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Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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“My dear friend, Vito Russo, was a darling and a daring man; more important, he was a giant in the fields of gay and AIDS activism. In Celluloid Activist, Michael Schiavi recounts Vito’s full life, starting with a New York childhood that Martin Scorsese might have written, through Vito’s penning of the indispensable Celluloid Closet, the first major study of gays and lesbians in film, and finally through Vito’s tireless work as an AIDS activist. All this, plus a look at Vito up a tree (literally) at the Stonewall Riots! Celluloid Activist is a long-overdue examination of a man who helped put gay rights on the map. In the words of Edith Ann, one of Vito’s other good buddies, ‘And that's the truth-h-h-h!’”—Lily Tomlin
“This important book brings both an era and its sensibilities to life by engagingly telling the story of a major gay civil rights activist. Russo’s contribution to the movement for gay equality through practically inventing the field of LGBT film history is enormous. Readers will find themselves inspired by Russo’s unflagging courage, passion, and downright tenacity.”—David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution
“A dynamic, emotional, and fascinating look at the life of the spellbinding gay activist Vito Russo.”—Craig Zadan, producer of Chicago and Hairspray
“Schiavi demonstrates a knack for digging deep into his subject matter. His immersion into the heart, soul, and benevolent machinations of Russo’s perseverant fight for homosexual justice is beautifully on display in this comprehensive biography and illuminating time capsule that will hopefully garner Vito Russo a more visible place in the gay rights movement.”—Bay Area Reporter
“In Celluloid Activist, Vito Russo has the biography he deserves, one that matches his energy level.”—South Florida Gay News
“Celluloid Activist realigns Russo’s legacy, positioning his politics and film scholarship on twin pedestals. It is nothing if not thorough; Schiavi conducted almost 200 interviews. Celluloid Activist has so many direct quotes from Russo, his friends and family that it reads like a memoir. It’s leavened with details both novelistic and cinematic, and could make a compelling film. You can almost hear Vito casting his own biopic, giggling as he ponders which movie star hunk should play the funny-serious little boy from East Harlem.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo, Michael Schiavi’s new biography of the noted LGBT activist and film historian, is an important addition to queer and film scholarship. It is also one of the most complex and compelling historical narratives of gay male life and culture in the later decades of the twentieth century. . . . Schiavi beautifully maps out Russo’s growth as a political gay man—a path that was neither as obvious or clear-cut as it mat at first appear—and the book seamlessly demonstrates how the growth of gay male culture during this time was inextricably intertwined with the emergence of series of overlapping, sometimes conflicting, LGBT political movements.”—Michael Bronski, Cineaste
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.
Top Customer Reviews
This biography attempts to tell the story of Russo's life, from his childhood in East Harlem, how his fascination with film developed over the years, his realization that he was gay, and keen sense of nontraditional gender roles in popular (and obscure) films. Russo was also a dedicated activist, who was instrumental in the early years of the Gay Activist Alliance, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and eventually the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and, as such, his story also provides a concise overview of such efforts for the twenty year period starting with the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. It talks of his family, his friends (which included several celebrities), as well as assorted lovers, who unfortunately had to take a back seat to his primary romance with films and dedication to human rights. He would continue to be as active as he possibly could in his final years, while suffering complications from HIV.
Russo's life was so full and complex that, even at almost 300 pages, his biographer had a difficult time fitting in all relevant events and accomplishments. As such, the book reads a bit dry and clinical at times, including the ending (the day of his death) which seems a bit abrupt. (The author does include an Afterward that provides some follow-up information that provides a bit of closure.) However, he does still manage to convey the dedication, conviction and humor of the man. To those who knew of Russo and his work, this is a must-read, though I recommend it to everyone, to learn of a man who was truly one of a kind. Five stars out of five.
- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Celluloid Activist is deeply researched, not only with interviews of friends and family of Vito Russo, but also with not important, but moving details, like when Michael Schiavi checked if the night when Vito was born was really hot as Arnie Kantrowitz, Vito's long-time friend, jocked about. No, it was not, and reading that part I imagined Michael Schiavi checking some old weather forecast to confuting that sentence.
For sure good share of the book is devoted to Vito as gay activist, and the man who helped founding the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). But it's also the recounting of Vito's private life, like his unrequited love for Jeffrey Sevcik, the man who he sent away three time to then always taking him back, until the time it was too late.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In "Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo," Michael Schiavi has written a fascinating, meticulously researched story about one of the most compelling figures from... Read morePublished on March 7, 2014 by Miles D. Moore
AWESOME BOOK OF GAY CIVIL HUMAN RIGHTS i recommend this book to know the beginnings of the gay civil rightsPublished on November 21, 2013 by JOSE