"James Carroll Pickett: I miss you the most, honey. Dreams that defy death and exult in a world without end. Amen. Slow fade. Curtain." --Michael Kearns, Naming Names, 2006In 1995, Kearns began proceedings that resulted in his adoption in 1997 of a child. In a March 2013 appearance on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Radio, Kearns admitted to affairs with actor Rock Hudson and Barry Manilow. He presently lives in Los Angeles with his daughter who was born in 1994.
Kearns was born in St. Louis, Missouri. As a young man he attended the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, Illinois, and graduated in 1972 and moved to Los Angeles. For more than 25 years he has been active in the Los Angeles art and politics communities, maintaining a mainstream film and television career with a prolific career in the theatre. His activism is deeply integrated into his theatre works, and he has received grants from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the Brody Foundation, and PEN Center USA West. He is a current commissioner of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
Kearns is a regular contributor to a number of magazines and newspapers, including the Frontiers, Los Angeles Times, L.A. Parent, IN Magazine, and L.A. Weekly.
Michael Kearns is an actor, writer, director, teacher, producer, and activist. He is noted for being the first openly gay actor, and after an announcement on Entertainment Tonight in 1991, the first openly HIV positive actor in Hollywood. With partner James Carroll Pickett he responded to the AIDS crisis in the mid-80s by co-founding two AIDS organizations: Artists Confronting AIDS (ACA) and STAGE (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event, the longest running theatrical benefit in the world).
He is also author of five theatre books: T-Cells & Sympathy, Acting = Life, The Solo Performer's Journey, Getting Your Solo Act Together, and Life Expectancies. Both T-Cells & Sympathy and Acting = Life were nominated for Lambda Literary Awards.
Kearns made his Los Angeles theatrical debut in Tom Eyen’s The Dirtiest Show in Town at the Ivar Theatre.
In 2005—2006, Kearns was the Artist Director of Space At Fountain’s End where he curated and produced eighteen months of artistic expression including theatre, performance, jazz, fine art, photography, and poetry. Also in ’06, Kearns directed Lan Tran’s Elevator Sex (Off Broadway), The Tina Dance (throughout Los Angeles), and the twentieth anniversary production of Robert Chesley’s Jerker.
The City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department awarded Kearns with a COLA Fellowship to create a new work, Make Love Not War, that premiered in 2005. The COLA performances “represent a non-thematic cross section of very current work by some of Los Angeles’ best artists,” according to Noel Korten, Curator and Director of Exhibitions of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.
His two widely-lauded solo theatrepieces, Intimacies and More Intimacies, in which he portrays a dozen culturally diverse people with HIV/AIDS, were produced in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Eugene, Minneapolis, Santa Barbara, San Antonio, Austin, San Diego, St. Louis, Tucson, Phoenix, Washington D.C., New York City, San Diego, Hartford, New Haven, Northhampton, Sydney (Australia), Liverpool, London, and Manchester (England).
In addition to other solo performance pieces (including The Truth Is Bad Enough, Attachments, Rock, and Tell Tale Kisses, Kearns has written several full-length plays: Myron, Mijo, Robert's Memorial, Who’s Afraid of Edward Albee?, Blessings, Barriers, and the lyrics for Homeless, A Street Opera. Kearns co-wrote the screenplay for Nine Lives, based on his play, Complications. His solo piece Going In: Once Upon A Time in South Africa chronicles the time he spent in Johannesburg with his daughter, working at an orphanage.
Kearns directed and co-produced the Artists Confronting AIDS’ landmark productions of AIDS/US in 1986, AIDS/US II in 1990, and AIDS/US/TEENS in 1994. He co-founded the S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event) benefit, now in its 22nd year. He served as Artistic Director of Celebration Theatre for their 1986—87 season and of Artists Confronting AIDS for a decade, from 1984—1994.
He directed the Los Angeles premieres of Robert Chesley's Night Sweat and Jerker, Rebecca Ranson's Warren, Eric Bentley’s Round Two, Clark Carlton’s Self Help, Syd Rushing’s We Are One, Melanie DuPuy’s Heroine and Doug Holsclaw's Life Of The Party. Throughout ’04 and ’05, Kearns directed a series of Precious Chong’s Porcelain Penelope Shows that played in several Los Angeles venues as well as Off-Broadway.
In 1993, Kearns played the title role in Charles Ludlam's Camille at Highways in Santa Monica, garnering rave reviews from the Los Angeles critics, as well as a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award nomination for his performance. "An actor giving the performance of his life," said Richard Shelton, theater reviewer for the Los Angeles Times. In addition to winning a Drama-Logue Award and a Robby Award, he was nominated by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for Lead Performance. The artist has received numerous acting awards, including the 1999 Garland Award for his critically acclaimed performance in Robert Harders’ Bill and Eddie.
Kearns has both directed and appeared in Jerker (Los Angeles, San Diego, Des Moines), and originated the role of Christopher, on stage and on video, in Pickett's Dream Man (which has played New York City, San Francisco, Des Moines, L.A., Portland, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Edinburgh, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and London). Two revivals of James Carroll Pickett’s Dream Man (with American actor Jimmy Shaw) were directed by Kearns: at Madrid’s DT Espacio Escenico as part of the Festival Version Original (2005) and the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (2007).
