Steve Hayes is the Tired Old Queen At The Movies
By Noah Michelson
What were you like as a kid?
Everybody kept coming up to my mother and telling her how funny I was. In my house I was always just trying to be the best little boy that I could be. I was trying to dodge my mother’s mood swings.
Let’s talk about your new show, Tired Old Queen at the Movies. Why did you decide to do it?
People have been after me for years because I was always talking about old movies when I’d go to dinner parties. A friend of mine encouraged me to do this. He said, “Let’s just set the camera up. I’ll hand you a movie and you start talking.”
Why do it on YouTube, though?
Because everybody goes on YouTube. It’s the way to go. At this stage of the game, I wanted to get my face out there because people are now casting off of YouTube. I wanted to keep up with the technology. Not to get too heavy, but what we’re going through right now is what people were going through 100 years ago with the Industrial Revolution. You can either keep up with it or you can get lost in the dust. And I refuse to get lost in the dust.
But couldn’t anybody do this?
Yeah, they could. Especially with the gay culture. They love the movies. Our idols are the movie stars, whether it’s Madonna, the people in Twilight or Jane Fonda. Thank God for Ted Turner and Turner Classic Movies. They once again brought old movies to the public. When I came to New York in my twenties there was a whole culture of older gay men who loved those movies, and they turned me on to even more things. I want to do that. I want to get the gay people caught up and bring out the hidden movie lover in all of them.
The set for the show is very eclectic. Where are you?
My apartment. I call it Thornfield Manor. It’s got more books and dolls -- it’s got everything. I had this one person from Australia say, “What store are you in?”
How do you select the movies you talk about?
I have a great love of Film Noir. You give me a girl with shoulder pads who’s packin’ a 44 and I’m happy.
Like Barbara Stanwyck?
Oh! Barbara Stanwyick, absolutely! I love that she shot every leading man she was ever with. A lot of people go for those Judy Garland films -- not me. I love those girls with guns.
You mentioned Film Noir. What is it?
In Film Noir there was a certain kind of light. It was an era that because the guys were off at war, the women took on the men’s roles and became tough and tougher than the men. It’s always an interesting thing to watch. Usually good Film Noir is about some sap who falls for a dame who is three times stronger than he is and then she plays him for a sucker!
Let’s go back to your mother. What did she think of you watching all of these old movies?
Turn that off and go outside and play! I remember when I was in 5th grade my mother came up to me and said, “There’s a movie that’s on tonight that starts at 9:00 and it ends at 1:00. You don’t have to go to bed and you don’t have to go to school tomorrow. You can say it is a sick day.” I thought, “What is this?” At 9:00 I’m in my little pajamas and my mother turns the television on and it’s Auntie Mame.
What did you think?
I got it. I suddenly got what wit was all about. I thought this is where I want to be. This is the kind of life I want to lead. So, I came to New York in the ‘70s, and it was just like Disneyland. I loved it, and I’ve stayed ever since -- never looked back.
What are some of the newer movies that you think are destined to become camp classics?
Mama Mia. Hairspray. All the musicals become camp sooner or later. I think years from now they’ll look at the Tom Cruise movies and think they’re really campy. Look at Top Gun.
The Academy Awards are coming up. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are hosting. What do you think?
Smart! Two really smart guys. You are under such scrutiny. If they get the right writers to work with them, then it could be really good. If they don’t --
But what about Hugh Jackman? He did a great job last year.
He did a wonderful job, but he was smart enough to get out. If you can do that in one shot and get out of dodge, you’ve dodged a bullet.
Any predictions for Best Picture?
It’s so hard because so much stuff comes out at this time of the year. I think Nine is going to be big. Precious will be a big contender. I think Up in the Air with George Clooney will be a contender. The Hurt Lock was amazing too. I think they’re scrambling this year. The smaller movies are making the bigger impact, so it will be interesting.
What would you say to today’s generation who are not familiar with the older films?
They can learn so much, and it will make them appreciate even more what they are watching now. We’re too technology oriented now, and we’re losing story. We’re losing wit and the beauty of dialogue. I went to see 2012 and the special effects blew me out of the water, but I didn’t care about the story.
Some people may take offense to the title of your show. Do you feel it’s negative?
Not at all. People put a negative spin on it. I just thought it was a catchy title. And in the gay culture, if you’re 30, you’re old. You’re 40 and you’re ancient and you’re 50 and you’re like the High Lama. They’re like, “Old one, tell us about this ‘70s film and what Studio 54 was like!” There are generations of gay people, and we should all be embracing. The young gay men should be embracing the old gay men and vice versa. I don’t mean sexually; I mean as a culture. I remember my grandmother saying, “You’re young for a very short time in life and you’re middle-aged for quite a while and you’re old for a very long time. The thing is to be happy.
Are you happy?
Yes. There’s been a lot of tragedy in my life, and my feeling is that it’s easier to go into the negative than it is to fight it and be on the positive side. I’ve survived so much. I’m curious to see what’s laid out for me. What’s the big picture and what is it that I have to learn and impart on others before it’s time for me to go? I always feel if you really want knowledge, you’ll get answers. They may not always be the answers you wish they were, but since you’re looking for knowledge, you’ll know they are true.
Are you worried about getting older and fitting in?
Holding onto your youth is fine, but I think taking it prisoner is dangerous.
Is there anything you would like to say to the younger generation in the gay community?
I was an only son and my father was a big deal in our town. I moved to New York to sort of get away. Kids are coming out in high school now, and we’ve sort of paved the way for them. The thing I’m most upset about is that our generation lost so many people. Now they are getting reckless again and there is a lot of barebacking. AIDS is rising. Even though they’ve got these cocktails, it’s so dangerous. That’s not a way to live. It scares me. Most of my friends didn’t live to 40. Maybe that’s why I grab onto life.
And after all you’ve done, what are you the most proud of?
That I’ve created my own work. I didn’t take the easy way. I knew they were going to have trouble casting me. So, I always wrote my own plays and out of that came everything else. I’m very proud of Trick [with Tori Spelling] and what that film did. We had a 10th anniversary of Trick and I had people coming up to me and telling me how that movie was so instrumental in their coming out. I’m proud of The Big Gay Musical too. My grandmother was the great person in my life, and I’m proud that I’ve become the kind of person she would’ve wanted me to be.
And that is?
A nice guy. I have compassion for people, and I didn’t lose that.
-- DUSTIN FITZHARRIS