The Rocky Horror Show, while still fabulously sick, seems almost quaint now—practically a Noel Coward play. When the original Broadway version opened in the ’70s, the blue-haired matinee ladies thought it was way too much, even though they looked a bit like Frank ‘n’ Furter themselves. But now that Charles Busch is on broadway (with the very same freakazoid-liberates-repressed-couple plot) and drag queens are flouncing all over the tube, the time is right for this Rent via Dame Edna by way of Cabaret extrava-gorgonzola. It’s a gay Grease!—which I guess would make it Crisco!—and so layered that now the audience’s interactive comments get comments back from the cast. (For the family crowd, narrator Dick Cavett even keeps telling us how shocking it all is.) I was enthralled, though I must disclose that the Voice porn-ad pages are used as an audience prop.
The cast is a Hollywood Squares of wondrous oddities, but naturally I’m most drawn to that human dynamo of comic invention and scat singing Lea DeLaria, who effortlessly plays two male roles—Eddie and Dr. Scott. Lea’s last Broadway outing, On the Town, fell off the map quickly last year, but over a preshow snack at Ruby Foo’s, she told me that Rocky feels like a hit—”and I’ve never been in a hit before. Usually you put me in and it’s instant close!” The Rocky high is extra sweet for Lea because she worshiped at the throne of the cult movie version, which she said “really helped me be gay. To see something like that in the Midwest was a big eye-opener. We had no role models. Dr. Smith in Lost in Space was the closest thing to a gay character on TV. He was so faggy! You could tell he was gay because every time Will Robinson bent over, the robot would say, ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ ”
Lea herself pushed things forward in the ’80s by being an out comic whose mantra was “I’m a big dyke!” Does she ever regret that saucy stance? No, she said, “it gets me laid and it hasn’t hurt my career. You get put in a box, but everybody does. And I’m not boxed here at all.” In fact, in the last few years, she’s played three men, several lesbians, and even a straight woman.
Lea’s girlfriend’s been taken out of the box, as it happens. As the comic explained it, “She was so Gen X that she would just suck the energy out of a room. Even though the sex was great and she was eye candy and all of those horrible sexist things I like to say, I need to be with someone not so negative. She was like born over it.”
Meanwhile, the robustly cheerful diva is reborn with a new girlfriend and plenty of other possibilities, too. She hopes Susan Sarandon—who starred in the movie version—comes to see Rocky, “because I just want to finger her a little in the corner, if she’d let me. Please, Susan, please! She’s so sexy!” The tourists around us looked a tiny bit horrified, but we carried on, discussing the hotness of Lea’s costar Daphne Rubin-Vega. “Oh my god,” she blurted, “would I like to be in her! How sexy is that woman! And Daphne’s such a horrible flirt. Plus Alice Ripley [who plays Janet] is a total cock tease. She’s always like, ‘I wore my best G-string for you, Lea.’ I’m like, ‘You bitch, I’ll kick your ass.’ ”
What about Rocky‘s other apparent female, rocker Joan Jett, whom Lea kisses in the show? Just how butch is she? “I would not call her butch,” Lea clarified. “I’d call her androgynous. You don’t know what the hell she is—is she a man or a woman? I love that about her!” I guess she’s just a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.
Butchness is also in short supply in Showtime’s version of Queer as Folk—a/k/a Sex and the Sissy—which premiered to an audience of anally lubed magazine editors last week. Just as The Full Monty was relocated from the U.K. to Buffalo, this show is now set in Pittsburgh, though it could be any large city where Special K is not a cereal. It’s all watchable and truthful enough, but not nearly as trenchant as it thinks it is. In any case, it will surely immortalize the line “Now you know what rimming is.”
You’ll know what screaming is when you see the high-pitched Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which had its own special screening—a benefit for Sloan-Kettering’s Stem Cell Transplant Research Fund. The cancer-survivor organizer was funnier than the movie, telling the crowd, “I worried about having a bad hair day today, but then I realized I’m happy whenever I have hair.” We wore our merkins to the after-party at the Wollman Rink, where a spunky little girl told me, “When you want to stop skating, you have to ‘make a pizza’ with your feet. I learned that a long time ago.” Oh yeah, four, maybe five minutes ago. Alas, her advice was quickly forgotten when I got to eat a pizza with my mouth.
There was also a skating party for 102 Dalmatians, another movie based on a cartoon that was fine the way it was. At least this one doesn’t include “Who Let the Dogs Out,” though it does have Gerard Depardieu cutely pronouncing puppies as “poopies” about a thousand times. Among the skaters was Ivana Trump, glamorously decked out in a sequined ensemble with foxlike trim. After hours of zooming around, the divoon divorcée came to a halt by slamming into the rail—I guess she forgot to make a pizza—and exclaimed, “That was the hard part!” But just then, someone Ivana knew thrust a cell phone into her face and she blithely exclaimed into it, “Hello, Stephen. Love you!” What a pro! I could just poopy!
Skating on glum ice, Unbreakable proves that The Sixth Sense was untoppable—”I see dead box office,” moaned one observer—though I loved writer-director M. Night Shyamalan saying at the premiere that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson agreed to do the flick without even seeing the script. God, if this starts a trend, writers could once again become like . . . writers.
Writer Joe Orton, who knew what rimming is, becomes visible again with the New Group’s production of What the Butler Saw, the original Rocky Horror Show. What I saw at Interview‘s Bottino fete for the show was Claudia Shear depositing her velvet coat behind me and saying, “You’ll make sure no skanky fashion bitch takes it, right?” As I guarded it from a whole army of skanky bitches, Seussical star Kevin Chamberlin told me they’ve turned that show around, and added, “The negative buzz was the best thing that happened to us.” I told Chamberlin that the Grinch movie emphasizes visuals over script, and he said that was Seuss’s worst nightmare. Now he may be rolling—but at least Claudia Shear got her coat back.
And someone got a free CD! My sources tell me that Russell Crowe was just at Tower Video, enthusing to a salesgirl about the Aussie band Dead Can Dance. He became so worked up that he ran across the street to Tower Records, bought the group’s latest release, and then ran back to give it to her, proving that he’s not a skanky bitch after all. Just then, Meg Ryan came racing in with a hatchet and chopped the girl’s head off in a jealous rage. All right, I made that last part up.
But this is sort of true: Though the Florida situation has been a complete nightmare, at least it’s resulted in three great new porn star names: Manuel Recount, Dimpled Ballots, and Swinging Chad. Danger, Will Robinson.