Vito Russo born 11 July 1946 (d. 1990)
New Yorker Vito Russo was a gay activist, film historian and author who is best remembered as the author of the book The Celluloid Closet (1981, revised edition 1987).
Russo developed his material following screenings of camp films as fundraisers for the early gay rights organisation Gay Activists Alliance. He travelled throughout the country from 1972 to 1982, delivering The Celluloid Closet as a live lecture presentation with film clips. In both the book and in the lecture presentation, he related the history of gay and lesbian moments - and the treatment of gay and lesbian characters - in American and foreign films of the past.
In 1983, Russo wrote, produced, and co-hosted a series focusing on the gay community called Our Time for WNYC-TV.
Russo's concern over how LGBT people were presented in the popular media led him to co-found the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a watchdog group that monitors LGBT representation in the mainstream media and presents the annual GLAAD Media Awards. The Vito Russo Award is named in his memory and is presented to an openly gay or lesbian member of the media community for their outstanding contribution in combating homophobia. Russo was also actively involved in the AIDS direct action group ACT UP.
Russo appeared in the 1989 Academy Award-winning documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt as a "storyteller," relating the life and death of his lover Jeffrey Sevcik.
Russo died of AIDS-related complications in 1990. His work was posthumously brought to television in the 1996 HBO documentary film The Celluloid Closet, narrated by Lily Tomlin.
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