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In memory of Larry Kramer

Posted May 28, 2020

We're saddened by the passing of trailblazing AIDS activist and award-winning writer Larry Kramer (1935-2020).

One of the first and most significant figures in the gay rights movement and fight against AIDS, Kramer co-founded the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) in 1981, a leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy. His political activism continued with the founding of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in 1987, a protest organization that worked diligently to spark more public action to fight the AIDS crisis.

Leonard Bernstein shared in Kramer's sense of advocacy and the urgent need for activism surrounding the AIDS crisis. Throughout the 1980s, the two friends worked together on several benefit initiatives for GMHC and American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR).

On April 30, 1983, Bernstein participated in the first GMHC fundraiser Kramer spearheaded at Madison Square Garden. Billed as “The Biggest Gay Event of All Time,” the occasion raised over $250,000 and helped galvanize the movement and its visibility. Bernstein conducted mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Orchestra in the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Kramer recounts in his book “Reports from the Holocaust”: “Leonard Bernstein walking across the length of Madison Square Garden in his white dinner jacket to conduct the circus orchestra in the national anthem, while eighteen thousand gay men and their friends and families cheered, was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced.”

Our deepest condolences to Larry's husband David Webster, and to all inspired by him.