Scope and arrangement
The Arnie Kantrowitz papers, which date from 1951 to 2008, contain correspondence; diaries; professional and organizational files; published and unpublished writings; and audio and videocassettes documenting his career as a writer, teacher, and gay activist. Much of the collection is composed of notes, drafts, and various states of his published and unpublished writing, including student essays, poetry, drafts of a novel about and biographies of Walt Whitman, as well as copies of his published essays on aspects of the gay experience, and his two full-length works, a biography of Walt Whitman and his autobiography, Under the Rainbow.
Gay activism is documented in records he kept as an officer and/or member of the Gay Activists Alliance, Gay Academic Union, Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, as well as sound and video recordings of his public appearances and GAA "zaps," notebook and diary entries, buttons, and in clippings of interviews, news stories, and announcements of his public appearances. His later efforts on behalf of gay rights are also documented by the many letters to the editor written in response to news stories and public statements about gays.
Kantrowitz's teaching career is well represented in the Professional and organizational files series. Students' responses to his classroom activism and course materials documenting Kantrowitz's inclusion of gay and lesbian themes within his curricula beginning in the early 1970s, are included in the teaching files.
The correspondence in the collection, chiefly incoming letters, highlights his friendships and collegial relations with fellow writers and former students. Included are letters from such prominent gay and lesbian literary figures as John Preston, George Heymont, Douglas Sadownick, Rita Mae Brown, and most notably, his close friend, Vito Russo. There are also numerous letters from his readers among the general public expressing their appreciation for his work, and relating details of their own lives and struggles as gay people.
The collection also contains numerous day planners, pocket notebooks, travel diaries, a few photographs, sketches, and personal memorabilia such as cards from his life partner Lawrence Mass and documents of his friends Vito Russo and Jim Owles.
The Arnie Kantrowitz papers are arranged in six series:
The correspondence series contains letters written and received by Kantrowitz during the years 1964-2008. Among his correspondents are friends, lovers, family, fellow writers, gay activists, teaching colleagues, students, and members of the general public who sent him their reactions to his work. Most correspondence prior to 1995 is arranged chronologically. Later correspondence is arranged by subject or the correspondent’s name.
The general correspondence consists of letters Kantrowitz received and about a half dozen of his replies. The letters from friends relate details of their lives and relationships, including discussions of pride parades, gay writing, bashing incidents, and in the 1980s and early 1990s, the loss of friends to AIDS. Writers discuss their work and the difficulties involved in writing and finding publishers. Of particular note is the folder of letters from Kantrowitz's closest friend, the film historian and gay activist Vito Russo. The letters, 1972-1988, relate his activities, comment on the gay scene in New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and London, and discuss films and theater. The letters are full of intimate detail, humor, and eventually sorrow and rage at the AIDS epidemic and the illness of his lover. Correspondence about Russo following his death and letters from Vito’s mother, Annie Russo, are also included. There is one file of Kantrowitz’s letters to his father Morris Kantrowitz, dated 1973 to 1985. Other correspondents in this series include Daniel Bar-David, Pat Califia, David Doyle, Arthur Evans, Adrienne Gilde, George Heymont, Duff Kreitzberg, Herb Liebman, Lawrence Mass, Douglas Sadownick, Bob Tavani, and Randy Wicker.
The correspondence regarding Kantrowitz's writing contains responses of friends, fellow writers, and many members of the general public to his writing, particularly his essays in the Advocate, his memoir Under the Rainbow, and his Walt Whitman projects. In addition, there is correspondence regarding the publication and editing of his work, including efforts to have Under the Rainbow published and reprinted, and correspondence with John Preston and Advocate staff members, Boyd McDonald, Robert McQueen, and Mark Thompson about the publication of his essays as well as their comments on his work.
