Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Update on Larry Kramer: 'Uncompromising as Ever'

(Kushner, left, chatting with Kramer in June. Credit: Howard Heyman, New York Historical Society, via Gay City News.)

My friend Dr. Larry Mass, a co-founder of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, among his many contributions to the well-being of LGBT people everywhere as well as the author of "We All Must Love One Another or Die: The Life and Legacy of Larry Kramer", shares an update on the cherished gay writer and angry prophet who changed the course of the AIDS epidemic.

After speaking with Dr. Tony Fauci at the Lancet's AIDS conference last week about my friend Larry Kramer from our ACT UP/NYC days together, I asked Larry Mass for some info on Larry Kramer and he's provided me with this report:

Many well-wishers have inquired about Larry's health. Here's what I know. Many details are missing. Larry had a liver transplant for liver failure from chronic active hepatitis approximately a decade ago. The transplant was a success, but in recent years there have been problems with fluid accumulation. 

Prior to his recent surgery, the last time Larry appeared in public was in June for a one-on-one interview with Tony Kushner at the New York Historical Society, the highlight event of NYHS's featured exhibit on the first five years of the epidemic. Although visibly weakened by his condition, for more than an hour Larry more than held his own. In fact, he was triumphant. 

During the summer, Larry underwent surgery and the next we heard about him was an announcement in the New York Times of his hospital-bed marriage to his long-term partner, David Webster. 

More recently, while still hospitalized, Larry was able to attend a PEN awards event honoring him. Larry continues to recuperate at a rehabilitation facility in New York where he is able to undergo daily physical therapy. 

My life partner, Arnie Kantrowitz, and I had the good fortune to visit with him there October 27. It gave us the opportunity to thank Larry in person for re-energizing Arnie's pursuit of a kidney transplant, which Arnie got 14 mos ago, and which has been successful. Exhausted by dialysis, Arnie's enthusiasm for resuming pursuit of a transplant had bottomed out. At my request, Larry sent him a critically timed email that jump-started Arnie's motivation to get back in touch with the transplant facility. 3 months later, Arnie got his transplant (he had been on the list for over 3 years)--one week before Hurricane Sandy blacked out his dialysis center and our apartment. 

Although he has lost a lot of weight and is visibly weak, Larry is discernibly brimming with positive energy and his recovery appears to be progressing well. I don't know if he ate the Lilac chocolates we brought him (Larry is a milk--not dark!--chocaholic), but hopefully so. He needs to gain weight. 

Apparently, he got the iPad he wanted because he just sent AIDS activist John-Manuel Andriote a note of encouragement re Andriote's latest Huffpost, Dear Mr. President, Please Stop Wasting HIV Prevention Funding and Start Saving Our Lives

 Around the time of the NYHS panel, I had an email exchange with Larry that was at once moving and telling. All these great things are happening to me now, he said, but it's hard to enjoy them. It was a poignant moment, but if there was any doubt about whether Larry Kramer was still Larry Kramer, there was a vintage expression of exasperation about how he had all these top fucking doctors, none of whom could figure out how to fix his fucking liver! 

Never one to accept any status quo, he knew that the surgery they were suggesting would be arduous and painful and he wasn't about to undergo it without challenging them at every level. Now on the other side of this latest of his life's many battles and however physically weakened, at the PEN event, he chastised writers for thinking too small. 

Clearly, Larry Kramer is still very much alive and with us, as outspoken, controversial and uncompromising as ever.

Praise the Goddess for that! Thanks, Larry Mass, for this update and glad you're partner Arnie is doing well. Here's wishing Larry Kramer all the best as he grapples with his health and life issues.


DavidEhrenstein said...

Thanks for the update. A day doesn't go by when I don't think about Larry.

Jonathan Ned Katz said...

Just want to say how important Arnie Kantrowitz was to my coming out. I recall a 1971 GAA meeting at the Church on 28th Street and 9th Avenue where Arnie proclaimed: "We're demonstrating for our lives!" We still are. Sincerely, Jonathan Ned Katz

Michael Petrelis said...

Jonathan, Larry Mass sent me a shorter version of this update that omitted the info on Arnie. I didn't use it because I thought a few readers would appreciate knowing about his health concerns and that Arnie is doing well. I think I did the right thing, after reading this sweet note of yours!