Nia Vardalos joined the real drag queens at Bar d’O to celebrate her gals-dressed-like-men-dressed-like-gals comedy Connie and Carla, which I told her should be called Some Like It Twat. “Or Victor/Vict-whore-ia,” she blithely responded. The strictly formula flick has a goofball appeal, even if the “live your dream” stuff annoys and I wish—spoiler ahead—that the male character who’s attracted to one of the female drag queens wasn’t so relieved to find out she’s a “real woman” after all.
At the bash, Sade Pendarvis rocked the rafters, demonstrating not only that she’s the city’s best singer, but that the movie’s central premise—drag queens can only lip-synch—is a myth, myth thing. (“I’m gonna have to do a sequel,” said Vardalos, on learning this.) Pert Vardalos herself then launched into a version of “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” that proved she is a real woman—it was fresh-faced and completely devoid of sarcasm, just like the versions in the movie that strangely take the drag world by storm.
Backstage, Vardalos told me that Shakespeare started the drag phenom, though her dad typically feels, “Greeks invented that!” More likely, Debbie Reynolds did, which is why the old-timer guest-stars in the movie, and even brought her own wardrobe. (“I tried to get that red dress off of her,” related Vardalos, covetously. “It was like, ‘Get away from my trailer!'”)
Before I left her trailer, I had to congratulate Vardalos for being so vocal about the rotten writing on the ill-fated sitcom of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “But I wasn’t!” she balked. “There was no fight. Those were my friends.” So where did that all come from? “Where do you think it came from?” she said, throwing me a mildly damning look. Hey, honey, I may have started that gerbil thing, but I am not responsible for the Nia-is-a-bitch rumor!
TWO CISSYS IN THE ROOM
Moving on to sitcoms that lasted: TV Land exploded in my face when a chicken-wings luncheon to celebrate Mike Carbonaro‘s Big Apple Comic Book, Art, & Toy Show engulfed me in promoting, rhapsodizing, and regretting ex–TV stars. Real woman Kathy Garver—once Cissy on Family Affair—spiced up the Penn Plaza Pavilion event, clearing up her feelings about the recent, updated version of the show (which she guested on). “It was truly awful,” Garver told me, making a vomiting gesture. “The characters didn’t like each other. The original Family Affair was a nice sitcom—a dysfunctional family, but it was all about love!”
Nearby, Karen Lynn Gorney, of All My Children fame, was pushing her own family affair—her CD of dad Jay Gorney’s hits like “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Could sister spare me some dish on her big flick Saturday Night Fever? “The director was raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and had no idea,” Gorney obliged. “He’d never been in a disco and was sort of a geek.” But she liked the guy’s humble style so much she gladly worked with him again! It was all about love!
And I liked another ex–Travolta co-star, Ron Palillo, for admitting he was trapped by his image as the über-geek Horshack in Welcome Back, Kotter and became even more upset when all the attention screeched to a halt. “I was clinically depressed,” revealed the actor. “I had a hard time after the phone stopped ringing. I had to do something to show people that my life isn’t a waste, so I started laying tiles!”
Once Palillo found out his depression was chemical, he nabbed a Wellbutrin prescription, “and I snapped out of it. I moved to New York and played Mozart in Amadeus.” But that character goes cuckoo! “Yeah, but I could really, really relate to it,” Palillo said, laughing.
CRAZY IN LOVE
I went insane with joy when even more rerun refugees turned up at Barry Z‘s Friday-night talent show at Helen’s, emerging from years of tile-laying to work some saucy shtick. TV vet Joe Franklin and F Troop‘s Larry Storch served up pee-pee jokes and Buddy Hackett impressions, respectively. And there were some under-75 types too, like Ari Gold, who confronted individual audience members as he sang “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and the Glamazons’ Lady Finger, who channeled Liza as she belted, “Maybe this time, I’ll be lucky/Maybe this one’s not gay.”
No such luck with Fabian Basabe. The Barbara Bush escort recently revealed that he’s going to show guys how to pick up girls on an MTV reality show, but honey, he was quite visible at Beige the other night, where the vast majority of the girls have penises!
In other gay-girl action, Match—the weirdest show about a search for a father since Mamma Mia—is emboldened by Frank Langella, who gives a master class in elevating material, swishing around the stage as an old bisexual who saves his fingernails, calls his apartment “gi-normous,” and wants to perform cunnilingus on a female visitor’s gi-normous vagina. He’s absolutely brill-rific. (And by the way, I hear that a scene where, offstage, he did go down on the gal, got cut, along with the fingernails. Thank God—there isn’t enough Wellbutrin in the world for me to even be in the next room for that sort of thing.)
I don’t know if Sean Combs is going down or not, but I hear that the Raisin in the Sun audience guffaws when his character is excited to get a $10,000 check. The real Diddy is so much less oppressed that Ralph Carter, from the original production of Raisin (the musical version), bitterly told Barry Z, “If I was Sean, I could buy me a show too!”
As for buying credibility, how noble it is of Jacko to want to go to Africa right now to fight AIDS! I love when people use a global epidemic to play down their pedophilia charges! (And yes, I’m aware that he’s done AIDS work before.)
But back to adult fucking, my spies at the Heatherette show in L.A. say that Dita Von Teese showed off the giant engagement rock given to her by Marilyn Manson (I guess she’ll soon be Dita Von Manson), and another wacky couple, Tommy and Pamela Lee, are so not on the (giant) rocks, they were practically doing it at the unofficial after-party. In the bathroom, Tommy even got a peek at Amanda Lepore‘s gi-normous surgerized vagina and realized it’s every bit as real as Pam’s, if not more so. Now get away from my trailer!
SUPER MARIO, BROTHER
“Mario Van Peebles is the first person in cinema history to play his father,” crowed critic Henry Louis Gates Jr. after a screening of Baadasssss!, Mario’s affectionate, warts-and-all portrayal of how his dad, Melvin Van Peebles, changed the face of movies with his surprise black-tacular Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song in ’71. Being nice and all, I refrained from jumping up and screaming, “But Will Rogers Jr. played his dad in a 1952 biopic!” I politely stayed put and listened to more of the panel discussion, which had Melvin himself bemusedly telling us, “At the time, I was considered a crazy nigger. Now the movie’s considered the black aesthetic.”
Mario has his own bittersweet Sweetback memories. Making his acting debut in the film at 13, he had his Afro shorn “and I lost my cinematic cherry” in a graphic (straight) deflowering scene. But he clearly gained some gay panic. “I could have ended up like RuPaul,” cracked Mario, strangely. “I didn’t.” Too bad, girl. Drag queens can sing.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2004