In a particularly frantic mode, Broadway has been coughing up even more revivals than usual, mainly because they seem financially safe, and besides, Broadway loves reindulging in its past triumphs in a Norma Desmond-y reminder of its own eternal value. So in just one week, I heard some ancient lines (“That old son of a bitch happens to be my husband!”), was hit with hoary-with-age ideas (men engage in cutthroat politics while women give manicures and loving support), and saw a classic gussied up in such desperate modern dress it only ended up more loudly screaming, “This shit is old!”
At least the opening night of that one—the vigorous but uneven Julius Caesar—attracted truckloads of major celebs, so I say let’s keep the superstars coming in Shakespeare, folks. Just point me toward the red carpet and the buffet table.
Alas, in its long trek from Off-Broadway to Hollywood to dinner theater to Broadway, Steel Magnolias hasn’t traveled well at all; the play’s perky, secondhand chitchat comes off strained, and the production has no urgency, the cast waiting for laughs and tears that don’t always come. I found it truly dire, and the biggest shock of all was the author’s post-curtain speech claiming it was all based on real people! But I loved it when, in my row, real person KYAN DOUGLAS from Queer Eye gushed all over shamed ex-politico JIM MCGREEVEY as an observer near me noted, “I wonder which of them has set the gay cause back the most.”
After buffet-ing down at the party, I cornered marvelous magnolia FRANCES STERNHAGEN, who originated the female lead in On Golden Pond, which is also, naturally, being revived on Broadway. “I didn’t realize you and LESLIE UGGAMS were the same type,” I quipped oh so wittily. “It’s a whole different concept!” Sternhagen said, beaming.
It sure is; in fact, I haven’t spotted black people in Maine since AUDRA MCDONALD did Carousel. But this ’80s sentiment-athon has aged much more gracefully than Magnolias, and fortunately, the great JAMES EARL JONES is there to give it some edge and danger, even as he’s announcing, “We’re not middle-aged. We’re old!” The ending, with he and Uggams clinging to each other and what’s left of life, approaches an almost Beckett-like profundity, especially with all sorts of loons squawking in the background.
VIVA LAS VEGAS
More Bard in modern dress comes, believe it or not, with the Elvis jukebox musical All Shook Up, which is an overextended variety show sketch and is dirt-dumb at times, but it does have genius sets, a lot of heart, and an agreeably kinky ending. I was titillated to run into CHEYENNE JACKSON—the show’s pec-twitching “caveman with the libido of an Italian soccer team”—at AUBREY REUBEN‘s Outer Critics Circle party at Tony’s Di Napoli. Naturally, we talked Elvis movies, with Jackson admitting he favors the king’s hokier flicks like Harum Scarum—and yes, some of them are hokier than others. But Jackson had an in-the-flesh Presley encounter recently when ex-child bride PRISCILLA PRESLEY saw the show and told him Elvis would have approved. “She could tell I didn’t take myself too seriously,” Jackson said, “and she was glad I wasn’t doing an Elvis impression. She said, ‘Lord knows I’ve seen my share of terrible ones!’ ” Probably when she saw Harum Scarum.
In another corner of the room, CHERRY JONES and her Doubt co-star BRIAN F. O’BYRNE were doing impressions of actual humans; they were hugging and chatting—a startlingly feel-good thing to witness coming after all that La Cage crap. Another not-evil Broadway type, CHRISTOPHER SIEBER, was there too, but without his luxurious blond wig from Spamalot. “My inspiration is the Miss Clairol commercial,” he told me, laughing. Is his lustrous Sir Dennis Galahad a gay? “Well, he’s an English personality,” said Sieber. “He’s either English or gay—sometimes you can’t tell.” Like JULIE ANDREWS, I guess.
Definitely a gay, BOY GEORGE didn’t like some things I wrote about his Broadway musical Taboo and he reads me for them in his new book Straight (a big hit in the U.K.). Of course he leaves out that I also used phrases like “pure dirty fun,” called the show a “fascinating hybrid,” and insisted that “George can act.” But he’s right that I’m generally a bitch and I’ll totally defer to him in this case; his breezily readable book manages to be both outspoken and compassionate, with a bright ring of gay truth to it. In fact, his views of sexual politics mixed with celebrity insight make him (along with co-writer PAUL GORMAN) the new Quentin Crisp, minus the self-effacing reactionary views.
But naturally I’m most attracted to the book’s juicier bits—like how Culture Club’s JON MOSS “was never tactile except during sex and he wasn’t interested in affection after the thrust of passion,” how George threatened to smash STEVEN MEISEL‘s face in after bad photos of George popped up in print, how GAVIN ROSSDALE is still trying to evade the fact that he had much thrusting of passion with drag star MARILYN, and how COURTNEY LOVE chatted up George once, then said she was actually in the middle of talking to someone else and walked away as George thought, “You psycho!”
TUCK A ‘HO
Taboo was a lumberjack musical next to the Imperial Court’s Night of 1,000 Gowns at the Marriott Marquis—a glorious spectacle, complete with disco divas wailing and ladies in waiting throwing rose petals into the Aqua Netted air. The only cutthroat action came with the evening’s silent auction for LIFEbeat, where a complete C-word outbid me at the last minute for a portrait of JOCELYNE WILDENSTEIN. You psycho! (Most of these drag queens have morals, though; perjurer LIL’ KIM‘s donated watch, with a $1,000 starting value, got no bids whatsoever.) Filling the main runway like a typhoon, Empress ROBIN KRADLES wore feathers up the wazoo to usher in her reign of enforced glamour. Will she rob cradles? “Given half a chance,” she said, winking through a mountain of mascara.
But back to the legit stage, Off-Broadway is serving up lumpy leftovers with Moonlight and Magnolias, a farce about the making of Gone With the Wind, which sounded right up my tin pan alley, but was so frenetic and corny that frankly, I didn’t give a damn. And enough with magnolia titles, please! And nostalgia plays! And revivals! And Queer Eye guys gushing over shamed politicos! And people outbidding me! And columns about theater!
Papa’s brand new bag: Carlton J. Smith
photo: Chris Herder
SOMETHING GOSSIP THIS WAY COMES
What have we learned in the papers lately? That ASHLEY SMITH‘s getting that mass murderer to turn himself in was a miracle, designed so he could give the word of God to other prisoners; that Johnnie Cochran was a gentleman who cared about poor people; and that the pope was the fulcrum of all things loving and equalitarian. Could you just vomit? Only the Terri Schiavo situation brought some real enlightenment to my crowd. In fact, you can’t go to a party nowadays without people you haven’t seen in years running up to you and saying, “By the way, I just want to make it official that I want to be unplugged!”
Well, before that happens, let me throw out a few other informational certainties: The SCISSOR SISTERS just went to Las Vegas to record with ELTON JOHN . . . Now that Fez is bye-bye, JOAN RIVERS will do her comedy shows at the Cutting Room . . . B.B. King’s “Motown Brunch” star CARLTON J. SMITH just came back from three months in China and told the crowd, “I want some fake Chinese food again. The real stuff was killing me!” . . . And over at the Maritime’s gay night, I watched as a randy, long-haired guy chatted up Paper magazine’s DREW ELLIOTT and offered to buy him a drink. It was Broadway star GAVIN CREEL! Drew declined; he’s in charge of the free drinks there anyway. M.M.