Kearns is a significant figure in the worlds of performing arts and gay politics, beginning in the early 1970s with his appearance in the LA production of Tom Eyen’s The Dirtiest Show in Town. His role as “Grant Tracy Saxon Warner Books” in 1974’s The Happy Hustler earned Kearns the title of “the first openly gay actor in Hollywood.” His long and historic career is detailed in his 2012 autobiography The Truth is Bad Enough (available on Amazon).
Kearns has appeared in mainstream TV and film (The Waltons, Murder She Wrote, Cheers, Body Double, Beverly Hills 90210, Knots Landing, And The Band Played On) while achieving international acclaim as an award-winning solo performer (intimacies, Rock, attachments, Tell Tale Kisses, Make Love Not War, Once Upon a Time in South Africa), a stage actor (an international tour of Dream Man; LA appearances in Camille, Bill and Eddie, Rubicon, the 10th anniversary reading of The Normal Heart, and the 20th anniversary reading of Boys In The Band), and theatre director (world premieres of Eric Bentley’s Round Two, Robert Chesley’s Jerker, James Carroll Pickett’s Bathhouse Benediction, the Off Broadway solo pieces The Porcelain Penelope Freak Show and Elevator Sex, and an international tour of Dream Man).
He’s produced more than a dozen plays, and also co-wrote the screenplay of Nine Lives, based on his play, complications. Author of six theatre books published by Heinemann (T-Cells & Sympathy, Acting = Life), his most recent—The Drama of AIDS, My Lasting Connections with Two Plays that Survived the Plague—was released in the fall of ’09 in conjunction with the 20th anniversary tour of intimacies.
Openly gay and publicly HIV-positive, he is recipient of several Lifetime Achievement Awards and Humanitarian Awards. Kearns is currently Co-Artistic Director of the Katselas Theatre Company and an Artist-in-Residence at the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles’s Skid Row.
“Michael is a key figure in the short history of Out Gay Hollywood, so naturally we’re thrilled and honored—it feels appropriate to have him on our show,” says show creator/actor Acord. “On a personal note, we shared a role on stage in Ronnie Larson’s A Few Gay Men, me in San Francisco, Michael in LA. So I’m really looking forward to finally working with him!”
Among his philanthropic accomplishments is the creation of Southland Theater Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE), which since 1984 has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS services and charities throughout Southern California. Kearns lives in Los Angeles with his daughter Tia.