By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
New discoveries of vintage-style entertainment don't stop there, either. Recently, I earned my bronzed Speedos by finding the only female Liza Minnelli impersonator in the world—and she likes the gays, too! Poetically enough, this happened when I judged the Miss Fag Hag contest, where I refused to say, "Bye, bye, fruit fly." Miss Lower East Side, Jillian Snow Harris, got high marks for the talent competition, in which she sang "Some People" from Gypsy à la Liza, bringing a subtlety and realness to it that made the sparkly charade extra special.
Harris, strangely, didn't win, though she did earn the chance for me to dig into her backstory and learn that she's an Oregon-born unemployed waitress who's in a comedy band called The Really Awkward Debutantes. When Harris was 11, she told me, her mom brought home a beaten-up video of Stepping Out, "and that first majestic moment Liza appears on-screen forever altered my perception of reality. I wanted a taste of that brassy magic!"
Years later, Harris became brave enough—and drunk enough—to attempt an impersonation of the sibilant songstress. "After one or three dirty martinis and some gentle goading from friends," she remembered, "I found myself on a small bar stage, belting 'Maybe This Time' in true arms-flailing Liza fashion." With time, she managed to hone the act—just like Liza did! And how does it feel to be the world's only known female Liza wannabe? "At first, I was intimidated to impersonate Liza without a set of male genitalia," admitted Harris. "However, I found it to be an exhilarating and rewarding experience." This could open Minnelli up to a whole new audience! Non–drag queens!
When I heard Elaine Stritch was doing a great impression of herself in The Full Monty over at the Paper Mill Playhouse, that was good enough to get me to Millburn, New Jersey, for the first time since Deborah Gibson played Gypsy Rose Lee. As the crusty accompanist, Stritch doesn't enter for almost an hour, but she's priceless as usual, driving her lines out of the stadium, from her first one ("You talkin' to me?") to her dirtiest ("Horse, are you trying to tell me you've got a small dick?"). She strangely barked out her big song, imbuing it with very little actual musical value, but the crowd cheered anyway. And by the end of this very efficient production, it was clear that the biggest balls up there belonged to the wonderful Miss Stritch. And now that I've stroked them, I want the money!