The unthinkable has happened: It’s the 20th anniversary of this column and I’m still waiting for the bonus toaster oven. In the meantime, I thought I’d take a gossip-columnist minute to look back with anger and pat myself on the humpback. Sister, the things I’ve seen! When I started, latte was a foreign word, you needed a Sherman tank to get through the East Village, and celebrities wandered through nightclubs without restraining orders or even hanger-on JONATHAN CHEBAN! The scene was way more ragged and accessible (if you were on the list, that is), and—before the line between the mainstream and the underground was blurred thanks to cable TV and the Internet—I aimed to elevate downtown divas to star status while also celebrating Broadway schmaltz, Hollywood pop, and anything that takes it up the ass.
First I was another sloe-eyed vamp, then someone’s mother, now I’m camp. And along the way, I rolled around in the street for ACT UP, considered outing just plain reporting, was called a gay Nazi by ROSIE O’DONNELL, and agreed with JERRY FALWELL on only one thing—that Tinky Winky is a purse-carrying homo! No one noticed anything I did, except that straights scorned me for being too gay and gays shunned me for not being the right kind of gay. Now everyone’s wondering if I could kindly be more gay—as long as I don’t get married or ask for any other equal rights, thank you, hello.
But in my eternal role as Satan in comfortable shoes, I’ve so enjoyed being your proxy into the fabulous world of fame and folly that perhaps I should just drop the pre-Meat-Market-district nostalgia and do some more of it.
And so: At SBNY, CHERRY JUBILEE‘s Glammy Awards for drag excellence were slicker and zanier than ever, with CANDIS CAYNE and SHASTA COLA proving the perfect tart-tongued, high-kicking emcees. (“Do you like my body?” cooed Candis, aping ANNA NICOLE SMITH with arms outstretched.) At the climax, T-BOY did a scary, brilliant gender-fuck production number that proved drag has moved past Judy Garland impressions. Brava, bravo, whatever. I will always love the fringe queens, even over a nouveau cup of mocha chocolata yaya.
Yet more divas got their propers when Out magazine (which I write for—another toaster oven coming) took over Capitale for an “Out 100” party where throngs cheered as superstars voiced their approval of the gays. (Yay—we’re OK!) SUSAN SARANDON said she’ll put her “straight ally of the decade” plaque in the bathroom along with her other treasured awards, and someone in the crowd snapped, “That’s not good feng shui.” “You don’t know my bathroom!” countered Sarandon triumphantly. “Activist of the decade” Rosie O’Donnell was also fierce, barking, “We’re not moving to Canada!” (That’s better than “You’re all gay Nazis.”) And in the crowd, Desperate Housewives‘ MARCIA CROSS told me, “I have a gay uncle.” Don’t we all? “I really do!” she said. “And I went to Juilliard, where everybody is gay. I’ve thought of turning gay myself!” “Well, have another cocktail,” I urged. “No, kidding,” she said, laughing.
Theater can’t turn you gay, only because if you’re there, chances are you’re already a purse-carrying you know what. I ran into laugh whore MARIO CANTONE at the opening of EVE ENSLER‘s The Good Body and he gaily said STAR JONES had asked him to emcee her wedding, but he had to work. What kind of wedding has an emcee? “Star’s wedding!” he said. “She just better get her ass to my friggin’ show already.” Swagzilla was so promotional about her own gala, said Cantone, that when he imitates different stars doing Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, he’ll sometimes impersonate Star, saying, ” ‘My vagina’s getting married. My vagina’s getting married. My vagina’s getting. . . ‘ We know!”
MY SUGAR WALLS
At the Good Body after-party, a lady producer cornered my vagina by the desserts to say, pretty much, “Do you like my Body?” “You weren’t smiling during the show,” she admonished. “I kept looking at you. I was checking to see if the men got it. Did you get it?” I informed the broad that it wasn’t all that hard—in fact, for all its good intentions, the evening was a teeny bit heavy-handed—and besides, I went to an Ivy League college. “Well, a lot of men don’t get body issues,” she instructed—so I piled my plate with crème brûlées to prove I not only get them, I’ve transcended them. (And honey, you don’t know my bathroom.)
Before my vagina got harried, I saw Democracy—a/k/a Twelve Angry Krauts—which is a wall of words directed without pause, and with enough intellectual inside-politics crackle to make it the snob hit du jour. I’m currently seeking psychiatric help to determine why, for all its dazzling merit, I found it perhaps less engrossing than The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
Off-Broadway, Larry Shue’s endearing farce The Foreigner comes off sort of like the original Simple Life, except MATTHEW BRODERICK‘s character is only pretending not to know English. After the matinee I caught, director SCOTT SCHWARTZ revealed that a composer’s been anxiously trying to musicalize the play. Since that would involve a chorus of singing and dancing Klansmen, Broderick and MEL BROOKS could be hotsy-totsy-busy all over again!
From an old Shue to some dusty glass slippers, the New York City Opera’s mounting of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was a bizarre mixed bag that started inauspiciously with LEA DELARIA motioning for more entrance applause, RENÉE TAYLOR redefining music, and EARTHA KITT playing the Fairy Godmother as if she rode in on a broomstick. It seemed like the show might have worked much better on ice—but it gelled more delightfully in Act Two, and then I turned back into a rotting pumpkin.
Finally, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is refreshingly unchanged; some of the set pieces—like the Rockettes’ Parade of the Wooden Soldiers—are as iconic by now as the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin and must never die. Commercialism and solemnity have rarely been so nicely interwoven. The show sleighs me! And now on to my next 20 years.
MOMA, ready for the hard hats
photo: Robin Holland
Culture came to Bloomingdale’s last week when it unveiled its Phantom of the Opera windows with an outdoor concert of music from the upcoming movie, led by an enthusiastic conductor whose baton accidentally went flying at a violinist. (“Death by cocktail stirrer,” cracked director JOEL SCHUMACHER.) After that, they showed a film clip, which overflowed with chandeliers, candles, and feathers—very ABC Carpet & Home—and then the cast flicked a switch that illuminated the store’s twinkly holiday lights and terrifyingly large Phantom mask, a Halloweeny image intriguingly served up for yuletide cheer!
The same night, culture found a more traditional home at the Museum of Modern Art’s reopening gala, which unveiled a gi-normous space where you’re so busy gasping at some of the structural views from the escalators that you don’t even have to look at the art. I hear they actually had several openings, one of which was supposedly just for the construction workers! (I probably would have known more people at that one; this opening was filled with hoity-toity-accented people from another planet—uptown.) Overheard comments included: “If you’re oppressed, then who are the über people?” and “These works are A.D.D. on LSD.” No, dear, they’re A-R-T.
Outside, protesters were handing out flyers bemoaning the joint’s new $20 admission with the slogan “Manhattan is robbed again.” In protest, they wanted people to go to the museum a few days later and pay with rolls of pennies. Instead I went and flashed my press card. M.M.
Web extra: Improbably enough, the Fiddler on the Roof score is sizzling hot again, not only because Harvey Fierstein will be taking over the lead role in the Broadway revival in January, but because the next single off Gwen Stefani‘s Love Angel Music Baby CD will be “Rich Girl,” which liberally borrows from the old-time musical’s “If I Were a Rich Man,” with help from Eve. So much for “Tradition.”