Anderson Cooper Vs. Dr. Death

Fun with assisted suicide. Plus: Puffy Combs on the craft of acting?

Jack Kevorkian, the only killer I can safely rally around except for my exterminator, was grilled by the very alive Anderson Cooper (the CNN personality who's definitely not shtupping his wife's sister) at a Time Warner Center to-do last week that proved to be the most enjoyable assisted-suicide event in ages.

Three years out of the clink, Kevorkian was well-spoken, quirky, and sympathetic, explaining his death obsession by saying, "I'm interested in what I'm going to face. I think everyone should be." (I am. Every day, I imagine what it'll be like to be even more bored than I am now.)

"Is there an afterlife?" wondered Coop, not referring to ratings drops. "After death, all we know is you stink," said the doc (who's played by the unkillable Al Pacino in that new HBO movie). "Anything after that is mythology, and that's what religion is. It's all manufactured." I guess it stinks.

Still, Kevorkian did grandly reference religion a few times when making a point. When asked about having offed his first patient in a van, he argued, "If Christ can die in a barn, I think the death of a human in a van isn't that bad!"

And Kevorkian himself practically became a sainted martyr when tossed not into a van but into prison in '98. Was it terrifying? "No," he exclaimed, calmly. "I knew I wasn't a criminal. And most of the nurses, guards, and inmates were on my side—but they had to whisper their support."

The good doctor only lost my support when he claimed that the right to euthanasia is more important than the recently mandated right of gays to visit their sick partners, because the former affects everybody. Oh, come on, Jack! I bet there are way fewer euthanasia patients than there are gays in intensive care, but whatever the case, let's not pit the two causes against each other. Let's go for the whole delicious combination plate of rights for gays and suicides!

On a lighter note, a buxom lady with an unstoppable career—Broadway/movie veteran Lainie Kazan—got a Friars Club tribute last week full of so much old-time shtick and sentiment it was like a big fat Greek wedding, but far more Jewish. Human kreplach Fyvush Finkel toasted Lainie and admitted, "I'm 87. Don't applaud. With this crowd, it's not a big deal." Veteran comic Joan Rivers remembered performing at the Duplex along with other then-unknowns like Lainie "and Barbra Streisand, pretty as ever, arf, arf."

Another two-drink-minimum survivor, Michele Lee, arrived fresh off the plane in a slightly disheveled striped outfit, complete with plastic bags, and asked, "Do I look homeless?" "Yes!" Joan Rivers answered from the audience. "You'd look good if you were Precious!"

It all led up to Gloria Allred, lawyer to oppressed homewreckers everywhere, finding a home onstage and cracking to Lainie, "I fixed you up with Tiger Woods, and you're getting $15 million!" "Gloria, don't ever wear a miniskirt because your balls would stick out," chimed in the MC, Stewie Stone. With that, Allred grabbed the mic—and the last word—and rasped, "This is a man of courage. You can tell he really has breasts!"

A man with "moobs," Sean Combs shot an episode of Inside the Actors Studio last week—I am not making this shit up—and a friend of mine was there to soak up the thesping wisdom and report on that kooky tribute. Said my pal: "Combs talked about how his father was a crime kingpin who got murdered in a deal gone bad." And what exactly does that have to do with Puffy's craft? "It motivated him toward success. But he and James Lipton talked more about his music career—his relationships with Biggie and Andre Harrell." And J. Lo? "He never said her name. About the shooting, he said, 'My girlfriend told me to stay home that night, and I didn't listen.' " One should always listen to J. Lo. But was there any craft talk at all? "He said they didn't want him to be in Monster's Ball, but he tracked them down and convinced them. And he showed a trailer for a Judd Apatow movie coming out where he plays an over-the-top record-label owner. Lipton looked moved and said, 'It's a comedy of the highest order.' " He has monster's balls!

Moving on to musical tragedy, Broadway's American Idiot combines the drugs and disillusionment of Tommy, the rambunctiousness in the face of mortality of Rent, and the armed-forces horrors of Hair with fluid staging by the Spring Awakening guy. It all adds up to a bunch of suburban youths energetically stewing in their nouveau punk irritability, and though the staged-concert-style result is hit-and-miss and some of the hooks sound borrowed and blue, it's still a bona fide musical event, and one that amazingly attracts people under 90 to Broadway. Even under 80. This is definitely not the euthanasia crowd!

A more traditional show, La Cage aux Folles, has been brought in from the U.K. in a pocket version with six Cagelles, a handful of musicians, and a bottle of white wine. Budgetwise, this cup is definitely half-Folles. But the spare approach sometimes mines interesting results, especially since Kelsey Grammer turns out to be a charming musical star who does as well with open gays as he did with the closeted ones on Frasier. And his Zaza, the Judi Dench–like Douglas Hodge, makes a three-act opera out of every syllable, which can be exhausting and bizarre, but generally earns the ovation, not the hook.

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