NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, February 7, 2016, 6:00 AM
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles and Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies in a scene from “Cabaret.” Grey won an Oscar for his performance.
Broadway legend Joel Grey opens up about his closeted sexuality in the heartbreakingly honest memoir, “Master of Ceremonies.”
For his book — available on Feb. 16 — 83-year-old actor chronicles what it was like to be hide his homosexuality during the ‘40s ‘50s and ‘60s when being gay could get you arrested.
And in one of many revealing anecdotes Grey describes how at the tender age of just 10 years old he had his first sexual encounter with his similarly aged cousin Burton and soon after enjoyed a relationship with Jerry, the 16-year-old elevator operator who worked in his apartment building.
Later, as teen in Los Angeles Grey had sex with his girlfriend’s mother and embarked on an affair with a cantor named Paul at his parent’s temple.
Joel Grey attends the New York Stage and Film 2014 Winter Gala at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Eventually the charismatic clergyman married a good friend of Grey’s. One night the trio went out and Paul initiated a ménage trois. A few months later the cantor’s wife confessed that she was getting an annulment and her family lawyer suggested that Grey be a co-respondent. The “Cabaret” star was terrified and confessed all to his parents. As he sobbingly told them, his mother icily hissed, “Don’t ever touch me again. You disgust me.”
Fortunately the affair never became public and he didn’t have to testify. (Years later after his divorce, Grey told his mother that his next partner might be a man to which, she tersely replied, ‘Oh, no, dear, that’s not you.’)
The diminutive star says that throughout his twenties he battled a sexual war with himself and told himself that he was bisexual.
However he did fall deeply in love with New York actress Jo Wilder and the two wed in 1958. They lost a premature baby son before having daughter Jennifer who went onto fame starring in “Dirty Dancing.”
Even though Grey won a Tony for his brilliant turn in the stage production of “Cabaret,” director Bob Fosse did not want to hire him for the screen version and even toyed with the idea of casting Ruth Gordon.
Actor, singer, dancer Joel Grey photographed with his ex-wife Jo Wilder and children Jennifer and James in New York City in 1967. The performer says that even though, “my true powerful pull to intimacy is with men,’ the love of his life still remains his ex-wife.
Fortunately producers insisted he be cast and the indelible performance won Grey an Oscar.
The book also details how, encouraged by a therapist, Grey confessed to his wife that he had struggled with feelings for men. She did not take the revelation well and he never brought it up again.
Through the years Grey had intermittingly sought out sexual dalliances with other closeted married men and told himself that he wasn’t unfaithful. Grey writes that he fell apart when his marriage finally ended in 1982.
The performer who is also an accomplished photographer says that even though he’s still drawn to men, his ex-wife is the love of his life. After a bruising divorce the two now share a cordial but distant friendship.