The Life and Times of Vito Russo
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Download PDF (33.9 KB)
Download PDF (54.4 KB)
In the early stages of research for this book, I phoned playwright Doric Wilson for an interview. I had barely announced my intention to write a biography of Vito Russo when the above response came booming back through the receiver. Doric’s endorsement, though more bluntly phrased than most, was typical. For the past four years, I have been astounded by the generosity of people...
Download PDF (41.9 KB)
When Jay’s article appeared in Pride ’09, I was jolted to see “Who in the World Is Vito Russo?” plastered across the first page. The next time I spoke to Jay, he was furious. The title, he told me, had been imposed by Pride ’s editor, who didn’t think that Vito’s name would be familiar to current readers. I conceded the point and went back to my manuscript,...
1. Birth of a New Yorker
Download PDF (111.9 KB)
Early in 1980, Vito Russo joined the staff of London’s Gay News. When he confessed his infatuation with British culture and men to his best friend, activist and author Arnie Kantrowitz, he received this tart reply: “Don’t think you’ll get away with ‘cheerio’ and ‘ring me up’ around here. Acquired British accents crack like stale meringue . . . and we...
2. Jersey Boy
Download PDF (122.0 KB)
With one ear tuned to the Yankees broadcast, twelve-year-old Charlie gazed westward. The young jock couldn’t wait to ditch East Harlem’s cramped streets for the fresh green grass of the Jersey fields. As Charlie watched the Palisades swell through the windshield, the radio suddenly squawked in triumph: right-fielder Roger Maris had just...
3. Return of the Native
Download PDF (123.9 KB)
Vito sat stunned in a Village dive. It was shortly after 3 a.m. on June 5, 1968, and Senator Robert Kennedy had just been assassinated in Los Angeles. The news settled over the assortment of drag queens, transsexuals, leathermen, Warhol superstars, and gay transients who regularly swamped Mama’s Chick’N’Rib, the restaurant where Vito was working as a counterman...
4. Birth of an Activist
Download PDF (684.3 KB)
Michael Morrissey couldn’t wait to introduce Vito to Arnie Kantrowitz. Given the secretary’s razor wit and love of Hollywood arcana, the two seemed a preordained match. Arnie was a Staten Island Community College professor of English who had only recently accepted his homosexuality after two suicide attempts. When he attended the...
5. “Professional Movement Flash and Trash”
Download PDF (170.9 KB)
Shortly after the 1973 gala, John Paul Hudson reflected on GAA, the Continental Baths, and the Bette Midler craze. He decided that the scene had the makings of a spicy comedy-thriller. The result, coauthored with playwright Warren Wexler, was Superstar Murder? A Prose Flick (1976), a sexy, spoofy roman à clef detailing the apparent murder of “Bess Mittman,” principal chanteuse at...
6. Building the Closet
Download PDF (150.4 KB)
Politically he was in despair. He returned to a country pitching itself into right-wing freefall. On November 4, 1980, Vito, Arnie, and Jim huddled around Vito’s ten-inch television screen and watched numbly as Ronald Reagan trounced rivals Jimmy Carter and John Anderson. Republicans swept the Senate races and racked up thirty-three seats in the House of Representatives. Alphonse D’Amato,...
7. “A Time of Major Change”
Download PDF (176.9 KB)
Electricity crackled beneath the Castro marquee. Six feet four inches tall and perched atop his ladder, Jeffrey Sevcik towered over Vito—indeed, over the entire street. His golden hair glinted in the afternoon light as he struggled, his hands full of slippery plastic letters, to maintain balance ten feet off the ground. He flashed Vito a grin before turning back to his...
8. The Activist in Wartime
Download PDF (196.4 KB)
After Jeff ’s death, Vito collapsed in grief and self-blame. The lover he had three times turned out of his home was gone forever. For the first time, Vito confessed, “I understand real guilt, regret, recrimination.” While mourning, he panicked to see a second KS lesion appear on his skin. Time was no longer his friend. A few months from his fortieth birthday, he...
Download PDF (51.0 KB)
The following week, the Bergen Record published Annie’s letter to the editor. “A better son my husband and I could never find,” she wrote. “I have a hole in my heart that cannot be mended.” In her grief, Annie adopted Vito’s political fury. “I lost the love of my life through neglect, homophobia, and hatred, from the lack of love and compassion of doctors...
Download PDF (209.5 KB)
Interviews and Personal Communications
Download PDF (41.8 KB)
Download PDF (83.9 KB)
Download PDF (232.4 KB)
Page Count: 366
Illustrations: 25 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2011