When Dr. Fauci was a character in an Obie Award-winning play ...
By Patrick White
Special to InPlay Capital Region
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and one of the leaders of the White House coronavirus task force, has been a star of the White House briefings on the coronavirus and for many has upstaged President Donald Trump, which has sparked speculation of a jealous reaction from the president.
When Fauci isn’t at the briefings, his absence could make as much news as anything the Trump administration might say.
Three decades ago, Fauci also was in the news -- he was portrayed in an Obie Award-winning play by gay activist playwright Larry Kramer.
Fauci initially was a target of Kramer’s righteous rage during the AIDS crisis and was vilified by Kramer, founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and playwright of “The Normal Heart,” as an “incompetent idiot” for the federal government’s slow response to the disease.
Kramer was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, and Fauci got him into a life-saving experimental drug trial that is portrayed in a companion play “The Destiny of Me,” set at the National Institutes of Health. The semi-autobiographical play premiered at New York City’s now-shuttered Circle Repertory starring Jonathan Hadary and John Cameron Mitchell as Kramer through his life (here named Ned and Alexander), and Bruce McCarty as Dr. Tony Della Vida, the pseudonymously named character based on Fauci.
The play has disturbing resonance as we enter another week of stay-at-home isolation. Kramer’s alter-ego Ned says in the play, “When I started yelling, there were 41 cases of a mysterious disease. Now they’re talking about 150 million. And it’s still mysterious. And the mystery isn’t why they don’t know anything; it’s why they don’t want to know anything.”
It isn’t difficult to project these words into Dr. Fauci when he can be seen face-palming on the White House podium. Fauci and Kramer have long since become friends, and while Kramer works on a play about COVID-19 titled “An Army of Lovers Must Not Die” from his Greenwich Village isolation, he received a message from Dr. Fauci with a prescription of one line: “Hunker down.”
Here is an excerpt from “The Destiny of Me,” which premiered in 1992:
Tony: You’ve got some crazy gay newspaper up in New York that claims I’m not even studying the right virus. They call me Public Enemy Number 1. Why aren’t you guys proud of me? If I’m not in my lab, I’m testifying, lobbying, pressuring, I’m on TV 10 times a week, I fly to conferences all over the world, I churn out papers for the journals, I supervise hundreds of scientists, I dole out research grants like I’m Santa Claus -- what more do you want?
Ned: A cure.
Tony: I’m not a magician.
Ned: Now’s not the time to tell me. There’s no end in sight. That’s why they hate you. You tell every reporter you have enough money. That’s why they hate you. You tell Congress you have everything you need. That’s why they hate you. You say more has been learned about this disease than any disease in the history of disease. That’s why they hate you. You say the president cares. That’s why they hate you.
Tony: He does care! He tells me all the time how much he cares!
Ned: You asked me. I told you. You’re the one in charge and you’re an apologist for your boss. That’s why they …
Tony: If I weren’t, do you think I’d get anything? You don’t understand the realities of this town.
Photo of Dr. Anthony Fauci by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases