The papers reflect Russo's personal life and career as a writer, lecturer, film historian, and gay rights and AIDS activist. They include correspondence, journals, appointment books, writings by and about Russo, electronic records, photographs, sound and video recordings, ephemera, and posthumous material.
Biographical/historical: Vito Russo was a film critic, writer, and gay rights activist. Born in New York City in 1946, Russo attended college at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and received a Master's degree in cinema from New York University in 1971. Russo's essays, interviews, and film reviews appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, New York, Outweek, The Village Voice, and Esquire. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Russo presented "The Celluloid Closet," a lecture and film series about the depiction of gay characters in movies. A book-version of "The Celluloid Closet" was published by Harper & Row in 1981. In 1983, Russo wrote, produced, and co-hosted "Our Time," a television series focusing on the gay community. In 1985 he was the national publicity director for the Academy Award-winning documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk." He also appeared in the 1990 documentary film "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt." Russo was a member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), a co-founder of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and a co-founder of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Russo was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, and died of AIDS-related complications on November 7, 1990.
Acquisition: Gifts of Arnie Kantrowitz and Jed Mattes, 1995; Telling Pictures, 1998- 1999
Ownership: The Vito Russo papers were donated to the Library by Arnie Kantrowitz, Russo's close friend, and additions were contributed by Russo's literary agent, Jed Mattes and by Telling Pictures (Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, producers of the film The Celluloid Closet). Kantrowitz supplemented the collection with photocopies of correspondence received from Russo and files of posthumous material pertaining to Russo's life and career.