The eldest and most successful Baldwin brother, highly respected for his New York stage work and prolific film career (I’m still partial to Working Girl and Beetlejuice), Alec garnered a Golden Globe for his role as Republican network exec Jack Donaghy on NBC’s 30 Rock. With no time to touch on his Emmy-nominated guest arc on Will & Grace or the many gay characters he’s played as host of Saturday Night Live (“Canteen Boy, have you ever had a mimosa?”), the 49-year-old Oscar nominee and I dredged up his own controversial “Drudge report,” mourned the loss of Halston, and looked back at the men he’s loved.
The Advocate: When I interviewed your brother William for The Advocate on his Dirty Sexy Money role, I asked him who’d get the hottest guys if the Baldwin brothers were gay. He replied, “Me, because I’ve always gotten the hottest chicks.” How do you respond?
Alec Baldwin: Well, you know, Billy’s been in L.A. and out in the sun too long, so we have to allow that he’s lost touch with reality. Billy certainly has his following now from his show, but I’ve had my gay following for a long time. Billy didn’t have a book written about him.
Have you actually read [Michael Thomas Ford’s 1998 essay collection] Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Love Me and Other Trials From My Gay Life?
Someone told me about it, and I thought it was really funny. And the guy who wrote the book sent me a copy, but no, I never read it.
How might your Catholic family in Massapequa, Long Island, have reacted if a Baldwin brother actually had come out?
I really don’t know, because I remember when I grew up — and this is on a serious, sad note here — there was only one guy in my town that I knew of who was gay, and no one even really knew what that was. I don’t even remember that even being discussed when I was a kid. Then we found out this kid who had killed himself was gay, and he was my friend in high school. He was a lovely guy. That, for me, was the beginning of understanding what life was like for people who lived a gay life, but it really became clear when I got into show business. I did a soap [The Doctors, 1980–82], and David O’Brien, who played my father, was gay. David was my dear, dear, dear friend, and I was going with him and his friends to Ambrosia and Rounds and the Mayfair over on First Avenue — I lived at 58th and First, so this was like upscale-gay central. I mean, this was no Boots and Saddle, the Anvil, Crisco Disco, or any of that militant, leather gay. These guys were bankers, insurance executives — this was rich gay. Men who were gay like ’50s gay — they kept it quiet, they went to private clubs, and when they went out in the street they didn’t want anybody to know their private lives at all. I was hanging out with these guys, having dinner with them a couple of nights a week, and it was just the most amazing experience I’d ever had in my life.
Were they respectful of your being straight?
Oh, yeah, they loved it. These guys either had long-term partners, or it was about hustlers for them.
Who’s your closest gay friend now?
Probably Scott Ellis, [the associate artistic director] of the Roundabout that I did [Entertaining Mr.] Sloane with, and his boyfriend, Jeff Mahshie, who’s a clothing designer. But I have so many friends that are gay. If you’re in this business, it seems like half of them are — maybe more.
A few years ago you were set to star in the long-delayed biopic Simply Halston as fashion designer Roy Halston, which would have been your first gay film role.
They decided to do that with somebody else, and it ultimately made sense, because it’s impossible to take an older actor and make him look younger with makeup and so forth. When you have an age range in a character, most directors know the secret is to take someone young so that you can age them. It disappointed me because I was completely in love with the script. I was dying to do it. It was a great challenge for me.