When John Stamos suited up for the cover of The Advocate in 2006, he was playing doctor on ER and promoting his role as a gay wedding planner striking for marriage equality rights in the A&E original movie Wedding Wars. The former General Hospital heartthrob best known as Uncle Jesse on the hit family sitcom Full House is now performing to full houses as mama’s boy Albert Peterson in the first Broadway revival of the Tony-winning 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie, which opened October 15 at Henry Miller’s Theatre. The eternally youthful 46-year-old called Advocate.com to confess his campy obsession with Birdie costar Gina Gershon and the boozy truth behind that now-infamous Australian morning show interview.
Advocate.com: When The Advocate last spoke with you, Wedding Wars hadn’t aired yet. Were you happy with the response to the film?
John Stamos: You guys were so nice to put me on the cover, by the way. But to be honest, I was a little disappointed because it didn’t get the ratings I thought it should, and I promoted the hell out of that thing. I’m not sure the network was completely behind it, and I really wish they’d at least play it again during this important time. With everything that was going on with Prop. 8 in the last year, I begged A&E to replay the movie, but they wouldn’t do it. That really upset me and [executive producer] Craig Zadan.
Did you get any negative reaction to your support of marriage equality, like angry letters from Christian groups or conservative fans turning on you?
No, not at all, but I wouldn’t have cared anyway. My dad always told me to stay out of politics and religion, which I have for most of my career, but when that movie came up and I felt so strongly about it, I had to do it. You know, for better or worse and whatever happened with my own marriage [to Rebecca Romijn], I remember how excited I was to propose to someone and have that day in front of all my friends and family to say, “This is who I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.” I guess it’s just a simple, surfacey thing, but how can you not allow someone to have those same beautiful feelings? That’s why I did that movie.
You’re great as Albert in Bye Bye Birdie, but I was most excited to see the revival because I had ripped off Paul Lynde when I played Mr. MacAfee in my high school production. It was interesting to watch your costar Bill Irwin’s fresh yet still somewhat effeminate take on that role.
Well, it doesn’t get much more effeminate than Paul Lynde. There’s almost nobody who could make you forget about Paul Lynde other than Bill Irwin — I don’t know how he came up with his character. But that’s the challenge of the show: It’s hard to get people to forget about the old people who played these characters.
Yeah, it’s kind of a shame that after replacing stars in three Broadway musical revivals — How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Cabaret, and Nine — you finally get to open a show, but in a role that was iconically played by Dick Van Dyke in the 1963 film version. Any pressure to fill those shoes?
No, because I think I took a completely different approach to the character. I loved Ann-Margret and the music, but I thought the movie was cockamamie. Remember when they gave that turtle speed or something? So when they offered me the role, I was like, “Is there going to be a turtle in it?” When I read the script, I realized it was nothing like that. I found that Albert was, for a good percent of the time, like a little boy. He was a guy who hadn’t really grown up, which is something that I could relate to. I’ve gone through many incarnations of trying to become an adult in the last 10, 15 years, so I tapped into the little boy in me, which wasn’t very hard.
When I first heard that you’d been cast in the revival, I thought you might be playing the Elvis-like Conrad Birdie.
A lot of people asked me if I was playing Conrad. I remember them talking to me about playing Conrad in the [1995 TV movie remake], but I see myself much more as an Al than a Conrad. I’m much closer to a neurotic, nervous people-pleaser, and I’m also too old.
Some blogs actually seem obsessed with how youthful you still look.
It’s funny, because I haven’t had one ounce of Botox or any of that. I finally got gray hairs in the past couple years, and I wore it on ER, but they made me cover it up in this show. I don’t want to be one of those weird-looking guys who gets old but stays looking young.
Though it helps sell tickets, the Broadway community can sometimes be cold to the casting of TV and movie stars, which can lead to what I call a “Julia Roberts backlash.” Do you feel welcomed by the Broadway family?
No matter what happens review-wise, I very much feel accepted by the community. In fact, I feel more accepted here than I do in television and certainly in movies. I feel that I’ve paid my dues, somewhat, by doing the three other shows. I wouldn’t have deserved to get Albert right off the bat because I needed to prove myself and learn. The only way I’ve ever grown in my career is to put myself in a very difficult situation, which is what you do when you do Broadway. Everyone’s off in Hollywoodland, making movies and TV, thinking what they’re doing is so important, but when you come to Broadway you see how hard these actors really work — and it’s really about the work because there’s not a lot of money involved, no perks, no big fancy trailers. This is my fourth Broadway show, and every time I’m a completely new person at the end of it.
On the subject of star casting, do you have any plans to meet for a drink with A Steady Rain stars Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig after your shows one night?
Hugh’s an old friend of mine and it’s such a small community, so I’m sure I’ll run into them. Some woman asked me the other day, “Is there a place where all you heartthrobs hang out?” I said, “Yes, it’s called the Hollywood Heartthrob Club. We just sit around and talk about how hot we are.” There is a great bar, Bar Centrale, where everybody goes after their shows, so it’s a good place to see your fellow actors.
Doing Broadway makes you very accessible to fans. Do you like stage door situations?
I’ve never been one of those people who doesn’t like meeting fans. Look, I grew up wanting to be a star for all the wrong reasons: I wanted to be famous, have money, and meet chicks. It wasn’t until after it happened that I realized there was a craft to be learned. So I enjoy it, and I’m not bullshitting you. It’s the same reason I have Twitter, which is the new way to get close to the people who support you. Kevin Spacey talked me into it, and then I talked Bob Saget into it, and now Saget’s got four times the amount of followers I do.
