West Villager Larry Kramer, American playwright, author, film producer, public health advocate, LGBT rights activist and the principal founder of ACT UP and GMHC, died May 27 at the age of 84. As the foremost and most vocal and proactive leader in the fight against AIDS, he was a public foe of Ed Koch, New York’s closeted former mayor who refused to address the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. They were neighbors at Two Fifth Ave, where Edie Windsor and Bella Abzug had also lived.
Renowned as a playwright for The Normal Heart, an autobiographical play focusing on the early days of the AIDS crisis, Kramer was a firebrand and forceful leader who was known for posing the Hamletesque provocation—either we fight or we die—at the LGBT Community Center in March 1987, leading to the creation of ACT UP.
In Kramer’s own words, “I was trying to make people united and angry. I was known as the angriest man in the world, mainly because I discovered that anger got you further than being nice. And when we started to break through in the media, I was better TV than someone who was nice.”