Despite having read everything about Joel Grey since discovering him 50 years ago while listening to the Original Broadway Cast album of the musical Cabaret, when Grey came out of the closet in 2015 at 82-years-old, most of my friends were like, duh? After all those decades with an obsession with the star, you think that I might have noticed earlier. I usually have first-rate gaydar. Grey:
”I don’t like labels, but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man.”
He originated the role of George M. Cohan in the musical George M! in 1968, and the Wizard of Oz in the musical Wicked, and also starred as Amos Hart in Chicago.
Six decades into his celebrated career, Joel Grey continues to work. In 2012, he appeared on Broadway in Cole Porter‘s Anything Goes and he directed the first Broadway production of Larry Kramer‘s The Normal Heart, taking home another Tony Award for his awards shelf. In 2016, Grey starred on Broadway in Roundabout Theatre Company’s new adaptation of Anton Chekhov‘s The Cherry Orchard by Stephen Karam opposite Diane Lane.
I am not certain why or how I came to latch onto Grey when I was a youth. The heart wants what the heart wants. From an early age, I have been drawn to those all-purpose showbiz journeymen, stars of screen, stage, concerts, television, nightclubs, commercials; those great actor/singer/dancers/entertainers: Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, Fred Astaire, Noel Coward. I wanted to model my own career on Grey’s, and strangely… I wanted to kiss him.
Grey won an Academy Award in March 1973 for his performance in the film version of Cabaret. His win was part of a Cabaret near-sweep, with Liza Minnelli winning Best Actress and Bob Fosse winning Best Director, although it lost Best Picture to The Godfather. For his role in Cabaret, Grey also won a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, National Board Of Review and a National Society Of Film Critics Award. He won a Tony Award for his original stage performance six years earlier, making him one of only eight people who have won both a Tony Award and an Academy Award for playing the same role.
Grey celebrates his 86th birthday today.