Joel Grey reached the heights of stage and screen, was married for 24 years and raised two children — but for decades, he kept one aspect of himself decidedly out of the spotlight.
Now, at 82, the “Cabaret” Oscar winner talks for the first time about his sexuality in an interview with PEOPLE magazine.
“I don’t like labels,” says Grey, “but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man.”
While it’s not a secret to his friends and family, the entertainer’s never spoken about it publicly before.
“All the people close to me have known for years who I am,” Grey tells PEOPLE. “[Yet] it took time to embrace that other part of who I always was.”
It was different for a man of his generation. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of noted actor-comedian Mickey Katz, Grey remembers “hearing the grownups talk in the next room, my mother included, talking derisively about ‘fairies’ and men being dragged off to jail and even worse for being who they were.”
At about the same time, he says, “I came to realize, along with being attracted to girls, I had similar feelings for boys.”
Grey didn’t reveal his truth for many more years to come.
He was married to actress Jo Wilder for 24 years, a period he calls “the happiest of my life.” Together they have two children: actress Jennifer Grey and son James, a chef.
Grey is best known for his show-stopping performance as the devilish master of ceremonies in both the stage and film versions of the Kander & Ebb musical “Cabaret.” In 1966, he won a Tony Award for his performance on Broadway, and he won the Academy Award for the same role in the 1973 movie version.
After “Cabaret,” Grey went on to star on Broadway in “George M!,” the title role in “Goodtime Charley,” Amos Hart in the revival of “Chicago,” and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in “Wicked.”