Perhaps more than anyone on Broadway, Harvey Fierstein has pioneered the way for actors on the Great White Way to be open about their sexuality. Consistently over the years he has shown great courage and sometimes at great cost. Despite the risks he took being out and proud, he is one of the most successful actors/writers on Broadway.
Harvey was born in Brooklyn to conservative Jewish parents. His mother, Harriet was a school librarian and his father Irving was a handkerchief manufacturer.
The deep voice became a trademark and was perfect for the stage. In 1982, as an out gay man, Fierstein burst unto the stage in a big way writing and acting in the famous Torch Song Trilogy. For that production, he won two Tony Awards for Best Actor and Best Play. The play was a huge hit and later turned into a movie. The film won him a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actor.
"Tony" loves this man! He won a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for La Cage aux Folles in 1983. He was also nominated as the writer for the Broadway hit "Newsies". Who can forget this Tony Award winning performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (below)? Currently he has received another nomination this June for Kinky Boots for Best Book of a Musical!
Harvey also has won an Emmy Award for narrating "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk" and an Emmy nomination for his appearance on 'Cheers' Most importantly who can ever forget his role in the hysterical "Mrs. Doubtfire" with Robin Williams?
The list of films, television appearances and voice overs can go on and on. Harvey has never stopped working, acting and writing. For so many people, like myself, Harvey is one of the great heroes of the LGBT community. He stood tall and proud when so few in the entertainment industry were out. He is a pioneer and role model for young LGBT actors. He proved you could be a success and out in show business.
If you need evidence of his articulate bravery watch the interview by Barbara Walters at the end of this article done in 1982!
Harvey is special, a beautiful man and one of the great legends.
Here are the "Five Questions For Harvey Fierstein"
1. You came out at a time when most all performers were deeply in the closet. How do you think it impacted your career for better or worse?
I am more than aware that I fucked a lot of commercial opportunities that may have been available had I been, shall we say, circumspect. However, I never considered money or fame as goals. To me they were by-products of a life in the arts. I can't say that I haven't watched fellow closeted artists getting big gigs and wondered if they did it right and I wrong. But living ingenuously was simply never an option. I guess I was just brought up right. (Or wrong)
2, Do you believe there is any professional reason for an actor to stay in the closet today? What advice would you give someone in the industry who is closeted?
Every career is completely individual. Different for every one of us. I have no crystal ball. I give young gay actors the same bullshit advice that old farts have been handing out since the dawn of time, "You get one life. LIve it, as hard as you can, full out, and with no regrets. Don't leave anything in the locker room."
3.. You are one of the hardest working people in show business as a Tony Award winning Actor and Playwright. What projects have been the most challenging to you over the years?
What you would call challenging I would call joyous. I LOVE to get in there and get dirty and create and try stuff… To me the "challenging" work are the bullshit jobs you take to pay the rent. It's a real challenge to sit around a movie set for twelve hours just to get in front of the camera and say, "Would you like a cocktail?", and then go home.
4. As a living legend yourself, what was it like to work with icon Director Jerry Mitchell and Cyndi Lauper in the new amazing Broadway hit 'Kinky Boots'.
Jerry and I had already worked together on Broadway's HAIRSPRAY and several other incarnations of the same.We knew we wanted to do something new together. Cyndi and I had talked about writing a show together years earlier. So I guess when we finally all got together to work there was some relief that the wait was over. I love them both. We are family. We created a beautiful joyous miraculous baby together that will, I have no doubt, be around years after we are gone. Working don't get better than that!
5. What is the most embarrassing or funny incident to happen to you as an actor?
I was touring as TEVYE in the road company of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. We were in Toronto and I was told, just before the curtain went up, that two of my favorite performers were in the house; legendary Captain Von Trapp himself - Mr Theodore Bikel, and the original star of MAMA MIA! - Louise Pitre. I entered the empty stage to begin the show with the famous monologue to the audience when suddenly I felt something wrong. I put my hand to my face and realized that the dry winter air had given me a very bad nosebleed. So there I stood, center stage, the audience waiting…. I pulled out my handkerchief, held it up to my face and went on with the show making certain that the audience never saw the blood gushing from my nose. Unfortunately, neither did they see much of a performance! Both of my idols left the theater without visiting me. But i could never fault them. They didn't know. Somehow I am both ashamed and proud of that
This is an extraordinary interview with Barbara Walters from 1983! You must watch this amazing man educate a nation when most people were still deeply in the closet! LGBT Americans should never forget contribution in our epic struggle for freedom!