Vito Russo

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American gay rights activist and trained cinema geek Vito Russo was the author of The Celluloid Closet, a book chronicling the history of film censorship experienced by the queer community that developed from his lecture tour and was later made into its own movie. Frustrated with the demeaning portrayals of gays and lesbians in films, Russo went on to co-found GLAAD (originally Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), an organization dedicated to the promotion of a positive queer television and cinema canon; a test for measuring the role of queer characters in film was even named after him. Russo was also among the founding members of ACT-UP. The powerful speech he delivered at several rallies about the role of homophobia in the spread of HIV/AIDS is archived online, and he appears in the documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. A documentary about Russo’s life was produced several decades following his death by HBO Films. Documents from his life are stored at the New York Public Library and will be open to the public beginning in 2015.

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