Steve Harvey is a traitor to mankind. Or at least to men.
His book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment, offers surprising insights into the male mentality and gives women a few strategies for taming that unruly beast.
Apparently there's a big market for this type of information. Act Like a Lady has spent the last seven weeks atop the New York Times best-seller list in the Hardcover Advice category.
What qualifies the stand-up comic and radio host as a gender authority?
"I happen to be an expert on mankind," says Harvey during a recent phone call. "My research was done by a nonclinical study, which is the best kind. All my friends are men - from celebrities to insurance salesmen to factory workers. I gathered all this information on men and just put the truth on a piece of paper."
His central premise is that all men are driven to establish their identity, their livelihood, and their earning potential. Intimacy is simply not possible before all three are attained.
"Until you get yourself together, it's got to be all about you," he says. "I'm not saying that's bad. It's just the way it is."
Women need a book like this to crack the male code because your typical guy is incapable of telling on himself.
"Men don't learn to communicate," Harvey says. "You fall off your bike as a little boy, nobody asks you, 'How do you feel about that?' They tell you, 'Get up and don't cry.' "
Harvey, 52, will be signing copies of his best-seller Wednesday at the Borders on South Broad Street. The following night, just down the street at the Kimmel Center, he will be hosting the finals of his Radio Star event, a talent contest that people enter by calling in to The Steve Harvey Morning Show and singing over the telephone.
The Morning Show is syndicated in more than 60 markets, including Philadelphia (WDAS-FM, 105.3). The program provided the initial impetus for Act Like a Lady.
"I have a segment called Strawberry Letter. Listeners write in for advice," he says. "It started off as a way to get more comedy into the show, 'cause some of the letters are funny.
"But 98 percent of these letters come from women, and 98 percent are problems they have with a man. I would say, 'Ladies, I'm going to tell you how men really think. You may not like what I have to say, but it's the truth.' After about a year and half, women started saying, 'Steve, you should write this in a book.' "
The result is surprisingly substantial and serious.
"I'm married, and as I was reading the book, I was learning things about my own relationship," says Dawn Davis, Act Like a Lady's editor. "It's beyond an entertainer writing a witty book. There's truth to it."
Harvey encourages women not to compromise.
"The one thing I've learned as a man is, we don't mind rising up to the bar," he says. "But if you don't have a bar, we're only going to give you as much respect as you demand. The main crux is to get women to upgrade, to demand respect. If that takes a little time to get from a man, so be it."
One of his relationship axioms: Don't give up the cookie (his euphemism for sex) until you've been dating at least 90 days.
What shines through consistently in Act Like a Lady is the author's deep regard for the fairer sex.
"Absolutely. A thousand percent," he says. "I was youngest of five children [growing up in Cleveland]. I was raised by a father who I saw treat my mother until the day she died with the utmost respect. I've always had a respect and an admiration for women, and I've passed it on to my three sons."
The thrice-married comedian has four children and three stepchildren.
His emergence as an author coincides with a more mature approach to life he has pursued after passing 50. He started shaving his head and decided to tone down his image.
Harvey was long known as one of show biz's flashier dressers, with an endless array of suits, most of them in vivid pastel colors.
"I just did a restructuring of my wardrobe," he says, laughing heartily. "I got rid of a lot of the shiny stuff and the four-button suits. I cut way back. I would say since then I have [only] a couple of hundred suits."
As a comedian, Harvey is perhaps best known as one of the four funnymen from the Kings of Comedy tour in 1997.
One wonders what his profane partner, Bernie Mac, who died last August, would make of Act Like a Lady.
"He'd be laughing at me so hard," Harvey says. "He'd call me, because he's a gracious cat, and he'd immediately ask me, 'How'd you think of this?'
"I've gotten calls from Ced[ric the Entertainer] and D.L. [Hughley, the other King]," he says. "They tease me. 'Man, I saw your book in the airport.' 'Man, you're killing them with the book.' It's just called 'the book' right now. That's the nickname."
And "the book" is everywhere. "I'm seeing [women reading it] on the subway and in the hair salon," says Davis. "And they have passages underlined."
Uh-oh. Sounds like some guys may be in for it when they get home.