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In his lively new memoir Master of Ceremonies, Joel Grey walks into the limelight and out of the closet

By Judith Newman
Updated February 10, 2016 10:00 AM
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Credit: Zach Hilty/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

No matter who else plays the emcee in Cabaret, Joel Grey s louche performance is seared into our brains forever.

But there is so much more to 83-year-old Grey’s career in his new memoir Master of Ceremonies, Grey recounts his story of getting onto the stage and out of the closet.

He struggled with self-acceptance as both a gay man and a Jew.

Rejection from his mother after an early affair with his cantor, followed soon thereafter by a nose job, neatly summed up the dual battles and his ultimate conclusion about himself: “If you were going to be different, you had better be successful.”

And successful he was.

However, he talks about his failures as well as his triumphs in the memoir. (Among the roles he lost: Rolf, the Nazi boyfriend of Liesl, in The Sound of Music.)

His desire to be a “regular guy,” complete with a wife and children resulted in predictable casualties though if getting married to a woman was a mistake, being a father seemed his calling, he wrote.

One can t quite forgive Grey his narcissism, the way he used women to shield the public (and himself) from the truth about his sexuality.

However, his acknowledgement of his character flaws at least makes this rollicking memoir more than just one long excuse for burnishing his legacy.