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Harvey Fierstein

Fierstein at the 2009 Metropolitan Opera premiere
Born Harvey Forbes Fierstein
June 6, 1952 (1952-06-06) (age 57)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor/Playwright
Years active 1982–present

Harvey Forbes Fierstein (born June 6, 1954) is an American actor and playwright, noted for the early (1982) distinction of winning Tony Awards for both writing and playing the lead role in his long-running play Torch Song Trilogy, about a gay drag-performer and his quest for true love and family. He has since effectively become an unofficial, ubiquitous celebrity spokesperson and champion for gay civil rights.


Personal life

Fierstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jacqueline Harriet (née Gilbert), a school librarian, and Irving Fierstein, a handkerchief manufacturer.[1] He is Jewish by birth[2] and is an atheist.[3]

Fierstein occasionally writes columns about gay issues. He was openly gay at a time when very few celebrities were, and never needed to come out.[4] His careers as a stand-up comic and female impersonator are mostly behind him. Fierstein resides in Ridgefield, Connecticut.[5]


The gravel-voiced actor perhaps is known best for the play and film Torch Song Trilogy, which he wrote and starred in both Off-Broadway (with the young Matthew Broderick) and on (with Estelle Getty and Fisher Stevens). The 1982 Broadway production won him two Tony Awards, for Best Play and Best Actor in a Play, two Drama Desk Awards, for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Actor in a Play, and the Theatre World Award, and the film adaptation earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Male Lead.

Fierstein also wrote the book for La Cage aux Folles (1983), winning another Tony Award, this time for Best Book of a Musical, and a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Book. Legs Diamond, his 1988 collaboration with Peter Allen, was a critical and commercial failure, closing after 72 previews and 64 performances. His other playwriting credits include Safe Sex, Spookhouse, and Forget Him.

In 2007, Fierstein wrote the book to the musical A Catered Affair in which he also starred. After tryouts at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in Fall 2007, it began previews on Broadway in March 2008 and opened on April 17. He received a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Book of a Musical, and the show won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Musical.


Fierstein made his acting debut at La MaMa, E.T.C. in Andy Warhol's only play, Pork. Fierstein continued to appear at La MaMa and other venues but also, having some aspirations to become a painter, enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Pratt in 1973.

Harvey Fierstein (left) with Anthony Rapp at the Annual Flea Market and Grand Auction hosted by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, September, 2006.

In addition to Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles and A Catered Affair, Fierstein's Broadway acting credits include playing the mother, Edna Turnblad in Hairspray (2003), for which he won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He later replaced Alfred Molina as Tevye in the 2005 revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Fierstein and Tommy Tune are the only individuals to have won Tony Awards in four different categories.

Besides his leading role in the film version of Torch Song Trilogy co-starring Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft, Fierstein's film roles include Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway, Robin Williams' makeup-artist brother in Mrs. Doubtfire, and Merv Green in Death to Smoochy, in addition to parts in Garbo Talks, Duplex, Kull the Conqueror, and Independence Day. He narrated the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, for which he won a News & Documentary Emmy Award. He also voiced the role of Yao in Walt Disney's animated feature Mulan, a role he later reprised for the video game Kingdom Hearts II and the direct-to-DVD sequel Mulan II.

On television, Fierstein was featured as the voice of Karl, Homer Simpson's assistant, in the "Simpson and Delilah" episode of The Simpsons, and the voice of Elmer in the 1999 HBO special based on his children's book The Sissy Duckling, which won the Humanitas Prize for Children's Animation. Additional credits include Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, the Showtime TV movie Common Ground (which he also wrote), and Cheers, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He sang a tribute to Katie Couric on the Today Show on May 31, 2006, her last day as anchor. He appeared as Heat Miser in the television movie remake of The Year Without a Santa Claus in December 2006. His most recent television performance was an episode of Family Guy, in which he played an overweight, chainsmoking mother. He also gave the voice-over for Lily in the "Last Cigarette Ever" episode of How I Met Your Mother when she gets a sore throat on account of too much smoking.


  1. ^ "Harvey Fierstein Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-11.  
  2. ^ Mark J. Terrill (27 November 2003). "'Hairspray' drag queen to play Mrs. Claus at Macy's parade". USATODAY. Retrieved 2008-06-11.  
  3. ^ McKinley, Jesse (2005-01-02). "Fierstein As Tevye: Sounds Crazy, No?". The New York Times. pp. 2.5. ""I mean, I don't believe in God, I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I pray three or four times a day.""  
  4. ^ "Harvey Fierstein". Broadway: The Amercian Musical. Retrieved 2009-01-18.  
  5. ^ "Harvey Fierstein political contributions". Retrieved 2009-03-21.  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Harvey Forbes Fierstein (born June 6, 1952) is an American Tony Award-winning and Emmy Award-winning actor, playwright and screenwriter.



  • To the delight of millions of little children, the Santa in New York's great parade will be half of a same-sex couple. And guess who the other half will be? Me! Harvey Fierstein, nice Jewish boy from Bensonhurst, dressed in holiday finery portraying the one and only Mrs. Claus.

