Now that the Tony Awards have showered us with their glory—the Full Monty producers should check the chads, by the way—it’s the most delicious time for some saucy assessments of the recent Broadway season. Having missed only Act II of Jane Eyre and all of Kelsey Grammer’s Macbeth, I’m just the minxy martyr for the job. And so: Proof is about the authorship of a brilliantly created, barely penetrable math equation. The Invention of Love is that equation. . . . The lovable A Class Act was a celebration of a failed songwriter. Unfortunately, it failed. . . . The season’s height of crassness was the promotional Mercedes-Benz sitting in the lobby of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—a real 19th-century, down-home country touch. . . . Anyone who won a Tony also had to sadly realize: “Blast got one too.”
The Follies—as that cute li’l Reba McEntyre and Heather Headley both call it—is pretty fabulous, though critics who practically vomit at the sight of a sequin were suddenly appalled because it didn’t spew forth enough glitz. Please! The revival mines the material for darkness in the way critics usually find enthralling. Besides, when 42nd Street opened, the same wretches moaned, “Too glitzy.”
In Judgment at Nuremberg, poor Maximilian Schell had to sit onstage and watch a younger actor do a bad impression of Schell’s Oscar-winning performance in the movie. And then the younger guy got nominated! . . . The Producers—as you may have heard—is a zesty, inventive adaptation that carries on as if no joke is too low and no ticket price too high. I loved it, especially when it uses us as the theater audience within the show, our reactions to Springtime for Hitler helping shape the plot. So give me a Tony!
The awards telecast itself? It moved zingily, but not enough so to climb out of the ratings toilet, probably because the Dubuque crowd wasn’t exactly dying to find out whether Richard Easton would beat Conleth Hill. Of the winners, Christine Ebersole seemed too steely, Cady Huffman too gushy, and Mel Brooks too windy, though Mel’s such a hilarious meshuggener it didn’t really matter if his partner got a word in. Backstage, Brooks told us, “When I’m asked by intellectual journalists—very few of which I see in this room—what my favorite movie is, they expect me to say Grand Illusion, which is good and has a lot of Jews. But my Pavlovian answer is Top Hat.” As for plays? “I’ve always loved She Shtups to Conquer.”
My Pavlovian response was to go to the after-ball at the Sheraton, where Jane Eyre‘s Marla Schaffel was gamely posing with a floral centerpiece on her head in lieu of a Tony. Absurdly enough, another snubbee—Monty‘s eightysomething Kathleen Freeman—was reduced to standing in the street afterward and flagging down a cab home! Stoically enough, I didn’t push her out of the way. To echo Cady Huffman, “I just love everybody! Thank you so much!”
I was even more grateful to wake up the next morning and hail a subway to the Mayflower to meet Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, the French lovers who wrote and directed Adventures of Felix, a picaresque film that’s prompted a few acceptance speeches of its own. Felix is a kooky gay guy with AIDS who, while searching for his biological father, meets a batch of strangers who care for him in such a familial way that Daddy suddenly doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a giant fantasy—more Top Hat than Grand Illusion—but one so sweet it leaves you wanting to uproot your family tree while looking for some grannies at the local dance hall.
“I only met my father once, when I was seven,” the cutely pinch-faced Ducastel told me, with a hint of anguish. “But I don’t really want to do the trip that Felix does.” So he won’t ever make the effort to track down petulant Papa? He paused for a mercilessly long time, then murmured that he wasn’t sure. “Really? I didn’t know that!” shrieked Martineau, who’d clearly assumed he was the only daddy Ducastel would have from now on.
As for larger acceptance issues, Ducastel told me that, despite the gay community’s advances, “people still look at homosexuals like strange persons. We have very close friends with kids and sometimes we joke and tell them, Maybe your child will be gay or a lesbian. They are terrified. One told me, ‘You’re a monster to say something like that to me!’ ” The twosome’s next film, aptly enough, is about fairy-tale characters colliding with the real world.
It only took one Belgian—Dominique Deruddere—to make Everybody’s Famous, a flick that comments on the vapidity of the fame game. At least I think it does; I skipped the screening to see Evolution instead because it had much bigger names. I did make it to Famous‘s after-party at Bouley Bakery, where Deruddere told me, “The desire to become famous without particularly having any talent is a very unhealthy perspective.” I was deeply offended, but decided not to let this guy rain on my empty quest for world stardom. After all, he recently lost the Best Foreign Film Oscar to something called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! “It’s like a circus,” he told me about the Oscar ceremony, “but we weren’t expecting anything, so it was very relaxing.” And he probably at least got to pose with a floral centerpiece on his head.
I struck poses, over Dramamine, with all sorts of cult stars, drag queens, and people who can swim at Alizé’s Cruise to Passion, a rocky boat ride that mixed dance music, camp, and potential nausea into a three-hour tour worthy of the millionaire and his wife. The star attraction, Charo, kept cuchi-cuching around the deck—I guess she learned that on The Love Boat—and when I told her she predated that other Latin spitfire, Ricky Martin, she cracked, “Who’s Ricky Martin?” Cohost Traci Elizabeth Lords, who no longer shtups to conquer, was oodles of fun, especially when telling me that her ex, John Enos, relieved himself on someone as a way of protecting her. “He was funny, but a jerk,” she confided. As for other bodily fluids, there seemed to be some bad blood between the ex-porn queen and the evening’s DJ, Lady Bunny, though Traci nobly said, “Bunny’s actually been OK to me, considering I’m a girl.”
Not to stir up more trouble, but it was here—about 100 years ago—that you first read that Seth Green will costar in Party Monster when it gets off the ground! And not to ruffle Sony’s fraudulent feathers, but instead of inventing that critic to promote A Knight’s Tale, they could have just used my quote: “Heath Ledger is minimally talented.” Or maybe not.
Meanwhile, why is Giuliani getting even minimally angry about reports that he stayed at the St. Regis with Judith? The relationship is long out of the box, as it were—and besides, a Times Square hotel source was saying the same thing last year! And as long as we’re asking hard questions, why on earth is there a J.Lo-type character in Atlantis, which is set way back in 1914? (“Who’s Ricky Martin?” indeed.) I’m surprised they don’t have her driving a Mercedes-Benz.