These new TV channels are scaring me back to radio. The Fox Family Channel might be mesmerizing, for all I know, but that woman on their commercials—the one who screeches and convulses, while promising “family TV for the new millennium”—should be shot up with Seconal and tossed into a hyena pack. And Pax TV might not even need the sedation. That new channel was looking for a regular gossip reporter for some middle-of-the-road show called Woman’s Day. They asked me to submit an audition reel, so I cracked to them, “I want to be very up-front about the fact that I’m not a woman, OK?” There was silence on the other end, then they said yes, they knew. Anyway, I later found out that this really mirthful enterprise is the brainchild of a born-again freak who–though he’s brave enough to consider having men on Woman’s Day–wants to present a Wizard air-freshened view of the world for that no-sex-or-reality-please family values crowd. And they were considering me? And I was considering them? Fax to Pax: Relax!
Then I auditioned for something called MSG, which is about neither sports venues nor Chinese food–it tells folks what entertainment prospects are available in New York aside from those other two channels. That sounded a little more up my dark alley, so I dragged my ass to the tryout, where the producer suggested I deliver my lines with lots of New York attitude. He assured me that what I said wasn’t as important as my–that word again–attitude. Gee, could they have possibly been looking for some attitude? Well, I tried, but I couldn’t do anything but be myself. They gave me attitude. I didn’t get on.
And while we’re dealing in Attitude, the British post-gay magazine of that very namefinally paid up for an article I did 16 whole months ago! And the check just bounced! Now I’m serving attitude, honey.
I’m also out $8.75, having just seen 54, but my attitude about that would-be party-in-a-movieisn’t nearly as hateful as that of most critics. The film does start uneasily with the busboy’s narration (“It was the late ’70s . . . “) and is unexcitingly centered on that character’s meteoric rise all the way to . . . bartender. But once it gets into club owner Steve Rubell’s twistedly fun little mind-set, the movie’s quite enjoyable for the length of a few line dances. In fact, Mike Myers is so good as the groveling, sleazy, adorable Steve that they should have advertised the flick with, “You loved him when he went back to the ’60s, baby. Now follow Mike to the ’70s, where they’re spying on him!”
Myers makes his choice moments shine, from informing an employee, “I’m not gay either. I wanna suck your cock!” to being carted away for tax evasion and snarling, “This is so . . . tacky!” And Ryan Phillippe,who looks like Sarah McLachlan, is believably callow and quite delish as the busboy, at least until he suddenly develops moral weight when the old lady from The Wedding Singer croaks on the dance floor. Alas, there are other characters, like Salma Hayek‘s coat check girl, whose disco showstopper number stops the show all right, and ambitious soap star Neve Campbell,who ends up telling Phillippe, “Let’s face it–we’re Jersey. So . . . friends?” And the editing’s been so botched that developments are hinted at that never happen; the club generally comes off more like Xenon; and homosexuality is only presented as a vehicle for lechery or career advancement (except for two seconds of a male couple kissing because they actually want to). But give the movie a twirl–it’s no Avengers.
A return jaunt to the pulsing, throbbing Roxy proved that it’s the modern-day 54, minus the straight people and celebs. Oh, wait, there was one that night–Jonathan Knight,whom you’ll remember as the lead singer of the teenie group New Kids on the Block. Welcome, darling.
In other happy showbiz news, Joey Arias (fresh off surviving a car accident with Thierry Mugler in Mykonos) and Raven O, among other local gals, have landed plum parts in that Robert DeNiro drag excursion Flawless–a/k/a Ronin My Stocking. And David Arquette makes a fleeting appearance in the upcoming Skin and Bone, about the wacky exploits of three male hustlers. David plays an abusive john in a cameo that’s unbilled because his participation in films has been exaggerated before, and because the role is so, you know . . . tacky!
Barely over the tacky fact that Madonna was replaced by Meryl Streep in 50 Violins–do you hear me? Meryl Streep was the second choice after Madonna!–I attended the opening of the downtown Virgin Megastore, where I was again shattered, having just missed the cute spectacle of Kevyn Aucoin taking his own book off the shelves and showing Natalie Merchant makeup ideas. It may not have been the most profound ad for literacy, but it was still more inspiring than the usual store-opening baloney.
That one-woman like-a-Virgin Megastore, Vaginal Davis,tells me she was unbooked for a role in a Rufus Wainwright video and promptly replaced by Gwen Stefani. At least they stuck with a drag queen. Meanwhile, Lypsinka (John Epperson) chose not to appear in the recent Wigstock dragfest. Epperson told me, “I thought, ‘How can I keep topping myself?’ We rehearse for hours and hours for three minutes with those big production numbers. I couldn’t get inspired about it this year, though I’m sure it’ll be fun.” Wigs went flying when Epperson told Wigstock organizer Lady Bunny that the event’s turned into a big circuit party. “I said it completely innocently,” he relates. “It was not a slight against circuit parties or Wigstock. It’s just that Wigstock is not what it used to be because it isn’t in Tompkins Square and doesn’t have the edgy feel it used to.”
Bunny, who hung up on Epperson, replies: “There’s no circuit party where the focus is a show, particularly not a drag show. From my limited experience, the participants in a circuit party are so fucked up they can’t find the direction of the stage–which I’ve discovered while being on the stage, though maybe they just turned their backs on me, hee hee! Anyway, Lypsinka’s a busy jet-setter. I’m thrilled to have her when I have her.” She’s a family TV for the new millennium?
Over in Jersey, that big circuit party known as Gypsy is being revived at the Paper Mill Playhouse, which poses no logistical problem at all. (Let’s face it–we’re Jersey.) In fact, if Gypsy were being done in Sudan, I’d be in the front row, dressed like Rosalind Russell. The show’s mix of brassy dazzle and dark character study makes it a musical must–and this production stars the intriguing combo of Betty Buckley and Deborah Gibson, which is very Sunset Boulevard via “Electric Youth.”
At an open rehearsal for the press last week, the director introduced us to the principals, and the ever game Gibson took it well when he couldn’t remember her name; she even went on to simulate the strip number that will remind us she’s Deborah. And Buckley–who told me she’d been discussing with her vocal coach how to avoid imitating Ethel Merman–belted some numbers that proved the Merm was imitating her. Perhaps most impressive of all was the scarily talented Alexandra Kiesman, who plays that perky automaton Baby June. Fresh off turning dozens of cartwheels, Alexandra didn’t even flinch when I crassly asked her if she’d like to play JonBenet someday. “Sure! That would be great!” she exclaimed, eagerly. Alas, she’s too old for the part!
Michael Musto can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 15, 1998