Father Tony

The Fresh Bile And Sex Life Of Larry Kramer

Filed By Father Tony | May 03, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: larry kramer

Out today in The South Florida Gay News

An hour into my conversation with iconic HIV activist and author Larry Kramer, he paused and said "Darling, you're getting an interview out of me that no one else has ever had. Your editor should be well pleased with you."

We had been talking about the seventy-four year old Larry Kramer's sex life!


I consider Larry Kramer's perpetual insistence that we not sweep AIDS under the rug to be heroic. Others take an opposite view of a man whose voice has been the constant deafening siren of an ambulance since his days as a founder of both GMHC and ACT UP in the 1980s. In 2007, he said that Ronald Reagan is responsible for more deaths than Adolf Hitler.

Having read his book Faggots when it was new in 1978, I had decided he was not a great writer. I changed that sour opinion many years later when I read his Florida based Mrs. Teffilin, a short story that is one of the best ever written. When I told him this, Larry Kramer corrected my pronunciation. "Teh-FILL-in, not TEH-fuh-lin" he schooled this goy.

Larry Kramer continues to work on his 4,000 page history of the strife of homosexuality to be published in two volumes with the title The American People, a phrase often used by Ronald Reagan whom he despises. He has been tackling this mammoth project off and on since 1978 and its destiny has become a contest between death and his publisher. Kramer who tested positive for HIV in 1988 gives evidence that the publisher may win. He survived a liver transplant in 2001, and uses his fresh bile to attack the same enemies.

"I don't like Mr. Obama. He is just another in a long line of presidents who have dumped all over us. He is not honoring his campaign commitments. I really think he hates gay people and we are not dealing with this in an effective way. It's nice that he wants to protect our right to hospital visitation but it's no big deal.

"We are too passive and too invisible and too unwilling to demand our equality. This continues to be very painful for me. When I speak about this, people either say 'He's right' or 'There she goes again'. I'm used to it."

I steered him back to speaking about longevity.

"I've been thinking a lot about older gay men because I'm almost 75. I've suddenly started being horny again! My partner and I have known each other since the late 1960s. This is our second time together. Seventeen years this time. He gave me permission to explore, but what does a 75 year old do when he wants to crawl in bed with a hot young body? I think this is the biggest unwritten thing and there must be an awful lot of older men like me who are hungry for another sexual chapter before they die. I don't think we talk about it enough.

When I asked him how he handled his new vigor, he surprised me.

"Almost as research for my book, I joined two hook-up sites and posted my profile on both of them. I get a lot of views but I get no takers. Only a couple of old ACT UP members wrote to say they recognized me."

I checked out his profiles. His photos are impish, happy and attractive. I suggested that the lack of response might be due to intimidation by the prospect of being in bed with the formidable Larry Kramer. He laughed when I offered that my own hands would be shaking under his covers.

"I take a lot of pills for my HIV and my liver transplant. Erections are a sometime thing, but I can still have an orgasm. I'm grateful for my favorite gay porn sites. In the old days I'd just go down the street to the baths."

These days, Larry Kramer worries about the appearance of his body, distended and scarred by disease and surgery. He explained his signature overalls as a way to hide his lack of a waist. When I assured him that many men find scars sexually attractive because they are evidence of experience, he said "Well I've got plenty of stories on my belly."

He is well aware that some will find the idea of a sexually active Larry Kramer at odds with his insistence that gay men learn to police their own sex lives.

"People think I'm the one who demanded that gay men stop fucking altogether but you have to realize that in 1981 or 82, one had to be something of an alarmist. People would say you're going to scare us to death and I'd say that's what I want."

He says that his research and interviews with the owners of hook-up sites lead him to believe that younger gay men are having more sex, but this does not alleviate the enormous loneliness that applies to both young and old gay men. He is also quick to say that new gay sex is hardly carefree.

"Somewhere in your unconscious brain the specter of AIDS lurks, no matter how stoned you are and even with a condom. When ACT UP was in its ending years, I remember one of its most important members Jim Eigo saying to me that we haven't finished our work until we bring sex back again."

Never the shirker, Larry Kramer fears not finishing both sex and his book.

"I worry that I won't have enough time and good health to finish this book. I always wanted to write a really long book but you have no idea what it is like to even edit 4,000 pages. I worry that I will lose some sort of mental facility before I'm done."

Let those who respond to his online profile be forewarned. For the sake of the book and because we need his strong voice, do not tire him out.


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Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | May 3, 2010 12:10 PM

Kramer often cancels out 20 minutes of wisdom with a single sentence like "Americans hate us," but that doesn't erase the fact that without him AIDS might still be daily killing an extraordinary number of gays and nongays in the U.S. and around the world, tho the latter is still disproportionately high through no fault of his.

Which brings me to the truth of his indictment of Reagan. Who can objectively argue that had his administration responded immediately and forcefully to AIDS instead of ignoring [and making jokes about it] for several years the current worldwide death toll of 25+ million might have been prevented? And that there are gays such as the host of a certain popular gay sports site who worship Reagn gives rise to HOMOcidal thoughts.