Among the letters are expressions of gratitude from many readers telling how moved they were by his work and inspired by his example as a man with an open and positive gay identity. Kantrowitz seems to have responded to most of these letters (although the responses are not in the collection) provoking additional letters in which the individuals relate their own struggles to come out and their views on gay issues. This section also includes letters of numerous gay writers and activists, which range from simple congratulations to extended discussions of issues of importance to the gay community. Included is an exchange of letters with Arthur Evans in 1988 regarding Kantrowitz's review of Evans' book The God of Ecstasy. Other prominent correspondents include Rita Mae Brown, Pat Califia, Louie Crew, Daniel Bar-David, Bette Davis, Lenny Giteck, George Heymont, Toby Marotta, John Preston, Michael Rumaker, Charles Shively, Donald Vining and Randy Wicker.
Public Statements, 1964-2003, include letters to the press and politicians expressing his opinions on current events. The earliest letters are written to the editors of the student newspapers at the State University College at Cortland and Staten Island Community College regarding teaching and university affairs in the 1960s. Letters from the 1970s on are written chiefly to editors of gay and general interest publications regarding stories touching on homosexuality and gay rights, especially responses and corrections to unfair, inaccurate or incomplete portrayals.The files contain clippings of his letters and the articles that provoked his responses as well as typescripts of his remarks, which were not published. The letters from 1985-1987 include those he wrote as secretary of GLAAD and letters that he, Darrel Yates Rist, Vito Russo, and the board of GLAAD wrote in response to a story which appeared in the Philadelphia Gay News about internal strife among GLAAD board members.
A file of letters from students, 1993 to 2008, largely conveys appreciation for the care and tutelage provided to them by Kantrowitz as an English professor at the College of Staten Island. Ongoing correspondence developed between numerous students and Kantrowitz, lasting well beyond their courses with him and their graduations.
This series contains documents relating to Kantrowitz's activities as a professor of English at the College of Staten Island, as a writer, and as a gay rights activist. The professional materials include publishing correspondence and contracts, 1982-2001; teaching files, 1970-2008; and files documenting Kantrowitz’s involvement with the National Writers Union.
The teaching materials chiefly concern courses he taught (boxes 38 and 39) and his applications for promotion (boxes 41 and 45). Included are curriculum vitae, faculty evaluation reports, committee involvement, conference attendance, grant applications and proposals. A file of letters from students, 1971-1992, found in box 7, contains responses to Kantrowitz's open discussion of his homosexuality in his classes and in presentations to other classes.
The organizational materials include files he kept as an officer of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and as a panelist at the Gay Academic Union 1974 annual meeting. GAA records include carbon copies of meeting minutes, May-December 1970, and executive committee minutes, September-December, 1970 as well as correspondence, notes, flyers, newsletters, name and address lists and other documents concerning the planning of the GAA 25th reunion in 1994.
The Gay Academic Union materials relate to the 1974 annual meeting keynote session panel on gay and lesbian separatism, including Kantrowitz's notes for his talk, his response to a call for conference papers, two letters from George Whitmore of the Program Committee, and a copy of the conference program.
The records of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, which later became Heritage of Pride, concern the plans for the 1976 Gay Pride parade in New York City. Included are copies of Kantrowitz's correspondence as secretary, holograph meeting notes, original typescripts and photocopies of Steering Committee minutes and attachments, attendance sheets, and related documents submitted to the Committee.
Kantrowitz was a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (originally the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation League) and acted as secretary and member of the Steering Committee. His files, November 1985-June 1986, contain photocopies of Executive and Steering Committee minutes, articles of incorporation, by-laws, and copies of treasurer's reports.
A file on the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, 1992-2005, documents Kantrowitz’s frequent service as a juror in the festival.
This series contains seventy-eight notebooks and diaries, including forty-three spiral bound pocket memo books, one typescript covering the 1960s to 1986, and thirty-five day planner diaries covering 1971 to 2005.
The notebooks, found in boxes 9 and 10, contain a wide variety of material including lists, addresses and phone numbers, poetry, notes for essays and novels, random reflections on life, teaching, the passing scene, notes from a Gay Male S/M Activists meeting, descriptions of a mescaline trip, and a night at the Continental Baths. The content varies from book to book, from single lines to extended essays. Of particular note are three lengthy travel journals written in 1972 when Kantrowitz traveled to Europe and across the United States.
