somebody actually booed him. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
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What do you gayy stopped him from saying this for the vast majority of his term? Well, Gary Bauer, who was his domestic policy adviser, in a meeting with me in in the White House office said these words, that the president is unalterably and irrevocably opposed to anything having to do with homosexuality. So nothing was done. I wanted to jump forward from Reagan to the Gulf War.
Gay people have a wonderful amount of imagination. We like to joke. How many more have to die? All eyes were not on the pulpit at St. What about your focus on the Catholic Church and the protests even within the Church that were so controversial? It was an amazing demonstration. There were a lot of Catholic kids in ACT UP, and they were very angry, not only because of the Church refusing to acknowledge what was happening to us, but for their attitude about homosexuality, declaring these kids sick. And so, there was a lot of anger. And the demonstration was wonderful. And suddenly, we were not longer limp-wristed fairies.
We were men in black boots and black jeans and tough, and that became our image. And it made us, I think. And people were suddenly afraid of us. I can remember, not shortly thereafter, going to a meeting with one of the drug companies that I was sitting — Hoffmann-La Roche — and sitting next to a doctor who was shaking. And I asked somebody else during a break, why is doctor so-and-so shaking? Now, in that year,20 years ago, was that when you were diagnosed HIV-positive?
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