Harry Hamlin and Andy Cohen Have a Very Hollywood Conversation
Television icon. Eighties sex symbol. Reality-TV highlight reel. Climate-change warrior. After more than four decades in the business, the eternally young husband and father connects with the Real Housewives honcho Andy Cohen to share the many secrets to living his best life.
ANDY COHEN: Let me get right into it. I love the book. I read it all day.
HARRY HAMLIN: Oh, good!
COHEN: It’s really fun. I can’t get over how great your memory is!
HAMLIN: I guess I have a good memory then.
COHEN: You do!
HAMLIN: The book starts at zero and ends when I was 25, when I did Equus. So last year I wrote a one-man show with a partner that fills in the gaps from the last 45 years or so. We put it up in Delaware.
COHEN: At the end of the book you thank Lisa for her support and for all the great sex, which I love. How long have you been married?
HAMLIN: Our 25th anniversary is coming up in March.
COHEN: And the sex is still great?
HAMLIN: Of course it is, Andy! We’re still married.
COHEN: I’ve talked to many other married couples who’ve been married for 10-plus years, 15-plus years, 20-plus years, who can’t say that the sex is still great. What do you attribute it to?
HAMLIN: I’m sorry about that. A lack of ED [erectile dysfunction], perhaps?
COHEN: A lack of ED?
HAMLIN: Yeah. I don’t have that condition.
COHEN: Do you take a special pill? Or you’re just Harry Hamlin?
HAMLIN: I am Harry Hamlin. I’ve never had the blue pill. Is it blue or purple?
COHEN: I believe it’s blue. I’m very impressed but I’m not surprised because sex is a major theme in the book. You got a five-year subscription to Playboy when you were, how old?
HAMLIN: I was 11.
COHEN: How cool of your parents! Or how surprising, to give an 11-year-old five years of Playboy. Why did they give you that subscription?
HAMLIN: My parents might have thought that I was going to go in the other direction. My brother didn’t get a subscription to Playboy, and he was two-and-a-half years older than I.
COHEN: How do you think that shaped you as a sexual person?
HAMLIN: Well, it was a definite that I was heterosexual. I had a thing for beautiful women.
COHEN: You’ve had beautiful women in your life and you’ve had a wonderfully healthy and exciting sexual life up until right now—you don’t even need a blue pill.
HAMLIN: I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’ve had wonderful relationships with a lot of very beautiful women. Well, not a lot. I’ve been married to pretty much everybody I’ve made love to. I can count the number of women I’ve been with on my two hands.
COHEN: Is that true?
HAMLIN: Maybe three.
COHEN: Throw in a foot.
HAMLIN: [Laughs] It’s not very many.
COHEN: Another big theme in the book is jail. Before the age of 25, you were thrown in jail several times.
HAMLIN: I was! I never took drugs, but I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I highly recommend a few weeks in jail for everybody.
HAMLIN: Just to level the playing field a little bit. You see an extraordinary slice of life in jail. You’re getting to the marrow of life when you’re sitting in a cell with the guys.
COHEN: There’s a moment in the book where you shun a conventional job. You say, “I’m gonna be an actor.” Your family is dead set against it, to the point that they take a part out of your car so that you can’t leave. You say that you didn’t speak to your mom for two years after that big blowout. Did your parents live to see what a huge success you became? What was their reaction to it?
HAMLIN: My father lived until 1982, and by then I had made several films. I remember one time we were going through the airport and we were on one of those electric vehicles because he was old. They’re driving him around, and everywhere he looked he said, “I want to tell you about my son and his movie, Making Love. Everybody’s gotta go see it!” He was very proud.
COHEN: People don’t understand that Making Love came out at a time when [queer] movies like that weren’t even made, let alone a big mainstream movie. What made you do it? Did you ever regret it? Did it wind up hurting you at all?
HAMLIN: I was fortunate to be on the A-list for all the movies that were being made at that time. They needed a young guy, and Patrick Swayze was out there. Richard Gere and Eric Roberts were out there. We were all vying for the same cards. But the ones that I was getting were really stupid. I got, like, three offers in a row for vampire movies that were about bats, cave people, and stuff like that. The movies really sucked. When the script came to me they had offered it to every movie star in town. When I read it, I saw that it was about a real moment in history. It was a sociological phenomenon that was going on in the world, and the story needed to be told. I took it for that reason. Did it hurt me? I don’t know if hurt is the right word. It didn’t end my career, but it was my last studio movie. I was off the list after it came out.
COHEN: That’s incredible.
HAMLIN: I went on to do L.A. Law, which was fantastic. I had a great career on stage and making independent films. I have no regrets about Making Love. In fact, of all the work that I’ve done in my career, I’m probably the proudest of that film.
COHEN: You became a hero in the gay community. Okay, I have to talk about you and Lisa a little bit because it struck me while looking at old pictures of the two of you that you have always kind of looked alike.
HAMLIN: That’s what narcissism is!
COHEN: There you go! Was that something that attracted the two of you to each other?
