Fame Is Such a Drug. . . I Mean, Drag

And trying to be famous? Let me tell you about it.

Having devoted my entire adult life to covering fame, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I want some more of the shit myself. Alas, thanks to a weird mixture of bad luck and self-sabotaging, I've been left with an amazing body of work staring up at me with a smirk from the cutting-room floor.

Let me give you some particularly traumatic examples from the dark recesses of my past. First off, I was chosen to be in the video for CYNDI LAUPER ' s "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." Unfortunately, it wasn't the original classic clip that helped define MTV—it was the '90s reggae-remix with an all-drag-queen cast! Cyndi herself directed and was beyond delightful. But the choreographer, future Tony winner JERRY MITCHELL, was less encouraging, especially since he didn't seem to realize I'm press and am used to constant ritualized ass-kissing. I showed up on the set in my idea of humorous drag, which involved a housedress, Payless pumps, drop earrings, and a ratty wig. Jerry apparently thought I looked like DORIS ROBERTS meets BRIAN DENNEHY, but that's exactly what I was going for! He had me change into a spangly blue minidress, with cream-colored nylons to cover my hairy knees.

Much worse, Jerry didn't care for my dancing. But I never said I was a dancer. I never even said I was a writer! He had us doing vigorous calisthenic-type stuff around the old World's Fair grounds in Queens, and from the beginning, my moves were scaring the pigeons away. As Jerry kept sending me to the back of the line, I felt like the Rosa Parks of reggae-remix drag videos. Pathetically enough, I ended up only being in two quick shots—but can you really be cut out of something no one's ever seen?

Choreographer Jerry Mitchell: Dance, Musto! Dance!
photo: Alana Cundy
Choreographer Jerry Mitchell: Dance, Musto! Dance!

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How Gay TV Ruined My Life

I survived, and shortly afterward was hired as an extra in the movie of Jeffrey, based on the gay PAUL RUDNICK play. (No, that's redundant—let's just say based on the Paul Rudnick play.) I was in the "Hoedown for AIDS" scene, in which socialite CHRISTINE BARANSKI led me and a bunch of other queens in a Texas two-step to fight HIV. Hilarious, no? Well, sort of, and it was certainly funnier than the fact that the choreographer turned out to be Jerry Mitchell! Jerry didn't change my outfit this time, but somehow he hadn't developed a sudden affinity for my esoteric movement technique (and he still didn't know who the fuck I was). He sent me once more to the back of the line—but again, can you be cut out of something no one's etc., etc.?

I finally got in something that a lot of people saw and which didn't involve Jerry Mitchell. In 2001, I was cast in an AT&T commercial with DAVID ARQUETTE, and I'm pretty sure this is what caused 9/11. The ad was set at a fashion show, with various models taking the stage along with Arquette doing his wacky, hilarious shenanigans. Well, maybe not that hilarious—not long after this they replaced him with CARROT TOP.

They sent me the script in advance, and since I wasn't sure if I was Critic 1 or Critic 2, I dutifully learned both esteemed roles. On the set, I found that Critic 1 was being played by a real actor named Lynn, whom I recognized from the Mary Tyler Moore episode in which Ted has a mild heart attack. I was beside myself! I didn't even mind being 2 if she was 1!

Alas, I must have sucked on the very first take because the director announced, "Change of dialogue! Lynn, you say 'Call 1-800-ATT . . .' " Mama say what? That was my big line! Had I come off too gay? But I was playing a freakin' fashion writer and besides, I'm Michael Musto. Of course, there was a tiny chance I hadn't been gay enough. Should I have flounced around in those drop earrings and lisped through the whole thing? ("Call A-Thee-Thee.") But I practically did! To her credit, Lynn acted surprised and humbled, like BEYONCÉ in Dreamgirls. ("I don't want to sing lead!") But the crafty creature, just like me, had learned both parts and could easily do all the dialogue.

Sensing my despair, the director made a big deal of letting me say the word "fabulous," instructing me to intone it 10 different ways so they could choose the best rendition. But with everyone (even COURTNEY COX ARQUETTE) watching me from the sidelines, I totally froze and said it the same exact way every single time! And it was either too gay or not gay enough, because not one of the 10 versions made the final cut. I ended up in just—everybody now—two reaction shots, though amazingly you can hear one of my lines ("a fabulous Scotty Basson") said over a long shot of the runway. The second I got home, I switched to Verizon.

Next up—no, I wouldn't quit—I was asked to be in a pilot for a gay version of The View as done by the delicate wallflowers who brought you Hard Copy. This was back when the success of Queer Eye made producers feel every single thing ever televised had to have a gay angle. A women's show? Make it with all gay men! Duh!

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