A publicist for David Hyde Pierce yesterday confirmed for AfterElton.com that Pierce is gay and in a long term relationship with Brian Hargrove, a writer/producer/director in Hollywood. Speculation had long swirled around the actor who found fame playing Niles Crane for twelve years on the long running sitcom Frasier.
Pierce had frequently been asked about his private life, but always declined to discuss it. In an interview in the fall of 1993, a reporter for Emmy Magazine asked Pierce about the issue and was told, “Basically, I don’t talk about my personal life.” That was the stance he continued to adhere to over the years.
However, in a recent interview with the Associated Press about his newfound success on Broadway, Hyde did briefly address the topic as he explained that he had first come to Los Angeles in the early 1990’s “when his partner, actor-writer-producer Brian Hargrove, wanted to write for television.”
The mention of Hargrove didn’t appear until sixteen paragraphs into the interview. No other details of the men’s relationship was given.
Given that Pierce had long been so reluctant to discuss his private life, we wanted to confirm that Hargrove was in fact Pierce’s life partner and that the two men didn’t simply have a business relationship. That led to the phone conversation with the star’s publicist for Curtains, in which Pierce is currently starring. The publicist did confirm that Pierce and Hargrove are a couple.
For many in the New York and Los Angeles acting communities, the news was not a surprise as Pierce had reportedly long lived an openly gay life, including hosting parties in their L.A. home. The Houston Chronicle reported in August of 2006 that the two men held a benefit piano recital for Stephen Hough in their Spanish revival manse. No mention was made of their relationship.
The situation is reminiscent of that surrounding recently out actor Neil Patrick Harris, also widely rumored to be gay by those in the industry before he chose to come out.
In fact, Pierce was so open in certain circles that the actor was recently mentioned in Out Magazine’s controversial article, “The Glass Closet: Why Stars Won’t Come Out and Play”. Michael Musto, who authored the article, quoted Pierce as having once said, “My life is an open book, but don’t expect me to read it to you.”
Pierce had, however, apparently made fleeting references to his personal life having reportedly once referred to his partner during a radio interview. But whenever doing large, mainstream press, he continued to decline to publicly out himself.
Shortly after the Out article, Pierce appeared on The View and made no mention of his relationship with Hargrove. Nor did he do so in a recent interview with Broadway.com.
Pierce was born in 1959 in Sarasota Springs, New York. He is the youngest of four children and began his acting career while still in high school. Also an accomplished musician, when he first started attending Yale University he studied to be a classical pianist. Ultimately, he decided that wasn’t the field he wished to pursue and instead graduated with degrees in English and Theater Arts.
Upon graduating, he moved to New York where he supported himself in various ways including working as a security guard and at Bloomingdale’s department store. Pierce paid his acting dues during the 1980’s and ’90s performing in a variety of plays. Norman Lear gave him his most significant break by casting him on The Powers That Be, a TV show on NBC, as Theodore, a suicidal congressman. The show was well received, but nonetheless was canceled after only a short run.
It was Pierce’s resemblance to Cheers’ start Kelsey Grammer that landed him the role of Niles Crane. In fact, the role was specifically created for Pierce who was so successful in portraying Frasier’s fussy, younger brother that the actor would be nominated for the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor a record eleven years in a row. Pierce collected the trophy four times in 1995, 1998, 1999, and in 2004.
Pierce also found some small success in the movies. He had parts in the Robin Williams-starrer The Fisher King, Meg Ryan’s Sleepless in Seattle and Ewan McGregor’s Down with Love, doing a clever widely hailed impersonation of Tony Randall in various Doris Day comedies. He also appeared with Jodie Foster in Little Man Tate and was the voice of Walking Stick in A Bug’s Life.
In 2001 Pierce made what seemed a deliberate attempt to counter his buttoned-down television image by appearing in the raucous 80’s-inspired indie summer camp ensemble comedy Wet Hot American Summer, in which he played an astrophysicist who fell for camp director Janeane Garofalo. While his character was straight, the cult fave film does feature a hilarious gay love story (between Alias’ Bradley Cooper and Michael Ian Black), and Pierce’s character spouted some decidedly non-Niles-like dialog.
More recently, Pierce has found success on Broadway performing in Spamalot and is currently starring in the new Kander and Ebb musical Curtains for which he received a Tony nomination. The last line of Pierce’s “Playbill” bio in the Curtains program says, “This one is for Brian.”
Interestingly, Pierce plays the lead in Curtains, a detective who romances the leading lady. Along with T.R. Knight and Neil Patrick Harris, this makes Pierce a third well-known gay actor successfully playing a straight role.
Since Pierce has been so reticent about his private life (until today, both Wikipedia and IMDB report Pierce as living in “Los Angeles with his two Wheaton terriers, Emma and Mable”), little is known about his partner Brian Hargrove. What is known is that Hargrove is a writer, producer, and composer, having worked on shows including Caroline in the City, Dave’s World, and as executive producer on Titus.
While Pierce was not out publicly, he did donate time and money to a variety of AIDS organizations as well as other causes including Habitat for Humanity, the National Mental Health Association, and various Alzheimer’s organizations, a disease from which both his father and grandfather suffered.