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Interview: Humor, ‘Sex, and Violence’ with Harvey Fierstein

'I've always cut right to the character.'
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  • I Was Better Last Night
  • 'I've always cut right to the character.'

Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • A poignant and hilarious memoir from the cultural icon, gay rights activist, and four-time Tony Award–winning actor and playwright, revealing never-before-told stories of his personal struggles and conflict, of sex and romance, and of his fabled career

Harvey Fierstein’s legendary career has transported him from community theater in Brooklyn, to the lights of Broadway, to the absurd excesses of Hollywood and back. He’s received accolades and awards for acting in and/or writing an incredible string of hit plays, films, and TV shows: Hairspray,  Fiddler on the Roof, Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Cheers, La Cage Aux Folles, Torch Song Trilogy, Newsies, and Kinky Boots. While he has never shied away from the spotlight, Mr. Fierstein says that even those closest to him have never heard most of the tales—of personal struggles and conflict, of sex and romance, of his fabled career—revealed in these wildly entertaining pages.

I Was Better Last Night bares the inner life of this eccentric nonconforming child from his roots in 1952 Brooklyn, to the experimental worlds of Andy Warhol and the Theatre of the Ridiculous, to the gay rights movements of the seventies and the tumultuous AIDS crisis of the eighties, through decades of addiction, despair, and ultimate triumph.

Mr. Fierstein’s candid recollections provide a rich window into downtown New York City life, gay culture, and the evolution of theater (of which he has been a defining figure), as well as a moving account of his family’s journey of acceptance. I Was Better Last Night is filled with wisdom gained, mistakes made, and stories that come together to describe an astonishingly colorful and meaningful life. Lucky for us all, his unique and recognizable voice is as engaging, outrageously funny, and vulnerable on the page.

©2022 Harvey Fierstein (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A raw, funny and fabulous memoir . . . Fierstein shares his life less in conventional chapters than in colorful patches: 59 of them, stitched together with photos and a plush index. The sum of this is warm and enveloping and indeed two-sided: One is a raw, cobwebby tale of anger, hurt, indignation and pain; flip it over and you get billowing ribbons of humor, gossip and fabulous, hot-pink success . . . With a dramaturge’s expert timing, Fierstein saves the most difficult anecdote of his upbringing for near the end, like the classic 11 o’clock number in musical theater. A story about his mother’s reaction to his accidental coming-out, it’s a pin prick to the heart. Actually it makes the heart a pin cushion.”—Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times

"I love this book. Harvey Fierstein turns a phrase into a novel and the personal into the universal. The day for this book has come."—Gloria Steinem 

“I am in awe of Harvey’s theatrical history. From being among the vanguard of New York’s Experimental Theatre, through Warhol, to Broadway musicals. Who can touch that? His memoir is extraordinary, and he is in a class by himself.”—Patti LuPone 

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What listeners say about I Was Better Last Night

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Loved it

It is wonderful to hear Harvey read his memoirs. His voice, truth and originality is simply marvelous.

4 people found this helpful

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Love- Loss and Fabulosity- Quintessential Harvey

Just phenomenal- up close and very personal. He treats his creativity and genius with a down to earth approach. This self assessment is very refreshing. All this coming from the author of Torch Song- La Cage- Kinky Boots-Casa Valentina-Bella Bella, etc. He has performed in Torch Song, Hairspray, La Cage, Fiddler, Mrs. Doubtfire and much much more. Read, Listen and Enjoy!-You owe it to yourself

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I loved every minute of it!

I really enjoyed Harvey’s book. Being around the same age, I was familiar with many of the cultural references. And finishing his book with the story of “Bella, Bella” was perfect!!

Thank you for sharing your life with us! Now we need a book about Charlie and all the wonderful dogs in your life!

3 people found this helpful

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Harvey in his own words, in his own voice.

The life & times of Harvey.
THIS is the most interesting man on Earth.

He details with such an entertaining canter and candor, direct and unapologetic, absolutely entrancing the listener.

With over 50 chapters, each more fascinating than the previous, this book draws you in with him. He makes you virtually feel like you are there beside him during some of the most interesting times in modern history.

I have been completely blown away by the detail. He has brought forth tears, both of laughter and sadness. The hours just melt away - if you have ever binge watched a TV series, you will understand the draw.

Harvey, I want to call you Mama, or even Papa.

This book is a necessity for any and every gay or straight person. You will understand.


3 people found this helpful

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Harvey Is Eternally Fabulous!

