Breaking news 11/20/02: I hear Liza Minnelli and David Gest are planning to sue VH1 in the wake of the channel’s decision not to go ahead with the couple’s reality show. Stay tuned!
Say the two scariest words in the English language—”poetry jam”—and everyone starts running for the hills. But if they’d just think of the events as ritualized, rhyming anxiety sessions—public therapy performed in crisp, cunty couplets—they’d be down with them, know what I’m sayin’? Poetry jams are exhilarating showing-off exhibitions—basically voguing balls where you spin words rather than spinning on your ass—which, though massively indulgent, manage to rail against oppression while whittling away at depression. Even trendier than panini, the (per-) verse marathons have taken over the East Village, cable, Broadway, and my living room, where I regularly rehearse Italian American perplex-ortations about how I’m an alto, not a Soprano/a petite ball, not a meatball/So get your oven mitts off my lasagna and stop doing the hokey-pokey with my gnocchi/Okeydokey, you shlocko Rocko from Okefenokee?
But mainly I’m an enthusiastic observer—a veritable meter maid—who was psyched to find rhyme and reason at the House of Xavier’s Glam Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café. The turnout was only so-so, but there was some lovely hostility aimed at guys who call you a ‘ho, our jingoistic government, and most importantly, people who don’t tip. MC Andre Diva Xavier, a raspy-voiced cross between Harvey Fierstein and Rosie Perez, was ovah reading the DJ, the bartender, mariconas, K-holers, and closet cases, but he dropped all shade to give my fellow judge Barbara Tucker the “ultimate drag queen surrender,” which involved faux slashing his wrists and throwing his arms up in a crucifixion pose. Backstage, I was going to find out which record companies screwed Tucker over and go crucify them, but the singer said, “I’ve already taken care of them. They’re bankrupt!” End of anxiety. Helleaux!
Afterward, House of Xavier pooh-bah Emanuel Xavier lamented his fringing within the fringing by telling me, “The gay agenda is not necessarily part of the hip-hop movement. The only Simmons that may ever feature me is Richard, not Russell.” Possibly—but before we all crucify ourselves, at least Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam on Broadway includes a Jamaican sister who raps about wanting to eat mangoes “and lesbians from Montego Bay.” And once you get past the DJ right out of Central Casting who says, “What’s up, New York? Word up,” all the Def Jam poets are saucy, funny, and powerful, as they tackle everything from airport security to Krispy Kremes. Naturally, the biggest response is nabbed by the one who dishes “the rich white guy from Texas . . . a crackhead president.” Word to his mother.
Even in more traditional theater genres, Bush bashing is big business these days, since every show (except maybe the Billy Joel one) is primarily attended by rich, unhappy liberals. The highlight of Bill Bailey‘s Bewilderness has the Brit comic composing a techno song that mixes in Dubya’s various kooky utterances on terrorism. Malapropisms have never been so danceable!
And you can laugh to them too. In A.R. Gurney‘s clever The Fourth Wall, Sandy Duncan‘s wifely character thinks Dubya’s deeply misguided, and the audience squeals every time she says so. Gurney himself is no such clown. To do a play that puts down sitcoms while starring three sitcom stars is truly poetic.
The play references Ibsen, but if you want the whole Norwegian meatball—in a complete ball—there’s Amy Irving in Ghosts, her most ominous gig since Yentl. At the opening-night party at Café Deville, Irving was dramatically working a cig as she told me she’s only offstage for three of the show’s 80 intermissionless minutes. What does she do during the break? “Put on kneepads, drink some water, and blow my nose,” she replied. How Monica Lewinsky! (But wait, now I’m Clinton bashing.) By the way, Irving—who was in Brian De Palma‘s Carrie—didn’t catch the recent TV remake and said, “Brian was at my house the night it aired. He said, ‘Oh! I forgot to record it! I’m taping Monday Night Football!’ ” Pig’s blood, pigskin—what’s the difference?
Caryl Churchill‘s Far Away will never be remade as a TV movie; in its own semi-haunting way, it gets less accessible by the minute. At the after-party, I was dying to ask star Frances McDormand what the heck it all means, but I couldn’t get up the nerve, so I asked her hubby, prize filmmaker Joel Coen. “I have no idea what it means,” he said, squirming, “but it’s beautiful!”
I know what The Emperor’s Club means—that cheating is so very wrong—so at its premiere party, I found myself confessing to Kevin Kline (in verse) that a teacher once caught me being cagey. “This movie’s about you!” he shrieked. Is Emperor’s his big one, as it were? “Sophie’s Choice was my big one, and it was all downhill from there,” said Kevin. “No, I’m kidding. I try not to assign undue value to anything. Movies are like having a child.” I’ve never done that, I interrupted. “But you were a child,” he said. “A cheating little bastard!”
You had to practically be a vicious little gangster bastard to wangle past all the barricades and get to AMC’s GoodFellas panel discussion in a theater not far from ground zero, but the def nostalgia jam—a real “mob” scene—was up my mozzarella-laden alley. Robert De Niro got kidded for his cryptic answers, with Joe Pesci chiming in via satellite, “I like the way he says nothing—he says it brilliantly.” Actually, he said more than usual, but when the event became too much of a love-in (“Mr. Scorsese, please give me another job!” pleaded Pesci)—and when we became overcome with the desire to really hear about The Gangs of New York—I pushed back past the barricades.
The gays of New York came out for Out magazine’s Ace Gallery party for the Out 100, the ranking of successful, proud pros who make all the closety failures really look pathetic. (Disclosure: I write for Out. Admission: I still didn’t make the cut.) Half-dressed neon cowboys served Absolut Citron cosmos as Aneesa Ferreira from The Real World Chicago told me that getting on the list was “cute.” (I nicely didn’t bring up her vibrator, which MTV has made famous, but which also didn’t make the list. Not cute.)
Another honoree, Malcolm Gets, was upset that his Broadway musical Amour had just closed, saying, “There have been shows with much worse reviews that the producers didn’t abandon so quickly. But the last week was like a rock concert. The entire industry came out to see us!” Forget rock—Gets is an opera guy now. He recently performed with Deborah Voigt at the Met, singing a song about the first gay caveman, and they want him to reprise it on New Year’s Eve. Cute! Like the last gay caveman, I seized on the parting gift bag, which couldn’t have been queerer—it had Calvin Klein briefs, five kinds of body lotion, an Elton John CD, endorphin sachets, and a nice big bottle of KY. As a result, you could liberally lube your boyfriend and store all the gifts up there till you got home.
Finally, let’s loosen up with some gay movie news, shall we? I hear The Hours is the most sapphic-friendly work du cinema ever, featuring no less than three lesbianic kisses—between Meryl Streep and Allison Janney; Julianne Moore and Toni Collette; and Nicole Kidman and Miranda Richardson. They probably all eat mangoes too.