Actor Michael Kearns Talks Sex Scandals, Fatherhood, and the Happy Hustler
BY Benjamin Scuglia
July 27 2012 2:29 PM ET
People are so easily offended these days, but after that, any other blowback would have to be a cakewalk, then, I would imagine.
One of the first people, other than editors and professionals, to read it said it was "cringeworthy." For a brief moment, I was hurt. That little fairy boy felt like I was not pleasing someone and the book would make people cringe. Fuck it. Cringe away. I'm a dinosaur and the truth needs to be told.
I wanted to talk to you about fatherhood, in particular, because so many gay men now are all about raising kids. We even have major corporations like J.C. Penney making gay dads the center of an ad campaign. And lots of those same gay men have their sexual adventures, of course.
You can be many things in this lifetime, play many roles. The book makes clear that my best role, without question, is being a father. It's all that matters to me at the end of each day. And there was this wild child that was me — a wild child who broke conventions and barriers and evolved into an activist without ever forsaking my sexual self. Sex drove my politics for a few decades. Now, being a father does. And my kid has more clarity about gay/straight, black/white, adopted/birth families than I can even grasp. She has made a 23-minute documentary called A Family Like Mine, that says more than the entire Act Three of my book. So I've done something right. I know you know I'm not being defensive about this.
There is a very personal, intimate thread running through so much of your work, and you've also published several other quasi-memoirs in recent years. Why are you drawn to that particular form?
Acting=Life could be considered a light memoir but is really more of an acting lesson. The Drama of AIDS is definitely a memoir in that it fits into the specifics of being about a period of time, not a lifetime. The Truth is Bad Enough is really an autobiography. I avoided this book for a long time and I'm glad I did because Section Three, about my daughter, is the most compelling. My role as a father is played out more fully and passionately than any other role I've played, including that of Grant Tracy Saxon.
My work—even the plays, some of them more than others—always contain a hint of memoir but the bulk of my writing is fiction. Writing memoir is not appealing to me on some level; the process is beyond painful. Even editing becomes a nightmare, reliving some fairly emotionally treacherous details. Yet, to be honest, I've begun work on another "fictitious memoir," whatever the fuck that means.