In the ultra-likable Camp, the romantic stuff may be a bit too Dawson's Creekyfor once, I wanted fewer freckle-faced mating games and more insight into the characters' starry-eyed aspirationsbut the musical numbers are sardonically funny, from the white girl trying to get down on Dreamgirls to the montage of 12-year-olds belting "I'm Still Here." At the premiere at vue, writer-director Todd Graff told me, "I was into theater from day oneno, before day one. I was probably singing 'Someone in a Tree' in the womb." Having done workshop productions of entire musicals before I was even conceived, I naturally knew that's a song from Pacific Overtures!
From sleepaway-camp pests to actual Beatles, Graff is currently working on Tomorrow Never Knows, a movie about the Fab Four's bizarre gay manager, Brian Epstein. Graff told me he recently presented star Jude Law with the first scene: Epstein is getting fucked by a guy who appears to be John Lennon. After Epstein climaxes, the Lennon guy says, "I hope the Liverpudlian accent was OK," and Epstein replies, "Yeah, the money's on the dresser." (Hey, I figured it out. The guy was a hustler acting out a role.) "Jude loves it," said Graff, and so do Iin fact, I'd like to act it out this very weekend.
In the meantime, there's real theater, like the signed version of the Huckleberry Finn tuner, Big River, which only sounds like a sketch from Camp, or maybe some kind of Deaf Literary Jam. The elaborately thought-out production is immensely moving, with standout work by Michael McElroy and Gwen Stewart, and so much expert signing thatalong with the puppet musical Avenue Qthis has truly become the year of the hands.
While fingering Bert and Ernie, I heard that drag diva Holly Woodlawn is coming to town with a show called An Enola Gay Christmas, which I couldn't begin to explain. But stop the laughter, hold the applause, and cry me a (big) river. It seems I've been demoted from the League of American Theaters and Producers' opening-night list, which guarantees critics tickets to every Broadway show. It's strange, since I promoted shows like Hairspray and Take Me Out so incessantly that people thought I was an investor. In fact, I wrote up Broadway so relentlessly, some said, "Why are you doing this? No one cares!" But I also approached things with a critical eye, being, you know, a journalist, who's paid to dissect and analyze things. The Broadway crowd didn't go for that, so though many flacks will still accommodate me, others want me to crawl back to the half-price ticket booth and grovel with my wallet out. I'll gladly do so, being not only a martyr but (as I noted before) a true theater queen. So beware, peopleif you produce dreck, I'll still see it!
And if you put out buffetscalm down, bitchI'll be there, too. At ¡Sabor!, a Latin American food fest to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association, I even took time out from the guacamole-shoveling to meet the delightfully not-plasticy Miss USA, Susie Castillo. Susie told me she subbed for Kelly Ripa on TV recently, "and I told Gelman, 'Any time she wants to have more babies, I'm just a short drive away.' " In the meantime, the woman's doing a Lifetime channel reality show, and she got some special hors d'ouevres that weren't available to mere non-titled peons. (Alas, I'd left the tiara at home.)
Meanwhile, CAKEthe popular, floating sex bashis going reality-show, too. They're currently casting for a cable pilot that "will represent a new and contemporary vision of women and sexuality." But we already have that showQueer Eye for the Straight Guy, womp-womp-womp.
By the way, I have a cute little history with Queer Eye. (The hard-luck stories keep coming.) I tried out for the "culture guy," nabbed a callback, then got a call saying, "Ignore the callback message." (That's fine; I probably need a makeover way more than I should dole any out.) The part went to Voice writer James Hannaham, who somehow got bumped after the pilot, though he's devastatingly smart and charming. ("I read a lot of the media coverage and was excited for the people making it," Hannaham now tells me, "but I'm glad that it did not suddenly become my own life, as I was mostly in it for the money and the cheap sex.")
The resulting show? Some don't like the type of gays portrayed, but as a caustic, superficial queen who's often been assigned to the back of the bus, I have no problem with that. I just don't care for the fact that so many of the guys are wisecrack-spewing Jacks from Will & Grace; their badinage (like their "taste") becomes a bit oppressive after a while. But who am I to talk, girlfriend? The show's a phenomenon, and it's so full-steam-ahead, I'm sure they'll include me as a guest star, like they suggested they would as consolationor will they renege again the way these flighty gays always do? (Oh well, I can always guest on The Black Eye for the Straight Guy with Pamela Lee or The Lifted Eye for the Straight Guy with Jocelyn Wildenstein.)
