A drop-in at Beige—the Tuesday-night gay lounge at Bowery Bar—is a Groundhog Day experience, but with enough absurdist surprises to have you crawling back for more, in Gucci kneepads. As you approach, unflappable doorman Derek Neen says, “Hey, boys! Six weeks in a row!” You want to whinny, “No, five,” then eerily realize he’s right! You flounce in and find flamboyant co-host Erich Conrad sitting with Rupert Everett, one Duelling Bankhead, and some nonverbal-but-who-cares male models, and they’re fronted by a huge plate of clams that no one’s even remotely touching. The models look familiar from the last five weeks, and so do the clams, but Erich’s mountain of drink tickets is a delightful new color every time, and so is his tracksuit. You pass by at least one bizarre celebrity (Arnold Scaasi, Jane Krakowski) on the way to the other host, the eternally chic Edwige, who’s working the indoor and outdoor areas, announcing, “I know you don’t like me, but please tell me you love me!” (We do, we do.)
Past the trannie table being served by the performance-artist waiter promoting a lymphoma benefit, a bunch of twinkies in Abercrombie & Fitch castoffs are having such a chirpy symposium about sample sales, they’re oblivious to the tipsy bodybuilder who’s about to topple on them like a very gay tree. They’ll love it anyway. There are also, inevitably, two concurrent tables of fag hags (“the aquarium”), three Jerseyites still dressed for Studio 54 (“the time machine”), and Queer as Folk‘s Robert Gant, about whom a regular reveals, “I remember him as a lawyer named Bobby Gonzalez!” As avant-garde performer Brandon Olsen told me, “Beige is to parties as Kylie Minogue is to music—a guilty, long-running pleasure. The pros are the fabulous DJs and Edwige’s charm. The cons are that I’ve never talked to anyone who’s ever gotten laid here, and, while it’s rumored to be a fashion party, the majority of the clientele hasn’t changed their outfits in the last five years.” Yes, it’s an attitudey, tragicomic treasure—a New Yorker cartoon with no need for a caption. I may not like Beige, but I definitely love it!
But stop the friggin’ party, please. I’ve just hit rock bottom, having gotten dicked around by some small-time schnooks who never even offered a clam. See, the folks behind Sleeping With Straight Men—a dramedy by the esteemed author of Making Porn—asked me to play a major role in the show’s Off-Broadway production. I was thrilled, even if it was the same part once assumed by young MTV hunk Dan Renzi (talk about loose casting) and the theater was smack next to a Gristede’s. Still, I graciously declined, saying I’d rather do a weekly cameo, an idea the producer adored. But doom was waiting in the wings, honey. My new Svengali didn’t even call the day of our proposed meeting—too busy—and he later said my cameo had to wait till after the opening, so people reading the reviews wouldn’t get confused. (But wouldn’t they already be confused by the winky, sexy ad campaign? The play climaxed with a grisly murder!)
The thing eventually opened—the reviews weren’t that confusing, by the way; they were awful—and Mr. Bigshot, who’d once told me to clear five Saturdays in a row, now said they were going through massive technical problems and he’d get back to me about my (career-making) opportunity. He never did, and my mature, reasoned response was: Die, bitches!!! (PS: The show closed and they crawled out of town without an apology or explanation. A real crass act—though I do feel for their beleaguerment.)
Now I walk around thinking, “Can you get any lower than being offered a free cameo in an exploitation comedy near a supermarket and then having it be retracted?” I’m sure I’ll find a way. But in the meantime, it was nice to meet someone who was not only given a part, she’s actually gotten to play it. It’s Mary Stuart Masterson, who’s the wife in the musical Nine, though she recently told me she hasn’t sung since Li’l Abner in eighth grade. (Not me—I played Daisy Mae just last year. Near a Food Emporium.) “My real intent was just to get through the auditioning process,” Masterson told me, humbly. “I thought, ‘I’ll get through this and then I’ll do a musical someday.’ ” Well, someday is now, baby—and you do quite well by the part, you little vixen!
The revival? It’s a more ponderous rendition of a show that’s half Italian surrealism, half pure Broadway (lyrics like “Be Italian, you rapscallion” are surreal all right). Without the stunning look and magical Tommy Tune staging of the original, the production reveals way more flaws, but it develops its own groove, Act II becoming a semi-hypnotic exercise in musicalized adultery, with flowing water. While Antonio Banderas can’t really be mistaken for a tormented genius, his overeager-puppy singing and acting pluck my last heartstring. Also, Krakowski is fun as an upside-down sexpot, and Mary Beth Peil is a standout in the least flashy role—Mama. I give Nine a six and a half. (But enough with these staircase sets, please; you spend the whole night praying some 70-year-old legend won’t trip to her death.)
The entire audience is in diapers—even the kids—for A Year With Frog and Toad, the musical about two male amphibians who’ll love each other till they croak, as it were. I left covered in fake snow and bruises from hyperactive children, but I still cottoned to the gentle show, warts and all.
Moving on—more seriously—to the reptile world: The spin from the government and/or the press that’s driven us through this war while quelling dissent has been so stellar it deserves a supermarket staging. Saddam was involved in 9-11, then maybe he wasn’t, then who cared? We wanted the UN approval, then we couldn’t get it, then “Who needed it anyway?” Countries who didn’t want to join us in violence were good-for-nothing “weasels.” (But weasels are carnivores; they love bloodshed.) Celebrities who used the privilege of our democracy to criticize aggression were “anti-American.” The first massive anti-war rally was a medium-sized gathering highlighted by a protester who punched a horse. (Better than punching a weasel.) And the humongous anti-war march hardly got covered at all, except for the confrontational aftermath.
Furthermore: Saddam was probably dead on day one, then maybe he wasn’t, then it didn’t matter, then probably he was. And though we went in mainly to prevent him from getting us with weapons of mass destruction, the war primarily became a noble act to “liberate Iraq.” It’s enough to make you wanna go bomb somebody for peace. (But I’ll give this to Dubya: He made things happen quickly to the point where his war can definitely be perceived as some kind of triumph. Ding dong, Saddam is over—and if we can believe the rejoicing they keep showing of those Iraqis who are still alive, maybe we should just shut up. Nah, fuck it.)
Speaking of quelling dissent, downtown darling Linda Simpson was arrested last week with a peace-and-glamour-loving, Beige-style group called the GLAMericans at the protest against the Carlyle Group for allegedly profiting from the war. Linda says she spent an unlucky 13 hours in a paddy wagon and jail in full drag, having been busted for civil disobedience and obstructing pedestrian traffic. “But it was the police that were blocking any kind of traffic,” she notes. “I’ll be pleading innocent, thank you!” As for me, I’ll just be pleading.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 15, 2003