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Harvey Forbes Fierstein (born June 6, 1952) 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 Yorkmarker, the son of Jacqueline Harriet (née Gilbert), a school librarian, and Irving Fierstein, a handkerchief manufacturer. He is Jewish by birth and is an atheist.

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. His careers as a stand-up comic and female impersonator are mostly behind him. Fierstein resides in Ridgefield, Connecticutmarker.

Career

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 Broadwaymarker 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 Theatremarker 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.

Acting

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 Institutemarker in Brooklyn. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Pratt in 1973.
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.

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