By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Puppetry of the Penis may sound like a Julie Taymor musical about an ambitious meerkat's quest for a larger scrotum, but it's actually an Off-Broadway novelty show (due later this month), in which Aussies Simon Morley and David Friend make funny shapes with their trouser snakes, thereby redefining Stones in His Pockets. In its various engagements, Puppetry has been called charmingly desexualized and "one of the few times you're encouraged to laugh at a non-erect member"since the last Bob Dolecommercial, that is. And what wonders these two perform with their genital origami! Their wienersprojected onto a big screen, for the badly sighted and/or deeply pervedare contorted into self-explanatory shapes named Parachute, Sea Anemone, Pelican, and (here's one Jesse Helmshas been doing for years) No Dick. Top that, Eve Ensler!
On the phone from "smelly Toronto," the ding-dong duo told me how their flaccid members became well-hung art pieces. "I can remember doing it as a little boy," said Friend, "and I'm pretty sure you yourself did a few tricks." (Little did he know I was making a Double Pelican as we spoke.) "My younger brother once showed me a Hamburger," revealed Morley, "and I fell off the couch laughing. You can ask anyone, 'What's the first time you saw a Hamburger?' and they'll remember exactly where they were. It's a bit like when Lady Di died." (I was at McDonald's, aptly enough.) By now, Morley's repertoire has become so large and throbbing he even does a Giuliania real dick, and one who'd gag to know Morley did penis stunts in a Gotham restaurant earlier this year as dozens of oglers gathered with their tongues out!
Do the guys ever get hard onstage, the burger turning into, I don't know, a Happy Meal? "Absolutely not," said Friend. "You couldn't imagine being aroused in front of 300 people laughing at your genitals." Speak for yourself, honey. But while we're laughing, which of the two schlong-holders is the better endowed? "He'sa little stretchier," said Morley, "but I'm slightly bigger. Let's just say the more clay the sculptor has to work with, the more he can create."
And the sculpting has a pointright at the tip, actuallywhich is to reclaim the penis as gently as possible. "It's been an item of ridicule for a long time," said Friend. "We're liberating itbut in a nice way, so as not to offend anyone." Damnwell, I'll see the show anyway and give it some more column inches.
But hold onto your wee-wees; women are reclaiming phalluses, too, and not just because they can. On InsomniacDave Attell's sardonic Comedy Central traveloguethe peripatetic comic just came upon a gaggle of Kansas City bachelorettes partying with a blowup penis. "I find it comforting that they walk around with penises because it isreally about the penis," Attellcostar of the recent flick Pootie Tangexplained to me last week. "People say the most attractive thing is the eyes, but you don't see people walking around with blowup eyes. You can't have sex with the eyesunless you're in Mexico."
But why should myeyes stay glued to this show, oh penile one? Attell had an answer: "I want everyone to see what the not-so-beautiful people are up to. Every town has something that makes you want to think twice and call your mom." And in New York, it's the Hellfire Club, where he amusingly interrogated patrons as they were flogged and waxed. But for Attell, the tit clamps have lost their luster. "Maybe I'm jaded," he told me. "There's something normal about that stuff nowpeople whipping each other and walking around masturbating. What happened to the cuddling, America?"
It's at Fezwhat a seguewhere drag comic Hedda Lettuceis doing I, Nedda, a show that could be fun enough for you to drop your chedda cheese sandwich and get out of bedda. It's the puppetry of the queenness! As Hedda, a/k/a Stephen Polito, told me till my face was redda, "The concept is that Hedda's supposed to go on, but there's a drive-by shooting by a Colombian drag gang. My aunt, Nedda Lettuce, is waiting in the wings and she has an entire showprepared." The climactic duet between Hedda and Nedda strains credda-bility, seeing as both roles are played by Polito, but Hedda explained, "George Lucasis providing me with his animation team."
Meanwhile, Hedda/Nedda/whatever's also been busy at Heaven, hosting The Weakest Twink, a reality show takeoff drawing contestants from the unreal world of Chelsea nightlife. "It's a contest based on personality, not really knowledge," she said, referring to the gameandthe nightlife. And in December, Hedda's doing a "How to Be a Drag Queen" seminar at the Learning Annex. "I'm teaching your average citizensyour mothers, fathers, dentists," she divulged. "People need hobbies!" What could be bedda?
And suddenly I was in a shedda in rural Pennsylvania, where the Tool Museum turned out to be extremely fascinating in a boring sort of way. (I wished it had been the Tulle Museum.) On a brighter note, the local dairy haunt had a sign proclaiming a new flavor called "Cowflopsvanilla ice cream with woppers and chocolate disks." Resisting was fruitless since in the heartlanda/k/a the heart diseaselandeveryone guiltlessly partakes of such death-taunting delights, many defying all the medical mumbo-jumbo by living (large) well into their hundreds.