A graduate of the Pratt Institute, actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein made his off-Broadway debut in something called Pork. Outspokenly homosexual, Fierstein has successfully smashed previous "gay" stereotypes with his deep, ratchety voice and his engaging "You got a problem with that?" belligerence. In 1982, Fierstein wrote and starred in the stage play Torch Song Trilogy, a bittersweet three-part comedy concerning the homosexual experience in the AIDS era; the play won two Tony Awards and became one of the longest-running Broadway productions in history, toting up 1,222 performances. Fierstein repeated his stage characterization of Arnold Beckoff for the heavily rewritten and severely shortened 1988 movie version of Torch Song Trilogy. The actor's crossover performances in mainstream roles have often been quite successful, notably his appearance as the likable cosmetician brother of Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). In 1994, Fierstein co-starred in the short-lived TV series Daddies' Girls, unfortunately lapsing into some of the clichéd gay mannerisms which he had so successfully avoided in his previous work.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Made his New York stage debut in the role of a cleaning lady in Andy Warhol's off-Broadway play Pork.
- Wrote and starred in Torch Song Trilogy, an autobiographical play about a man struggling with his sexual identity.
- Narrated a 1984 documentary about the life, career and murder of openly gay politician Harvey Milk.
- Created the role of effusive plump matriarch Edna Turnblad in the Broadway musical Hairspray (a stage adaptation of John Waters' 1988 silver-screen satire of the 1960s). Returned to the role in 2008 for the show's final performances.
- Is an outspoken activist for gay rights.