A 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.
I Was Better Last Night is very quilt-like. 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 ... As with a treasured blankie, the frayed side is somehow more lovable ... Unsurprisingly, some of the snappiest parts of this book are bits of remembered dialogue ... I Was Better Last Night gets to be more of an extended, eye-rubbing Tony acceptance speech after Fierstein hits the big time ... Still, this man seems to roll around, constitutionally, in velvety darkness. Medical matters, including a suicide attempt in the mid-1990s, are handled with matter-of-fact frankness ... There are enough one-liners in I Was Better Last Night for a one-man show ... With a dramaturge’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.
Heartfelt and dishy ... Fierstein’s musings about the deeper meanings of his work is generously peppered with gossip about his celebrity friends and acquaintances ... Fierstein has so many credits to his name, and so many wonderful stories to tell, that he cannot possibly fit them all into this highly readable, nearly 365-page book.
... scrumptious ... [Fierstein] delivers plenty of dish, some of which leaves a bitter aftertaste. But his writing is most alive in the early years, before he becomes a Broadway institution ... A natural storyteller with a yenta’s love of mischief, Fierstein paints a vivid portrait of his youth in Bensonhurst ... Fierstein’s dings are often dressed in self-flattery ... to his credit, he is often scathingly honest about himself. He writes courageously about his alcoholism ... could have used more of this kind of soul-searching. 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.