The final Wigstock was so major that even Martha Stewart Living’s calendar page seemed to be noting it. (The September 1 entry read, “Check beehive: medicate and replace queens if necessary.”) The long-running annual tuck-and-tease fest couldn’t break even, partly because cross-dressing has lost its scary, manic edge and become pure showbiz to the point where Judy Garland’s old musical director is now working with a female impersonator (Jim Bailey). Judy now is a drag queen! As the mainstream has subsumed more and more of the drag counterculture’s specialness, Wigstock may have been killed by its own success—”It’s the end of an error,” as organizers told us—since what was once an insular group of inspired bohemians in Tompkins Square Park, covered only by me, had increasingly acknowledged the larger world (this year’s fest featured a Lizzie Grubman spoof), which in turn validated it back (the Post stuck the Lizzie shtick on its cover!). Once the event became fodder for the commuter crowd, it was the biggest it had ever been and therefore completely over.
But the show went on, with a lineup that the Wigstock Web site said was “subject to change,” adding, “The performers are subject to sex change.” And what performers! The stellar regulars turned up to deliver their most aggressive song/dance/lipsynch numbers, which included campy tributes to divas like Joni, Billie, and Tallulah—plus Debbie Harry played herself, singing “Atomic” with gender-bending backups and (we were assured by MC Lady Bunny) a gigantic schlong. That devil commercialization reared its head when they showed the trailer for Glitter—a sponsor—the upcoming kitschfest in which Mariah Carey‘s pop singer character enthuses, “I’m on the radio!” (And you thought irony was dead.) But it was hilariously followed by a drag performer named Lindsay impersonating Mariah’s breakdown in a way that, in typical Wigstock fashion, was sharp but not mean-spirited (though bitter Bunny didn’t seem to be kidding when she mocked RuPaul by singing, “You’re out of work, supermodel”).
Of course Bunny’s now out of a job, too, and it’s extra tragic. The other drag queens were only nice to her all year in order to cement their slots at Wigstock. Now no one will speak to her ever again! (PS: Wigstock may be gone, but a drag king version called the Kings is being launched by Murray Hill on October 7 at Lot 61. Start strapping ’em on, folks.)
Amazingly, Wigstock wasn’t even the gayest event of the month. The fruitiest by far was the first-night showing of the restored Funny Girl at the Ziegfeld—a perfect site since Ziggy himself figures in the ’68 movie, though he’s only a tiny cog in Fanny Brice’s elaborate showbiz wheel of fortune. Every gay in town checked his beehive and turned out for this star vehicle extraordinaire, and though no one knew what to do during the overture—cruise?—since you don’t exactly get one before Jeepers Creepers or Rush Hour 2, the crowd went orgiastic once the film started, gagging at its pizzazzy glory and diva dynamics. It’s a wow, especially in the first half when Barbra Streisand—”a bagel on a plate of onion rolls”—barrels her way to stardom with a mix of brashness and charm that makes her the most exciting drag queen in movie history. The second half is saddled with Omar Sharif as that boring gambler (“I never make definite plans”), but Barbra shines through to the final, majestically maudlin “My Man,” and who cares if the clothes, hair, and makeup are all ’60s? She’s not really playing Fanny Brice, anyway—she’s playing Barbra Streisand. Hello, gorgeous!
As for that modern-day funny girl, Sandra Bernhard, I hear her TV sidekick is more than just her TV sidekick, if you know what I mean. But it’s Sandra’s ex-friend Madonna who’s goddess at Pop Rocks!, the Thursday night 219 Flamingo gathering—hosted by Chip Duckett, DJ Gerson, and Ron Lasko—for frisky, young (but legal) gay clubbies who’d rather hear vocals and a melody than boogie into a K hole to the tune of more jagged, hardcore dance music. The mood is infectiously upbeat, with the downstairs pumping to Mandy Moore and ‘N Sync skin-cream classics, while the slightly more mature second-floor bunch rocks to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Nelly Furtado. Madonna’s the only uniting force—her records are played on both levels, charging up the li’l ones as well as the chicken hawks, onlookers, and even the few stowaway straights. I take everything back—she’s amazing!
Moving on to gay-straight-whatever Anne Heche (a/k/a Celestia): She was once a poster gal for letting-it-all-hang-out bisexuality, but she’s increasingly become the pinup for the ex-gay generation (not to mention a lady with interesting recovered memories, like how her gay dad was a straight pedophile who gave her herpes). Commentator Gay Boy Ric says, “Isn’t her getting married to a man four days before she appears on 20/20 and releases her new memoir a little too, well, Anne Heche, even for Anne Heche? Tellingly, her publicist said the couple would honeymoon after Heche conducts a 10-city book tour.” I’m similarly horrified that everything’s gone backward, with Anne rejecting strap-ons and Ellen renouncing her old sitcom politics. Still, I have a soft spot for Anne and her quirks—in fact, she was the best sex I ever had!
Barry Levinson directed Anne in Wag the Dog, but he hasn’t been privy to her personal lives lately, as he told me at an Osteria del Circo bash for his upcoming Bandits. Well, Bandits has its own kinks—it involves a juicy love triangle between various superstars, the kind of plot device that Levinson told me is rarely explored in cinema. “Not since Three’s Company,” I said, and he grinningly responded, “Yes, that feature.”
A threesome of kooky events filled last Thursday night to the brim: the opening of Pink Elephants, a camp noir musical about the murder of a gossip columnist (I liked it—don’t kill me); the hard-hat premiere of Daddy, the Mother folks’ new East Village hangout (the walls were wet, the patrons dry, and you barely knew it was formerly the Fat Cock); and those MTV Video Music Awards (Michael Jackson made a triumphant return, as host Jamie Foxx tossed off child-molesting jokes, and “Lady Marmalade” co-winner Pink also warmed hearts by saying, “Thank you to everybody that thought we’d make good whores!” as Lil’ Kim added, “We want to thank God, too”).
The chutzpah award? It goes to Gary Condit, who might retire under pressure and apparently will say he can’t bear to continue facing the inappropriate scrutiny he’s gotten from the awful media. In other words, the sleazeball might go bye-bye because of our immorality? I guess this twist isn’t all that surprising coming from the man who—after the Levys spent four months begging him to cough up every single thing he knew—said he wouldn’t reveal details of his relationship with Chandra in deference to the Levys! And who cheated on his wife for aeons, then evaded hard questions about Chandra because he cared about his family! The carefully orchestrated parade of Condit family members and office workers testifying to his character on Larry King Live has only made me feel they’re sleazy too. It’s enough to make you put on a pretty wig and sing, “You’re out of work, congressman.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 11, 2001