The new issue of New York magazine profiles Larry Kramer, whose actions on behalf of the gay community have spoken louder than his words, themselves a boisterous collection of plays, novels and journalism. In particular, the magazine is interested in the state of his decades-in-the-writing gay history-of, The American People, referred to in shorthand as "the gayest story ever told."
In telling the tale of the tale, and documenting Kramer's accomplishments, Jesse Green takes a detour to Dallas, where, in September, Kramer served as the honorary grand marshal of the 2009 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade through Oak Lawn.
He was, strangely, the honorary grand marshal of Dallas's 2009 pride parade. Never having been so honored in New York, he was flattered. Still, after a lifetime spent in opposition, at 74 he seemed to find the perquisites of tribute both awkward and insufficient. What happened to the convertible he was promised? Was the day too hot for the horse? Would anyone listen to his speech at the end?
For he was aware that few of the 35,000 revelers along the parade route seemed to know who he was, despite a sign hastily attached to the coach and despite a three-minute biographical video that for the previous few weeks had been looping in gay bars amid the regular fare of sports, music, and porn. The video, produced by the Dallas Tavern Guild, which also produces the parade, emphasized the AIDS work that made Kramer both a hero and a lightning rod for controversy, in particular his co-founding of Gay Men's Health Crisis in 1982 and, when that ended badly for him, his creation of ACT UP in 1987. Arguably, these organizations were responsible, in their good-cop-bad-cop way, for bringing drugs to market that now make it possible for millions of HIV-positive people to live reasonably normal lives. As a side effect, they also instigated a fundamental shift in the way the public participates in decisions about health policy and pharmaceutical research. His former archenemy, now friend, Anthony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, divides American medicine broadly into two eras: "Before Larry and after Larry." So while it was nice that Dallas named him an honorary grand marshal, putting him in the company of such luminaries as Bruce Vilanch, why has this man not been awarded a Nobel Prize?
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Coincidentally, the grand marshal of that very same parade -- Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez -- makes an appearance in The New York Times this morning, in a piece about how "Gay Candidates Get Support That Causes May Not." As in: When she ran the first time, against Danny Chandler, Valdez's sexuality was an issue, especially late in the race; the second go-round, it was the county jail. "It's like anything else," Valdez says. "When it becomes close and personal, it's not hateful anymore."