Do you notice many gay fans at the Birdie stage door?
I am seeing a lot more guys than normal coming to the stage door, and I take a picture with them. It’s very sweet. I hope that I’m accepted as being gay-friendly. I think gay people are proud of Wedding Wars.
Well, your good looks don’t hurt either. Were you aware of gay fans back in your General Hospital and Full House days?
I guess so, but people weren’t as out back then. You know, I’m not sure this pertains to the question, but I went to a party for Liberace when I had just started General Hospital, and there’s this great picture of me, Liberace, and David Hasselhoff out there somewhere. I need to find it.
Before your head gets too big, don’t forget that your costar, Gina Gershon, has a bigger gay fan base than you do.
Yes, she does have a bigger gay fan base. She was so brilliant in Bound, which is my favorite movie of hers, but I’m also a big Showgirls fan. That’s all I talk to her about. That’s one of the main reasons I did the show. I need to have a Showgirls party, because a lot of the kids in the cast haven’t seen it. She’s never seen Full House, so I told her, “OK, we’ll watch a few episodes of Full House, but then we have to watch Showgirls together. It’s a must.” I even do that dance move — you know, the quick hand movements in front of the face? I think I’m going to try to sneak that into the show.
You already show off some pretty groovy moves in Birdie. Would you ever do Dancing With the Stars?
Uh, no. Not to be disrespectful, but isn’t that the place you go when you don’t have a career? Why would I dance on that show when I get to dance on Broadway?
Nolan Gerard Funk, who plays Conrad Birdie, recently tweeted that you introduced him to Madonna. What’s the story?
Nolan’s a sweet kid. I’ve sort of taken him under my wing because he’s very ambitious; he wants to meet the right people, do the right thing, and go to the right places. So I took him to the opening of the Boom Boom Room at the Standard Hotel, and the first person I happen to sit next to is Madonna. She said, “Hey, John,” and I said, “Hey, meet my friend Nolan.”
Perez Hilton posted a picture of you with another gay icon, Bette Midler, earlier this year.
Yeah, I love Bette, and I was out with Liza recently too. When it comes to icons, Liza’s my favorite. She wrote on my script — I have it up in my dressing room — “To John, Take no prisoners and fuck the wounded. Liza May Minnelli.” You know, Perez is one of my buddies. It wasn’t in the article, but Perez was actually there helping to direct my photo session when I was shooting the cover of The Advocate. He was down the street, so I said, “Come down here and help me figure out how to pose.”
Speaking of gossip bloggers, have you heard the gay rumor about yourself?
Oh, yeah, all the time, but it never bothered me.
Do you think that pink tank top you wore in the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” video had anything to do with it?
[Laughs] Yeah, that might’ve been a sign. And if you watch that video, there’s this one mis-cut where Mike Love sort of points and winks. He was supposed to be doing it to one of the girls on the beach, but the video immediately cuts to me in my pink tank top.
You scored major cool-points with a shout-out in Mean Girls, but I loved that scene in Step Brothers where Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly decide that, if they were chicks, they’d both want to sleep with you.
That was flattering. Yeah, they’ll drop my name and talk about me in movies a lot. They just don’t put me in the movies.
May I turn that same hypothetical question on you?
Who would I be into if I were gay? You know, I’ve never been asked that before. And I can’t say “me,” right? [Laughs] Well, I’m attracted to funny people. Let me think ... Neil Patrick Harris, maybe. He’s funny. I love Neil. It always breaks my heart when I see someone who has the courage to come out and then it hurts their career, but I think it’s fantastic that Neil’s coming-out didn’t seem to hurt him one bit; in fact, it’s propelled him. He’s become such a force in our business.
Back to pop culture name-drops: After she married Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres blogged, “Sorry, John Stamos, this one’s taken!”
I didn’t really get that one. Did you?
If straight guys can have dude-crushes, I suppose lesbians can too. Maybe it was a joke that you’re the only man who might’ve had a chance with Portia in some alternate universe.
Well, that’s very sweet.
What did you think about your shout-out on Glee a few episodes back? One character said, “They say it takes more certainty than talent to be a star. I mean, look at John Stamos.”
Yeah, that was a weird one. I love that show, but I didn’t see that episode. I heard about it, though. I get that it’s funny to say my name in something, but usually it’s sweet like the Step Brothers thing. When it’s not, like the Glee thing, it’s like, who cares? I just opened my fourth Broadway show, so I’m doing OK. And as far as having certainty, I don’t think that’s what’s gotten me anywhere; I’m probably one of the more insecure actors out there.
In 2007 you made headlines when you acted loopy on the Australian talk show Mornings With Kerri-Anne and said that a Daily Telegraph reporter had “a small penis.” So if you get any negative reviews for Birdie, will you blame it on the critics having small penises?
[Laughs] I was mad at that guy because he put on a video from our interview, when it was early in the morning and I was dozing off, and he made it seem like I was on drugs, which was not true. My mother saw that and got really upset. So when I went on that talk show the next day, I made fun of the guy by saying he had a small penis. He tried to sue me for that, you know. I said, “The only way he’s going to prove me wrong is to whip his dick out in court,” so the lawsuit went away. But I’ll be honest: When I went on that morning show, I was drunk. Yes, I was on sleeping pills and I was jet-lagged, but I was also just plastered. And I never said I wasn’t, but that whole Warner Bros. publicity machine got involved and said, “Just say he was jet-lagged.” I said, “No, tell ’em the truth! I was fucking drunk in Australia. Big deal.”