On a lighter note, if for nothing else, Kramer should be appreciated for something else few remember: he produced "Women in Love," starring Glenda Jackson [who won the Oscar for her performance] and Alan Bates and Oliver Reed [all at their looksist-delighting peak] from the D.H. Lawrence novel exploring bisexuality.

As well as being, perhaps, the only seriously-watchable Ken Russell film, it is one of the most sensual films of all time, and not just because of its 41-yrs. ago-shocking scene of Bates and Reed wrestling full Monty nude to the point of symbolic orgasm in the glow of a giant fireplace, but also because of its celebration of all the senses, e.g., Alan Bates running [nude again] through a forest, reveling in the smell of the pine trees and the feel of their needles on his skin.

It's one of those films that MUST be experienced first on "the big screen," but here's a tease:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOlg5mxZXE8

A. J. Lopp | May 5, 2010 11:08 AM
Having read his book Faggots when it was new in 1978, I had decided he was not a great writer. I changed that sour opinion many years later ...

Although Faggots may not be a towering opus, Father Tony, you might have noted Kramer's impressive writing talent in light of his being the screenwriter for Ken Russell's 1970 film Women In Love. Many screenwriters had tackled this book previously, but none ended up with something that could be brought to the screen until Kramer framed out this complex D.H. Lawrence novel creatively and competently. (My friend Micheal points out, correctly, that Kramer was producer on this movie; actually, Kramer was both screenwriter and producer, with Martin Rosen as co-Producer, according to info at the New York Times website.)

Although I make cynical jokes about Kramer from time to time, my honest opinion of him is as high as any expressed here. His courage at taking action during the beginning of the AIDS crisis is equaled only by his initiative at writing his milestone play The Normal Heart (and followed by a less well-known sequel, The Destiny of Me). It has not been mentioned here that Kramer was one of the first, if not the first, major artist to address the AIDS crisis from the perspective of an artist. History will smile on him, indeed, and with good reason.

I'm ancient enough to remember his bombshell article about AIDS for the Village Voice — and how most people, even within our own community, laughed it off as simple-minded fear-mongering.

And FWIW, Faggots could have used a better editor. There are some wonderful gems within that novel's sprawling ideals. Still, even now, it, Dancer from the Dance, and Maupin's collected works will never leave my bookshelf.

Dear Sean Martin,
I was very much a Dancer from the Dance guy and still pick it up when passing its shelf and I'll open it to any page for a moment of bliss. I recently met guys who knew some of the real people on whom those characters were based! Because of that book, I think I unfairly tossed Faggots and I've asked my husband to fish our copy out of our Connecticut shelves and see how it sounds to him today and I'll be doing the same. I'm no longer the romantic young swoon looking to either meet or be Malone.

Funny, but I never wanted to meet or be Malone; he was like too many people I already knew. :-)

I'm so utterly jealous that you met Larry Kramer. He's been a hero to me for as long as I can remember. I love his hyperbole and alarmism, personally. I deal in the same currency. :)

Bil,
I think history will be very kind to Larry Kramer. Ever estimation will begin with something like "If it had not been for his voice..." As you know, I'm big on the authentic tradition of Christianity and the prophetic role is of interest to me. Both you and he sense your natural role as prophets. Prophets have a strong integrity that makes them inconvenient until the smoke clears.

Bubba-la | May 4, 2010 1:04 PM

I don’t know Larry Kramer, but of course I’m familiar with his work. When I ran into him recently at a friend’s place (he was leaving as I arrived), I was taken aback. His extreme jaundice on top of a near death-like pallor, and the distended body you noted, which is referred to in layman’s terms as a flabby belly, are shocking. But once I got beyond recognizing the natural consequences of prolonged HIV infection and the life-saving but deleterious effects of the drugs used to combat it, along with the good/bad karma of carrying around somebody else’s liver – how else should he look? – I quickly thought, “with all his bucks why doesn’t he get himself a gorgeous personal trainer to whip his little ass into shape?!!”

Other than that . . . the man is a total babe. Seriously. In the few minutes of banter we exchanged, all his utterly charming, funny, and alluring qualities shone through those scars of several lifetimes of experience. His good looks, humor, brilliant insight and creativity, all these you can rightly claim about every other person you’d run into on the streets of New York, but all those are only secondary compared to his truly redeeming qualities. For all of the invective that Larry Kramer is commonly known for, in truth he is a deeply loving Jewish mama-la – pushing all the right buttons, at the right time and place, with all the right stuff. Yes, this is painful at times, and rightly so, but that’s what mama-las do, and look at the result: How many people – gay, straight and in-between, of all colors and from everywhere around the world are alive today because of Larry Kramer. Some of us even imitate his confrontational style, or his creativity, but none are as good or successful, and no where near as real. Thank you, Larry Kramer, for being who you are.

Next time I see him, he better be wearing an enormous medal of honor on top of those trademark overalls, bestowed upon him by gay men everywhere. He is a gay man with whom we can all be well pleased, whether you agree with his politics or like his art or not. He is a living testimony to what it means to be a mensch, and whatever his sexual preferences are, all those who qualify to meet them please step up. I hope he gets his rocks off real good.