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Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russoby Michael Schiavi
Synopses & Reviews
Celluloid Activist is the biography of gay-rights giant Vito Russo, the man who wrote The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, commonly regarded as the foundational text of gay and lesbian film studies and one of the first to be widely read.
But Russo was much more than a pioneering journalist and author. A founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and cofounder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), Russo lived at the center of the most important gay cultural turning points in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. His life as a cultural Zelig intersects a crucial period of social change, and in some ways his story becomes the story of a developing gay revolution in America. A frequent participant at “zaps” and an organizer of Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) cabarets and dances—which gave the New York gay and lesbian community its first social alternative to Mafia-owned bars—Russo made his most enduring contribution to the GAA with his marshaling of “Movie Nights,” the forerunners to his worldwide Celluloid Closet lecture tours that gave gay audiences their first community forum for the dissection of gay imagery in mainstream film.
Biographer Michael Schiavi unravels Vito Russo’s fascinating life story, from his childhood in East Harlem to his own heartbreaking experiences with HIV/AIDS. Drawing on archival materials, unpublished letters and journals, and more than two hundred interviews, including conversations with a range of Russo’s friends and family from brother Charlie Russo to comedian Lily Tomlin to pioneering activist and playwright Larry Kramer, Celluloid Activistprovides an unprecedented portrait of a man who defined gay-rights and AIDS activism.
Best Special Interest Books, selected by the American Association of School Librarians
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Reviewers
Finalist, Gay Memoir/Biography, Lambda Literary Awards
Finalist, Over the Rainbow Selection, American Library Association
“Schiavi is thorough and compelling both in bringing this complex character to life and in delineating the people and events that shaped him. Highly Recommended.”—CHOICE
The first critical biography of gay-rights activist Vito Russo. Celluloid Activist illuminates, through the life of this fascinating individual, some of the most explosive cultural revolutions in American history and significantly expands the fields of gay film studies, biography, and history.
For a quarter century, Tim Miller has worked at the intersection of performance, politics, and identity, using his personal experiences to create entertaining but pointed explorations of life as a gay American man—from the perils and joys of sex and relationships to the struggles of political disenfranchisement and artistic censorship. This intimate autobiographical collage of Miller's professional and personal life reveals one of the celebrated creators of a crucial contemporary art form and a tireless advocate for the American dream of political equality for all citizens.
Here we have the most complete Miller yet—a raucous collection of his performance scripts, essays, interviews, journal entries, and photographs, as well as his most recent stage piece Us. This volume brings together the personal, communal, and national political strands that interweave through his work from its beginnings and ultimately define Miller's place as a contemporary artist, activist, and gay man.
Betty Berzon, renowned psychotherapist and author of the bestselling book Permanent Partners, tells her own incredible story here. Berzons journey from psychiatric patient on suicide watch—her wrists tethered to the bed rails in a locked hospital ward—to her present role as a groundbreaking therapist and gay pioneer makes for purely compelling reading.
Berzon is recognized today as a trailblazing co-founder of a number of important lesbian and gay organizations and one of the first therapists to focus on means of developing healthy gay relationships and overcoming homophobia. Her sometimes bumpy road to success never fails to fascinate. Along the way she encounters such luminaries as Anaïs Nin, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Sitwells, Evelyn Hooker, and Paul Monette. Her recollections here provide a collective portrait of her fellow pioneers and a stirring lesson in twentieth-century history.
It is, however, the intimate story of Berzons own private passage toward self-discovery—from mental breakdown and suicide attempts, through hospitalization, eventual triumphant recovery, and her own coming out as an open lesbian at the age of forty—that makes this memoir an urgent, insightful, and deeply emotional testament to human survival.
About the Author
"Tim Miller sings that song of the self which interrogates, with explosive, exploding, subversive joy and freedom, the constitution and borderlines of selfhood. . . . You think you dont need to hear such singing? You do! You must! Read the book!"—Tony Kushner, playwright of Angels in America, from the foreword
"The power of Tim Millers performances lies in his sharp mind and gentle heart, his capacity for being angry and funny and self-critical all at once. One senses immediately that he can be trusted, even when he leads us into unknown territory. His passion is utterly contagious."—Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. Birth of a New Yorker
2. Jersey Boy
3. Return of the Native
4. Birth of an Activist
5. "Professional Movement Flash and Trash"
6. Building the Closet
7. "A Time of Major Change"
8. The Activist in Wartime
List of Interviews
What Our Readers Are Saying
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism