SELLER: Larry Kramer and David Webster
LOCATION: Warren, CT
SIZE: 4,092 square feet, 4-5 bedrooms, 6.5 bathrooms
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: A little birdie recently brought Your Mama an unexpected real estate worm in the form of a digital press release about the fairly traditional and scenically sensational Connecticut country house owned by famously controversial writer and pioneering AIDS activist Larry Kramer and his long-time architect man-friend David Webster who recently heaved their 15-plus acre lake view spread on the market with an asking price of $3,500,000.
Mister Kramer, for those of y’all who may not recognize his name, started out as a screenwriter in Tinseltown and earned an Oscar nomination in 1969 for his adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love. In the 70s he pretty much switched to novels and plays, largely with overt and sociopolitically polemical homosexual themes. First came the play Sissies’ Scrapbook and then the (still) polarizing novel Faggots.
Increasingly disturbed with the mysterious illness that began to sweep through the gay community and angered by the lack of public attention and governmental action,* Mister Kramer jumped feet first, heart and soul into his well-known role as a fearless activist for the the gay community. He went on to co-found the Gay Mens Health Crisis (GMHC), the largest organization to assist people living with HIV and AIDS. Later, still angry with the apathy he saw in the medical community, public and governmental organizations and the gay community, Mister Kramer founded AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, an aggressive and sometimes combative, in-your-face direct action protest organization more commonly known as ACT UP. Despite his frequently controversial ways and outsider status in mainstream culture and often even within the gay community, Mister Kramer made use of the power of public protest to change the game. He harnessed the hot lens of the media to bring oceans of attention to the threats and realities of HIV/AIDS and to successfully change public policy and social mores.
He took home two Obies and a Pulizter Prize nomination for his 1993 play The Destiny of Me, a kind of sequal to his blistering 1985 play The Normal Heart, the latter of which is currently in pre-production as a t.v. movie produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Pitt. The all-star cast includes Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitch, Julia Roberts, Alex Baldwin and Joe Mantello. It was recently announced Mister Kramer will receive the 2013 Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 67th annual Tony Awards. Anyways…
As best as Your Mama can tell from property records Misters Kramer and Webster purchased the first of their two parcels—the larger, 9.49 acre parcel on which the main residence sits—in January 1992 for $485,000. The smaller adjacent parcel—5.62 acres–was picked up in the fall of 1998 for just $140,000 and remains largely if not entire undeveloped. A quick consult with Your Mama’s bejeweled abacus shows the couple’s total outlay for the lake view property was $625,000, not counting improvements, upgrades, upkeep and carrying costs. Won’t be a bad return for them if they get anywhere near their asking price, right?
The Kramer/Webster property occupies an elevated spot on the north side of Lake Waramaug, a small, semi-private recreation lake about 90 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan in Connecticut’s fantastically bucolic Litchfield County. Once upon a time Your Mama knew a small handful of folk who owned homes around Lake Waramaug and we can tell you from actual experience it’s a pretty fantastic fookin’ spot, particularly as a getaway from the madness of New York.
Listing details show the barn-style farmhouse residence has 4-5 bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms in 4,092 square feet of space that Your Mama presumes has been worked over by at least once by Mister Webster the architect. A sky lit foyer/stair hall connects through to a formal living room with wood floors, French doors, a full wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with actual books, a large fireplace and a soaring double height ceiling.
Additional spaces include a media room, offices (plural as shown in listing details) and a notably lengthy dining room with French doors, a fairly low-looking beamed ceiling and a herringbone pattern brick fireplace so tall a short person could stand up in there. The dining room is open, loft-style, to the kitchen that marries vintage country house details like bead board cabinetry and barn-wood paneled walls with modern conveniences like an industrial stove and high-grade stainless steel appliances. French doors set into a peaked wall slathered in classic white subway tiles provides a direct and convenient access to the outdoors. A brick-floored sun porch ringed with over-sized 18-pane windows has a direct—if through the trees—over the lake and the wooded rolling mountains around its sinuous perimeter.
At least four of the bedrooms are tucked up into the eaves with sloped ceilings and low windows. One bedroom has a fireplace and a sitting area, another has French doors that open to balcony and a third has built-in twin-sized beds on either side of the door to an attached bathroom. All are dressed in a funky, mixy-matchy melange of mis-matched patterns and fabrics. There are plaids with florals and florals with stripes and stripes with plaids, for example. The pattern mixing is, to be sure, bold and even quite brazen at moments and nobody loves a mis-matched decorative ensemble more than Your Mama but the overall decorative vibe of the place is much less, well, radical than we expected for such a radical person. But that probably says more about our own limited psyche than it does about Mister Kramer’s, does it not? Impermanent decorative issues aside…
The hilltop grounds include generous brick terraces, one with a raise circular spa with lake, hill and sky views; a large flat, lake view croquet lawn and a long driveway that rises as it sweeps by the front of the house to the four-car attached garage. Set below the house there’s a lap-lane swimming pool with grass on two sides and a red brick terrace wraps around the other. Nearby there’s an open air cabana with outdoor shower.
We don’t know if any other high profile and/or Showbiz people summer around or near Lake Waramaug—we’d be surprised if there weren’t one or two—but our research turned up evidence that Mister Kramer and Websters’ scenic spread backs up to a much larger and more developed 35-acre compound purchased in 2009 by maverick Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava for about $5.5 million from former American Express Chairman and CEO James Robinson III.
Mister Kramer and Mister Webster also have an apartment in a swank, full-service building on lower Fifth Avenue that overlooks Washington Square Park.
*We do not know Mister Kramer and really don’t know if those are words he would choose to describe how he was feeling but we sort of imagine that for someone to engage so vociferously over such a long period of time he or she would have to feel both angry and disturbed by the status quo.
Listing photos: The Matthews Group