I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir by Harvey Fierstein

By Harvey Fierstein

A poignant and hilarious memoir from the cultural icon, gay rights activist, and four-time Tony Award–winning actor and playwright, revealing never-before-told stories of his personal struggles and conflict, of sex and romance, and of his fabled career.

Harvey Fierstein’s legendary career has transported him from community theater in Brooklyn, to the lights of Broadway, to the absurd excesses of Hollywood and back. He’s received accolades and awards for acting in and/or writing an incredible string of hit plays, films, and TV shows: Hairspray,  Fiddler on the Roof, Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Cheers, La Cage Aux Folles, Torch Song Trilogy, Newsies, and Kinky Boots. While he has never shied away from the spotlight, Mr. Fierstein says that even those closest to him have never heard most of the tales—of personal struggles and conflict, of sex and romance, of his fabled career—revealed in these wildly entertaining pages.

I Was Better Last Night bares the inner life of this eccentric nonconforming child from his roots in 1952 Brooklyn, to the experimental worlds of Andy Warhol and the Theatre of the Ridiculous, to the gay rights movements of the seventies and the tumultuous AIDS crisis of the eighties, through decades of addiction, despair, and ultimate triumph.

Mr. Fierstein’s candid recollections provide a rich window into downtown New York City life, gay culture, and the evolution of theater (of which he has been a defining figure), as well as a moving account of his family’s journey of acceptance. I Was Better Last Night is filled with wisdom gained, mistakes made, and stories that come together to describe an astonishingly colorful and meaningful life. Lucky for us all, his unique and recognizable voice is as engaging, outrageously funny, and vulnerable on the page.  


“Scrumptious . . . The Harvey Fierstein glimpsed here is tantalizingly, defiantly, irreducibly complex. It’s a pity Sondheim isn’t around to offer the contradictory protagonist of this memoir the musical he deserves.” ― Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

“A raw, funny and fabulous memoir . . . Fierstein shares his life less in conventional chapters than in colorful patches: 59 of them, stitched together with photos and a plush index. The sum of this is warm and enveloping and indeed two-sided: One is a raw, cobwebby tale of anger, hurt, indignation and pain; flip it over and you get billowing ribbons of humor, gossip and fabulous, hot-pink success . . . With a dramaturg's expert timing, Fierstein saves the most difficult anecdote of his upbringing for near the end, like the classic 11 o’clock number in musical theater. A story about his mother’s reaction to his accidental coming-out, it’s a pin prick to the heart. Actually it makes the heart a pin cushion.” ― Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times

"I love this book. Harvey Fierstein turns a phrase into a novel and the personal into the universal. The day for this book has come." ― Gloria Steinem

“Harvey’s book is a perfect reflection of him; full of heart, chutzpah, great stories, and tons of belly laughs. And wigs.” ― Andy Cohen

"Harvey is the king and queen of Broadway. He can take you on a journey with his words and he is hysterical." ― Henry Winkler

“I am in awe of Harvey’s theatrical history. From being among the vanguard of New York’s Experimental Theatre, through Warhol, to Broadway musicals. Who can touch that? His memoir is extraordinary, and he is in a class by himself.” ― Patti LuPone

“This is a beautiful memoir - full of humor and heart - I read it in 2 days - smiling, laughing and wiping away tears - don’t miss this book - a great read from a wonderful man - I love Harvey Firestein.” ― Rosie O’Donnell

Harvey Fierstein. Knopf, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-32052-5