By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Marching to her own drag drum, host-MC Linda Simpson lured us to Marion's Continental for an all-star revue benefiting some organization whose name and function she cutely couldn't quite explain, but it sure sounded worthwhile. The whole thing was tattily endearing, from Linda's gown repeatedly getting caught on the stage stairs to Bertha's baton slipping out of his hand and hitting an audience member on the head, making the guy even more receptive to the show.
The acts were heavy on the choreographed spoofs, from the Glamazons(four buxom beauties who move their fabulous folds of flesh in synchronicity) to the Dazzle Dancers, a variety show-style troupe that wore nothing but body glitter and clusters of grapes for a hilariously coordinated flashlight dance in the dark. In between Linda freaking out when her jokes didn't go over ("I know they're not humdingers, but they're lighthearted!"), we were also treated to a bevy of drag acts climaxing with Cristal Snowand Madam Social Butterflydrinking Tab and lip-synching to "Two of Hearts" before flaring up into some lurid disco passion. Apparently, it was contagious: When a hunky rep from the evening's beneficiary came onstage to finally explain what the heck it was, a wanton drag queen in the wings screamed, "Take it off!" That threwhim off, though the guy (from the Ali Forney Center, actually) kept going, explaining, "There are thousands of homeless kids in New York City, and many of them are gay. . . . " Bravo!
But back to those cute little Dazzle Dancers. They were formed by Gregg Guintaand humorist Mike Alboover a bottle of poppers back in the mid '90s, though they've probably moved on to pricier liquids. They're so advanced now they even have a Dazzle Manifesto that promotes sex, love, and a constant war against "the forces of blandness, fear, and isolation." Dazzling!
Guinta fights for this noble cause with side gigs, too; at a Brooklyn club called Kili, he co-hosts Star Gossip, an open-mic event where drunken people relate their close encounters with celebs. (And no, Bertha doesn't count.) One recent patron dished the ever newsworthy Whitney Houston, while another ragged on the way Tobey Maguire affects homeboy speech patterns with Leonardo DiCaprio("Know what I'm say'n'?"). That's the second hottest theme night these days, number one being the human auctionsyou heard me, human auctionsat Abaya, though I've just been staying home with my HIV muppet. Hey, these are the observations, folksat least they're lighthearted!
I had close encounters with cinema people at the premiere of Tadpolethe second nouveau GraduateI saw that day alone (Igby Goes Downwas the first), not to mention the most charming if slight if likable if evanescent tale of intergenerational love since Jackomet Webster. The Sopranos' Robert Ilerplays a small role in the flick, and afterward I hoped the kid wouldn't hit or rob me when I asked if he liked watching himself. "No, I didn't," Iler said, calmly. "I liked watching the other people. I'm never happy with my own work." Why didn't he play the lead, pray tell? "I don't like to," Iler said, looking like he'd been hit by a baton. "I don't even know if I'm ready. It's a big responsibility." This little star, it turns out, is most likely to beat up on himself.
I was very ready for the Shakespeare in the Park summer gala, which served up a death-defying barbecue, a performance of Twelfth Night, and dessert by the Belvedere Castle with the likes of Oliver Plattand Christopher Lloyd. Mercifully, you didn't have to slide there in a seated position the way the actors are made to bravely enter the stage. (The set has a kooky skateboarding slope of the type rarely seen in Elizabethan times.) Zach Braff, the Scrubs star who plays Julia Stiles's brother, told me, "The rehearsal slide was only four feet long. When we saw the real slide, we said, 'You've got to be kidding!' " They weren't. "We slide down on rugs," he added, "because the heat was burning through everyone's clothing and our asses were exposed." That's a whole other kind of show, I noted. "Yeah," said Braff. "This is free theater. You've got to pay for a show like that!" Or at least come up with some clusters of grapes.
I got a comp for Seth Rudetsky's Rhapsody in Seth at the Ars Nova, but the writer-performer's zippy, poignant reflection on his early years as a beleaguered musical theater queenlet is well worth kazillions. There's dish on Stephen Baldwin, a vocal cameo by Betty Buckley, and a priceless analysis of chest tones versus head tones, thank you!
And the queer tell-alls don't stop there, honey. In his upcoming memoir, Why the Long Face?, indie actor Craig Chester(Swoon, Grief) remembers when his flaming new agent tried to suss out whether Chester planned to be openly gay in his career. When he found out he was, the self-loather dumped Chester like a gay potato (though later, the agency proudly took out a trade ad congratulating "our Spirit Award nominee"). The chapter this is described in, by the way, is called "You'll Never Eat Ass in This Town Again."