I’m not exactly the quintessence of a BAM subscriber, but their Centenary Gala Celebration of Kurt Weill appealed to the intellectual in me, mainly because Dick Van Patten from Eight Is Enough was one of the performers! And not only did sitcom stars branch out that night; the diversely appealing evening featured bright lights of Broadway, opera, and pop, all equalized by the big, depressing group finale of “September Song.” Before that, Van Patten revealed that he starred in Weill’s The Eternal Road at age eight—yes, eight was enough. And at 8:30-ish, downtown cutie Ann Magnuson scored with a pizzazzy “The Saga of Jenny” and a number from Love Life in which she was simultaneously gamine, bodacious, and sardonic. At the after-dinner, Magnuson managed all the above, plus enthusiastic, gushing, “I could do this every night!”—though when asked about her future plans, she said, “I’d like to do some more TV and make lots of money.” Unlike Jenny, she needn’t make up her mind.
Magnuson’s onetime East Village performance peer, Charles Busch, is also avoiding anonymity with style (the ’80s weren’t enough). His The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife is a neurotic laughfest that provides the vivid sight of TV divas Linda Lavin and Michele Lee engaged in a passionate liplock. It’s as if Alice doesn’t live here anymore—she moved in on Knots Landing.
You want more sitcom stars branching out? Well, not to brag, but I recently got a voice-mail message about my opinionated review of Roseanne‘s hypnotically demented talk show. It was from Roseanne herself.
After thanking me for at least acknowledging her program, she said: “It was very difficult getting ahold of you because you have all that Satanic, 666 stuff to go through [she meant the codes you have to press], but I’d like to talk to you further and you could perhaps become one of my homosexual minions.” Like a true slave, I promptly called Roseanne back—by dialing a lot of sixes—and reached her in her car, heading, naturally, to Neiman Marcus. She defended her show by saying, “I cannot become one of the body snatchers and do fucking shit. I’m doing my own thing, and that’s why I’m being punished. I’m tired of the canned, corporate thing. There are so many rules to break!”
One of them is “Don’t pay for your ex-hubby’s wedding,” but Roseanne told me she’s doing so (for Bill Pentland, not Tom Arnold) and may even feature the ceremony on the show. “I’ve hated him for so long that I’m trying to forgive him,” Roseanne confessed. She even wants to reconcile with her family (who she once said molested her; they denied it) and have them on, “to show that you can heal from bad things.” Fabulous! But being a bawdy bad girl seems to be exciting Rosie even more these days. “There’s people who call in to worship my feet,” she informed me. “The world is ending! Can you believe there are so many people out there who want to lick my feet?” I advised her to withhold a couple of toes—eight is enough.
I’ve long licked the toe jam of Valley of the Dolls, the ’67 Jackie Susann campfest which features Patty Duke going way beyond her sitcom experience, and so many other brazenly enjoyable elements that I can never understand why people say the flick’s so bad. I cannot see one thing wrong with it as I sit there spewing forth the cheers, choking back the tears, and dodging that damned mobile. Damn the critics, I’m sticking to my theory that the film is genius, and Susan Hayward’s big speech—you know, “Look, they drummed you out of Hollywood . . . “—is pure poetry, as good as anything by Welles or Kurosawa. Lock me up—I don’t care, as long as the institution has a VCR and a copy of Valley of the Dolls!
AMC had a special screening of the movie at the Chelsea West last Wednesday, and judging from the parade of panting homosexual minions in attendance, the Bill Bradley reception at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center the same night must have been a wasteland. Patty Duke even blurted, “In the last 10 years, I’ve gotten to enjoy the fruits of Valley of the Dolls,” before realizing who she was talking to. As the crowd of fans and sickos gathered around Duke, I passed around her album of songs from the movie, poignantly aware that they dubbed her in the actual flick. “I was hurt,” she told me. “Only a year ago was I finally able to admit I can’t sing—and I have six albums to prove it!” To relieve Patty’s pain, I brought up her other cult films, like Billie, in which she plays a Brandon Teena?like tomboy (an “in-between”) who’s force-feminized. “If they remade it today,” she said, “she’d either come out of the closet or she’d disassociate from those who don’t get her until they do.” As for By Design, an ’81 Canadian movie in which Duke is out of the closet, “I watched 10 minutes until I was horrified when I saw my boobies!”
But we were only here to discuss Dolls—in which Patty aptly shrieks, “Boobies, boobies, boobies!”—so in a hilarious panel discussion before the screening, MC Whoopi Goldberg led Valley girls Duke, Barbara Parkins, and Lee Grant down mammary lane. “It was a money job, you know?” said Grant, and Whoopi responded, “Center square. I know.” At this point, Grant’s chair loudly fell apart, and Parkins quipped, “It’s Jackie Susann. She’s upset that Bette Midler played her in Isn’t She Great!” From there, all hell—and chairs—broke loose, and the divas proceeded to dis everyone from the movie, including Tony Scotti (Duke: “He later decided the camera wasn’t for him. I can’t imagine why!”), Paul Burke (Parkins: “I found him the most sexless man. Where did they find this guy?”), Sharon Tate (Parkins: “She was smart?”), and director Mark Robson (Duke: “Every time he was mean to me, I ate four more donuts. At the wrap party, I kicked him in the shins and left”). Only the fired Judy Garland was spared—though Patty did admit that Judy walked off with her entire wardrobe.
And now, shall we dig into the valley of the wardrobe closet for some wearable items? I hear the terrific Jeanette Walls outs Matt Drudge in her upcoming book, Dish. His Gap dress must have been stained. According to my dish, Mary Wilson wants $3 million for that possible Supremes reunion tour, but Diana Ross said, “If she won’t take two, we’ll get someone else.” (Come on, ladies, where did our love go?) Meanwhile, Madonna‘s been causing a supreme stink by blabbing everywhere about how her homosexual minion, Rupert Everett, is so hot because he doesn’t seem gay (which is arguable in itself). It’s that same old tired “straight-acting” bullshit that we usually bash ourselves with! The “American Pie” server enthused to Vanity Fair that Rupert’s “not obviously gay, and he’s got a really macho vibe about him!” And she just told Next, “I think Rupert is a fantastic gay role model because he doesn’t really fit into middle America’s preconceived notion about what gay men are: that sort of effeminate, nellie, queenie, gay personality . . . He’s actually quite butch.” Gee, thanks, Madonna! Me, your brother, your old dance teacher, the cast of your “Vogue” video, your fans, and everyone else you know are just thrilled to realize we’re not fantastic role models! How Weill.