Long before coming out of the closet was considered a career move in the entertainment industry, Kearns was the first Hollywood actor on record to come out in the mid-seventies, amidst a shocking amount of homophobia. He subsequently made television history 1991 announcing on Entertainment Tonight that he was HIV positive, and the in 1992, as an openly HIV-impacted actor, guesting on a segment of ABC TV's Life Goes On in which he played a character who had the virus. He played Cleve Jones in the HBO adaptation of Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On, appeared in A Mother's Prayer, It's My Party and had a recurring role on Beverly Hills, 90210... a variety of shows that depicted HIV/AIDS.
Other television and film credits include Cheers, Murder, She Wrote, The Waltons, L.A. Tool & Die, Knots Landing, General Hospital, Days of our Lives, The Fall Guy, A River Made to Drown In, Kentucky Fried Movie, and Brian De Palma's Body Double.
The Truth is Bad Enough: What Became of the Happy Hustler? by Michael Kearns
Paperback: 306 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 17, 2012)
Amazon: The Truth is Bad Enough: What Became of the Happy Hustler?
Amazon Kindle: The Truth is Bad Enough: What Became of the Happy Hustler?
“We are all lucky to still have Michael Kearns with us,” Sir Ian McKellen says “now recording his private and public story with an honesty and humor that put most other show-biz autobiographies to shame.” THE TRUTH IS BAD ENOUGH, What Became of The Happy Hustler? traverses more than a half of century—from Kearns’ roles as ribald party boy to impassioned artist-activist to doting father. From the Seventies’ sexual revolution to the gay parenting boom of the Twenty First Century, Michael Kearns has defined nearly a half a century of American life: culturally, politically, and sexually. In many instances, he was not only at the forefront of the historical milestones, he created them. • Ushering in the sexual revolution, starring in the L.A. production of Tom Eyen’s The Dirtiest Show in Town (1972). • Hoaxing the public by “becoming” Grant Tracy Saxon, the bisexual author of The Happy Hustler (a deliberate spoof of Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker) which sold more than 250,000 copies and resulted in Kearns’ nationwide notoriety. • Coming out as the first openly gay actor in Hollywood, while juggling a mainstream television career (Cheers, Murder She Wrote, The Fall Guy) with a revolutionary theatre career at the legendary Déjà Vu Coffeehouse Los Angeles. • Responding to the AIDS crisis in the mid-Eighties by co-founding two AIDS organizations (with partner James Carroll Pickett): Artists Confronting AIDS and STAGE (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event, the longest running theatrical benefit in the world). • Accusing the television and film industry—as the “only openly gay actor in Hollywood”—of homophobia on ABC’s Nightline upon Rock Hudson’s death in 1985. • Creating intimacies, a solo performance piece, depicting people with AIDS, that garnered international acclaim for the writer-performer; the first of a series of one-person shows including Rock in which Kearns revealed his dalliance with Hudson. • Disclosing his HIV-positive status on Entertainment Tonight upon the death of actor Brad Davis in 1991. • Appearing in the New York Times, after making television history as the first publicly HIV-positive actor in primetime (Life Goes On). • Bolstering the notion of gay marriage, Kearns wed his longtime partner, Philip Juwig, in a public ceremony (1992). • Adopting Katherine Kearns in 1994: the first openly gay, publicly HIV-positive, single man to become a father. • As the Twenty-First Century unfolds, the theatre artist as teacher has emerged and flourished, aligning with numerous non-profits (Downtown Women’s Center, Katselas Theatre Company, Art Division, and Housing Works among them) while the soloist continues to perform (a twentieth anniversary tour of intimacies in 2009 and the premiere of Torch in 2012). THE TRUTH IS BAD ENOUGH covers this rich life of extremes, lived out loud—from its roots in the Midwest to his family life in Los Feliz where Kearns presently resides with his daughter. McKellen asserts that “this extraordinary life, lived on the edge of death…won’t depress, rather uplift you.” THE TRUTH… visits backstage dressing rooms, notorious bathhouses, Hollywood soundstages, and the deathbeds of fallen comrades where Michael has rubbed shoulders with Rock Hudson, Greg Louganis, Alan Carr, Michael Jeter, Burt Reynolds, Lew Wasserman, Barney Frank, Kitty Carlisle, George Maharis, Ann-Margret, Nick Nolte, Richard Thomas, Cal Culver, Betty White, Frederick Combs, Charles Pierce, Richard Chamberlain, Randy Shilts, Charles Nelson Reilly, Craig Russell, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Monette, Robert Reed, Bruce Vilanch, Sal Mineo, John Ritter, Paul Lynde, Judy Garland, Merv Griffin, Tim Miller, and Armistead Maupin. THE TRUTH IS BAD ENOUGH is an illuminating story that holds up a mirror, not only to a generation lost but to a generation that is very much alive.
More LGBT Couples at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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