Harvey Fierstein


Actor, Playwright

About

Also Known As
Harvey Forbes Fierstein
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
June 06, 1954

Biography

One of America's first few openly gay major celebrities, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein combined a semi-experimental, in-your-face approach with the nostalgia, the heart-tugging showmanship, and the conventional formats of the tearjerker, the drag revue, and the sitcom. In the process, he proved to be a key figure in promoting the idea that contemporary LGBT life could be a viable...

Family & Companions

Bruce Bibby
Companion
Entertainment journalist. Together 1987-92.
Joe Grabarz
Companion
Lawyer. Executive director of Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.

Biography

One of America's first few openly gay major celebrities, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein combined a semi-experimental, in-your-face approach with the nostalgia, the heart-tugging showmanship, and the conventional formats of the tearjerker, the drag revue, and the sitcom. In the process, he proved to be a key figure in promoting the idea that contemporary LGBT life could be a viable subject matter for contemporary drama distributed through fairly widespread venues.

A very versatile performer, Fierstein brought his talent for focusing the outlandish with his debut as an asthmatic lesbian cleaning woman in one of Andy Warhol's few theatrical ventures, "Pork," in 1971. During the 70s, a very up-and-down period for the actor, the one-act pieces which eventually formed "Torch Song Trilogy" were written, performed and reworked until they became a highly polished triptych of contemporary gay culture. In retrospect, it seems incredible that "Torch Song" didn't make it to Broadway until 1983, but his dual Tony wins for both Best Play and Best Actor brought a new kind of face into American living rooms during the awards broadcast. Fierstein scored again in the theater the following year by writing the amusing book of the sumptuous, popular Broadway musical adaptation, "La Cage aux Folles," earning a third Tony in the process.

Acting roles in mainstream films began soon thereafter with a part in "Garbo Talks" (1984), and Fierstein eventually co-produced and starred in a somewhat disappointing film adaptation of "Torch Song Trilogy" in 1988. He has subsequently kept very much in the public eye with several AIDS awareness specials, the moving narration to the Oscar-winning documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk" (1984), and hilarious performances on "Cheers" as Rebecca's former boyfriend and on "The Simpsons" as Homer's secretary. His voice-over for the latter spotlighted Fierstein's unique voice, once described in NEW YORK NEWSDAY as "that Brillo-and-bourbon growl." He played Dr. Lang for a time on the daytime soap "Loving" (ABC) and has included several nongay characters in his repertoire of acting stints in TV-movies and series work. His small but highly amusing turn as Robin Williams's brother in "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993) seemed a suitable reflection not only of mainstream culture's continued marginalization of gay characters and lifestyles but also its increased curiosity and, indeed, sometimes liberal acceptance of them, attitudes which typify Fierstein's important if unsteady niche in popular culture and social politics. He also played a key role in the sci-fi epic "Independence Day" (1996), about an alien invasion of the USA. For a while, Fierstein seemed to excel most at playing himself, or winking nods to his real-life persona, on TV guest appearances and the like, but continued to snare roles in everything from family fare such as "Elmo Saves Christmas" (video, 1996) and as a voice actor in Disney's aninmated adventure "Mulan" (1998) to barbarian fantasy like "Kull the Conqueror" (1997). He was Alicia Witt's gay guy pal in "Playing Mona Lisa" (2000) and reunited with Robin Williams for director Danny DeVito's manic "Death to Smoochy" (2002), but Fierstein would both completely reinvent himself and shrewdly play off his established image in 2002 when he took on the part of "Hairspray's" housewife Edna Turnblad (originally played by Divine in the film version) in Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman's Broadway musical adaptation of the John Waters cult film. Dressed completely in drag and not afraid to mine the part for the campiest gold he could, Fierstein became the toast of Broadway when the show became a smash hit, winning the trophy for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical at the 2003 Tony Awards.

The actor returned to film work in 2003 with a role in the DeVito directed comedy "Duplex" opposite Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Animal Crackers (2016)
Voice
Hairspray Live! (2016)
Farce of the Penguins (2007)
Superstar in a Housedress: The Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis (2004)
Himself
Duplex (2003)
Death to Smoochy (2002)
Playing Mona Lisa (2000)
Bennett
Common Ground (2000)
Double Platinum (1999)
MULAN (1998)
Voice
Safe Men (1998)
White Lies (1997)
Kull the Conqueror (1997)
Independence Day (1996)
Everything Relative (1996)
Dr. Jekyll and MS. Hyde (1995)
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Himself
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Conversations (1994)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
The Harvest (1992)
Bob Lakin
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Arnold Beckhoff
Mama's Pushcart: Ellen Stewart and 25 Years of La Mama Etc. (1988)
Himself
Apology (1986)
Garbo Talks (1984)
Bernie Whitlock
The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Narrator
The Demon Murder Case (1983)
Voice
Underground and Emigrants (1975)
Himself

Writer (Feature Film)

Hairspray Live! (2016)
Writer
The Wiz Live! (2015)
Writer
Common Ground (2000)
Screenplay
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Play As Source Material ("Torch Song Trilogy")
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
Co-Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Superstar in a Housedress: The Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis (2004)
Other
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Other
Mama's Pushcart: Ellen Stewart and 25 Years of La Mama Etc. (1988)
Other
Underground and Emigrants (1975)
Other

Cast (Special)

