Family Ties

''La Cage Aux Folles''' George Hamilton and Christopher Sieber on old Hollywood, gay relationships -- and why the best of times is now

MW: Christopher, as a gay man working in this industry, do you feel comfortable?

SIEBER: It’s not a big deal. And what George said about a gay man playing a straight man, I’d have to disagree because I’ve played many straight people on television. Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother plays a womanizer for god’s sake, and he’s very gay [in his public life]. I think it’s actually easier. It’s not such a big deal.


(Photo by Todd Franson)

MW: Chris, is it true that you got married during the run of this tour?

SIEBER: Yeah. My husband Kevin and I got married on Thanksgiving. We’ve been together for so long and then [same-sex marriage] was voted on [in New York]. We got married on Thanksgiving, because that’s kind of Kevin’s High Holy Day. He’s a chef, so he loves to cook and Thanksgiving is his feast day where he makes all this food for all of our friends. So we had a bunch of friends over, and one friend who’s ordained, did it in our living room. It was very casual, very laid back. And we’re going on our honeymoon in March. We’re going to Central and South America on a big cruise ship. It’s going to be awesome. And then in June we’re going to have our big reception because our living room can’t hold about 150 people, so we’re going to have it outside in a tent.

MW: How long have you been together?

SIEBER: Almost 11 years now. We met during Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. He was a fork and I was Gaston, and it was meant to be.

MW: So he’s an actor, too.

SIEBER: He was. Now he’s a chef. He left the acting business. He now runs a company called ”My Cooking Party” in New York City. And it’s kind of a cool. It’s a SoHo loft where a group of about 25 people get together and he teaches you how to make your food. And you drink lots of wine and you cook the food. It’s a big party, so everybody cooks their own food — a gourmet meal with his assistance. It’s a lot of fun.

MW: Has the experience of being married changed your relationship?

SIEBER: Yeah. I feel like I love him more. And actually, there’s a little more warm fuzziness going on. Now I know it’s just us — it’s just us, and that means something. It’s really cool, a nice feeling. I always said “partner” before. Now I say, “Kevin, my husband.” He is now really, truly, indeed, by law, my husband.

MW: La Cage was written long before gay marriage was even considered in society, but in many regards it speaks strongly to the marriage equality movement.

SIEBER: Absolutely. It’s a great example of, it’s not who you love, it’s that you love. Now that I’m married, I keep waiting for it to destroy the fabric of America and so far it hasn’t. That was our plan all along, you know, to bring down the United States of America with our gay marriage. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen yet, and it didn’t happen for a lot of my gay friends, who are now married, as well. I know there are a lot of politicians out there who will say that we can marry goats and all this other garbage that they keep spewing and it’s absolute bullshit. For them to say that is completely ignorant, but they’re pumping the American public with misinformation. That’s the worst part. Okay, that’s my soapbox and I’ll get off it.

MW: It’s a good soapbox to be on. How old are you?

SIEBER: I’m 42 now.

MW: And George?

HAMILTON: I’m a young 72. Am I smiling through the Botox? [Laughs.]

SIEBER: You are smiling. Oh, look, your eyebrow just moved! [Laughs.]

MW: George, how do you feel about gay marriage?

HAMILTON: Well, first of all, how I feel about marriage? [Laughs.] With anything I say, you gotta go down that road. I have a different approach to marriage: it isn’t in my nature. The only reason I ever wanted to get married was to have a child. I thought, what is the purpose of getting married if you don’t want children? I got married to a girl from Texas who later married Rod Stewart, and I realized the only way to save our relationship was by getting divorced. And I haven’t been married since the ’70s. So the idea of marriage to me was “What’s the purpose?” If you are committed to someone, you’re committed to them, you don’t need a piece of paper. It was my way. But when it means something to the other person that you’re with, so much that it gives validation to the relationship – as you say, Christopher, “it’s just us, it’s just us” – then it’s something you have to look at differently.

So in my interpretation, I would do that for a partner. So that’s the way I look at marriage. I’ve done marriage, I know what it is, I know the responsibility. And things do change in a relationship. It’s more of a business. It is a more day-to-day, less romantic, after three or four years. Once you get into a partnership, any type of partnership, there’s an obligation, contractual, that the government comes in and is involved in your relationship. And I think people have to realize that. But I don’t think they understand it. They think it’s something very romantic that we carved our name on a tree and it’s forevermore.

MW: You two share a kiss on stage…

HAMILTON: I’ve probably kissed Chris more than [Kevin] has. [Laughs.] Every night I explain to Chris before we do our kiss, I say, “This is Clark Gable,” or “This is a Mickey Rooney,” or “It’s Cagney tonight.” We were taught those kisses at MGM. You had to give these kisses that really weren’t kisses, but had to look good on camera.

SIEBER: He showed me the Gable. You kind of pull it in and then wait. And then a little further and wait, and then you go in for it. He calls it a kiss. I call it mouth rape.

HAMILTON: Gable would swish his mustache from side-to-side and then he would go over and — look, they taught me at MGM you do not kiss by leaning in, that looked weak. You pull them toward you. So that’s what I do with Chris.

SIEBER: And it’s weird because we’re both pulling at the same time.

HAMILTON: Because you can’t be upstaged, you hate it. Immediately I see that claw of his coming over, and practically rips my head off.

SIEBER: Claw?!? Wow!

HAMILTON: He completely covers my face, and he got this damn scene again. The man knows how to steal a scene.

SIEBER: I don’t steal.

HAMILTON: No, you just borrow.

MW: George, had you ever kissed a man before on stage?

HAMILTON: No, never.

SIEBER: That was a fun day in rehearsal, wasn’t it? We just kind of did it.

HAMILTON: Did you think I was at all timid?

SIEBER: Yeah. Because your eyes got really wide. [Laughs.]

HAMILTON: What bothered me was my right foot went up. [Laughs.] One of the funniest moments for me in the play is a little bit of an improv we do. We do a little dance, somehow Albin gets the end of the couch and I try to get him off there. And then I get under his dress. Well, once I got under his dress, I fall forward. And one night I had to back out, and my hair all goes forward. [Laughs.] So it’s a very funny thing. But now it’s precision. I have to plant my head straight up his ass and then back out. To think that I had my head up your ass and that’s part of my career….

SIEBER: You know what? I’m going to stitch that on a pillow: “George Hamilton had his head up my ass and then gave me the Clark Gable.”

La Cage Aux Folles runs to Feb. 12 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $65 to $130. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.