The eldest and most successful Baldwin brother, highly respected for his New York stage work and prolific film career (I’m still partial to Working Girl and Beetlejuice), Alec garnered a Golden Globe for his role as Republican network exec Jack Donaghy on NBC’s 30 Rock. With no time to touch on his Emmy-nominated guest arc on Will & Grace or the many gay characters he’s played as host of Saturday Night Live (“Canteen Boy, have you ever had a mimosa?”), the 49-year-old Oscar nominee and I dredged up his own controversial “Drudge report,” mourned the loss of Halston, and looked back at the men he’s loved.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: When I interviewed your brother William for The Advocate on his Dirty Sexy Money role, I asked him who’d get the hottest guys if the Baldwin brothers were gay. He replied, “Me, because I’ve always gotten the hottest chicks.” How do you respond?
Alec Baldwin: Well, you know, Billy’s been in L.A. and out in the sun too long, so we have to allow that he’s lost touch with reality. Billy certainly has his following now from his show, but I’ve had my gay following for a long time. Billy didn’t have a book written about him.
Have you actually read [Michael Thomas Ford’s 1998 essay collection] Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me and Other Trials From My Gay Life?
Someone told me about it, and I thought it was really funny. And the guy who wrote the book sent me a copy, but no, I never read it.
How might your Catholic family in Massapequa, Long Island, have reacted if a Baldwin brother actually had come out?
I really don’t know, because I remember when I grew up — and this is on a serious, sad note here — there was only one guy in my town that I knew of who was gay, and no one even really knew what that was. I don’t even remember that even being discussed when I was a kid. Then we found out this kid who had killed himself was gay, and he was my friend in high school. He was a lovely guy. That, for me, was the beginning of understanding what life was like for people who lived a gay life, but it really became clear when I got into show business. I did a soap [The Doctors, 1980–82], and David O’Brien, who played my father, was gay. David was my dear, dear, dear friend, and I was going with him and his friends to Ambrosia and Rounds and the Mayfair over on First Avenue — I lived at 58th and First, so this was like upscale-gay central. I mean, this was no Boots and Saddle, the Anvil, Crisco Disco, or any of that militant, leather gay. These guys were bankers, insurance executives — this was rich gay. Men who were gay like ’50s gay — they kept it quiet, they went to private clubs, and when they went out in the street they didn’t want anybody to know their private lives at all. I was hanging out with these guys, having dinner with them a couple of nights a week, and it was just the most amazing experience I’d ever had in my life.
Were they respectful of your being straight?
Oh, yeah, they loved it. These guys either had long-term partners, or it was about hustlers for them.
Who’s your closest gay friend now?
Probably Scott Ellis, [the associate artistic director] of the Roundabout that I did [Entertaining Mr.] Sloane with, and his boyfriend, Jeff Mahshie, who’s a clothing designer. But I have so many friends that are gay. If you’re in this business, it seems like half of them are — maybe more.
A few years ago you were set to star in the long-delayed biopic Simply Halston as fashion designer Roy Halston, which would have been your first gay film role.
They decided to do that with somebody else, and it ultimately made sense, because it’s impossible to take an older actor and make him look younger with makeup and so forth. When you have an age range in a character, most directors know the secret is to take someone young so that you can age them. It disappointed me because I was completely in love with the script. I was dying to do it. It was a great challenge for me.
Which posed a greater challenge: losing 30 pounds for the role or doing love scenes with another man?
I didn’t really care about either one. I just really wanted to do the part. Someone told me they’re going to do it with Brendan Fraser now. Once they told me that they weren’t going to develop it with me anymore, I never heard another word from them.
Who would you have chosen to play your on-screen love interest?
Well, Victor Hugo, who was his boyfriend, was supposed to be really crazy, drug-fueled, and antic, so if I thought to myself, Who would play that kind of a part…
OK, it’s really more a thinly veiled question of —
Who I’m attracted to? Oh, I don’t know. It’s funny, I don’t really think of it that way. I think of who’s right for the part and who’s going to sell the most tickets. [Laughs] Colin Farrell! Let’s get Colin Farrell in there to do a gay love scene. He could sell some tickets.
You did finally play gay in Roundabout Theatre’s 2006 off-Broadway revival of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane.
