cover image I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir

Harvey Fierstein. Knopf, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-32052-5

Fierstein, author and star of the Broadway hit Torch Song Trilogy, looks back on his show-biz travails and the struggle for gay rights in this raucous debut memoir. He recaps his parts in theater, movies, and TV—from an early turn as an asthmatic, coprophiliac, lesbian maid in Andy Warhol’s Pork to a portrayal of Congresswoman Bella Abzug—and his playwrighting achievements in groundbreaking gay-themed blockbusters like Torch Song and the musical La Cage aux Folles. Along the way, Fierstein spotlights celebrity japes—he threatened to crush comedian Jon Stewart’s genitalia in a movie scene but praised singer-songwriter James Taylor’s endowment when they shared a hot tub—as well as lurid episodes from New York’s gay demimonde of the 1970s and ’80s, and a bout with alcoholism that ended with a suicide attempt. Readers will appreciate his blunt takes on anti-gay discrimination in matters small (“Why do the straight guys always get laid in movies while the gay characters almost never do?”) and large (“The heterosexual community... let us die,” he writes of the AIDS crisis, “issuing sighs of relief that they had nothing to worry about”). Defined by a campy yet bittersweet comic sensibility, Fierstein’s vivid writing about the pratfalls, exhilaration, and painstaking craft of a life in theater beguiles. Photos. (Mar.)