Wesley Eure is best known to soap fans for his long run as Mike Horton on DAYS OF OUR LIVES which ended in 1981. He also made a huge splash as Will Marshall during his run in the popular Sid and Marty Krofft adventure series LAND OF THE LOST. But he also has an extensive background as an author, television writer, producer, lecturer and charity fundraiser. In this exclusive three-part interview with WE LOVE SOAPS TV, Eure covers all those aspects of his life and more including the price he's paid for being an out gay man in the industry. In Part One, Eure talked about his background, how he came into show business and shared some fun stories from DAYS set.
In Part Two, Eure talks about Mike Horton's "gay storyline" and reveals how and why he was fired from the soap.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Speaking of Susan Flannery, she's been on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL for many years now and I think she's recognized as one of the best, if not the best, actress in daytime.
Wesley Eure: She's amazing. I remember she was in Towering Inferno as the love interest of Robert Wagner. It was my first time going to a big movie watching someone I knew or worked with die on screen. It was a very odd little moment. That's a strange juxtaposition for a young actor to watch people die.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One of your stories on DAYS was Mike questioning his sexuality because he wasn't able to sleep with Trish, and then sleeping with Linda to prove he was "straight." I've read vague accounts of this online but didn't actually see it play out. Is that how it happened?
Wesley Eure: I had a gay storyline... for a day. DAYS OF OUR LIVES tried to hit on a lot of social issues [at the time] and they were in the forefront. They had the first interracial marriage with David, my cousin. There was a scene when I (Mike) was having trouble having sex with Trish. So they had one day where I went over to my father's ex-lover, Linda, which was Maggie Mason, and I had this scene. They shot it like an old movie, it was great. It was like Tea and Sympathy. I'm in her apartment and I am very distraught and I go, "Linda, I can't." Of course I couldn't say "get it up" or anything like that on TV at the time. So it was, "I can't do this, I must be..." and she said, "Don't say the word." And I said, "No, I must be..." and she said, "DON'T say the word." And I said, "But, I must be..." and she said, "DON'T SAY THE WORD!" She put her hands to my lips and turned off the lights in the room and the bedroom lights were on so it was dimly lit. She dropped her robe if I remember correctly. She was very beautiful. She just held her hand out and I walked into the bedroom with her. So my one day of being gay was over with!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So it was a day, not a whole storyline.
Wesley Eure: There was actually the first lesbian scene with Susan Seaforth and Ron Harper's wife (Sally Stark), who was on the show for a while. She played Sharon, who fell in love with Julie. I don't know if they had a kiss or not. But the day the audience realized she was gay she was off the show. They got rid of her and that whole storyline.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It does seem like some of the soaps in the '70s did introduce or tried to introduce gay storylines. They were ahead of their time in some ways even though they didn't really follow through. As for your own life, in an interview with AfterElton earlier this year, you came out publicly but said you had been living an open life for many years. Were you out when you were on DAYS?
Wesley Eure: Oh absolutely. When I was dating Richard Chamberlain, Patty Weaver (Trish) and who would become her husband would go out dancing together at Art Laboe's on Sunset Strip. In fact, one night Patty and I won a dance contest together which is so hysterical. But I made no bones about my life. I had been working with these people a long time. I thought they were family.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you think they wrote that one day with Mike questioning his sexuality because you were gay in real life?
Wesley Eure: I think they did. They started writing my speech pattern. After several years, every character that's on the soap becomes a part of them. I would use words like, "darlin'," being from the south, and suddenly "darlin'" was showing up in the scripts.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If they had actually decided to make Mike gay, would you have wanted to play that at the time?
Wesley Eure: I would have been terrified. The scene that I did with Maggie Mason was a very difficult scene. Professionally you couldn't be out because you wouldn't work. Here I was performing the secret that I most didn't want anyone in the public or casting people or producers to know. And here I was actually being it. There was a time when actors wouldn't play gay. You couldn't get a big actor to play a gay role. Any person who played gay on television at the time was really sort of a cartoon. It was a nelly next door queen stepping around. It was a very, very strange day to be that vulnerable and playing something that was actually my life.
I certainly had affairs with women, and did both sides of that fence, but it was an amazing day. I remember people in theater being offered gay roles but were like, "No, no, we can't do that." Remember when Brokeback Mountain came out and everybody was saying, "Oh my God, how can they do that?" Of course, we saw how that turned out. It was an enormous hit and opened the door for a lot of people. The casting world has changed. But now they only cast gay men with straight men. So there's even a prejudice in casting gay people because God forbid the audience see a gay man playing gay. It's a wink to the audience that he's not really gay.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: This year there have been multiple actors on daytime soaps who are out and proud. Prior to this there really were none.
Wesley Eure: That's amazing.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: There are so many gay people working behind the scenes as well in the industry.
Wesley Eure: But it's not about the people in the industry. It's about the people who buy the products.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: My personal experience has shown that gay male couples on television gain a huge following of young women, which is supposedly the target demo for the soaps.
Wesley Eure: This is a new demographic. This is a new group of young people who have been raised in a world of WILL & GRACE.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You were on DAYS for several years. Did you leave on your own or did they write you out?
Wesley Eure: My contract was up. I had a long contract. I was starting to headline in Vegas, opening for Bill Cosby, singing and dancing. One day I was in the swimming pool and my mother was going into the hospital for colon cancer. I was at the house in Burbank that I had got for her. She was in the same hospital as the last thing I filmed [on DAYS], which was Margo dying. They filmed it at the hospital across from NBC, which happened to be St. Joe's Hospital. My mother was at St. Joe's, and I was going to over there, and we weren't expecting a good outcome. So I very sad and I'm in the pool and the phone rings and it's Al Rabin from DAYS OF OUR LIVES saying they're dumping me. And he was saying all these things about how much we love your performance and want to be the first one to tell you. But obviously they were already casting. I was devastated.
I went over to the hospital to say goodbye to my mother and I looked at her and she said, "What's wrong?" And I said, "Nothing, mother. I'm just worried about you." And she said, "No, Wesley, something's wrong." And I said, "No, no, no," and she said, "Wesley." So I said that I just got a call from DAYS OF OUR LIVES and they fired me. And I remember what she said to me. She said, "Thank you for telling me. Thank you for not shutting me out of your life at this time." And I thought, "Wow." She was afraid I would treat her differently and try to protect her and she was a strong woman and certainly wanted none of that.
I was doing other things at the time, but it came out later that I got fired because I was gay. The make-up people would call and say, "Wesley, you know the real reason they let you go is because everyone's talking about it." At the time one of the heads of NBC was Earl Greenburg, and I knew Earl and his partner, who died of AIDS. When I moved to Palm Springs, Earl Greenburg had now formed the Desert AIDS Project and he had the Rick Weiss Awards which was named after his partner, and had done a complete turnaround. He passed on last year. I raise a lot of money for AIDS, and the first thing he said to me when I saw him at a big fundraiser was, "Didn't I fire you?" And I said, "You asshole." The word on the street was "you were gay and they wanted someone else." Can I prove it? No. Was it legend? Yes.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In Part Three, Eure talks about the dear friend and former cast member he lost because he was gay, and how he has channeled the energy from the devastating AIDS crisis in the '80s into a positive.