In 1981 they did a production of it at the Cherry Lane with Maxwell Caulfield and Joe Maher, who was gay, and it was like the gayest audience I’d ever seen in my life — to see Max Caulfield take his clothes off. So when I did that play I kind of hoped more people from the gay community would’ve come, because Orton wrote gay characters in a really clever, interesting way. But when we did it, I don’t remember that there was like a big onslaught of gay ticket holders. It was more like blue-haired subscribers to the Roundabout.
In 2003 you were quoted by New York magazine’s Intelligencer as saying, “Basically, I’m gay, except for the sex-with-men part.” What did you mean by that?
To me, guys who are excessively masculine are like Hulk Hogan or guys who play in the NFL — where it has to do with some sort of application of physical force in the work they do. Other than that, all of that seems like a blur to me now. If I had the discipline and the will, I could see myself having played professional football or being an interior designer. I’m someone who likes to decorate a room and go to a boxing match. I really don’t give a shit. People don’t see lines drawn on the floor anymore as to how they should live. To me, the only sexual line now is the type of person you sleep with. The only thing about sexuality today that’s overwhelming to me is people who want to have sexual-reassignment surgery. It’s one thing to say “I’m a guy, but I don’t like women,” and another thing to say, “I’m a guy, but I want to be a woman.” I’m like, Wow. The transgendered thing totally blows my mind.
Maybe it’s best that you’re not the Baldwin doing love scenes with a transsexual in Dirty Sexy Money.
Acting is acting. Whether I play Hitler or I play Halston and I’m getting it on with Antonio Banderas, it has nothing to do with me or what I want to do. You’ve just got to be that guy.
Did you get hit on by men while you were a busboy at Studio 54?
To some extent. But by ’79, when I worked there, the people who were most well-known for inhabiting that place were gone. It was not at all what it used to be. But everybody who worked there, it seemed, was gay, and all we did was get high and drink and dance. I’m trying to think… [long pause] I’m trying to think if I’ve ever almost considered having an affair with another guy, but I always come to the same answer: I’m just not attracted to men in that way. I like women, but sometimes I wish I didn’t. [Laughs] Sometimes I think my life would be a lot easier if I didn’t. I’m not made that way in terms of sexuality, but I can definitely see how men fall in love with other men, and there are men that I have loved as much as, if not more than, any woman I’ve ever known.
So you weren’t tempted by conservative blogger Matt Drudge’s alleged sexual advance in an ABC Studios hallway?
No, because there was a kind of creepy quality to it. Has he come out?
I don’t think so. How did you react when he threatened legal action after you shared the anecdote on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2002?
I just remember thinking, Why is he so uptight about being gay? Who’s worried about that anymore? And I wasn’t calling him gay. I just said he hit on me, which I found unusual. Because he's somebody who could vilify me politically, but he sure didn’t seem like he wanted to vilify me when we were in the hallway. And maybe he’s not gay. Maybe he just had some sort of moment there in the hallway.
Are you aware of your brother Stephen’s recent rant against gay marriage on Howard Stern — after starring in Threesome, no less?
Well, in the modern political world, people like that — whether or not I’m related to them — only help us raise money. They want to ban gay marriage because those people are incapable of having a biological family — that’s their only argument — but what about a man and a woman who are infertile, or a man and a woman who choose not to procreate? You can ban gay marriage, but if you’re going to make it fair, then you have to ban marriage for everybody else who won’t produce children. But they never make it fair, and they just single out groups of people that they hate.
Considering you haven’t had the best of luck with the institution, I thought you might be against marriage altogether.
No, you’ve got to allow gay marriage. But that’s one of the jokes people have made: “God, can you imagine what gay divorce would be like?”
Stephen’s on Celebrity Apprentice, and your other brother Daniel did Celebrity Rehab this year. If the writers strike never ends, on which reality show would you star?
I’d like to play the judge on a gay divorce court show.
Finally, we know he has a liberal past, but does Jack Donaghy have a gay skeleton in his closet?
We have to have Jack Donaghy have a gay relationship at some point. I think he has to get drunk and find out something about himself. But we’ll see. We’ve got a long way to go.
The Advocate, March 2008; extended online version.