HAMLIN: I don’t think we look that much alike. But I thought she was a gorgeous woman, and presumably she thought I was a handsome guy. So we got together. That’s how that works, usually.
COHEN: [Laughs] What potion do you take? Because you look incredible. Does Lisa have you on all the fillers and Hollywood magic?
HAMLIN: I don’t take any supplements. I started taking vitamins maybe a month ago. I got a bottle of Centrum Silver, and I’ve taken four or five of those.
COHEN: What about needles?
HAMLIN: Shit, no. I’ve never done anything like that.
COHEN: Wow! I’m so impressed. She tells your sex and beauty secrets on The Real Housewives. Do you care?
HAMLIN: What are my sex and beauty secrets? [Laughs] I must have missed that episode.
COHEN: She’ll say personal things about your sex life. I think she said last year, or the year before that, that you like a hairy bush. She’s also talked about your manicure regimen.
HAMLIN: I put on acrylic nails because I play the guitar—I was just playing before you called. I just noticed that I gotta get them redone because they’re old.
COHEN: I mean, these are random little pieces of minutiae about you that millions of people are exposed to. How do you feel about that?
HAMLIN: I don’t care about it at all. She can say whatever she wants.
COHEN: It’s interesting because you’ve been an actor for so long, and you’ve studied so much. Your career is so varied and you are still working all the time. Yet Housewives is beamed around the world. Do you look at it with skepticism? Humor?
HAMLIN: Well, in an Aristotelian sense, it is a mirror of our time. It’s a little amplified, there’s no question about that. But it’s a mirror image of who we are as a society, of America right now. I don’t know if you know that one of Andy Warhol’s great works of art was when he guest starred on The Love Boat.
COHEN: Of course I do!
HAMLIN: I remember him saying, “Look, this is who we are right now. I’m going to be part of it. My canvas is the television screen, my brush is the show.” It was an amazing moment for him. That’s kind of the way I look at the whole Housewives franchise.
COHEN: I think Andy Warhol would have painted the Housewives if he was still around.
HAMLIN: No doubt! He would’ve seen it as a guilty pleasure, but also as who we are.
COHEN: I saw Mike Nichols at a party years ago. He was saying, “You really should give the Housewives improv classes, so they can figure out how to deal with things as they come.” And I said, “Well, the point is that we don’t want them to!” I always say that the Beverly Hills women are the group that has the most awareness of the fact that they’re on a TV show. When you watch it, or when you hear about things that are going on from Lisa, does it sound performative to you? Or does it sound like life? Or a little bit of both?
HAMLIN: It’s a little bit of both. Oh god, I’m just looking at everything in this hotel room, and there’s a Los Angeles magazine with Tom [Girardi] and Erika [Jayne] on the cover.
COHEN: In case you needed to know more. Tell me what’s going on, because you’ve been involved for years in clean water and the environment, and it’s really important.
HAMLIN: Not clean water, exactly. Clean electricity. I started a company in 1998, which is now called TAE Technologies. We are partnered with Google, and have been for seven years. Now it’s a $5 billion company, and we are on the road to bringing clean non-radioactive fusion to the world.
HAMLIN: Talking about acting is like talking about toys. This is a real project involving some of the most brilliant nuclear scientists in the world. They are inventing a brand new way to make electricity that doesn’t use fossil fuels, doesn’t pollute the environment, can’t blow up, can’t melt down. It only makes helium as a byproduct.
COHEN: How long are we from this?
HAMLIN: There’s a saying that fusion is always 30 years away. We’ve been working on it for 23 years, so that puts it squarely around 2030.
COHEN: Do you go to an office?
HAMLIN: No, there’s no need for that. I’m the founder of the company, but I’m not a nuclear scientist and I’m not a businessman. But I saw the opportunity to investigate this silver bullet for climate change back in 1998. My passion in life is climate change, and trying to find the solution for it.
COHEN: Ten years away is kind of the nick of time, right?
HAMLIN: Well, we’re 50 years too late. Climate change is with us. It’s a self-fulfilling feedback loop. Within 50 or 60 years, the effects of it will be daily. Like the storms over the last few days, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
COHEN: Oh, god.
HAMLIN: It’s not gonna be pretty, but having a clean, cheap source of electricity will help mitigate it. I’ll be six feet under by the time it’s all over the world, but someday it will be there. Scientists have always known that fusion was going to be the way we’d make our electricity; it’s just really, really hard to do.
COHEN: Well, you’re an interesting guy, Harry.
HAMLIN: I’m a busy guy at the moment.
COHEN: [Laughs] Yes, you are.
Grooming: Sarah Huggins using Oribe and La Mer
Production: Krista Worby
Fashion Assistant: Jack Wilson
1. Hamlin’s 2010 memoir Full Frontal Nudity: The Making of an Accidental Actor.
2. Hamlin’s first professional job was a 1976 American Conservatory Theater production of Peter Shaffer’s play, which required Hamlin to appear naked onstage.
3. Hamlin’s wife is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Rinna.