Still Acting Up
Larry Kramer and Lakeside Living
Larry Kramer is a happy man. Hardly a happy-go-lucky guy, but a thoughtful and mature, intelligent, and gifted artist, who has achieved enormous success in his life as a playwright, author, and activist. Kramer has been one of the most controversial figures in the arts. His heartbreaking play The Normal Heart, about the early days of the AIDS crisis, still resonates today.
In the face of extreme criticism, he stood up to suggest that perhaps the gay community should begin to take some measures to save themselves from unprotected sex, founding the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) as well as ACT UP (Aids Coalition to Unleash Power). “I am most happy when I am writing or thinking about writing,” says Kramer. “In fact, I am really a workaholic. I get up after 10 a.m., eat breakfast, walk the dog, and then am happy to work til midnight.”
Working on one computer with two 30-inch monitors that enable him to go back and forth between screens, his work life operates at a fever-ish pitch these days. “I am experiencing a renaissance,” he modestly shared with me. The Normal Heart will be an HBO film and begins shooting next month with a cast including Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Joe Mantello, and Alfred Molina. A film documentary on Kramer’s life (also on HBO) will coincide with the airing early next summer of The Normal Heart. He is completing a work he is most proud of—a 3,000-page novel called The American People, a history of America to be published by Farrar Straus and he is working on another film with Ryan Murphy. In addition, Kramer was given a great honor at this June’s Tony Award ceremony, as the recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award which acknowledges his work as a humanitarian.
Adding to this flurry of professional activity, he has put up for sale the New Preston home that he shares with his partner since the early 1990s, architect David Webster. Just on the market through Stacey Matthews of William Raveis, the elegant, barn-style structure sits on over 15 acres with 180-degree views of Lake Waramaug. “David and I had lived in the Hamptons and on Fire Island and when we got together, we wanted something new. I wanted to look at water. We found what was a boring house on a great piece of land and bought it. David developed it over the years to what it is today.” From his study here he says he does much of his best writing.
Ready to downsize to a smaller home, he adores New Preston and is searching for another residence here. “I love the friendliness of living in a small town like this. All the shopkeepers know me, I chat with them daily as I walk through town, doing my errands, picking up my paper at Nine Main,” he says. “Besides, David and I have so many wonderful friends here, we would never want to lose touch with them.”
What does he think about gay marriage today? “These are feel good marriages with none of the government benefits that straight marriages have. We are waiting for the real McCoy.”
And, what does he think of the rise in AIDS cases these days? “Young people are in major denial. They think they are immune and that life will be all peaches and cream if one just takes the proper cocktail of medication. Not so.”
Kramer rarely dresses in anything but his signature farmer’s overalls—his arms and fingers laden with turquoise jewelry. “It’s about the only thing I am superstitious about.” Years ago a fortune teller told him that wearing turquoise would keep him healthy. So when he first became ill with a liver ailment, he began donning many many pieces of the jewelry simultaneously. When we talked, he wore five rings and nine bracelets. And as he said with an earnest smile, “Hey, I’m still here!” He most certainly is.