It may be the combination of brilliant self-deprecation and uninhibited wisecracking that makes Murray Hill’s act so funny. It was the closing night of his month-long run at Fez, and Hill was cajoling a lockjawed bearded man, who looked as though he might die from the drag king’s attention. “Hey, you big dyke you,” said Hill. “Nice Kmart hat. Glad to see you dressed up for Pride!” Thing is, Hill himself looks like an avid Kmart shopper.
Hill strolled through the audience, pointing out “big homos,” “tourists,” “bisexuals for the night,” and additional “big dykes.” When he finally took the stage, the first thing out of his mouth was “The entire cast is fuckin’ loaded tonight.” Then he whipped a can of Bud out of his “52 portly” suit jacket, squinted his eyes behind his trademark tinted aviator glasses, and slurped, while examining his crotch for “wet spots.”
For seven years now, mixed audiences uptown and downtown have been enjoying Hill, who got his start at a lounge-music party on the Lower East Side when, “after a few dozen vodka gimlets,” he “just rushed the stage, grabbed the mic, and slurred out ‘New York, New York.’ ”
The “hardest-working middle-aged man in show business” (and he’d better be, since, as he tells me, he has “two gay kids and a few ex-wives”!), Hill has a self-described “faux macho shtick” that instantly endears one to his chubby, sweaty person. Hill enjoys his George Foreman grill, Bud, cheeseburgers, and always 100 percent polyester outfits that fit like a splitting sausage casing; he embraces gaucheness. The vantage point he adopts is not the butch badass—it’s the paunchy Midwestern-looking guy with those too big frames and pervy mustache.
So it makes sense that at Fez, Murray got his ass whipped in arm wrestling by a gorgeous young butch dubbed Coolio (a crowd volunteer), and fell (hard!) all over the club’s candlelit tables—humping the booths with his plumber’s ass showing—singing, badly, Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” in a housedress thrown over worse-for-wear boxers.
Hill’s cabaret-variety show mixes dancing, stand-up, and skits, and it’ll be no different for the Siren Festival. “We’ve got drag queens, drag kings, drag dancers—everything under the gay-variety sun! And it is not just for the gay kids!” enthuses Hill.
Guests at Fez included Scotty the Blue Bunny, who played electric violin in a sheer leopard unitard and dedicated a song to “the microscopic community” (in celebration of beating gonorrhea!). Beautiful Marga Gomez’s stand-up routine hit a high point with her send-up of “lesbian director David Lynch” and a pledge of allegiance substituting—you guessed it—”fags” for “flag.” The Dazzle Dancers, a glitter-drenched crew of topless women and men in butterfly G-strings, lip-synched while rolling and cavorting; when one Dazzle’s balls flopped out of his costume and swayed up and down with the music, I suppressed giggles—until the group stripped down completely and balls went flying everywhere.
This Saturday, Murray, a Canarsie, Brooklyn, native, who got 334 write-in votes in 1997 when he ran for mayor on the “Let the kids dance” platform (against Giuliani’s anti-cabaret “quality of life” campaign), will emcee the Voice’s Siren Festival. He’s excited to return—accompanied by co-host Lady Bunny from Wigstock, no less—to a significant childhood place. “My father grew up on Coney Island and used to work at Nathan’s making hot dogs, so I’m excited to grab a dog in his honor,” Murray reports, adding, “I just started a new Pilates class to get ready. I can’t wait!”