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Batt, Bryan (b. 1963)  
 
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Broadway veteran Bryan Batt became famous beyond the world of theater as a result of playing a closeted advertising executive in AMC's acclaimed television series, Mad Men. In his own life, however, he is anything but closeted.

Although his own coming out was not without its struggles, in 2005 he told Wayman Wong of Playbill.com that while he used to worry that openness would harm his career, "now I don't give a rat's ass. It's normal to be gay."

Sponsor Message.

Indeed, the civic-minded Batt has become something of a gay activist. In addition, Batt has also earned recognition as a designer and interior decorator, as well as co-owner of a high-end gift and home decor business.

Batt was born on March 1, 1963 into a prosperous New Orleans family, at once socially prominent and artistic. His paternal grandfather, a noted businessman, was the founder in 1928 of the Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park, which became the largest such enterprise in the South before closing in the 1980s.

Batt's handsome but somewhat ineffectual father John managed the amusement park, which was located on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. His maternal grandmother was a dance teacher, and his mother Gayle a glamorous socialite.

During his childhood Batt was cosseted within an extended family of doting grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, who delighted in his theatrical flair and love of costumes.

But his strongest bond was with his mother, whom he has described as "the steel magnolia from whom I was fortunate to come forth into this world, made me the man I am today, and although I am still discovering who and what that is, she gave me--or rather taught me by her example--some great life lessons: 1) defeat is not an option; 2) be happy in your own skin; 3) there is great beauty in great strength."

Despite Batt's father's reservations, his mother encouraged the boy's interest in fashion and makeup and the performing arts. As Batt has observed, "The rite of passage for most Southern boys entails hunting and killing a deer or a duck or another random woodland creature. Mine involved pink satin, a glittering papier-mâché float, and a dozen young girls in hoop skirts."

As a child he participated in the Spring Fiesta debutante season, various Mardi Gras balls, and assorted parades and celebrations, frequently wearing outlandish costumes, including, memorably, a Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer outfit in which the battery-operated shiny clown nose blistered his face.

When, at the age of nine, Bryan made a dramatic entrance at a cocktail party given by his parents dressed in a hoop skirt, he was promptly sent to a child psychiatrist.

Luckily, the experience was a good one, for the psychiatrist taught him that he and his father did not have to like the same things: "We were just different. Dad and Jay [his older brother] were football and sports; Mom and I were theatre and fashion, and that was all right. All men didn't have to like sports."

As a teenager, the precocious boy became his mother's prized advisor as to her own dress and jewelry and make-up choices. Poring through her fashion magazines and accompanying her to high fashion shows at the leading stores in New Orleans, he made updating his mother's look a personal crusade, becoming an expert on the different styles of designers and the use of fabric.

At the age of 13, he could "identify an Oscar de la Renta even among a grouping of Yves Saint Laurent [and] Scassi evening gowns, and could tell the difference between Calvin and Annie Klein."

At the same age, he became aware of his own attraction to men, furtively indulging his taste for muscle magazines and soft gay porn. But he soon attempted to deny the implications of that attraction. He retreated from the world represented by the porn magazines "to the world I thought I should live in, the one I was raised to live in, the only one I knew."

As a student at the prestigious Isidore Newman School, he desired to be a "cool kid" and sought help from a trusted classmate to tone down his suspect mannerisms.

Batt thrived at Newman, where he participated in the theater program, an interest that was solidified when his mother decided they should take a trip to New York to see Broadway shows and shop for clothes. The first Broadway show that he attended was Gilda Radner Live from the Winter Garden (1979).

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Bryan Batt. Publicity photo courtesy bryanbatt.com
  
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