Gay Rights Pioneer Vito Russo Film Launches Monday

Vito, a film that profiles the life of Vito Russo, a man who is considered by many to be one of the fathers of this country’s gay rights movement, launches Monday night on HBO.

Russo is perhaps best known for writing “The Celluloid Closet,” a book that focuses on gay characters – and their portrayals – throughout the history of cinema. In 1985, he cofounded the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to monitor media portrayal of the LGBT community. Russo also hosted a New York City public access television show that addressed contemporary gay issues, which was the first program of its time.

In a time when homosexuals lived in secret and shame, Russo held a radically different attitude. (“I never once, not for a second, believed that it was wrong to be gay,” Russo said.) He took a leadership role in the gay community, devoting his life to advancing LGBT rights, all the way up until his death in 1990 from complications with AIDS.

“As time marches on, a new generation of LGBT youth is coming of age without knowing about pioneers like Vito Russo and how he made it possible for us to live proudly and openly in the world,” said the documentary’s director, Jeffrey Schwarz. “It’s my hope that this film will allow his work to once again move and inspire us all as we continue the battles that he once fought.”

I had the privilege of seeing an advanced screening of Vito at Outfest’s opening night gala. The film succeeds not only in showcasing Russo’s life, but also serves as a primer on the fight for gay rights in the United States in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Since Russo was so embedded in the movement, his story corresponds with the larger struggle in a seamless fashion.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was not familiar with Russo prior to watching the documentary, but I immediately became a fan of the remarkable man. I left the theater with a better understanding of gay history, as well as a renewed commitment to my own activism.

I highly recommend tuning into Vito tonight on HBO at 9 PM. If you’re anything like my fellow moviegoers, you’ll find yourself laughing aloud at some moments, and shedding some tears at others. All people who champion equal rights owe it to themselves to become familiar with Russo’s admirable story.

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Photo Credit: Massimo Consoli


tiffany t.
tiffany t5 years ago

kudos to Vito Russo

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

This is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY, to NOT FEED THE TROLLS -- to IGNORE them and their total irrelevancy to any of our concerns.
THEY CAN'T HURT YOU. Their day is OVER. They hate it that the world has changed so much in their lifetimes, leaving them behind, high and dry on the beach after the receding tide.

There are, and I guess always will be, the INEVITABLE TROLLS on each and every Gay-themed thread, stubbornly coming on even tho they KNOW we despise them and all their utter nonsense; even tho of course they know they are not going to change a single mind, or even make us feel the least bit less good about ourselves.
The only thing the Inevitable Trolls CAN do, is kindof try and distract us a little, from our Joy and Happiness and Exultation; to make us turn aside to be brought down a little bit by all the Negatives -- but, ONLY if we LET this happen!
I myself can describe myself as EXULTANT and JUBILANT at the great Progress LGBTQI people, and their Allies, like myself, have made, because of people like Russo. And I intend to work for MORE, riding the same wave of Satisfaction with my life! It is truly said, with regard to ALL the detractors of Gays thruout History, that the old Spanish Proverb holds,

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago


Pamylle G.
Pamylle G5 years ago

Ah, the "Christian" who calls her brothers & sisters "misfits and weirdos" has condescended to drop her scat here. It would be thoughtful to detoxify elsewhere, but perhaps is unable to control this function.

Meanwhile, I look forward to learning more about Russo & his work, weirdo that I am.

Apparently Russo had great clarity by knowing himself to be worthwhile in the face of intolerance. He acted both in appropriate self-interest & in the interest of others. I should think it a good life. Yes, his life was "worth it" ! Everyone is going to die someday of something - does this mean he was a failure ? If so, we all are destined "to fail".

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks Kevin for the short but very good background on Vito. I knew of him when I started my activism in the 80's for GLBTQ rights here in SE Ohio. A great role model. I still miss him and wonder what he would think about the LBGTQ situation today.

Jane H.
Jane H5 years ago

I don't get HBO, so I'm hoping PBS will show it sometime. I've read his excellent book.

John Zalewski
John Z5 years ago

@Kath N, if anyone fits the profile of misfit and weirdo, it is you, sister. Please let the adults have a conversation about the topic at hand.

Kath N.
Kath N.5 years ago

no it w ill be watched by the 3% of misfits plus a few curious weirdos

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia5 years ago

Such a hero to the community. I wish I saw this article sooner so I could have watched it.

Elaine, yes it was. AIDS had nothing to do with him being gay, and because of him, I can piss people like you off just by holding the hand of another woman or giving her a kiss. I bet you had such a nice life, being born the right color, self-hating female and heterosexual, because you don't get it. You have no clue why people like him make a difference to a whole community of people. You are disgusting.

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

sounds well worth watching