The Year Without a Santa Claus (2006)
100 Years of Hope and Humor (2003)
The 45th Annual Grammy Awards (2003)
Presenter
Broadway's Best (2002)
Matthew Broderick (2001)
Intimate Portrait: Estelle Getty (2001)
X-Chromosome's Animating Women (2000)
The Sci-Fi Channel's Invasion of Independence Day (1996)
Elmo Saves Christmas (1996)
Easter Bunny
The 50th Annual Tony Awards (1996)
Performer
The 8th Annual American Comedy Awards (1994)
State of the Union Undressed '94 (1994)
In the Shadow of Love: A Teen AIDS Story (1991)
Andrew
The Best of Nightline With Ted Koppel, 1980-90 (1990)
AFI Presents "TV or Not TV?" (1990)
Tidy Endings (1988)
The National AIDS Awareness Test: What Do You Know About Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome? (1987)

Writer (Special)

Tidy Endings (1988)
Writer
Tidy Endings (1988)
Play As Source Material

Music (Special)

Broadway's Best (2002)
Song Performer

Special Thanks (Special)

Tidy Endings (1988)
Writer
Tidy Endings (1988)
Play As Source Material

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Happy to Be Nappy and Other Stories of Me (2004)
Narrator ("It'S Okay To Be Different")
The Sissy Duckling (1999)
Voice

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

The Sissy Duckling (1999)
Writer

Music (TV Mini-Series)

The Sissy Duckling (1999)
Song
The Sissy Duckling (1999)
Song Performer

Life Events

1971

Made his stage acting debut at La MaMa E.T.C. in Andy Warhol's only play, "Pork's"

1972

First play produced at La MaMa E.T.C., "The International Stud"; later incorporated into "Torch Song Trilogy"

1976

Made first film appearance, as himself, in Rosa von Praunheim's documentary, "Underground and Emigrants"

1982

Broadway acting debut, "Torch Song Trilogy" (also wrote play)

1983

Wrote first book for a Broadway musical, "La Cage aux Folles"

1983

Supplied the voice of the Devil for the TV-movie, "The Demon Murder Case"

1984

Made feature acting debut in "Garbo Talks"

1984

Narrated the Oscar-winning feature documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk"

1988

First leading role in a film, the adaptation of his stage play "Torch Song Trilogy"; film also marked his producing debut

1988

Adapted one of the short-plays ("On Tidy Endings") from his stage play "Safe Sex" for the HBO TV-movie, "Tidy Endings"; also played one of the leading roles

1988

Wrote book for the Broadway musical, "Legs Diamond"

1990

Featured as the voice of Karl, Homer's assistant, in the "Simpson and Delilah" episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox)

1992

Earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Rebecca's first love on "Cheers" (NBC)

1993

Played Robin Williams' makeup artist brother in "Mrs. Doubtfire"

1994

Co-starred in Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway"

1996

Had featured role in the blockbuster hit, "Independence Day"

1998

Voiced the role of Yao in Walt Disney's "Mulan"

1999

Voiced Elmer in the HBO special based on his children's book, "The Sissy Duckling"

2000

Undertook the role created by Divine in the workshop of the musical version of "Hairspray"; starred in the show when it opened on Broadway in 2002

2000

Wrote the "Andy & Amos" segment of Showtime's "Common Ground," a drama special examining gay and lesbian life

2002

Had supporting role as the corrupt head of a charitable organization in "Death to Smoochy"

2005

Cast as Tevye the milkman in the Broadway revival of the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof"

2008

Wrote the book to the Broadway musical, "A Catered Affair"

2011

Cast as drag diva Albin/Zaza, a role he created 25 years ago, for the Broadway revival of "La Cage aux Folles"

Videos

Movie Clip

Torch Song Trilogy (1988) -- I've Never Been Young And Beautiful A prologue with Anne Bancroft as the mom, then writing and starring in his adaptation of his substantially autobiographical Off then On-Broadway hit, Harvey Fierstein, his character called Arnold Beckhoff, introduces himself, in Torch Song Trilogy, 1988, also starring Matthew Broderick and Brian Kerwin.
Torch Song Trilogy (1988) -- Love For Sale Beginning the second segment of his original autobiographical Broadway play, Harvey Fierstein as drag queen Arnold tears into a version of the Cole Porter standard, a friend (Bob Minor) intervening when customers led by Matthew Broderick as Alan get out of line, in Torch Song Trilogy, 1988.
Torch Song Trilogy (1988) -- Lucky For Me Just after a performance at a New York gay nightclub, Arnold (Harvey Fierstein, in his own adaptation of his multiple Tony Award-winning play) meets Ed (Brian Kerwin), early in Torch Song Trilogy, 1988.
Torch Song Trilogy (1988) -- Don't Shake, It's Cookies Hoping boyfriend Ed will arrive, disappointed when it’s only mom (Anne Bancroft), Harvey Fierstein, directed by Paul Bogart in his film adaptation of his Broadway show, as gay drag performer Arnold, getting through his birthday, in Torch Song Trilogy, 1988.
Times Of Harvey Milk, The (1984) -- Too Weird For Me Beginning with the dramatic news footage of now-Senator Dianne Feinstein's announcement of the assassination of the subject and their colleague Mayor George Moscone, the opening of the acclaimed documentary by Robert Epstein, narrated by Harvey Fierstein, The Times Of Harvey Milk, 1984.
Times Of Harvey Milk, The (1984) -- A Regular Guy Narrator Harvey Fierstein begins the life history of the subject, and labor activist Jim Elliot speaks of his first encounter, early in the Academy Award-winning documentary by Robert Epstein, The Times Of Harvey Milk, 1984.

Trailer

Family

Irving Fierstein
Father
Manufacturer.
Jacqueline Harriet Fierstein
Mother
Teacher.
Ronald Fierstein
Brother
Personal manager. Manages singer Shawn Colvin.

Companions

Bruce Bibby
Companion
Entertainment journalist. Together 1987-92.
Joe Grabarz
Companion
Lawyer. Executive director of Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.

Bibliography