On Wednesday night in New York, America’s most famous woman met its angriest man. In the middle of a crowded room, Kim Kardashian West walked over to Larry Kramer and crouched down for a picture. Slumped in his chair and firmly grasping his cane, the 79-year-old obliged with a smile.
Kramer has never really left the public spotlight since he became the most well-known activist of his generation for his hell-raising speeches in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Now, the recent critically acclaimed and commercially successful HBO adaptation of his play “The Normal Heart” has brought him, late in life, a whole new audience, not that that’s softened any of his edges.
This story first appeared in the December 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It speaks to his continued relevance that a dinner in his and Bruce Weber’s honor had a starry turnout — Zachary Quinto, Amanda Seyfried, Stephanie Seymour, Isabella Rossellini, Calvin Klein — and even a Kardashian came to pay her respects.
“Damned by faint praise,” he said of her appearance.
Kramer was making his way inside the annual holiday benefit for the HIV/AIDS charitable organization ACRIA. Despite his frail health, he still acted like a man with many more fights left in him.
“People always ask me, ‘What can I do?’ If you have to ask the question, then you’re not the right person,” he spit out. “You find a way to do whatever, with an organization or by yourself.” The target of his ire lately is the lavish attention being paid to Ebola, at the expense of AIDS.
“The world isn’t taking it seriously. It far surpasses Ebola and anything Ebola is ever going to be. No one’s paying attention. Show me the leader, show me the activist, show me the young generation — where the f–k are you?” he said, indignant. “Ebola is just this year’s pinup.”
During lengthy remarks over dinner, he had a few more thoughts on the topic, a treat for anyone like Kardashian who’d never heard one of Kramer’s harangues live. If Kramer’s attendance was understandable, what was Kardashian doing there? Weber met the world-famous reality star early last year during a shoot for DuJour magazine, when they bonded over their appreciation for Elizabeth Taylor, and he specifically invited her to attend the evening, a choice that brought more attention to the venerable nonprofit than its usual honorees, which have included the likes of the late socialite Judith Peabody.
“She’s so generous of heart,” Weber said of Kardashian. “She’s a really sensitive person, and a lot of people don’t know that about her, and I thought it was a good chance for people to understand who she really is.”
Though Kardashian’s interest in the fight against the epidemic may come as a surprise to cynics, she has in fact done her part for the cause. “Last week, for World AIDS Day, I went to The Abbey, where Elizabeth Taylor always went,” she said, referring to the popular West Hollywood gay bar. “And we had a cocktail that they made in her honor, and I did a toast.”
But there’s more.
“Actually, in my Kim Kardashian game right now, we’ve gone Red,” she said. That’s the charitable campaign created by Bono to fund efforts against the virus in Africa. “So, for the month of December, you can play and donate to the cause.” Larry would be pleased.