It’s been painfully difficult to face the new year with any real abandon, thanks to all the mildly perverse holiday memories that refuse to dislodge from the mid-century modern, burnt-sienna corners of my mind. I’m still haunted by the sight of macho John Travolta on the Letterman show, doing an uncanny impression of Barbra Streisand‘s version of “Jingle Bells.” Oh, how Kelly must have loved that! And I’m still possessed by the Kathie Lee Epstein, I mean Gifford, Christmas special— another one of her sanctimonious trips down phony lane, on which, in between frenetic Bible talk and the changing of slinky gowns, she sang one of her very own deeply felt compositions and revealed her usual massive set of jingle balls. The tune, performed in that reedy little bug-eyed voice, went: “Lord, make my heart a manger small. Make my spirit like the stall…” Which one— the third one from the left at Grand Central?
And, much as I try to shake those commercials for the Kathie Lee Christmas ornament— which caringly benefited kids devastated by crack cocaine— I simply can’t, especially since the doodads were so blatantly adorned with the saying, “Every child deserves a childhood.” Yeah— except for Cody, Cassidy, and those Dominican factory workers.
No child deserves the current batch of hyper-annoying commercials— like the AT&T ones starring David Arquette, in which he’s agitating enough to make you want to go back to the telegraph, and those deadly spots that have Roma Downey asking us to save the children with a piety that makes one wonder if Miss Thing’s angel role has gone a bit to her Emmy-nominated noggin. She’s touched all right. The woman comes off even more fake-compassionate than Sally Struthers was— hunger didn’t seem one of her big concerns— and nowhere near as campily amusing. But at least her spirit’s not in the stall.
As a chronic TV viewer, I felt genuine compassion on hearing that my fave star of The View, Debbie Matenopoulos— you know, the young, blond one— was not fully renewed for this season and will be made to say bye-bye soon, as four possible replacements wait in the wings. Debbie exudes an open-faced energy that some people misread as callowness. But how can you dislike a Barbara Walters co-anchor who had a birthday party at Hooters?
Meanwhile, every child deserves the truth, but— with very small mangers for hearts— TV Guide apparently doesn’t think so. I recently commented that Tinky Winky— the purple Teletubby who wears tutus and carries a red handbag— sends kids the welcome message that it’s OK to be gay. Being the only adult who spent my holiday weekends lurking around Macy’s Santa Land, I happen to know these things. Well, TV Guide— which has so many sisters on staff that the
TV should stand for transvestite (in fact, their president, David Steward, is on Out magazine’s top 100 list)—
didn’t care much for that remark, self-loathingly enough. They were so alarmed that kids might discover too soon that it’s not a crime to be gay that they gave my comment one of their proverbial “Jeers.” Yuck! Getting a Jeers from my queer peers fulfilled my darkest fears. Stuff it in your red handbags, folks.
In a slightly more festive mode, Teletubbies are out and A Flock of Seagullsare in at Culture Club, an ’80s-oriented nocturnal playpen opening next week at the old Heartbreak space, which is the inevitable next forward step (backward) after Pyramid’s weekly 1984 night and Mother’s monthly Heroes. The club comes courtesy of Polly Esther’s major domos Bobby Watman and Tim Oullette, who’ve disproved the theory that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be by opening 14 retro hotspots from here to Seattle. Dressed like a cross between Adam Ant and one of The Roches, I crawled around the three-level Culture Club last week and watched them finish up the murals of Madonna, Tom Cruise, and even some people who aren’t still famous. I saw them working on the Back to the Future car, the silly Milli Vanilli display, and the Donald Trump VIP lounge, where you can practice the art of the specialty drink. As I stood there pretending that all this stuff was new to me— wait, you mean MTV used to show videos?— Oullette enthused about how the joint has the neighborhood’s blessing. “This is one of the first clubs where the community was actually pushing for the liquor board to give us a license,” he said. How ’80s.
Those craving a throwback to the ’60s should probably check out the A Taste of Honeytype small-town, small-people situation tragedy Little Voice. À la those kitchen sinkers, the flick is stagey, precious, and dotted with heavy-handed metaphors (Ewan McGregor tends to a flock of caged pigeons who represent L.V. herself), but it’s surprisingly enjoyable, maybe because for your ’90s ticket price, they also throw in some ’30s nostalgia. The best feature is that, as the shattered girl who only communicates through impersonations of Garland and Dietrich, Jane Horrocks— whom we loved as the air-headed Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous— is compelling, though I don’t recall signing a release allowing them to film my life.
Offscreen, mercifully, the woman talks a blue streak. Horrocks recently told me she went to see female impersonator Jim Bailey perform as Judy, and his accuracy was jaw-droppingly impressive. In fact, she said, so many drag queens mimic Judy so well that “It’s probably a relief for Lorna Luft to see a woman doing it!” (But excuse me, she’s seen Liza do it for years.) Practically the only superstar Horrocks doesn’t imitate in the movie is Barbra because her attempt at an impersonation wasn’t all that gorgeous, “and I don’t think Barbra’s tragic enough. She doesn’t quite fit into that lineup.” Though Travolta doing Streisand might be another story.
Did costarring with pigeons force Horrocks to do an impression of someone holding an umbrella? “I don’t think I was shat on by them,” she told me with a welcome lack of airs, “and I know Ewan wasn’t. They were very well-behaved birds.” (Not stool pigeons, I guess.) But she’s afraid the public might not be so restrained in response to McGregor’s deglamorization as the shy geek with the continent flock. Horrocks should know; she remembers starring in Second Best, the ’94 flick in which William Hurt seemed similarly shabby as a Welsh postmaster who appeared more postal than necessary. “William looked like a serial killer,” Horrocks related. “He didn’t look his best, and no one went to see the film.” Oh, that’s why I didn’t make time for that one.
Not that the refreshingly anti-careerist actress cares. This is the woman who was delighted that the proposed AbFab movie never happened. “Sitcoms made into films normally don’t work,” she explained. “The characters at the end of the day are quite shallow. Half an hour is quite enough.” She doesn’t seem to realize that half a lifetime of AbFab isn’t enough! Typically, she’s been avoiding some other acting opportunities and told me she actually doesn’t enjoy performing at all. “I can’t just act and let it go,” she said. “I’m a bit neurotic about it, and it ceases to become fun. I’m quite happy about not doing very much. People think you’re sort of desperate to be launched. Well, I’m not!” How horrible for Horrocks that her Golden Globe nomination— an honor which she calls “absolutely fabulous”— might help launch her anyway.