On Monday, April 14, the Transom visited with actor-writer Harvey Fierstein at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where his new play, an adaptation of the 1956 Gore Vidal-penned film A Catered Affair, is scheduled to open later this week.
So far Mr. Fierstein’s dressing room contains about eight pieces of folk art, a second passion for him. If the show is a hit, the chamber will soon take on the appearance of an antique shop. He wouldn’t name the price of his collection. “They would get very upset,” he said in his gravelly voice, referring to the pieces. “Like Constance would get really upset, right behind you.” (Constance: a puppet hanging from the ceiling.) “If I said I liked somebody better than her! Even though her hand fell off. The poor thing. Constance needs a little work.”
A Catered Affair had a brief run in San Diego before coming to New York, and Mr. Fierstein, sprawled on a couch in a kind of Lady Godiva pose, said the thrift shops and flea markets there aren’t so hot: Lots of Asian artifacts, and plastic.
Is he planning a seasonal purge of his possessions?
“Everything of mine is in boxes, because I’m moving into a new house,” he said, a giant red barn on top of a hill in Connecticut, with a few lakes nearby, but (poof goes a would-be priceless image) no rope swings. “I don’t really do spring cleaning anyway; I clean all the time.”
On his MySpace blog and to the Transom, Mr. Fierstein expressed disappointment in a review the play’s San Diego outing got from L.A. Times critic Charles McNulty, who took issue with its representation of gay men in the 1950s. Mr. Fierstein, as is his wont, rewrote the character of the drunk Irish uncle in Paddy Chayefsky’s original play (on which the film was based), converting him to a gay Irish uncle, and Mr. McNulty found it hard to believe that a man would be openly homosexual back then.
“It’s really our fault,” Mr. Fierstein said. “We don’t talk about our lives, gay people. We don’t write about our lives. And of course heterosexuals are definitely not going to go looking for us to write about or talk about us.”
Apparently, the 1950s are alive and well in Connecticut, where a grocery store clerk refused recently to believe him when he told her he was gay, he said, arguing that if he were gay, he wouldn’t have told her.
“There’s this whole terrible lie that if you’re openly gay, it hurts your career,” Mr. Fierstein said.
He told a story about how when he first went to L.A. way back when, Mr. Vidal advised him: “Oh, darling, the hustlers are $25 an hour and they’re all gorgeous and they’re all straight and they’ll all do anything”—behind closed doors, that is.
“You write a heterosexual character and it’s a heterosexual character; you write a gay character, and it’s looked at as every gay character,” Mr. Fierstein said. “And you say, ‘Oh, you are so fucking completely prejudiced,’ but they don’t see it. Gay people are the worst critics. When I wrote Torch Song Trilogy, Edmund White, who sees himself as a gay pioneer, ripped me to shreds for saying that gay people might want to adopt.”
The Transom’s time was up. “Throw him out,” Mr. Fierstein hollered, belching deeply.