Arthur Laurents Extended

Charles Kaiser and Arthur Laurents continue their conversation.



Arthur Laurents: David Saint [artistic director of the George Street Playhouse] is my best friend now. It's the best place I've ever worked. After Tom died I just stayed holed up in Quogue. And when I finally decided I'm OK, I can face the world, I went to George Street, because it's like home. It was the opening night of a new play by Elaine May starring Marlo Thomas. I'd never met Elaine. We just fell in love. We sat at a big table for dinner but we didn't talk to anybody but one another. I'd never seen Marlo Thomas-I was mad for her. And here she is in this place. They're both close to Mike Nichols who has become a good friend.

He wanted to do a movie of Gypsy and we talked about it. Then he came to the opening of the Patti Lupone Gypsy at City Center. And he sent me an e-mail that began, "Oh My God!" He said, I don't think you can do this on the screen. He went to a reading of this play New Year's Eve, and said, 'You're the only honest man in New York.' I love having dinner with him. Just the two of us.

The only homophobia I encountered was from people like Larry Kramer. I can't actually say it's homophobic. But I can't really see one gay man attacking another. I find it very offensive. It's the most common thing in the world.

I don't know, it's like betraying the tribe. I think it's awful. He wrote something about me. It began, when we became friends, he was told, no friend ever lasted with me. I did them in. And it ended up, saying nobody liked me and I would die alone. He thought it would be published in an issue about me. Tom said, 'Tell him to have David read to him as though it's about him.' I don't know whether they ever did.

At the very beginning-in the '40s surely; first of all, you were going to a shrink because you were concerned about being gay. Even in Hollywood in the '40s there was no nervousness about being gay? It never appeared in print until Frank [Rich] did it by accident.

I did a play of mine called Jolson Sings Again in Seattle at the Seattle Rep. Frank was out there and he interviewed me on the stage of the Seattle Rep. and he talked about Tom as my "partner." I'd never heard that word before. [Frank Rich wrote in 1995: "At this time of cultural warfare, the liberal, gay Mr. Laurents surely has no shortage of causes. But the one that consumes him most, propelling him back East this week, may be the loneliest and most quixotic of all -- his mission to raise the level of the culture itself by making Broadway, once the birthplace of classics by O'Neill and Williams, safe again for 'the new American play.'"]

You know that analyst really was wonderful.

...Who said as long as you live your life with pride and dignity, what difference does it make. That must have been a kind of light bulb in terms of how you perceived yourself.Oh, it changed my whole life. It really did.

Tags: Theater