By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
In hotsy-totsy Hollywood on a quickie business trip, I was privy to all the oppressive yet invaluable gossip, name-dropping, and hype that waft at you along with celebrities' car exhaust. Practically the second I got off the plane, someone flagged me down to pant, "Do you want to write about a Cuban ballerina client of mine? She was almost on the cover of Time." Honey, almost only counts in horseshoes. "But she's a really good dancer," he went on, frantic. Oh, OK, I'll almost write about her. During the rest of my time there, I almost definitely heard a stream of breathless dot-dot-dot-isms like, "Half of that gay couple that split was on major drugs . . . They workshopped Gladiator: The Musical without telling the writer of Gladiator. . . Can you believe they've already cast two closet cases in Hairspray? . . . And there are now three beards in Desperate Housewives ?" and so on until you forget who your parents are because they're not taking 10 percent of your earnings. (Or are they?)
Regrouping in the Burbank airport as I awaited my return flight, I thought the biz buzz was over, but it was still bubbling, like a coffeemaker mistakenly plugged in overnight. A raspy-voiced male publicist sitting next to me was having a flack attack and braying into a cell phone, "It was a drag queen handing condoms to children in a synagogue. There's no story there! There's nothing wrong with it! Safe sex is safe sex! Fuck the kabbalah! Tell them to get a life!" Noticing that his face looked like an exclamation mark, I closed my eyes and tried to nod off, but I couldn't, since he was now italicized and whinnying to the same person, "We have the outfit all ready. It's bondage! You can't have liberation without bondage! There are handcuffs in the front and on the back there's Hebrew writing about slavery from the Haggadah. Very sexy! Size 12!" Very Cuban ballerina.
By the way, JetBlue was nice enough to give me a front-row seat since there's a little more leg room there and I'm positively enormous (as you may have heard). What they didn't tell me was that in the very same row they'd seated a blind man with a German shepherd the size of my penis, who'd be sprawled across my tootsies for the entire six and a half hours. I guess you can't have liberation without bondage. How almost fun.
This Property is condemned
Back in New York, new torture awaited in the form of The Property Known as Garland a pandering, camp-101 evening that sprawled into my lap for 90 minutes of punishment for being gay. The show has Judy Garland (played by Maude co-star ADRIENNE BARBEAU) venting about her mother and MGM in between demanding mashed potatoes and regaling the audience with bouts of random name-dropping. ("And now, another quick Marlene Dietrich story . . . ") She belongs in the Burbank airport. Barbeau is committed, though she seems to race through her monologues, perhaps knowing that one pause could make the whole precarious thingwritten by her clearly vengeful husbandcrumble into pixie dust. She did affect me when screaming, "How many deaths do I have to die for you people?" Alas, this rote regurgitation posing as a play is yet one more death by steamroller for poor Judy. There's no story there!
My gay card will probably now be invalidated, and you can take away my downtown membership while you're at it, since I didn't love the thinnish Bridge & Tunnel and last week I didn't care for the cutely self-referential Well either (though its kind words about corn were a perfectly nice echo of those in Grey Gardens).
But I still have a soft spot for fringy farewhat I lovingly refer to as theater-in-the-Roundsand things sure looked hopeful when the Tony's Di Napoli party for CYNDI LAUPER turned out to be like a night at the Cock. Tons of my way-downtown drag cohorts were there, having landed alongside Lauper in the SCOTT ELLIOTT directed production of The Threepenny Opera that they obviously belong in. (They sing the C-word, among other festive features you won't find over at Ring of Fire.) Jackie 60 legend BRIAN BUTTERICK, a/k/a Hattie Hathaway, is in the chorus because, as he told me, "Scott has this amazing anti-Broadway vision of Broadway. I'm amazed and appreciative that he plucked me out of nowhere." The lineup he's joining? "Well, Cyndi is from Queens," he deadpanned, "but I'm from normal parents." And when you add ALAN CUMMING, ANA GASTEYER, NELLIE MCKAY, and even Lourdes's father, CARLOS LEON, "a bigger cast of nuts on the planet you will not find!" (It should be even less lunacy challenged than the '89 version with STING and Ethyl Eichelberger.)
Kevin Rennard, a/k/a drag-tress Flotilla DeBarge, is also up there, spicing up debackground. ("I play a gang member, a hooker, and someone having a three-way in a bordello," he told me. "My costume is A Clockwork Orange meets The Warriors with a dash of Showgirls.") And CHRISTOPHER KENNEYwho moonlights as high-kicking drag star Ediewill be twirling around that very chorus, but he assured me it's Nellie McKay who's the wackiest wanton of the bunch. "She had a party at her house," Kenney said, admiringly, "and answered the door in a sweeping 1940s Joan Crawford housecoat. I thought, 'Oh my God, you're so young and so fabulously old.' Today she gave everyone in the cast three things of Play-Doh. I thought, 'That's a silly gift,' but you found yourself playing with it all through the show." The critics, however, will probably get some real dough.
By the way, McKay recently smirked to an interviewer that she hates the cast, prompting Rennard to respond, "She's a professional retard. If Judy Garland had done meth, you'd have Nellie McKay. I love her!" (Honey, Judy should come back and see that Adrienne Barbeau show; that'll get her on all kinds of new meds.)
Sexy theater came back home to clubland when MARILYN MANSON's wifey, DITA VON TEESE, disrobed to a packed house of marvelous mutants at Happy Valley in between signing copies of her well-endowed new book about burlesque. A simple girl from Michigan, Von Teese strutted about the stage in carefully placed red sequins, most of which she removed before lounging in a giant champagne glass as DEBORAH HARRY oohed from the upstairs go-go booth (the spot with the best view). Backstage, I asked Dita why she's von teesed New Yorkers and not performed here that much, and she said, "It's hard to find a promoter you can trust or who thinks you're worth the dough." Not to mention the Play-Doh. As for other career contours, was she up for the lead in that new Bettie Page movie? "No," she said. "I'm sure GRETCHEN MOlis terrific. I don't think I look like Bettie Page, but I like what she stood for. She was not necessarily a great beauty, but she had a great spirit and had a good time. It's not easy to do that when you're tied up and gagged!" (Yeah, but you can't have liberation without etc., etc.)
Over at Beige, talk centered on the unbridled hilarity of Little Britain, that BBC show with two nut jobs only occasionally doing male characters as they chatter away, spew chunks, and sometimes even take it off. There's nothing little about this show, especially its imposing set of balls.
JULIA ROBERTS is clearly approaching her own Broadway debut in The Threepenny Opera, I mean Three Days of Rain, with wondrous cojones. According to someone on the All That Chat board, ticket holders are being informed that latecomers will not be seated till intermission. "Guess it breaks someone's concentration too much," the poster added, though all the follow-up posts rejoiced at the fact that superstar power is obviously being used for a good effect for a changepunctuality.
(Twilight zone break: Julia plays a daughter in Act I, then Act II is a flashback where she plays the character's mother. In the corn show, Grey Gardens, CHRISTINE EBERSOLE plays a mother, then Act II is a flash-forward where she's the daughter. Creepy, no? Can I keep my gay card?)
I earned it just by going to the opening of AARON TANNER's Chelsea club Release, which is long and narrow, like a fallopian tube filled with gays and Madam the puppet. The place's logo is also rather streamlinedit's a guy without a face or a penis, exactly the way I like 'em!
At Splash that night, a guy with a face but no clothes (he was in his underwear for some crazy contest) assured me he came to New York four years ago for his career. And where does he work? "Staples, the office superstore," he boasted. "Perhaps you've heard of it." Yeah, almost.