Aaron Russo (February 14, 1943 – August 24, 2007)
was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1943 in a Jewish
family. Growing up on Long Island, Russo worked for
his family's undergarment business.
He was an American entertainment businessman, film
producer and director, and political activist.
In April 1968, Russo opened the nightclub Kinetic
Playground in Chicago, Illinois, originally naming
it the Electric Theater. He booked numerous prominent
rock groups and musicians at the club such as The
Grateful Dead, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane,
Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Vanilla
Fudge, Rotary Connection, and The Who.
In addition to owning his own nightclub, Russo
managed several musical acts throughout the 1970s
including The Manhattan Transfer and Bette Midler.
Russo then moved into producing and directing
movies, six of them receiving Academy Award
nominations and two receiving Golden Globe Award
His final film would be America: Freedom to Fascism,
a political documentary critical of the Internal
Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve System and
warning about the coming of the New World Order.
Russo became involved in political issues in the early
-1990s when he produced and starred in the documentary
entitled Mad As Hell in which he criticized the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the federal
government's War on Drugs, the concept of a National
Identity Card, and government regulation of
In January 2004, Russo declared his candidacy for the
President of the United States initially as an
independent but then as a Libertarian.
At the Libertarian National Convention in May 2004,
Russo received 258 votes to Michael Badnarik's 256
votes and Gary Nolan's 246 votes, short of the majority
required to receive the presidential nomination. Russo
would eventually lose the nomination on the convention's
third and final ballot to Badnarik by a vote of 423–344.
On February 14, 2004, Russo gave his full endorsement
to the Free State Project, saying in his letter, "I
encourage my fellow Libertarians and all freedom-loving
Americans to consider joining the Free State Project."
In 2007, Russo created the political grassroots
organization, Restore the Republic, to fulfill the
political ambitions laid out in his final movie
documentary, America: Freedom to Fascism. Regarding
the organization, Russo said his goal was to "try and
get the word out to the public about what's happening
to America – and give them an opportunity to try to
On August 24, 2007, Russo died at the age of 64 of
cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
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