Here’s a hot flash: The new face of menopause
is…no, not the Olsen twins, but Valerie Harper! The
estimable Harper—you know, Mary Richards’s better half on Nick at Nite—just unveiled a Times Square billboard for Healthy Woman, a soy medical supplement from the company that’s brought you Monistat and K-Y jelly. Well, I’ve certainly enjoyed at least one of those products, so I showed up, all slippery-smooth and willing—and Harper didn’t disappoint. “Menopause is an exciting new beginning,” she told the rapidly aging crowd. “We are out of the closet. Love it, embrace it! Healthy Woman helps
relieve hot flashes!” Hallelujah! If there was ever an effective cheerleader for “the change,” it was Valerie Harper. She may in fact be the first person who ever wanted such a position, and she was approaching it as stirringly as she played Rhoda and, more
recently, Pearl Buck (onstage). In fact, she was making me wish I was a middle-aged woman with mounting biological problems.
The billboard, it turned out, features Harper along with other menopausal celebs, like Suzy
Chaffee and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Funny, I know Mary Wilson, and she’s never once told me she’s had hot flashes—but I was certainly glad to hear she’s found relief for them. In her trailer after the ceremony, Harper continued her rah-rah menstruation-cessation routine. She took one look at me and said, “We’ve borrowed the vernacular of the gay and lesbian community—’coming out of the closet.’ It’s about not hiding who you are.” Well, to seize some more gay lingo: Is Healthy Woman like a female Viagra, girleen? “No,” she said excitedly. “It’s about relieving discomfort.” To appease mine, Harper informed me that women in Asia supposedly have fewer hot flashes because they eat so much soy. (Imelda Marcos must have been the exception.) Armed with this knowledge, American gals who were formerly faced with an impossible choice—suffer those darned flashes or eat buckets full of tofu—can now suck down Healthy Woman and avert both treacherous fates.
“But what exactly does a hot flash feel like?” I asked, not having had one in ages. “My whole body would break into a sweat,” Harper admitted. “I have a friend who called it her ‘private summer,’ and other women call it a ‘power surge.”‘ I call it “No, thank you, ma’am.” But whatever you label it, I couldn’t
believe I had finally gotten to meet Valerie Harper and it was in the context of an ideological symposium about burning pains!
I expected all sorts of menopausal types at the next big celebration of female aging—”Maddyfest,” a Madonna birthday tribute in the Southgate Tower Hotel’s ballroom—but the smallish crowd verged on jailbait, proving that the woman still knows how to curry (and kebab) new favor. The casual, all-day event featured vendors hawking Madonna memorabilia, as well as performances by semi-sound-alikes and sort-of-look-alikes, all in a sweetly ramshackle setup that prompted one guest to murmur, “Doesn’t this have a Waiting for Guffman feel to it?” Guffman never came, but Queerdonna—the 400-plus-pound drag Madonna impersonator also known as Greg Tanian—did, and with updated material, including capacious new gowns. (I’m not saying that mockingly, mind you—Queerdonna’s currently suing United Airlines for $400 million for fat discrimination. That’s a million a pound.)
At first, Queerdonna lurked behind a temporary wall divider adorned with the words “For Queerdonna and dancers only!” (She’s certainly learned from her idol.) The spare but loving audience then heard the makeshift diva chant, “I’m home. Shanti…I fucked up.” Trying harder to summon her lines, the Queer one emerged in stretch pants, a vaguely Madonna-ish wig, and brilliantly inappropriate eyeglasses and lip-synched “Beautiful Stranger” with a sincerity that was both hilarious and touching. By sheer determination, Queerdonna proves that anyone can be Madonna and, conversely, that Madonna is in everyone. Brava!
Between numbers, someone in the crowd asked me—and this is a direct quote—”How come you never gossip about pop icon Kim Wilde? She opened for Michael Jackson in Europe, and they had an affair.” I sincerely doubt that—but I would like to gossip about how fascinating that recently surfaced picture of Jacko’s pallid son was. Not that I’m quoting “Billie Jean” or anything—you know, “The kid is not my son”—but this adorable little Jack-off looks precious little like Daddy, though maybe he’s already had his pigment scrubbed!
Leaving behind menopause in order to pause for some men, I learned that Darren Aronofsky (š) just directed a movie based on Hubert Selby Jr.‘s Requiem for a Dream, so I phoned that cutie Selby in L.A. to ask if it’ll be any good. “Who knows?” said Selby (best known for Last Exit to Brooklyn). “I suspect so. Ellen Burstyn is so incredible. I was there [on the set] five minutes and she had me in tears.” What part does she play? “Sarah Goldfarb,” he said simply, but didn’t elaborate. The guy is certainly a refreshing
departure from all those overly rehearsed sound-bite spewers of media-savvy Hollywood. And who are the other cast members, pray tell? “Jared Leto, something like that,” he said. “And one of the Winans brothers—Damon maybe, but you’d better check that. I’m dreadful with names.” I thought perhaps he intended to say Damon Wayans, but research reveals he actually meant Marlon Wayans. Heck, even if the movie stars Marlon Jackson, I’ll go see it.
That new Broadway thriller called The Blair Bitch Project—I mean Voices in the Dark—has been savaged by critics in need of a soyburger, but it’s actually a moderately capable joltfest, mainly hampered by pop-schlock psychology and the Act II scene in which poor Judith Ivey has to fill a new character in on every single thing that happened in Act I. The elaborate lodge set, scarily reminiscent of the one for Moose Murders, is filled with disarmingly strange characters and their body parts, though ultimately there are too many psychos trying our nerves—almost as many as in that Gap “Dress You Up” commercial.
My last Monistat-ed nerve was tickled by publicists who invited me to a party for a lesbian-themed film and specified, “The stars are both straight!” Hey, thanks for the info. I’m sure the reverse situation would happen: “Mikey, we’re having a bash tonight for a romance starring David Hyde Pierce and Jodie
Foster—and they’re both gay!”
Instead of either scenario, I went straight, as it were, to the menopausal anniversary screening of the still priceless Young Frankenstein, and asked Mel Brooks if the current crop of gross-out-comedy filmmakers owe him a big debt of gratitude. “You mean that I plumbed the depths?” he said. “Yes! I’ve cut my way through the jungle of vulgarity and paved the way for South Park and American Pie!” And he should be proud—no, really.
Yikes, gotta go. I’m having a “private summer.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 17, 1999