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Entertainment Attorney Irwin Rappaport Retires, Shifts Focus to AIDS Monument in West Hollywood

Irwin Rappaport West Hollywood Aids Memorial
Rappaport: Courtesy Irwin Rappaport

Irwin Rappaport has been an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles for 25 years. He has served as production counsel on more than 185 films, including “Mudbound,” “Okja,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Butler.”

However, Rappaport, 56, recently announced that he was closing shop to dedicate his time to being the new chair- person of the board of directors of The Foundation for the AIDS Monument, a $5 million public art project to be located on San Vicente Boulevard next to West Hollywood Park. Officially called Stories: The AIDS Monument, the 7,000-square- foot installation will include 341 bronze pole-like structures (called “traces”), each representing 5,000 Americans who have died of AIDS or are living with HIV.

There will be also be stone tablets engraved with quotes and facts about HIV/AIDS. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. An audio component will include readings from The AIDS Memorial, an Instagram account featuring stories of people who have died of the disease. People who wrote the posts will do readings as will celebrities, including Jim Parsons and Sterling K. Brown.

“Do I want to keep working this hard to make movies, as entertaining as they are?” Rappaport says. “Or do I really want to do something that I’m personally passionate about where I feel I can make a difference and contribute to something that is important — not only based on my own personal history, but important for those of us who lived through it, and those of us who don’t know enough about what happened to people here in L.A., in the United States and all over the world?”

Rappaport’s legal career started at a political firm in Washington, D.C. but he returned to Los Angeles (he went to UCLA School of Law) three years in to pursue screenwriting and producing. He eventually returned to  law. He remembers the early days of the AIDS epidemic. “I came out in 1985,” he says. “You want to come out and be welcomed into this accepting beautiful gay community and yet you looked around and it was a community in crisis, people are sick and dying everywhere you look. There was a 10-year period when friends and acquaintances were dying. It was funerals and sickness.”

He helped some of these men prepare their last will and testaments and medical powers of attorney. “I did some marches and that kind of thing but I guess I felt in some ways that I hadn’t done enough,” Rappaport says.

He first got involved with the monument in 2014. “We have a responsibility to younger generations to tell these stories,” Rappaport says. “We have this intergenerational responsibility to teach and pass along whatever we’ve learned.”