I made it through half of the Janis Joplin musical, Love, Janis, which is loving, but pretty much without staging or context. (Worse, the theater is located where the club Life just was. Come on, take another little piece of my nightlife, baby.) At least I got to meet Janis’s sister, Laura Joplin, at the after-party, and was surprised to find that she doesn’t wear feather boas in her hair.
“Some people expect me to be shooting pool,” she told me, “but I know who I am. I know I’m not Janis and I know I’m 52.” (Funny, I’m not 52, but I am Janis Joplin.) According to sis, the late, great singer “was on an emotional roller coaster. She tried to stop and come back at certain points, but regrettably, when she died, she didn’t stop and come back.” Would Janis have had her own talk show today? “That’s funny,” said Laura, who didn’t stop and come back.
The Dusty Springfield tribute at the Slipper Room—it’s dead legends month—was rousing, especially when the MC kept us up to date by noting that Dusty’s ’60s nickname, “the White Negress,” probably wouldn’t go over too well today. Michael Jackson certainly doesn’t appreciate it.
Among the living, the very white O-Town‘s dreaded—I mean dreadlocked—Jacob Underwood is fighting back against ‘N Sync members who’ve openly trashed his band as being prefab and pathetic. Jacob’s threatening to publicly reveal stuff he knows about ‘N Sync that would show them to be not real at all. Talk about the crackpot calling the kettle fake. Hush, child, or the O will stand for Ovah.
Moving up a fraction of a generation, I was afraid that Blast!—the revue consisting of boy-band wild cards and their Hallmark card counterparts—would be a bombastic exercise in marching-band regimentation, but instead it’s annoyingly precious, with lots of flowing sashes, delicate posturing, and people doing high kicks while playing French horns. It’s all very Cirque du Soleil Moon Frye meets Yanni preshow. Eew!
The Blast! cast opened the Dudley Moore benefit tribute at Carnegie Hall, which ended with Paul McCartney and his girlfriend, amputee activist Heather Mills, running like the dickens out the exit, with no twirling trumpeters blocking the way. Turns out they weren’t racing because one of the comedy sketches had featured Jimmy Fallon in the Dudley Moore role of an eternally hopping one-legged actor—that was all in fun—they were just trying to avoid the paparazzi!
I’ve been running to Heaven—Marc Berkley‘s renovation of the gay dance club King—which reverses traditional religious beliefs, not that most clubgoers have any. The best floor, two flights up, is the one representing hell—it’s so coveted that only VIPs and pushy people are supposed to be allowed into it. And it’s lined with photos of celebs who, according to the Chelsea code, truly belong in hell: Eminem, Kathie Lee, Giuliani, and of course those adorable Olsen twins. I don’t know if this proves the Olsens’ right to eternal damnation or not, but I’ve been listening to their music and it’s starting to sound a little reminiscent of early Lou Reed.
A touch of gay heaven? After reading about it in Simon Doonan‘s column, I nabbed Judy Garland Speaks!, that fascinating double CD consisting of tapes Judy made for a memoir that unfortunately never materialized (though somehow daughter Liza‘s duet with the Pet Shop Boys did). Judy seems even more bitter than O-Town, railing against Sid Luft (“He smells”), her unappreciative audience (“I’ve pleased your children, your wives, and you, you sons of bitches!”), and once again Sid Luft (“He’s a drunk and a derelict. Take a look at his face!”). She zings ’em all and stays all night!
The zingy Joan Rivers had a party at her sumptuous East Side apartment to celebrate her new perfume, Now & Forever, which—judging from the invite that said “Joan Rivers Rosenberg requests the pleasure . . . “—is how long she keeps her stationery. (Joan told me she’d had these cards printed up years ago.) Whatever she’s calling herself, I love Joan’s pre-Oscar E! coverage, even if the pressure leads to some goofy gaffes. This last time, she interviewed Chow Yun-Fat‘s wife as if she were Chow Yun-Fat, asking what it was like to star in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “I don’t know who anybody is,” Joan told me, laughing. “Once, the director of Like Water for Chocolate came with a beautiful woman who I assumed was in the movie. She wasn’t!” Even with the boo-boos, the Joan and Melissa show is way more watchable than Barbara Walters‘s sit-downs with the likes of Chow Yun . . . I mean Faith Hill.
I chowed with the young at Commune, where Dick Cavett hosted a dinner for Jordan Roth, the 25-year-old producer of Broadway’s Rocky Horror Show revival, and said he regrets that “I never got to do Joan Crawford.” (Don’t get the ax; I don’t think he meant it that way.) Roth told me that the guy who plays Riff Raff is leaving Rocky soon and will probably be replaced with a bit of stunt casting. (No, not Cathy Rigby.) That should further the drag musical’s unexpected success with non-insiders, which Roth is particularly thrilled about. “I love when audience members take pictures because they don’t know the rules,” he told me. He’d really love Blast!; the guy behind me brought a cup of beer to his seat.
Meanwhile, Jordan’s producer mom, Daryl Roth, is pushing a Charles Busch-written show to HBO about a fresh-faced guy who becomes a ruthless Broadway talent. Don’t look at me!
From producers to The Producers, it’s wild that Judgment at Nuremberg and The Gathering are struggling to fill seats, while a few blocks away, Jews—and everyone else—are lining up for “Springtime for Hitler.” And they should! The Producers slays you with self-aware, instantly hate-deflating Jew jokes, tit jokes, blind jokes, and gay stereotypes so over-the-top you cheer on the silliness (especially when realizing the show is basically a love story between two men). It’s an offensive musical that clicks for all the right reasons about an offensive musical that clicks for all the wrong reasons. It enraged me—and I want to see it nine more times.
Finally, the most challenging yet fun-fun-fun Off-Off-Off-Broadway production is the Troll Museum on the sixth floor of an Orchard Street tenement—Mel Brooks would no doubt give it a standing ovation while sitting. The curator is the Reverend Jen, a singularly possessed young lady who practices Hal (“the religion of the uncool”) and deeply misses Woolworth’s. But the museum—”a Disneyland for intellectuals”—is her real passion, and at last she’s come out from under the bridge to talk about it.
Jen’s been fixated on troll dolls since her early years in Maryland, identifying so strongly with the snouty darlings that she tried to get troll hair (if not boas) woven into her own mane, only to have her hair fall out! Today, it’s all grown back, but the trolls are woven into her every pore. The museum—viewable by appointment (646-242-3654)—is wondrous, consisting of paintings, authentic merch, and an “Armani” exhibit of dolls in homemade couture outfits, which Jen likes to imagine Armani actually designed. But why trolls, doll? “Because they’re a mix of cute and ugly,” Jen said, “like Chihuahuas or monkeys.” Or Olsen twins?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 24, 2001