Mainstream movies have an uncanny way of serving up gay characters; they make them straight. The most prominent recent movie queers have either “turned” straight (Chasing Amy), pretended to be straight (The Birdcage), thought they were straight (In & Out), moved in with a straight (The Object of My Affection), or they might as well have been straight (As Good as It Gets).
But a little jaunt back in time gives us that big, old fairy Oscar Wilde in Wilde, a deliberately paced, but nicely acted biopic with good hair. Yes, Oscar was a queen of denial who was married with children and didn’t exactly carry out his life with the open aggression of a Sex Panic! board member. But, more than any of the above-mentioned divas, he pursued actual gay relations–and the movie even shows him doing so!
Stephen Fry, the erudite writer-actor who plays Wilde, looks so much like the guy that, over breakfast at the Parker Meridien, I was tempted to throw him in jail for sodomy. He has all the right answers, too. When I told Fry I was glad the movie doesn’t flinch from the boudoir stuff, he said, “Yes! You can’t just suggest it or rely on deep, burning looks across the room. When I saw The Trials of Oscar Wilde [the ’60 movie with Peter Finch], I kept thinking Oscar had been sent to prison for patting people on the head!” With gloves on, yet.
The chance to add a slice of reality pie to the subject has obviously proven so irresistible to producers that only an interactive version of Wilde’s life (Oscar and Bosie’s Wedding?) hasn’t been mounted. But why else all this Wilde and woolly mania? Said Fry, “Oscar’s the crown prince of bohemia–the man who symbolizes our desire not to be bourgeous-ified.” And he did, after all, defend the love that dares not speak its name–though Fry feels Wilde was evasive in describing what that love represents. “What it really means,” said Fry, “is two men, each equipped with a penis, finding some way to bring each other to climax!” Wait, I still don’t get it.
Fry, thankfully, does dare to speak its name, and in fact claims to have been the only gay on the set (Jude Law, who plays Bosie, is straight, “but we can still dream, can’t we?”). Fry said his mother guessed sonny was queer way back when he was six, but she was a little late, actually. “When I came out of the womb,” he smirked to me, “I said, ‘That’s the last time I go in there.”‘ Alas, he’s apparently not that enamored of going in other places either. The British press calls Fry celibate, and when a magazine editor asked him to write about something he doesn’t do, Fry (who has a “partner,” but I’m not sure in what) came up with a piece about sex. “I wrote about how disgusting it is,” he related, playing with his eggs. “How appalling–all those tufted areas of the human body.” Eew, I never even got that far.
Well, Liam Neeson–a rival Wilde in Broadway’s The Judas Kiss–doesn’t make Fry quite so repulsed. “Liam’s tall and well-endowed,” he noted, admiringly. “People with small penises are always so angry, but Liam is nice and easygoing, and he can be because he has nothing to prove. Natasha Richardson‘s tonsils must be very tickled. Actually, it’s so big her stomach must be tickled.” Fry didn’t acquire this information firsthand, as it were. He worked with someone who saw Liam swim naked, and when the actor emerged from the pond, the guy exclaimed, “Look at that! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life!” Liam allegedly replied, “Doesn’t yours shrink when it’s in cold water?”
Moving on, here’s a cold splash: The Judas Kiss might turn out to be a smooch worth catching, but Neeson and his appendage are simultaneously stuck in Les Misérables, a heap of crap suzette that, if it had one more “10 Years Later,” would have had me joining the revolution. As if there weren’t enough assumed accents in that bowl of pistou, the appealing Gwyneth Paltrow goes Brit again in Sliding Doors, a speculative conceit in which she never knows what might have happened if a certain subway door had opened for her. Well, I didn’t want to be so closed off from possibility. Honey, I slid that door right open halfway through the movie and ran.
At least the two girls in Two Girls and a Guy aren’t really just one babe working overtime. At the premiere, director James Toback explained that the film–the kookiest threesome since Tony Orlando and Dawn–was “a labor of obsession and love” that was put together in only 11 days. (God, it took that long just to dry out Kathy Bates in Titanic.) Toback said Robert Downey Jr. was the only one who could play his part (a lying rapscallion) and admitted that without his name, the flick wouldn’t have been financed. Alas, no amount of dough could pop Downey out of rehab to get him to the event, so it was just two girls.
Two slags dominate The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which, it turns out, is a creakily written feckin’ mishmosh that, if it starred Brett Butler and Roseanne, would be a half-hour long and brightened by Rejuvex commercials. Sitcomy doings with a urine pan lead to potboiler revelations (“It’s true–I was in a home!”), and the big drama when I saw it was that, as the characters railed on about what a shit JFK was to his women, we all realized that Lee Radziwill was in the audience.
Some riveting points of the week: The sickest Web site around is doodie.com (don’t ask, just go there). The most bittersweet irony is that, after all that closet-busting, Ellen DeGeneres‘s next gig–a guest spot on Mad About You–has her playing second fiddle to Helen Hunt! The best gossip is that Leonardo DiCaprio actually got that shiner at Shine when a fight ensued after someone called him “Boat Boy.” And the fiercest club night was Fraggle Rock, where the incredibly charismatic Thea, backed by fellow Lunachicks, plus members of BETTY and Luscious Jackson, performed a tribute to Blondie that was so on-target, Deborah Harry later told them, “I might have to take you on the road with me.”
Oh, and my most interesting call came from singer Daniel Cartier, countering my insinuations that he’s only broached the love that dares not speak its name in the gay press. (Turns out he didn’t dis me last time; the message I’d left him was at an old number.) Said Cartier, “If it came across that way, I apologize. But to be honest, there wasn’t that much straight press done on me. And I don’t have any problem with the fact that I’m gay. It’s no secret. I’ve dated half New York!” He’s even gone to those tufted areas. As for a Time Out New York incident–the mag wanted to put Cartier in the gay section, but he insisted on the music section, so they just didn’t do him–Cartier said, “There’s nothing insulting about being gay, it’s just that first and foremost, I’m a musician. I want my music to be for everybody. I felt it was dismissive of the music editor.” That editor, Gail O’Hara, told me in response, “It’s true, we didn’t want to cover Cartier in the music section–because we hate him.” Now, kids!
Finally, Edith Head–we love her–still gave good costume at a benefit/”retrospectacular” at the Cipriani Hotel, where everyone had their Heads on straight. The gala event was highlighted by a long, immensely detailed show replete with film clips, production numbers, movie star testimonials, and an Internet auction of Janet Leigh‘s novel and the dog bowl from As Good as It Gets. Don’t get me started on that dog’s sexuality issues.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 5, 1998