Puppetry of the Penis may sound like a Julie Taymor musical about an ambitious meerkat’s quest for a larger scrotum, but it’s actually an Off-Broadway novelty show (due later this month), in which Aussies Simon Morley and David Friend make funny shapes with their trouser snakes, thereby redefining Stones in His Pockets. In its various engagements, Puppetry has been called charmingly desexualized and “one of the few times you’re encouraged to laugh at a non-erect member”—since the last Bob Dole commercial, that is. And what wonders these two perform with their genital origami! Their wieners—projected onto a big screen, for the badly sighted and/or deeply perved—are contorted into self-explanatory shapes named Parachute, Sea Anemone, Pelican, and (here’s one Jesse Helms has been doing for years) No Dick. Top that, Eve Ensler!
On the phone from “smelly Toronto,” the ding-dong duo told me how their flaccid members became well-hung art pieces. “I can remember doing it as a little boy,” said Friend, “and I’m pretty sure you yourself did a few tricks.” (Little did he know I was making a Double Pelican as we spoke.) “My younger brother once showed me a Hamburger,” revealed Morley, “and I fell off the couch laughing. You can ask anyone, ‘What’s the first time you saw a Hamburger?’ and they’ll remember exactly where they were. It’s a bit like when Lady Di died.” (I was at McDonald’s, aptly enough.) By now, Morley’s repertoire has become so large and throbbing he even does a Giuliani—a real dick, and one who’d gag to know Morley did penis stunts in a Gotham restaurant earlier this year as dozens of oglers gathered with their tongues out!
Do the guys ever get hard onstage, the burger turning into, I don’t know, a Happy Meal? “Absolutely not,” said Friend. “You couldn’t imagine being aroused in front of 300 people laughing at your genitals.” Speak for yourself, honey. But while we’re laughing, which of the two schlong-holders is the better endowed? “He’s a little stretchier,” said Morley, “but I’m slightly bigger. Let’s just say the more clay the sculptor has to work with, the more he can create.”
And the sculpting has a point—right at the tip, actually—which is to reclaim the penis as gently as possible. “It’s been an item of ridicule for a long time,” said Friend. “We’re liberating it—but in a nice way, so as not to offend anyone.” Damn—well, I’ll see the show anyway and give it some more column inches.
But hold onto your wee-wees; women are reclaiming phalluses, too, and not just because they can. On Insomniac—Dave Attell‘s sardonic Comedy Central travelogue—the peripatetic comic just came upon a gaggle of Kansas City bachelorettes partying with a blowup penis. “I find it comforting that they walk around with penises because it is really about the penis,” Attell—costar of the recent flick Pootie Tang—explained to me last week. “People say the most attractive thing is the eyes, but you don’t see people walking around with blowup eyes. You can’t have sex with the eyes—unless you’re in Mexico.”
But why should my eyes stay glued to this show, oh penile one? Attell had an answer: “I want everyone to see what the not-so-beautiful people are up to. Every town has something that makes you want to think twice and call your mom.” And in New York, it’s the Hellfire Club, where he amusingly interrogated patrons as they were flogged and waxed. But for Attell, the tit clamps have lost their luster. “Maybe I’m jaded,” he told me. “There’s something normal about that stuff now—people whipping each other and walking around masturbating. What happened to the cuddling, America?”
It’s at Fez—what a segue—where drag comic Hedda Lettuce is doing I, Nedda, a show that could be fun enough for you to drop your chedda cheese sandwich and get out of bedda. It’s the puppetry of the queenness! As Hedda, a/k/a Stephen Polito, told me till my face was redda, “The concept is that Hedda’s supposed to go on, but there’s a drive-by shooting by a Colombian drag gang. My aunt, Nedda Lettuce, is waiting in the wings and she has an entire show prepared.” The climactic duet between Hedda and Nedda strains credda-bility, seeing as both roles are played by Polito, but Hedda explained, “George Lucas is providing me with his animation team.”
Meanwhile, Hedda/Nedda/whatever’s also been busy at Heaven, hosting The Weakest Twink, a reality show takeoff drawing contestants from the unreal world of Chelsea nightlife. “It’s a contest based on personality, not really knowledge,” she said, referring to the game—and the nightlife. And in December, Hedda’s doing a “How to Be a Drag Queen” seminar at the Learning Annex. “I’m teaching your average citizens—your mothers, fathers, dentists,” she divulged. “People need hobbies!” What could be bedda?
And suddenly I was in a shedda in rural Pennsylvania, where the Tool Museum turned out to be extremely fascinating in a boring sort of way. (I wished it had been the Tulle Museum.) On a brighter note, the local dairy haunt had a sign proclaiming a new flavor called “Cowflops—vanilla ice cream with woppers and chocolate disks.” Resisting was fruitless since in the heartland—a/k/a the heart disease land—everyone guiltlessly partakes of such death-taunting delights, many defying all the medical mumbo-jumbo by living (large) well into their hundreds.
And they can even move, if not make genital puppets. At an outdoor social in the town of Seisholtzville, all the fat, nice people showed up to watch the Twitty Fever Band perform a heartfelt anthem addressed to the heavens. (“Wash her pretty face/Dry her eyes and then/God bless America again.”) It was too Robert Altman for words—and so was the concession table hawking handknitted doilies and yummy “chow-chow” (a vegetable treat so sugary it doesn’t even need woppers or chocolate disks).
If you crave some sweetening, don’t turn to Rosie O’Donnell‘s monthly rag (and no, I don’t mean her Tampax). As an essay on Datalounge points out, “a quick review of recent covers comes up with cancer, Fergie, staph infection, and clinical depression. And this from a magazine that calls itself ‘feisty and fun-loving.’ ”
Moving on to feisty, fun-loving nightlife, it seems to bug the chocolate disks out of some people. An anonymous letter just went out protesting promoter John Blair‘s attempt to stop the crackdown on Limelight (which Blair and his partner won the bid to buy, but which might get its liquor license blocked). The letter says the campaign by Blair and company “intends to alarm the gay community about imminent danger to our nightlife . . . so they can continue to use gays to make tons of money by selling overpriced drinks.” Horrors! It also says club businesses are selfish and irresponsible and besides, alcohol isn’t necessary to run such establishments. Yeah, but it helps. Now, stop with the No Dick trick, why don’t you?
As for Anne Heche, who’s back to doing stunts with penises, I defended her through her Ellen years and now she says she was “crazy” back then! That makes me so angry my Atomic Mushroom’s turning into a Fruit Bat.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 4, 2001