One of show biz’s more colorful personalities, Frankie Grande, has been dating a gay-married couple for over three months, as you may have read. This provided a perfect opportunity for me to chat with Frankie—a TV/theater staple and Ariana’s bro—about this doubly exciting development in his (larger-than) life, and other happenings too.
Congrats, Frankie. I’m jealous. I know that one of your throuple, Mike Pophis, is a resident physician and also a writer for DoctorOz.com. What does Daniel Sinasohn do?
Mike went to Brown for undergrad and Columbia for his master’s. Daniel is a law clerk at the moment, studying to be a lawyer. He went to Cardozo. He’s done internships with the U.N.—he’s very smart and together. Oh my God, the doctor and the lawyer. What’s happening?
Everything your mother wanted.
Exactly. A Jewish doctor and a Jewish lawyer with careers. Beyond my wildest dreams.
How did you all meet?
We met at a charity event on Fire Island. I was hosting an event and they were right up front at one of the donors’ tables. We met and discovered we had similar interests and hit it off right away. For me, usually I’m working so hard at those events, so to have a connection—with two people—was very interesting and very nice. It’s my first time dating a couple. I find it to be really wonderful because they both complete me in different ways. Daniel is more energetic and Mike is more grounding. In each way, we are a complementary group. The triangle is the strongest shape, and each one of us brings the right amount to the relationship to make it sturdy.
How do you juggle this? Do you always do things together or can you split up into twos?
Their schedules are so different. Mike is in his first year residency. He came off two weeks of just the night shift. Sometimes I’ll bring Daniel to events and sometimes Mike. We have crazy schedules, but mostly we do things as a threesome.
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Dear Mike, I know we have only known each other for a few short months but in that time I have come to see you as the smart, kind, funny, caring, strong & brave man that you are. You’re so wonderful to Daniel & I. Thank you for making me so happy and for asking me into your life… But really i’m just glad i’m no longer the only one in this relationship in his 30s. Happy Birthday Mike! 3️⃣0️⃣ Frankie✨
Have you considered moving in with them?
I just moved into an apartment in Chelsea and I love it, and it’s good to have my own space and they have their own space. We’re still dating. It’s early stages.
But I love when you said that in the gay world, three months is like five years.
I’ve been single for almost nine years now. I have not been in a relationship that’s lasted more than six weeks since then.
To me, six weeks is long.
Exactly. So, approaching three months is looong. [Laughs]
What else is going on in your life?
I’m working on Titanique, a musical parody of Titanic, with Celine Dion’s music, the weekend after Thanksgiving at the Green Room 42 [at NYC’s Yotel]. I play the captain of the ship, who we lovingly call Victor Garber. [Garber played the shipbuilder Thomas Andrews in the movie.] I’m the captain and the architect merged into one. I might sing “I Drove All Night” and I might crash into an iceberg while doing so.
Be careful! What else are you working on?
I’m focusing a lot on my sobriety and helping a lot of people with my message. I’m 510 days sober today, which is a big deal for me. It’s changed my life. It’s interesting, this relationship has come about in sobriety. It’s the most responsible thing I’ve done in a while. A lot of people come up to me and say, “Oh my God, you’re in a throuple? I’m in a throuple.” It’s been cool to see people do that as well. Love is love is love is love.
Here’s another trailblazer I happen to adore: One of the last remaining icons from Hollywood’s golden days, Marsha Hunt made 54 films, including the Oscar-winning Pride and Prejudice, The Human Comedy, and Blossoms in the Dust. Hunt’s career suffered when she was blacklisted in the 1950s, but she has devoted herself to supporting humanitarian causes, including same-sex rights, ending world poverty, and fighting climate change. Hunt’s 101st birthday last month was marked by the premiere of a documentary about her called Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity. I talked to her on the phone about her great life and good works—and biggest career heartbreak.
Hello, Marsha. What do you think of the documentary about you?
I think it was very nice. I was delighted it was done. I am not a colorful, flashy figure these days.
As for other movies, were you happy with your film career?
I don’t think I could have been happier. Stardom was for some reason never the idea. What I wanted was infinite variety, and I was allowed to have that. I became Hollywood’s youngest character actress and I was playing every kind of woman at the early middle age. I played old ladies in my 20s, and it was heaven. I just wanted the fun of pretending you’re somebody else.
Sometimes you did play a leading role.
Yeah. I never seemed to care whether that was the case, as long as the role was interesting. The lead was supposed to be your end-all, your dream, you got the guy in the end, and I didn’t care. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t, and it was all just fine.
Did you try out for Gone With The Wind?
You’ve spoken about my heartbreak. I dreamed of Melanie. I tested for Melanie. I was in the office with [producer] David Selznick and he walked around the desk when we finished reading a scene together and threw his arms around me and said, “I have found my Melanie.”
What? Then how did Olivia de Havilland get the role?
Apparently, he wanted Olivia from the start and Warners wouldn’t let him have her, and then Joseph Cotten, I think, was under contract to Selznick, and Warner said, “If we can have Joe, you can have Livvy.” I’m not sure about the names, but it’s such little things that decide other peoples’ fates. That’s the day I grew up professionally. I’d been given the role and told that Melanie was mine, then I woke up Monday morning to see in the trade papers that she wasn’t. A few of those and you’re ready for anything. We all have to grow up, and that’s how I did.
It’s character building, but yes, very cruel. Did Selznick ever apologize to you?
Selznick never said a word to me, never, never. I ran into him in Paris with my husband years later and he was so cordial. It clearly was no cloud on his conscience. He had forgotten all about breaking my heart. I’m glad it was done. It took care of my growing up, and I was ready for whatever might lay ahead that might hurt.
You were oppressed by the blacklist. Is that why you help others who are oppressed?
It was such an appalling situation for an artistic medium to find itself divided up according to opinions about things that had nothing to do with art. I don’t know that it really affected my career. Perhaps it did. I don’t know if I was headed for greatness. I had a very busy time of it and I was ecstatic over what I was allowed to do.
But is compassion the reason you fought for others’ rights?
I suppose. I never asked myself why. When things are wrong, you speak up. I lived through a very ugly time, when politics became right and left, good and bad, and you were on one side or the other, and that’s no way to live a life. I had fun taking part in things I cared a great deal about. In the 1950s, a bunch of us chartered a plane and flew to Washington to make a grand stand about censorship and politics, to try to free the screen to be able to express whatever it damn well pleased and not to have to conform to a given mood of the period. It felt good.
And you support gay rights?
Of course. I’m in favor of freedom. People are people and let them live how they like, if it doesn’t harm anyone. My objection is when you hurt someone—don’t do that. Otherwise, feel free and have a good time.
Hollywood stars in the 1930s were terrified to come out and be gay, right?
In the ’30s, I was hardly aware that that existed. I was in my teens and I was quite an innocent. I really couldn’t tell you when sophistication and awareness of deviants came over me. But it never seemed to concern me much. That was their business. And I was happy in my life. It was never a big issue. I felt artists had a right to be peculiar. [We laugh]
I don’t think we use the word deviant anymore.
Yeah. That’s probably defunct.
How do you feel about today’s political climate under Trump?
At this age, it’s not easy for me to read. I’m not following things that closely.
[Laughs] This too will pass. We go through our ups and downs. It depends on who’s colorful and who commands an audience well, and when that fades and somebody else comes along, it’s a moving scene. I’m for free expression. We should feel free to say whatever we think, if it doesn’t hurt anyone. I’ve been blessed. I’m happy to be whatever age I’ve just turned. It feels good. I plan to be around a lot longer.