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Catching Up With Harry Hamlin


Actor Harry Hamlin dinged the cultural radar with his overtly sexual gay character in 1982's Making Love, only to later become People's Sexiest Man Alive in 1987. After taking some time off to play, the stay-at-home dad (he has two daughters with wife Lisa Rina) is back with a book, Full Frontal Nudity, and a reality show, Harry Loves Lisa, which premiered this week. In that spirit, Out asked Harry what else he loves from his intriguing past.

Out: Harry loves...acting projects with sexy titles, like Sex, Lies & Obsession; Oh, Baby; Night Sins; Laguna Heat'
Harry Hamlin: Well, actually, those titles I did not pick, and I would have picked different titles if I had been a part of that creative process. So, Harry does not like projects with sexy titles.

Harry loves...Bart McGuire.
Was that the name of the character in Making Love?

Yes. Did you like playing that him? He is such an important gay character.
His last name was really McGuire? I never realized he was Irish. Well, that was a long time ago but the thing I remember most was that the studio kept wanting to cut and change the script. It was kind of an ongoing battle to make it realistic and gritty.

Making Love has a lot in common with Brokeback Mountain in that it caused so much hoopla about straight actors playing gay roles -- and particularly characters who have sex on screen.
That all changed with Philadelphia, I think. Our movie was made before the whole AIDS situation had even been discovered, so it was not a part of how people perceived the gay community then. There was a kind of innocence to the world we inhabited that hasn't been there since. There's always this thing in the background now. When Tom did Philadelphia, people began to accept that an actor is an actor and you can play any part. Before that, when we did Making Love, it was unconscionable that a straight actor would play a gay role as blatantly as we did. It hadn't been done before. Perception blended us with our characters. We had to be gay or we wouldn't have done it. I always found that kind of amusing. I never shied away from that. I never said, 'You're wrong.' I'd say 90% of the people who saw that film thought Michael and I had to be gay.

Did that affect your choices about future films?
Yeah. I don't go so far as to connect the dots but Making Love is the last studio picture I ever made. You want to connect some dots there, you can. I was never able to make another studio picture after that.

Harry loves...Full Frontal Nudity.
I'm most excited about this book. I got stopped at the Canadian border and they found in their computer system that I had been arrested 40 years ago on a felony narcotics charge, and it's true that I was arrested, but the charges were dropped. I wasn't convicted. But they didn't have that little part of the puzzle. So I was dealing with this Canadian thing and thinking about all these things from my life I'd forgotten about. And these stories began to come up. I wanted to chart what had led me, at the age of 50, to be considered a hardcore felon by these Canadians. I call it a romp, not a memoir or autobiography.

And the title comes from your nude scene in Equus when you were 25?
It's funny because I wrote about 30 pages and there happened to be this literary agent who wanted to have lunch with me, who knew Lisa. I sent it to him and he asked, 'What are you going to call your book?' And I looked right at him and said, 'Full Frontal Nudity.' It came out of nowhere.

Would you have had any advice for Daniel Radcliffe when he played the same naked role in Equus?
I suppose there are drugs you can take now to counteract any sort of negative effects that happen because you're scared to death.

Were you scared to death?
Of course. I'm not an exhibitionist in that way. I tried to describe in my book the sensation of having to take my clothes off leading up to that moment. In rehearsal the director insisted that we not take our clothes off until opening night. My wife saw Daniel do it in London but I never had a chance. She said he was great, not that he needed any advice from me.

Harry loves...being 1987's Sexiest Man Alive.
That was weird. I don't think anybody who finds himself there loves that.

It doesn't boost your confidence at all?
Confidence of that nature doesn't come from the outside, no matter how many times someone tells you you're sexy or how beautiful the girls are that you screw. It doesn't come from there.

Speaking of someone who thinks you're sexy, Harry loves...Lisa's lips.
I do. When I met Lisa, I had no idea that she had anything done to her lips. I love them the way they are. She confessed to me months after we got together that she had injections in her lips. I went, 'OK, that's like getting a tattoo I guess.'

It's certainly something you and Brad Pitt could bond over -- being with famous ladies with famous lips.
Well there you go. I've never used that as a conversation piece, but I will now.

Harry loves...Playboy.
One of the earlier stories in the book is when I was 11 years old my parents gave me a subscription to Playboy. I still don't know why they gave it to me at that age. I've speculated -- or I've had friends that have -- that they gave it to me because they thought I might be gay and they wanted to set the hook for me to be straight. I have no idea. Whatever reason, I was very very very happy. It was a five-year subscription and I can tell you by the end I was done. I did not renew and I've never bought a Playboy since then.

Did you ever consider posing for Playgirl?
No. I was asked many times. Lisa's done Playboy twice -- once pregnant. I thought, What a great idea, but Hef will never go for that. His whole thing is presenting recreational sex and this is procreational sex. She sent the pictures in of her pregnant belly and he went for it. I was amazed and very proud of her for shaking trees like that. This magazine had basically taken advantage of women and presented not very responsible recreational sex, so I thought it was very cool of her to do.

Harry loves...his frat status as a Delta Kappa Epsilon brother.
That was a time in all fraternities' history that they would rather forget, because fraternities did not operate at all the way they had before or since that four-year period. I was only a member because they had a room for rent and I didn't want to live on campus. As a result of being the most responsible among the stoned-out hippie drug addicts who were living in the house, I became the president sophomore year. All that meant is I was the only guy responsible enough to collect the rent checks and keep the light bulbs changed and the dog shit off the floor.

Any raunchy frat party stories you care to share?
We didn't have frat parties in those days. Nobody drank beer. People smoked pot or opium or took acid. There were no keg parties. We ate organic foods and had 14 women living in the house.

Harry loves...being a silver fox.
I might go back on that. I might renege. I like the silver, but I go where the parts are.

Well, as someone with notable man-tresses, do you have a secret to great hair?
I water it everyday.

Harry Loves Lisa airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST on TV Land. For more info, visit the show's official website. Harry Hamlin's new book, Full Frontal Nudity is now in stores.

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