Playwright and legendary AIDS activist Larry Kramer expounded on his new book, The American People: Volume 1: A Search for My Heart, which is billed by its publisher as "a novel" but which Kramer says is a "history," and which, as usual with Kramer, is creating controversy.
In The American People, Kramer describes George Washington as a man who had sex with men -- a “big queen,” he said in an interview -- and writes the same of Alexander Hamilton, who “was in love with George,” Ben Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and “the most powerful gay man” in American history, J. Edgar Hoover. Historic Jamestown was a hotbed of gay sex, Kramer writes, partly because the settlement for a long time only included men. And not only did Abraham Lincoln have intimate affairs with men – a thesis that was seen as far-fetched a number of years ago, but which more historians now support – but, Kramer writes, Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was queer, too, and Joshua Speed, thought to be Lincoln’s lover, was a “hustler” as well as a “gift” from Booth.
But it’s all much more complicated than that, detailed in over 700 pages (and Volume 2 is on the way next year). In an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress Kramer talked about his version of history, and again criticized his long-time friend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, for not queering Lincoln in the Steven Spielberg 2012 film, "Lincoln," for which he wrote the screenplay.
“We were very close friends,” Kramer said of Kushner. “We speak to each other again, but he was very mad with me that I publicized the issue. I really thought that he had a responsibility as a gay artist to indicate that about Lincoln, that there was enough known. I put him in touch with all kinds of academic people who support that there was enough to indicate” that Lincoln was involved with men.
“I’m not asking for a love scene in the movie,” Kramer said, “but just some touch that would indicate that it was there. And for all I know Spielberg was not in favor of what? I don’t know. But I just...I lost a little respect for Tony, because I think a gay artist has a gay responsibility. There, I said it.”
Kramer also talked about what he sees in studying history that many historians didn’t see with regard to who was queer.
“In the case of Washington, he was a big queen, basically,” Kramer said. “He decorated everything. He designed all the uniforms, the buttons. The correspondence exists with all the dealers he dealt with in England to make everything. And then there was a man called Baron von Steuben, who was German, who designed all the maneuvers for all the troops of all the great armies in Europe. And he kept getting thrown out after he made the armies real – like Rockettes [laughs]. He got kicked out and he came to George. And he and George hit it off like nobody’s business.”
“George put him to work right away and they designed all these maneuvers and it was like putting on show,” Kramer said. “That’s for starters. And there’s no question, that Alex [Alexander Hamilton], really-- whether it was a father/son thing -- that Alex was very much in love with him. And Alex Hamilton was very handsome. And George was much older. And that’s been written about. There was a mutual attraction between them…Hamilton also had a young lover, a fellow officer, John Laurens is his name. There were letters between the two. Even the [Ron] Churnow book mentions that.”