Torch Song Trilogy (screenplay, 1988)

  • Arnold: I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It's my biggest problem because I've never been young and beautiful. Oh, I've been beautiful, and God knows I've been young, but never the twain have met.
  • Bertha: You have a high voice for a lesbian!
  • Bertha: Did your mother have any children that lived?
  • Bertha: Just wait until you see my act: Bertha Vanation and her Dance of the Virgin.
    Murray: Which she does completely from memory.
    Bertha: Bitch!
  • Arnold: I know you'll find this hard to comprehend, but I want more out of life than meeting a pretty face and sitting down on it.
  • Bertha: Personally, I never enjoy sex with someone I know.
    Arnold: Our Lady of High Standards!
  • Alan: Why are all the mirrors covered?
    Arnold: So we don't see the pain in our faces.
    Alan: Why is everyone sitting on boxes?
    Arnold: To make sure there's pain in our faces.
    Ma: (sotto voce) You told me he was Jewish!
    Arnold: Out-of-town Jewish.
  • Ma: Friend-friend, or euphemism-friend?
    David: He used to be a euphemism, now he's just a friend.
  • Ma: What lose did you have? You fooled around with some boy. Where do you compare that with a marriage of forty years? Come on. I'm not one of your pals.
    Arnold: I lost someone I loved.
    Ma: So you felt bad. Maybe you cried. Forty years I lived with this man. He got sick, I took him to the hospital. I gave them a man. They gave me a place to visit on holy days. How could you know how I felt? It took two months before I slept in our bed. It took a year before I could say "I" instead of "we." How dare you?!
    Arnold: You're right. How dare I? I couldn't know how it feels to put someone's things in plastic bags and watch garbage men take them away. Or how it feels when you forget and set his place at the table. The food that rots because you forgot how to shop for one. You had it easy! You had your friends and relatives! I had me. My friends said "At least you had a lover." You lost your husband in a clean hospital. I lost mine on the street! They killed him in the street! Twenty years old, laying dead, killed by kids with baseball bats! That's right, Ma, killed by children! Children taught by people like you that queers don't matter! Queers don't love! And those that do deserve what they get!!
  • Ed: Whoops.
    Arnold: Whoops? Ed, did you say "whoops"? No, Ed. "Whoops" is when you fall down an elevator shaft. "Whoops" is when you skinny-dip in a school of piranha. "Whoops" is when you accidentally douche with Drano! No, Ed. This was no "whoops!" This was an AAAAAAAAAAAAAUGGGHHH!!
  • Ma: Arnold, think about the boy. The way you live is bound to affect him!
    Arnold: Ma, David is gay!
    Ma: He hasn't even been here a year!
    Arnold: He came that way!
    Ma: Nobody comes that way!
    Arnold: What an opening!
  • Arnold: You want to be a part of my life, I'm not editing out the parts you don't like.
  • Arnold: I have taught myself to sew, cook, fix plumbing, I can even pat myself on the back when necessary, so I don't have to ask anyone for anything. There's nothing I need from anyone except for love and respect. And anyone who can't give me those two things has no place in my life.
  • Arnold: Anyway, it's easier to love someone who's dead. They make so few mistakes.

This Is Not Going to Be Pretty, Live at the Bottom Line (1995)

  • Hello, boys. How are you all? I just love boys. [...] Hello. Are you here alone? Who are you with? ...A woman? At my show? ...We'll make believe. It's theatre.
  • I’ve been travelling a lot. My boyfriend and I, we just went to Santa Fe. You know, the one named after the gay saint. Has anybody ever been to Santa Fe? …did you know it was a desert? I didn’t know it was a desert. Hated it! People had been telling me for years, if you’re an artist, a non-conformist, come to Santa Fe! I mean, it’s the place you can be yourself! The light, the light, you can paint here! You can live here, the space, the sky! – The fucking dust! I was doing an AIDS benefit there – like what else do I do with my life? – and I said, look, I’m a guest here, you’re paying for the hotel, I don’t mean to insult nobody, but I got a little suggestion for you. If I was yaz, I’d take a hose, hook it up to Colorado, and water this fucking place!
  • Do you remember at the presidential convention where they nominated Bush? Do you know what song they played to bring Bush on stage? No. “The Best of Times” from La Cage aux Folles. I said some fag pulled a fast one on them!
  • I live in a small fictional town in Connecticut.
  • See, I went to an all-gay high school. Art and Design. Now the truth is it wasn’t really all gay, but they bused them in, it was the law. [...] So I went to this high school, I had friends like Pablo. Pablo used to breast-feed a porcelain doll during math. You know. My friend Lauren used to roll cigarettes on her boots.

Pouf Positive

see Robert Patrick (playwright)

Safe Sex

  • You’d probably just lost your virginity, I’d probably just lost count.
  • We had great sex, but we argued politics. [...] Now we enjoy politics and argue sex.
  • Now they know who we are. We’re counted in their surveys, we’re numbered in their watchfulness, we’re powered in their press. We’re courted, polled, placated. Now they know that we’re teachers and doctors and lawyers and priests and mothers and babies. Now they see us everywhere. Hospitals, theatres, classrooms. Obituaries. Now when they tell lies about us, we answer back. We found our voices. We know who we are. They know who we are. And they know that we care what they think.


  • Never be bullied into silence.
    Never allow yourself to be made a victim.
    Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself. [1]

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