And in the meantime, there are junketswith food, entertainment, and a big bag of poker chips, honey. To keep up with the fabulization of Las Vegas, the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut just opened a nightlife wing, replete with the plush Ultra 88 nightclub, where I did my own reality show, partying all the way till 9:30 p.m.! Over in the casino's gigantic arena, they hosted a concert by the '70s supergroup the Eagles, who apparently despise each other now but are brilliant at burying any potential hostility and seamlessly trotting out the old hits to the sound of much ka-chinging. And the guys haven't even begun to "take it to the limit"; while this is their "Farewell 1" tour, Don Henley knowingly told the crowd that "you can't do a Farewell 4 until you do Farewell 1."
I said farewell to everyone, but not before taking a side trip to a Target deep in Connecticut, where I loved all the reasonably priced Cynthia Rowley and Todd Oldham knicknacks, delighted that their ritzy style has collided with the masses' and come up with just the kind of stuff I adore. I sported all of it that night in New London, where throngs swarmed the weekly viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show outside the Lobster House, the wannabes dolled up even cuter than the crustaceans inside. The town's two cheerful queer-bar dives, Heroes and Club 251, brought out fascinating types of their own, like a drunken wench who announced, "I hate labels. All right, I'm straight, but I curve!" Well, just in case she didn't, I pointed her in the other direction.
Gay and not curvingor yieldingRosie O'Donnell's been criticized for queering up Taboo, the Boy George musical she's producing, but it's a good thing she's doing so; as I reported last year, some London critics said the show was a sellout for weirdly putting a fictional straight couple center stage. They even added that, ironically, it would have been more of a hit if it was gayer. If the reports are accurate, Rosie's only making sure the musical is hormonally true to itself. Yaymore freckle-faced mating games.
Speaking of which, on Greta Von Susteren's show last week, one of Kobe Bryant's ex-girlfriends defended him by saying, "He's a very gentle person. He's loving. He respected women." So how did their five-year relationship end? "Upon his engagement," the ex said. Waithad she known about this other woman? "No. It was shocking. I was upset." Oy. Now back to money and cheap sex.
Special to the Web
The City Hall murder on July 23 shocked no one more than spoken-word artist Emanuel Xavier, who knew both the killer and the victim. On reflection, Xavier put out this statement:
"Councilman James E. Davis was very much loved for his spirit and charm. I remember how excited he was about my performance the night he awarded several members of our community City Council citations for our contributions. I thought of him as the 'political metrosexual' because he was really hip and cool to the gay community.
"As for Niel [Othniel Boaz Askew], I was totally floored to find out he had been responsible. It's bizarre that two people I knew from very different scenes had eventually met and been part of this tragedy. Neil had been an ex-boyfriend's roommate, and I remember him being incredibly smart and sweet. We maintained a friendship even after his roommate and I broke up. I could only say that at times he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin and had issues with being black and, I suppose, eventually with being gay. The last time I saw him, he told me he was looking to go into politics, and I assumed he would be an out politician. Ironically, he praised me for being an openly gay spoken-word artist. He never hinted to the fact he was struggling with his own demons.
"That Niel was so visible within our community and then decided to closet himself for political purposes was what was most disturbing and insane. You can't become a public figure and think that your personal history will not be revealed sooner or later.
"It's a great tragedy to lose two individuals that I will always remember as beautiful. However it unfolds in the media, in the end, no one should have to threaten to 'out' anyone because being out should be a privilege, not a disgrace. And violence, especially with everything going on in the world today, is even more inhumane and intolerable."
More people are crawling out of the aftermath of last week's City Hall shooting to shed insight into the late murderer, Othniel Boaz Askew. New York-based porn star Michael Lucas says he dated Othniel and adds, "This news is really upsetting. We didn't date for very long, mostly because there was something that always struck me as off about him. He subsequently dated a couple friends of mine and apparently physical violence ensued in at least one of those relationships. I never completely trusted Othniel."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.