The creator of Torch Song Trilogy, HARVEY FIERSTEIN, mixes stand-up, songs and political insight in his one man show This Is Not Going To Be Pretty. Watch out as Broadway comes to Lothian Road.
Words: Steve Cramer
AT SOME POINT IN YOUR EDUCATION. you must have had one of those teachers who could speak so amusingly of their subject that you’d laugh the time away, and not realise how much you’d learned — or been left to think about — until much later. This is how Harvey Fierstein — singer, stand-up, ﬁlm star, Broadway producer and general learning experience — operates. Not so much gay as ebulliantly homosexual, Fierstein’s amusing theatrical presence contains within it a strong sense of moral and intellectual integrity.
With a gravelly voice which sounds like a tin dustbin being dragged across a concrete floor, Fierstein pounds out songs and observation with the commitment you’d expect from the author and star of Torch Song Trilogy. His political observation is as sharp as ever. Even to that staple of comic material, Bill and Monica, he brings fresh observation.
‘I pity politicians around the world,’ he says, ‘they’ve spent two years talking about this blowjob. Between you and me — don’t tell anyone — I’ve given many blowjobs in my life, but I’ve never given one where the man was able to talk on the phone. I think it was a bad blowjob. All of these heterosexual men who’ve been making such fuss have obviously never had a decent one. My heart goes out to the President, and I just wish he’d get a nice gay man into the White House to show him what a blowjob’s for.’
This will give you, if you will, a ﬂavour of Fierstein’s humour, but there’s also much to ponder in a man who feels patriotism is the most abused of substances in his own country. ‘I do use the American flag in my photographs,’ he admits, ‘because it’s a
symbol of freedom all over the world — except in America, where it’s a symbol of the right wing. I snatch the flag back, in my own way, and claim it for the left wing. There are right- wing homosexuals in America these days — I’m not shocked by this. Fact one: you should never be surprised by how much self-loathing there is in the world. And fact two: there’s never a shortage of selfish people who only look out for their own interests, with no real thought for the world or the general population.’
And what can we expect from a show whose title — This Is Not Going To Be Pretty — promises a funny but uncompromising evening of theatre? Will audiences who know Fierstein for such iconic gay pieces as La Cage Aux Folles and Torch Song Trilogy get another chance to see him perform some classic songs? ‘I’ll probably do a song or two from them, mixed with new material, because I know that in Europe that’s what people know me for. I hate going to see people like Tom Jones, who says “Tonight I’m not going to sing any of my hits” — I mean, fuck you! I came to see you do “What’s New Pussycat”, you asshole! So I hope I’ll give people what they came to see, and some things they had no idea they could see.’
The man who coined the phrase ‘we’re not different, we’re extraordinary’, is not in the Fringe brochure, but look out for him. Queue for a ticket if you have to and treasure it like the last fag in your pack.
Harvey Fierstein, Usher Hall, 220 4349.13 Aug, 7.30pm. £11.50l£15.
'My heart goes out to the President, and I just wish he'd get a nice gay man into the White House to show him what a blowjob's for.’
10—24 Jun 1999 THEIJSTXX