BiographyNew York, New York, USA
Vito Russo was involved with many important projects in the early history of the gay and lesbian movement, and he was there fighting for change until his death from complications caused by AIDS in 1990 at the age of 44. A New York native, Russo was one of the earliest activists to study the media's impact on our lives and recognize that media representation partially determines how lesbians and gays are treated. Russo's work in media arose from his love of films. In the early 1970's, he organized screenings of camp classics at New York's Firehouse for the Gay Activist Alliance. Read more... screenings grew into lectures, which grew further into articles that appeared in The Advocate, Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. Hethen assembled his research and work into the book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality In the Movies, a highly acclaimed survey of how gay men and lesbians have been portrayed in film. Published in 1981 and later revised in 1987, this landmark text was political, scholarly and entertaining. Russo was also a street activist, adding his voice to debates and controversy. He was a co- founder of ACT-UP and, when furor arose over how the NY Post was covering the AIDS crisis, he was there for the founding of an organization aimed at holding the media accountable for its homophobia, The Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation League, which later became GLAAD. Russo also made a panel for the AIDS quilt memorializing his companion, Jeffrey Sevick, which was featured in the film "Common Threads." Russo is survived by his parents, Angelo and Angelina, and his brother, Charles.