Things have been extraordinarily slow — so slow that I was ecstatic to get a press release announcing, “Kenny Rogers song to be featured on upcoming Touched by an Angel episode” (if not slow enough that i actually watched the show). So slow that i have been watching tapes of upcoming sitcoms. (I love musical-comedy baby Kristin Chenoweth, and the good news about her ‘Kristin’ series is that it’s so weak that the little diva will surely be back on Broadway soon enough!) So slow that, in lieu of taking in that Touched by an Angel, I’ve been wallowing in lots and lots of commercials. (Gay writer Brad Gooch appears in one for Allure perfume, cooing, “Wanna marry me?” That would have to be in Vermont, wouldn’t it?)
So slow that I orgasmed on being gifted with a DVD of a 1969 TV special teaming Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey in an endearingly thrown-together-looking mishmash. Among the highlights, Pearl rips off unwieldy props and accessories and flings them to the stage, and Channing puts a gray scarf atop her blindingly sequined outfit and unironically sings “If I Were a Rich Man.” The DVD also includes outtakes, which aren’t all that different from the stuff they aired.
The 1950 movie version of Annie Get Your Gun finally came out on video and DVD after decades of unavailability — again, I was beside myself — but it turns out to be a sad experience, with little overall vision and the usually delightful Betty Hutton hamming it up on every bizarre syllable. By way of outtakes, you get the footage Judy Garland shot as Annie before her messiness made the studio get its gun and drive her out of town. Judy looks rough — like an urban crack addict who wandered in sporting a Joan of Arc hairdo — but she’s absolutely mesmerizing, giving the character real poignance and toughness. Amazingly, she performs perfectly in one long-take scene, only to have someone else screw up by yelling, “Cut!” before he’s supposed to!
But things are so slow that I went to yet another dinner theater in Pennsylvania — cut! — catching something called I’ll Be Home for Christmas at the Dutch Apple mainly because I was hungry, it was there, and the sound of ringing holiday bells proved hypnotic. The buffet turned out to be delightfully elaborate, but the slick, well-meaning show was weird, including an episode about Scotland that didn’t even mention Madonna‘s wedding but did have a guy in a kilt making sure to tell us he has a wife (and not one he married in Vermont). Things picked up with a teen-group knockoff called ‘N Season and a female version of the old “Who’s on first?” routine, but as game as the performers were, a kid at our table kept waking up and moaning, “This is awful!”
At least Pete ‘n’ Keely — which I suddenly had time to catch up with — is supposed to be like a kitschy TV special. The Off-Broadway tuner stars Sally Mayes and George Dvorsky as a showbiz couple who’ve had a dvorsky but are reunited for a Pearl ‘n’ Carol-type prime-time romp in which all their antagonisms and longings come to the fore even more loudly than their Bob Mackie outfits. The show reminded me of skits I wrote in high school, which is fine because I loved those skits, but it’s all pretty thin and as strained as Pete ‘n’ Keely’s relationship. Still, the spoofing of lounge-singing mannerisms is very kooky and the stars truly twinkled in the face of a stony audience.
Moods picked up with the premiere of Before Night Falls, artist Julian Schnabel‘s lovingly made movie about gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas. (Message to star Javier Bardem: Wanna marry me?) In fact, everyone was so hungry for this event — things were slow — that people were lobbying for placement in the overbooked theater as Schnabel advised, “If you don’t get a seat, take out a knife.” As the crowd organized itself without weapons, Schnabel prepared to address us, only to have his friend Lou Reed shout out, “Sing!” The movie, which sang for itself, is a walk on the wild side, especially when Johnny Depp turns up as a drag queen who smuggles Arenas’s novel out of jail via his anus. From the looks of it, he probably could have performed a similar stunt for Tolstoy.
The equally overattended after-party was at Schnabel’s loft, where Ross Bleckner grinned and said, “Beautiful! I can’t imagine where he learned to make a movie!” I asked Schnabel if this one was harder to direct than Basquiat. “No,” he tossed off, “it was more like a DNA print for me.” More meaningfully, is it easier now to be gay in Cuba? “For some gays, sometimes,” Schnabel said. “It depends on Castro‘s whims.” He added that not long ago, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier was arrested just for being in a Cuban gay joint — the ultimate fashion victim.
With my latest novel tucked up my ass, I chased some more thrills before night fell and ran into Spa honcho Steve Lewis outside that wildly popular club. In between telling desperate would-be entrants, “That’s not my job,” Lewis revealed to me that he exclusively loves Asian women. “I haven’t slept with a white woman in seven years,” he said. “Pamela Lee let me touch her breasts once and it did nothing for me.” Me neither!
But things have been slow — so slow that I’m getting sick just thinking about the movie Madonna’s supposed to make with her hubby, Tarantino wannabe Guy Ritchie. This project will surely end the marriage, both careers, the entire art of moviemaking, and probably all of civilization! Doesn’t anyone remember Shanghai Surprise?
On a happier note, Britney (if not Madonna) was represented in Butch It Up 2: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — a vigorously fun revue at the Duplex consisting of guys in army fatigues belting out women’s songs with honest emotion and campy winks. The show served up star turn after star turn — a hip-hop “At the Ballet,” a butt-grabbing West Side Story, a heartfelt “He Touched Me” — and the recurring theme of secret love added poignance, the wonderful cast delivering the songs as if they were written for gay men. My main complaint is that no new life can possibly be mined out of “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” Just keep it inside.
But I can’t hold back just a couple more things. Famous relation Bebe Buell sang out loud in a hard-driving set at Don Hill’s that had her boasting of sobriety (“I am the mother of rock and roll, so I must stay completely clean”), taking off her coat to reveal a clingy blouse (“Try not to stare at this area. I get hard nipples when I rock”), and serving up candid confessions (“I’m good at making other people famous”). It’s her turn — she’s fabulous!
Meanwhile, nipples froze in terror when Barneys shoppers took in the poignant sight of Christina Aguilera looking humiliated as her gigantic coat got stuck in a moving escalator. I felt so bad for her! But I recovered in time to overhear a fashion queen say this at an awards event at Cipriani: “I’m tired of open relationships. I saw my last boyfriend in a circle jerk with four musclemen at the Cock. It was cool for the moment, but then I thought, ‘Is this guy really going to be there for me?'” Yeah, honey — when things are slow.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 9, 2001