Kantrowitz also kept extremely consistent daily dairies, briefly noting at least a few words for nearly every day of his life from 1971 until 2005. These day planner diaries, which are found in boxes 42 through 44, record aspects of the author’s activist, professional and social activities. Details include protest events, short notes for his classes, travel plans and notes, who he voted for on election days, which films he was seeing, who he was dating, and friends he was having dinner with or caring for during the AIDS crisis. These day planners may have been helpful to the author in reconstructing specific events for Under the Rainbow and other autobiographical writings.
The European journals (2 vols.) contain his impressions as a tourist in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Italy, and Greece as well as remarks on the gay bars and night life, and comparison of social attitudes with those prevalent in the United States. There are also meditations on his feelings of loneliness and varying degrees of self-consciousness as an American, a tourist, a gay man, and a Jew.
The journal documenting his transcontinental trip with his close friend and former GAA president Jim Owles describes visits to Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Billings, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver. Kantrowitz met with members of other gay organizations in nearly all of those cities and set down his reflections on the prevailing state of gay liberation and activism or social repression in those locales. He also describes the bar scene, gay and/or "hip" nightlife and his own sexual activities. The journal contains his thoughts on GAA and its failings, the Metropolitan Community Church, political action and the counter-culture, natural food, and varying modes of dress and personal expression. Much of the journal is devoted to discussion of his spiritual journey to discover an ideal life and love through which he could express his true identity, and ends with his ultimate disillusion and return to New York City.
This series contains copies of Kantrowitz's writing in all genres from his student years through the 2000s. Included are college and graduate school examinations and papers, pieces written for the college newspaper, extensive files of poetry, public service announcements and advertising copy written for WNEW-TV, theater reviews for Show Business, and notes for speeches as well as drafts, typescripts, and published copies of his better-known essays and his two full-length published works, his autobiography, Under the Rainbow, and a Walt Whitman biography. Files in this series are arranged by subject or title.
Files containing notes, drafts, proofs, and typescripts of the 1970s and the 1996 editions of Kantrowitz’s autobiography, Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay can be found in boxes 20 through 22 and in box 49. Files in box 49 document revisions, additions and expansions to chapters, in memoriam, foreword, and afterword sections.
Files on Kantrowitz’s various projects pertaining to Walt Whitman are included in this series. Many notes, drafts, and revisions for an unpublished novel inspired by Walt Whitman, The Poet of the Body (also called Song of Myself), can be found in boxes 23 through 27 and box 50. Typescripts and notes pertaining to Walt Whitman, a biography written for the Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians Series (published by Chelsea House) can be found in box 50 as can documents relating to an encyclopedia entry on Whitman written by Kantrowitz.
The series also contains issues of Gotham, a short-lived magazine for which Kantrowitz acted as managing editor, and a few typescripts and photocopies of scholarly articles, and other writing not by Kantrowitz but sent to him by the authors. Also included is an unpublished collection of his essays, Stonewall's Children.
The personal papers series contain clippings, ephemera, photographs, sketches, greeting cards and artifacts saved by Kantrowitz. Included are press clippings and other printed material about Kantrowitz or in which he is mentioned; cards from his life partner Larry Mass; documents and memorabilia of his two closest friends, Vito Russo and Jim Owles; clippings and notes about Cary Yurman, a friend who set off a bomb in Sir Harry's bar in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel; and a box of gay liberation movement buttons.
Files on Vito Russo are found in boxes 32 and 51 and tube 1 and include copies of Russo’s published essays and interviews, excerpts and transcripts of selected passages from Russo’s journals, and posters of film events Russo hosted.
Kantrowitz also collected fliers, mailings, and calendars from private sex clubs devoted to gay sadomasochism, the leather scene, and bear subculture, which can be found in box 52.
This series contains sound and video recordings documenting public appearances or interviews with Kantrowitz, 1971-1994; activities of the Gay Activists Alliance; the creation of the Hetrick-Martin Institute's Harvey Milk School; memorials for Vito Russo and Jim Owles; and twelve segments from Our Time, a series focusing on the gay community, written and produced by Vito Russo, which aired on WNYC-TV in 1983.