At a bizarre event promoting the Chelsea bar Barracuda’s redesign, I interviewed Eartha Kitt onstage and fielded interesting nuggets from her meowing mouth. The engaging Eartha said she’s always been shy and had to learn how to talk through tongue exercises. (A lot of the guys at the bar were planning to do those very exercises later that night.) She said her Wild Party character originally had four songs, not two, and she hasn’t exactly been purring about that, though she loves being part of “the ensemble.” And after a few a cappella bars of “Where Is My Man?” she
announced, “You people”—I think she meant gays—”have always supported me!” Those people then proceeded to clutch at free Wild Party CDs before
going on to pair up and perform their exercises.
Of course it’s Mandy Patinkin who makes the Party extra wild, and backstage at Barracuda, when I mentioned Patinkin’s onstage antics, I heard Eartha murmur, “He didn’t hit me tonight.” Another cast member told me, “Sometimes we don’t know where Mandy ends and Burrs [his crazed hambone character] begins.” I wonder which one is nominated for the Tony.
Another musical’s leading (wild) man, Sebastian Bach, insists he’s not a crazed hambone at all. The 6’5″ ex-Skid Row lead singer—who’s going into Jekyll & Hyde on June 13—has spent the last 11 years atoning for having worn an “AIDS Kills Fags Dead” T-shirt in concert and just enlisted me to be part of his spiritual renewal. Anxious to help turn Hyde back to Jekyll, I met him at the Plymouth Theatre and found him to be entertaining, contrite, and not as dangerous as Mandy Patinkin.
Bach told me that right after his shirt-wearing incident, his friend Michael Schmidt (the designer and Squeezebox promoter) furiously burst into his dressing room and threw him against the wall. “He put his forearm into my neck and cut my wind off till my eyes were popping out of my head,” Bach related. “He said, ‘You motherfucker!’ He pulled out a T-shirt that said ‘AIDS Kills Everyone’ and said, ‘You wear this.’ We were both in tears. I was 20, a big fan of doing lots of drugs and drinking, and was in quite a bit of a haze. I didn’t understand the magnitude and horribleness of what I’d done.”
He flicked back his mane of blond heavy-metal hair and continued, feverishly: “In rock and roll, sometimes you need a good slap in the face before you understand that not everything you do is great. Schmidt kicked my ego in the balls. I didn’t have a brain in my head when that happened. The culture in heavy metal in ’88 was about cocaine, whiskey, and the most decadent sex you could imagine. We were treated like fucking gods. With everyone saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ you lose sight of reality. Now I feel like I’ve come back down to earth. I can form a sentence and carry on a conversation.” And what he wants to say is that he’d like to be cut a serious helping of slack. “I wore that ‘AIDS Kills Everyone’ shirt for years,” Bach said, “but nobody wrote about that. Come on—Jesus Christ came back at Easter. They rolled that rock out of the cave and they were like, ‘OK, we’ve punished you enough!’ ” And now He‘s on Broadway too!
Having made the guy grovel sufficiently, I naturally wanted Bach to back up to that “decadent sex” bit and serve up some filthy details. He casually responded that one partner at a time was rarely enough. “People would say, ‘What does your wife think about other women?’ ” he said, “and I’d be like, ‘Maybe she just jumps right in. You don’t know.’ There was a lot of duct tape involved, a lot of shaving of bodily hairs, even hairs on heads—’Let’s make her bald!’
“Guns N’ Roses was the height of the decadence because they had the most money.” With another famous band Bach opened for, it’d be his job to round up the lesbians in the crowd, bring them backstage, “and sort of make it like that movie Caligula.” (Who says he hates gays?) “You’d be surprised when you pull up to a town like Salt Lake City, which is all Mormons,” Bach went on, beaming. “They’re the ones that really want to go nuts. Pretty much the whole crowd is in lingerie!” Gosh, those old Osmonds concerts must have been really outrageous.
Jump ahead a century and Bach is an unusual choice for the uppity theater scene, where the crowd is bald, but not because of any kink. Jekyll seems the right vehicle for him, though. “I slit a couple of hookers’ throats,” he said, “there’s rape, I get to shoot some substance through a hypodermic, and I beat a priest to death with a walking stick—basically, it’s what I did last night! It’s a Bach-umentary, if you will.” He laughed uproariously in a way you probably don’t hear over at The Real Thing.
But preparing for Broadway involves discipline, he said, “and I’m due for some. I relish it”—even though it’s not of the whips-and-chains variety. Bach’s so hungry for discipline, in fact, that he’s a walking Behind the Music, but he’ll never do that Bach-umentary because he despises his ex-bandmates so much. Besides, he’s focusing on learning how to fake-fight and pretend-kiss. “I don’t know how,” he admitted. “When I’m making love, I’m really getting hard! But I don’t want to poke the guy in the front row’s eye out.” From what I hear, the balcony had better duck.
Off-Broadway, gay-bashing is being seriously examined in The Laramie Project, but despite all the great reviews, you wonder why oh why it left Wyoming. A strong second act and moments of power are flanked by too much familiarity and self-congratulation and not enough focusing on the darker issues that could use more investigation. (Why don’t other gay bashings get this much attention? Why did Matthew’s father initially fight to keep him from being a gay icon?) Still, it’s hard to argue with the inevitable poignance of the tale and the message.
In a more festive vein, Groove—the rave movie—is way too thin to get a rave, though it’s less painful than that pre-party Dinosaur, which is muddy, yucky, and a complete dinosnore. A dining whore, I joined a plethora of press and publicists at a Shelly’s New York tasting, where everyone gorged on some hatefully fabulous dessert called Mama’s Mixing Bowl (don’t ask). Afterward, over Diet Cokes at Eugene, owner Gene De Nino admitted that the club’s name (which is also his own) is prompting painful flashbacks to his high school days, when the other kids pronounced it so mockingly. What’s worse, now they ask for free drinks.
Stephen Baldwin has reworked Alaia into the more viable Luahn, where they just feted David LaChapelle‘s new Swatch—the “Time Tranny,” which is fronted by Downtown diva Amanda Lepore‘s arrestingly carved face. (Let’s make her bald!) At the party, Amanda was in all her blasé glory—glowing, but mysteriously so. Did she get money for this? “Yeah,” she told me. Does she like it? “Yeah,” she cooed, concisely. Then why wasn’t she wearing it? “I don’t like watches that much.”
Finally, I knew it was time to go home when Jason Gould showed up at a Woody Allen bash and one awestruck queen enthused, “Wow! He was inside Barbra Streisand!” Mama’s mixing bowl, as it were.