By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
I usually end with some tantalizing blind items to make you read the column all the way through, but that never works—you just skip ahead.
So here they come at the top, sans trickery, apologies, or pride:
What Oscar-winning director is married to a woman, but tales still surface of male hustlers who used to visit him for more than just conversation? Which closeted boy bander conspicuously left a party with a movie star's daughter, but observers noted that they then went into separate cars, never to see each other again? Which fellow bandmate gleefully tells people about the guy, "He's gay!"?
Which young, rumored-about TV star was found making out with a guy in a club bathroom, but explained to the writer who'd caught them, "I'm not gay. I just like to have fun"? Which gabbed-about castmate of his really does go for the girls, though he can fairly readily be persuaded to swing his pendulum every which way but loose?
Which star wife once sat in a hotel lobby with a child, and was quickly joined by a swarm of paparazzi who had obviously been tipped off to the op, all as the poor tyke cried, desperate to go back up to the room? Which B-list actor from Brooklyn gladly shared flamboyant '70s producer Allan Carr's bed to try to get parts (and not just body parts)? Which actor who plays a coded gay in a current film is a coded gay in real life? Which theater critic wears Shape-Ups, cutely enough? Which blactress filled her hotel room with so much pot smoke this past weekend that the next person scheduled to stay there was redirected to another room? And this from a gossip colleague: Which three Saturday Night Live members should lobby to ban high-definition TV, seeing as it makes it incontrovertibly clear from their bloodshot eyes that they're higher than Mount Airy Lodge? (To which I reply, "High SNL cast members? What next: hypocritical conservatives?")
And now, please be kind and indulge my less scandalous items. I was nice enough to start you with the hot stuff!
As has been noted elsewhere, it's the year of the gay play; there are suddenly more of them than revivals with two folding chairs and a flashlight. Call it the Brokeback-ization of the theater as we thrill to struggling menfolk finding it hard to carry out gay love in World War II (Yank!), in the '50s (The Temperamentals), in the '50s and the aughts (the twin-plotted The Pride), and in the East Side of the '70s (the Boys in the Band revival).
Tortured gays are queen right now, and it makes sense considering that the fight for gay marriage has stirred up an interest in the roots of same-sex relationships and the opposition they've always engendered, and the lingering "Don't ask, don't tell" policy somehow makes us want to tell. But I'd give anything to see a show about the happy, giddy, madly fucking gays I see every night of my life in 2010!
Still, these plays provide interesting chunks of information about our past, The Temperamentals movingly re-creating the time when a married man and his designer boyfriend jump-started the modern gay movement B.S. (before Stonewall). And the productions are helping underline today's oppression, even if sometimes inadvertently. On Bloomberg.com, recovering homophobe John Simon complained that The Pride is a thesis play and added, "Another problem is men kissing each other and even indulging in violent anal intercourse." Horrors!
And as is now legend, the same show's Ben Whishaw hinted in a gay publication that he might be you-know-what, but in another magazine, he oddly didn't challenge their assumption that he is straight. That story exploded thanks to my unambiguous ass, and after that, at an event for The Pride at the Gay Center, Whishaw interestingly didn't show up! Fine, blame my unambiguous ass!
But the best example of how things haven't changed enough: All the cowering closet cases carrying on in my above blind items. You remember those!
It's also bizarre that a lot of these shows are being promoted as "not gay plays"—you know, "the characters just happen to be that way," blah, blah, blah. That angle is generally drummed up in order to soft-pedal the real content and not scare off the hetero ticket buyers, but you know what? Fences is definitely a black play, but I still plan to see it!
Anyway, at the Yank! opening night party, I met the show's star Bobby Steggert, whom I first pegged as a rising talent when he brought impish charm to 110 in the Shade. Steggert's winning presence and soulful eyes definitely help yank Yank! up a notch. The actor told me he worships the immediacy of theater, but he'd probably accept a TV show if it was offered, "because I'm poor," quickly amending that to "I'm poor and happy!"
Steggert's last show—the Ragtime revival—closed after just 11 weeks, making him even more poor. But he feels "things happen for a reason, and as a result, I got to do Yank!, after three years of workshopping." That kind of thinking sounded vaguely spiritual, so I asked Steggert if he's at all religious. "No!" he blurted. "But you've got to roll with the punches." That's my religion, too.
At the same bash, I ran into gay songwriter/producer Desmond Child, who's rich and happy; last year alone, he wrote Katy Perry's "Waking Up in Vegas" and executive-produced Bon Jovi's The Circle album, thank you. But the Grammy winner mainly wanted to talk about his children, one of whom is named Nyro Child after the great Laura Nyro. "He's gonna kill me when he finds out he's named after a lesbian folk singer," said Desmond, laughing. "He's the butchest little thing." So was Laura Nyro!
Some straight theater popped up this week, too, but I assure you the characters just happen to be straight. There's that revival of The Miracle Worker, but I'm certainly not going to be tasteless enough to work in some segue here about my "blind items." But I will say that some people on the boards were complaining last week about obstructed views in certain seats, which made me wonder if that might be a directorial choice to force the audience to experience Helen Keller's sight impairment firsthand.
My seat was actually fine, and I found that the production has integrity and nice lighting, but lacks some needed fire. As a friend remarked, "Abigail Breslin looks like she never had a tantrum in her life." (Well, maybe when she lost the Oscar.)
At least that production is well-appointed; apparently, we might be visited by even more of the scaled-back revivals I alluded to before, at tip-top prices, naturally. I have mixed feelings about a Sweet Charity where the audience screams with laughter when they hear "Big Spender" and an Evita where they guffaw when she croons, "Although I'm dressed up to the nines. . . ." They should give her a new song called "I'm Poor and Happy!"
But let's lift our bottled wawa in a toast to Philadephia, which has good theater, a fun "gayborhood," a fab flower show, and a big Picasso exhibit at the Art Museum. I learned all of this on a gala press junket there last weekend, along with other gay players like Brandon Voss. (Not the Brandon Voss who's a gay promoter. This one is an Advocate writer who gets a lot of misguided calls asking for a guest list.) Oh, and they have great hotels, too—like the one where the blactress . . . oh, just refer back up to your favorite paragraph.