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Kert, Larry (1930-1991)    
 
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While performing in Company in New York, Kert lived across the street from the writer Edmund White. In his 2009 memoir, City Boy, White recounted that "Larry would call me up on a rainy day whenever he was horny, and I'd hurry across the street."

Living with Kert at the time was the actor Keith McDermott. White describes McDermott as Kert's "part-time pillow boy and houseboy."

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White went on to report that "Larry had a curious way of treating us both like cheap sex toys, completely interchangeable and disposable." But, White continued, "when he engaged with us as people (as artists or just conscious suffering beings), he treated us with an unexpected seriousness and respect."

Following his triumph with Company, Broadway success again eluded Kert. He starred, opposite the opera singer Teresa Stratas, in the musical Rags (1986), which was set in the Lower East Side of New York City in 1910. The production closed after only four performances.

His final role on Broadway was as standby for Peter Allen in the short-lived and roundly panned musical Legs Diamond (music and lyrics by Allen, book by Harvey Fierstein and Charles Suppon, 1988).

In addition to his theater work, Kert had always sought, unsuccessfully, to establish a film career. Although he performed in the male chorus, uncredited, in the movie version of the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), it was not until 1977 that he was offered another film role. Kert was paired with Liza Minnelli in the extravagant, eleven-minute production number "Happy Endings" in director Martin Scorsese's unconventional musical New York, New York.

At the time of its release, the film's distributors were concerned about the picture's excessive length and insisted that Scorsese delete the production number from the final version. However, movie industry insiders began showing the excised section privately and it soon achieved cult status as a virtuoso movie musical sequence.

As a result, in 1981, Scorsese restored the production number in its entirety and the film was re-released to critical acclaim. In an interview, Kert stated, "I was upset and disappointed at the time my movie debut was scratched. But I guess this was worth waiting for."

Kert's later career was devoted mainly to his cabaret act, which featured a tribute to Al Jolson, as well as appearances on television and in regional theater. He toured in a 1987 concert version of George and Ira Gershwin's twin musicals, Of Thee I Sing and Let 'Em Eat Cake. Among his last performances in musical theater were in 1988 in a touring company of Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles, where he missed perfomances as a result of illness.

In his last public appearance, in 1990, Kert was joined by his West Side Story co-star, Carol Lawrence, for a cabaret show in the famed Manhattan nightclub Rainbow and Stars. Kert and Lawrence traded memories and reprised their signature songs from the show that had first made them famous.

In his review of the show for the New York Times, Mel Gussow observed, "When an audience hears those imperishable Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim songs, sung by those who first brought them to stage life, three decades become a blink in time."

Kert died of complications from AIDS at his home in Manhattan on June 5, 1991. He was survived by his longtime partner Ron Pullen.

"I never met anyone in my life in the theater who loved it as much as Larry did," Elaine Stritch, Kert's Company co-star, said to the press at the time of his death. "Larry's enthusiasm and humor permeated a whole company. He even made me want to do matinees."

Craig Kaczorowski

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   Related Entries
  
arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

literature >> Overview:  Musical Theater

There has always been homosexual involvement in American musical theatre and a homosexual sensibility even in straight musicals, and recently the Broadway musical has welcomed openly homosexual themes and situations.

literature >> Albee, Edward

The American dramatist Edward Albee, whose career flourished in the 1960s and then waned as a result of homophobia, wrote plays with gay subtexts in which loving is the ultimate act of violence and violence is the most effective expression of love.

arts >> Allen, Peter

Although not publicly out as a gay man, Australian singer and songwriter Peter Allen signaled his homosexuality through his flamboyant persona and the subtexts of many of his songs.

arts >> Bernstein, Leonard

For most of his life, the specter of the closet lurked threateningly behind the glamorous and often brash public image of American composer Leonard Bernstein.

literature >> Capote, Truman

Truman Capote's fiction and autobiographical works helped establish what might be called the quintessential homosexual writing style of the 1950s and 1960s.

arts >> Chamberlain, Richard

Deeply closeted for most of his life, American actor Richard Chamberlain finally acknowledged his homosexuality in a memoir published in 2003.

arts >> Drivas, Robert

Actor-director Robert Drivas brought a provocative sexuality and an emotional intensity to his stage and screen performances at a time when the male body was being liberated as the object of the audience's gaze.

literature >> Fierstein, Harvey

Award-winning Harvey Fierstein is one of the finest gay male playwrights currently working in the American theater.

arts >> Herman, Jerry

A proponent of the "diva musical," Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman made homosexuality the undisguised subject of La Cage aux Folles but he did so just as gay culture lost its need of a diva to voice its concerns.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

arts >> Kander, John (b. 1927) and Fred Ebb (1932?-2004)

Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb are the musical poets of the poymorphous perverse; their works glorify the creativity inherent in sexual ambivalence and celebrate unorthodox forms of political activism.

arts >> Laurents, Arthur

Playwright, librettist, screenwriter, and director, Arthur Laurents brought an independent sensibility to some of the most important works of stage and screen in the post-World War II era.

arts >> McDowall, Roddy

British-born actor Roddy McDowall made a graceful transition from a juvenile star to a highly versatile character actor on both stage and screen.

arts >> Robbins, Jerome

Bisexual choreographer and director Jerome Robbins was both a great choreographer of classical ballet and a Broadway innovator, but he was fearful that he might be outed.

literature >> Shaffer, Sir Peter

British dramatist Peter Shaffer emerged in the 1960s in the paradoxical guise of the last great twentieth-century poet of the numinous who was also capable of writing commercially successful plays that could be turned into equally successful films.

arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.

literature >> White, Edmund

One of the most prominent and highly acclaimed figures of contemporary gay literature, Edmund White works in many distinct categories of fiction and nonfiction.


    Bibliography
   

Folkart, Burt A. "Larry Kert: West Side Story Star." Los Angeles Times (June 7, 1991): 41.

Gordon, Joanne Lesley. Art Isn't Easy: The Theater of Stephen Sondheim. New York: Da Capo Press, 1992.

Gussow, Mel. "First West Side Story Stars Sing Together Again." New York Times (October 4, 1990): C12.

Krebs, Albin. "For Larry Kert, a Happy Ending Four Years Late." New York Times (June 19, 1981): C4.

Vaill, Amanda. Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robins. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.

White, Edmund. City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Kert, Larry  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2010  
    Date Last Updated November 27, 2011  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/kert_larry.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2010 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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