Playwright, activist Larry Kramer turns 80 but ‘the fight’s never over’

In this June 12, 2011 photo, Larry Kramer accepts the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for "The Normal Heart" during the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York. Kramer, the playwright and AIDS activist turns 80 on Monday, June 29, 2015, and neither recent illness nor the glow of a new marriage has softened the urgency of his demands.

In this June 12, 2011 photo, Larry Kramer accepts the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for "The Normal Heart" during the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York. Kramer, the playwright and AIDS activist turns 80 on Monday, June 29, 2015, and neither recent illness nor the glow of a new marriage has softened the urgency of his demands. Jeff Christensen, AP

In this June 12, 2011 photo, Larry Kramer accepts the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for "The Normal Heart" during the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York. Kramer, the playwright and AIDS activist turns 80 on Monday, June 29, 2015, and neither recent illness nor the glow of a new marriage has softened the urgency of his demands.Jeff Christensen, AP

In this June 12, 2011 photo, Larry Kramer accepts the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for “The Normal Heart” during the 65th annual Tony Awards in New York. Kramer, the playwright and AIDS activist turns 80 on Monday, June 29, 2015, and neither recent illness nor the glow of a new marriage has softened the urgency of his demands.

NEW YORK — He refuses to go quietly into that good night. Larry Kramer continues to rage.

The playwright and activist turns 80 on Thursday and neither recent illness nor the glow of a new marriage has softened the urgency of his demands.

“There’s so many things I still want to do and there are so many fights still to win. I try to concentrate on that,” he said recently in his Manhattan apartment. “The fight’s never over.”

Kramer, who wrote “The Normal Heart” and founded the advocacy group ACT UP, is angry that AIDS infection rates aren’t falling and there’s still no cure, even as diseases like Ebola grab headlines.

“No one is talking about AIDS. It’s been 35 years, this plague, and we still don’t have as much to fight it as we should have,” he says. “Right now AIDS is worse than ever before.”

His fiery temper, which roused thousands to protests in the early years of the epidemic, is part of a new HBO documentary airing Monday that offers an intimate look at the crusader.

“Larry Kramer in Love & Anger” shows Kramer from his troubled relationship with his father to his suicide attempt at Yale, from his divisive 1978 novel “Faggots” to his role in both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP.

“The one nice thing that I seem to have acquired, accidentally, is this reputation of everyone afraid of my voice,” he says with a smile. “So I get heard, whether it changes anything or not.”

Director Jean Carlomusto has known Kramer since 1986 and wasn’t afraid to show his irascible side. She admits there have been times when she’s wanted to scream at Kramer, but she also credits him with teaching her how to fight back.

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“Larry has a very strong sense of justice. If something is wrong, he’s going to say that. He’s going to scream it in the face of whoever he feels is the evil-doer. That’s very much programed into Larry,” she says.

Among the film’s highlights is rare access to Kramer’s hospital room in 2013 when he got married to his longtime partner, David Webster, while recovering from complications following a liver transplant.

The moment is bittersweet: The legendary gay rights activist finally gets to celebrate his union legally, but is so sick that he couldn’t sign his name. He had planned to exchange vows on his balcony but was knocked into a stupor two days before the event.

“It certainly wasn’t the wedding present one wanted to share,” he says. Pointing to his head, he adds: “I’m just grateful the old thing still works, because evidentially it didn’t for a while.”

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