COVER DESIGN BY MICHAEL SHIREY/ LARRY KRAMER PHOTO BY DAVID SHANKBONE/ LION COURTESY OF ISTOCK/ COPYRIGHT EVGEN555
Most people opposing Donald Trump figure his supporters are beyond conversion therapy and are focusing on getting out the vote for their side.
But Larry Kramer, not usually known for his diplomacy, made a heartfelt and passionate appeal in an open letter to billionaire developer Steve Roth, whom he calls a friend, to resign from Trump’s group of economic advisers, especially given the Republican presidential nominee’s promises to roll back LGBT rights if elected — and his refusal to meet with LGBT and AIDS activists.
The letter — which Kramer posted on Facebook on August 9, almost 35 years to the day after he convened a group of gay men in his Manhattan apartment to launch what would become Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the first New York response to the crippling AIDS epidemic — quickly went viral with 1,327 shares on Facebook, drawing praise from voices including California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and feminist writer Erica Jong, among many.
Pioneering AIDS activist takes on Steve Roth, his Broadway producer’s spouse
“I don’t know why but I was incredibly shocked and disappointed when it was announced that you had become one of Donald Trump’s billionaire brain trust,” Kramer wrote. “I could not believe that you could support a candidate, a vice-president, and a party that threatens many of the things that you hold most dear.”
Perhaps it should not have surprised Kramer that Roth backs Trump. Though the two men have been competitors, they’ve also been partners in the real estate industry where Roth’s Vornado Realty Trust is the largest commercial player in New York. As reported in CrainsNewYork.com, Trump, at his New York primary victory party in April, called the Vornado chief, who was in attendance, “the great Steve Roth,” using an adjective he typically reserves to himself. According to Crain’s, Trump and Roth share ownership in a Sixth Avenue tower that is the second-largest in Vornado’s portfolio — and one of only three in Manhattan in which the presidential nominee, who regularly thumps his chest about being a real estate macher, actually has an ownership stake.
But Kramer also knows Steve Roth well, and is especially close to his wife, Daryl Roth, who produced the Tony-winning revival of Kramer’s searing AIDS play, “The Normal Heart,” in 2011.
Playwright, author, and activist Larry Kramer. | DAVID SHANKBONE
Historian Harold Holzer, a prominent scholar on the subject of Abraham Lincoln — about whom Kramer has written, as well — responded to Kramer’s Facebook post, writing, “Whose heart can be abnormal enough to support Trump?”
“I know how proud you now are of your gay son Jordan,” also a big Broadway producer and the majority owner of the five-property Jujamcyn Theaters group, Kramer wrote. “I know how impressed I was with you at Jordan’s wedding to his husband Richie Jackson. They now are fathers to two wonderful boys, your grandsons. I was so proud to be at that wedding with my own husband David Webster.”
Kramer calls on Steve Roth to leave Trump’s “orbit.”
“You could be a leader in all of this,” Kramer wrote. “As it is, your own extended family is severely threatened by Donald Trump. Their health, their legality, their safety, their friends, their coworkers in the theater. I cannot accept that such an intelligent and gifted man as I know you to be can believe that Donald Trump is anything but strange and scary, an indigestible cauldron of rotten and poisoned ingredients.”
Describing Kramer’s appeal to Roth as “an incredibly powerful and personal letter,” AIDS activist Peter Staley wrote, “We all need to start sending letters like this to those we know who are walking blindly during this election.”
Vornado Realty Trust chief Steve Roth. | YOUTUBE.COM/ REIT.COM
Jong wrote, “As usual, Larry Kramer is brave & brilliant.”
Activist, writer, and SiriusXM Radio host Michelangelo Signorile credited Kramer for “once again calling out the hypocrisy and the greed.”
Writer and journalist Kevin Sessums, well known for his colorful celebrity dispatches for Vanity Fair, commented simply, “Larry Kramer writes. And always, always we listen.”
In an August 16 email to Gay City News, Kramer wrote, “I have not heard from any of the Roths. I did not expect to. It’s not their style, certainly not Steve’s.”
Roth’s assistant at Vornado said they were aware of Kramer’s letter, but she did not know of any response from Roth. A message requesting comment received no response.