Thank you, Mr. Fierstein, for sharing your life experiences with the candor, charm, humor, and compassion that you have displayed thoughtout my knowledge of you. A knowledge that began when I was a young gay man, still in the closet, and searching for anything to validate my existence. I will always be grateful to you for being the touchstone I needed in a life that was mired in straightness. Your memoir is extremely will written, and your preformance as narrator is spectacular...but anyone who is aware of you will already know that anything less would never come from Harvey Fierstein. You are a treasure! ...thanks again.

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I read this in one sitting

Harvey's memoir was so honest, timely, real and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed his story and it brought back so many memories of all the great shows of his that i have seen on Broadway. He is truly a great story teller.

3 people found this helpful

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What a bore

This book is boring, flat, and really has nothing to say. There is no passion or fire. Just words tossed together. Very disappointed!

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All of the feels...

You intrigued me Mr. Fierstein. My phone even likes you, it auto- corrected your name to "First Einstein!" lol It was a pleasure to learn about your life. The ups and down and all of the side ways. Thank you for sharing.

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Of course it’s wonderful

What a perfect book - the Harvey everyone know and the Harvey we didn’t. Written with caring, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, love, and humor (of course). No rest for the weary, so please write another, Harvey, but no more 3 projects at a time!

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What a joy

I’m not sure you can fully enjoy this if you’re not a regular NYC theatergoer but if you are, the memories alone will bring you unending joy. Harvey is a national treasure.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Brixtonian
  • 03-02-22

A joy to listen to.

A real celebration of a life well lived. There's not much score settling in this lovely book, OK there's a little but, in the main Harvey's life has been too busy and accomplished to carry grudges, unlike some recent theatrical autobiographies.

It's pleasing to meet a hero and find that he's as generous, kind and loving as you'd hoped. Love this book. Love this man.

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  • Colin McIntosh
  • 03-16-22

Unbelievably Brilliant

This was one of the most interesting and fascinating audiobooks. HF reads as if he’s talking to you directly. A really wonderful conversational style and the content is just fascinating. There isn’t a chapter that doesn’t make you think Wow as his life is just so rich and full and yet there is an element of sadness.
I am genuinely sad that the audiobook has come to an end. It was probably the best autobiography I’ve ever had the honour to listen to. Incredibly highly recommended to everyone. If you like theatre it’s so interesting and full of stories and also the political landscape and that of a gay man growing up. I just loved it. Thanks Harvey!

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  • Gemma
  • 07-07-22

5 out of 5 stars

What a brilliant audio book, Harvey is insightful & funny - a great listen!

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  • R . K
  • 06-18-22

love that voice and amazed by the memories shared.

honestly well worth listening to if you are a fan of Harvey or just curious who the man is.

beautifully presented and wonderfully insightful.

I shead a tear a number of times throughout.

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  • Emma Brown
  • 06-07-22

Brilliant from start to finish

I have to confess that prior to listening I knew little about Harvey Fierstein apart from that he was brilliant in Mrs Doubtfire. The tale of his life is wonderful from start to finish and I know I will listen to this again.

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  • T. D. Johnston
  • 05-22-22

Harvey is an icon!

What a beautiful, poignant, glorious, sad, heartfelt memoire. just wonderful. so easy to listen to.

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  • Graham G.
  • 05-03-22

Unbelievably good

I wasn't sure I wanted to listen to Harvey Fierstein read for 12 and 1/2 hours but thought I'd give it a go. I am so glad I did. No one, but no one other than Harvey Fierstein could have read this book. Like a comfortable friend telling you about the fascinating, touching and challenging life experiences you didn't really know he had but only suspected. This was a truly enjoyable experience that speaks individually to the listener. Laughter, tears, anger all in the perfect places and amounts. Couldn't be better.

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  • PIBULL
  • 08-06-22

Harvey is a mensch

Years ago, I waved to Harvey on Castro Street in SF, not far from my apartment. He waved back with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. If I’d known the stories in this book, I’d have hugged him and begged him to come over for coffee. Honest and funny and truthful, I cannot recommend it enough.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-17-22

A huge big hearted book

I've been sending this to all my friends saying: read it, listen to it, gift it.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-09-22

So brilliant!

One of the finest memoirs I’ve ever read. Mr Fierstein is a living icon - both fascinating and insightful - thank you for sharing your life with us

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  • Aussie greg 😃
  • 04-07-22

harvey is amazing

harvey is hilarious,honest ,and it was a treat to listen to this book. 4 stars

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  • Trev
  • 03-24-22

Harvey Fierstein Fan's Must Read!

Harvey Tells Us All, Man Boobs To Kinky Boots! A Must For All Fan's Of The Great Queer Icon!