Alan Cumming: "I Have a Non Grindr Marriage!"

The good hubby

"I march to my own drum," Alan Cumming told me last week, and though he was referring to his iconoclastic dancing style, it could have been about any aspect of his non-boring existence. The Scottish actor not only cooks up his own drumbeat, he'll do it with a spatula and a saucepan if need be. He'll syncopate it with the sound of 1,000 clowns dancing in the dark while spinning hula hoops and clanking castanets. Cumming is radioactively individual, and, as a result, he's often called upon to play roles that provide arty ambisexual arousal and wickedly wry wit.

Like the role of Alan Cumming. Last summer, he performed as himself in a cabaret act in Fire Island, with a special guest named Liza Minnelli. They have a sort of Cabaret connection, but that's not the end of it. "We really get on," said Cumming (who'll play Town Hall with Liza in March). "She feels safe with me. We have a laugh, but also I think she gets a curious pleasure out of our friendship." The night after the concert, the two of them were in the middle of an outdoor dinner when a huge storm hit, so they had to frantically pack up and move inside. As the waves crashed, Cumming felt the urge to run down to the water and gaily commingle with it. "I came running back, drenched," he said. "And Liza said, 'I wish I could do that!'" Imagine being more fearless than living-well Liza?

Another time, Liza was sick and housebound, so she'd regularly call Cumming to vicariously see what he was up to. "What are we doing tonight?" she'd ask, giggling. "Drinks, dinner, and later we might have a booty call," responded Cumming with a smile.

The act, by the way, was sensational, with Cumming adroitly veering between saucy confessional tunes and spunkily reinterpreted standards. He told me the Vegas-y, perfect-teeth type of act doesn't sing to him so much as a European-style provocation. "A true cabaret has a lot of different things happening," he said, "and they're all backed up against each other, a kind of collage. You can talk about an ex-boyfriend one moment and the next moment about getting older." In my case, those wouldn't necessarily be two separate topics.

Cumming came to NYC in 1998 as the leering MC in the ripped-fishnets revival of Cabaret, and once that ignited, he never left. "I was in a place where I was ready to be that open and provocative," he recalled. "As an artist, I felt daring and sexy. You have to feel good about yourself to do something that out there."

The downside is that ever since, people have expected him to be "this crazy, hanging-from-the-rafters kind of person." When they meet him and find a probing aesthete who merely likes some fun on the side, they have to pause and rethink the whole picture, even if he looks a little drenched from the waves.

Cumming's new movie, Any Day Now, might help with the perception change. Yes, he plays a 1979 San Francisco drag queen who beds strangers in cars, but that's just the beginning. The character, Rudy, becomes fixated on a hunky district attorney and an abandoned boy with Down syndrome whom they decide to seek custody of. (The latter is played sweetly by Isaac Leyva). In the process of fighting for his rights, Rudy finds his voice—literally—and no longer has to lip-synch, unlike most of today's pop stars.

Does Cumming like watching himself in drag? "No, I hate it!" he balked. "You can make me look a bit girly, and it's interesting. But when you get the whole hog, I look like a horse with the wig on. I look like a horse!

"I did a miniseries in which I played a transvestite. That was better because it wasn't just performance drag. I think the performance part I'm not so good at. Doing it with real drag queens in Any Day Now, I felt like amateur hour!" (Well, I found Cumming's unshaved armpits another interesting act of defiance.)

Cumming also gets angsty about the legal problems the movie's couple goes through, especially because things haven't changed enough since 1979. "It pisses me off that everyone goes, 'Most gay couples adopt,'" noted the actor. "They don't do that through the state system—they have to go to different countries or private agencies, a lot of which are actually through churches, bizarrely. There are some states where it's possible, but it's not easy, and there's still so much prejudice about gay men and kids."

Meanwhile, offbeat heteros couple on TV's The Good Wife, for which Cumming has nabbed two Emmy nominations as Eli Gold, the blunt campaign manager of Chris Noth. Cumming recently heard that Rahm Emanuel likes his performance, which is good because the character seems pretty much based on him!

And Cumming's the good husband in reality; he's married to illustrator Grant Shaffer, and the fact that the show shoots in New York turns out to have immeasurably helped the marriage. "It's nice to be physically in the same bed as your husband most of the time," he told me, sounding satisfied. "Do you have an old-fashioned commitment? I.e., you're not on Grindr?" I wondered, sheepishly. Cumming laughed and said: "We're very, very old fashioned. We have a no-Grindr clause!"

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7 comments
bethesda
bethesda

Grindr is a social app that guys look at to find out which other available guys are in their vicinity. They then proceed to hook up.

voxpop80
voxpop80

I'M STRAIGHT. What's  GRINDR MEAN?

KWNYC
KWNYC

To be fair, Cumming DID hang from the rafters (in a kilt) in that production of "The Bacchae" a couple years ago.

 
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