A Chorus Line—the classic Broadway show about the casting of a classic Broadway show—is about to return, and we’ll see if it has the survival skills of Chicago, which opened way back in the same year that officially made me a rabid theater queen and a gay cliché. Actually, Chicago needed a revival to find its critical mass. It was originally considered not warm enough by critics—God, they’re idiotic—and it didn’t really beguile them until O.J. had woken everyone up to the absurdity of celebrity justice in America. The more feel-good A Chorus Line—also about the blinding power of showbiz—was adored from day one, and it helped that, while it uplifted, it hit on then adult topics like breast implants and homosexuality, plus the cast added to the emotional weight by pretty much playing themselves. So Line may not exactly be screaming for another go-round with new actors, but in hopes that audiences will embrace it as a theatrical American Idol or a musical America’s Next Top Model, what I did for love was go to the revival’s press event last week to check it out and pray.
What I learned was that they seem to be doing the show pretty much as a museum piece—well, there’s really no other way—with original collaborators directing and re-creating the old choreography. But as they brought out the cast for our inspection, it seemed that a little creative revising was being served. “As Mark, we have PAUL MCGILL,” said the announcer as a tall, African American woman strutted out, looking fierce. Clearly Paul had tucked or perhaps even had it lopped off. This was interesting! “Sorry, it’s DEIDRE GOODWIN as Sheila,” corrected the announcer. Oh well, it was still a new touch; in the original, Sheila was white.
TO SIR WITH GLOVES
What’s really new on the Rialto? The History Boys—a surprisingly funny yet heady study of an unconventional teacher whose career hits a tiny roadblock with the revelation, “He handled the boy’s balls!” There’s lots of dry wit and academic quippage on hand, but naturally I was most drawn to observations like that one—or, “Our headmaster is a twat . . . a condescending cunt”—not to mention the infamous French bordello scene. (The play’s gay content, by the way, is far from nouveau correct, furthering one’s sense that this could have been written in the ’60s, even though it’s set in the ’80s.)
Staying in the decade that existed only so that VH1 could later do specials, there’s an openly gay band member and a few other homo moments in the otherwise not so heteroflexible The Wedding Singer, which is the second big musical this year about New Jersey, guaranteeing it at least 8 million ticket buyers. The show is MICHAEL JACKSON thin but more amiable than a K-Tel commercial on Ecstasy. Act I is bouncy and big-haired, with a refreshing minimum of Broadway-style cheesiness (until the finale). Act II stumbles a bit once the lead stops his wedding singing and the show dabbles more in romantic impasses and icky sentiment, but it gets back on its dancing feet, and by the end you’re willing to let likable performers like STEPHEN LYNCH, KEVIN CAHOON, and RITA GARDNER sing at your own wedding. It’s FELICIA FINLEY, though, who steals the whole thing in just two raucous scenes as the jilting bride. If there’s a God, Finley should be nominated along with another fab FELICIA— The Color Purple‘s Ms. Fields—come Tony time. (Another fun fact: The Wedding Singer has a fake CYNDI LAUPER, but Threepenny Opera has the real one. End of fun fact.)
Unlike A Chorus Line, Threepenny also has an actual man in drag—BRIAN CHARLES ROONEY—as Lucy Brown, and it turns out he’s not a condescending cunt at all (though he gets to sing the C-word in both English and German). I met Rooney at the SCISSOR SISTERS’ after-party at the Cuckoo Club and he was adorable, telling me his stage soprano is real and so are the privates he so wantonly flashes onstage. “If I used prosthetics, they’d be better than that,” he said, laughing.
At the same club, as I recently wrote, the new Hairspray movie’s director, ADAM SHANKMAN, was carrying on quite unself-consciously with his porn-actor boyfriend, who flashes his privates for a living. Well, the beau turns out to be 23-year-old ex-Falcon star JOSH HARTING, who once implied in an interview that he’s bisexual. So’s Shankman; Harting told me the director recently bought him a car.
HUSTLE WITH MY MUSCLE
A movie about a hustler—Boy Culture—made it into the Tribeca Film Festival. (Interjection: A movie about everything made it into the Tribeca Film Festival. There are kazillions of films—everything from a documentary called Jesus Camp to one about a theater camp—and each one has at least three publicists alerting you to the receptions, arrivals, screenings, after-parties, and press conferences every five minutes. It’s awesome, but for me, it’s almost become a delete festival.) Anyway, Boy Culture is a funny, easy-to-take odyssey of a Seattle guy who introduces himself by explaining why he obviously must be a hustler. (“Here are two clues: I’m gay and they made a movie about me.”) The part is played by the comely DEREK MAGYAR, who offscreen dates TARYN MANNING while clearly waiting for his own awakening that’ll lead him straight onto my loving lap in Murray Hill.
As MATTHEW RETTENMUND, who wrote the source novel, told me, “The movie is a classic love story, except everybody has their hard-ons pointed at the wrong people.” I hate when that happens! Rettenmund added that he wrote the book to be both sexy fluff and a spanking of gay culture, and “the movie picks up on that vibe like a john at a hustler bar.” Ooh, do they still have those? Where? I want to sell my body!
At the very same festival, everyone hustled his way into the hot ticket—United 93—and all the surrounding hoopla. But I heard that at the film’s press junket, openly gay CHEYENNE JACKSON—who plays gay hero Mark Bingham—said something like, “If my wife or daughter had been on that plane . . . ” No one asked about his sexuality after that.
It’s all on the gay table in Saint of 9/11, the loving documentary about Father Mychal Judge, the fire department chaplain whose good works included ignoring the Vatican ban on queer appreciation. (I saw the movie at—everyone now—the Tribeca Film Festival, and didn’t go for the delete button.) I learned that Father Mychal urged gays and PWAs to live with openness and pride, and though he himself was publicly closeted, his friends say he did that more to shield the fire department from scandal than to protect himself from it. They also say his sexuality humanized him and actually made him a better minister (not to mention a better drag fairy godmother, which he . . . no, see the film for yourself. Just don’t tell the church.)
Meanwhile, the saint of 7-Eleven—yours truly—is in a movie too, and I’m not even a hustler. It’s Wetlands Preserved—which played at the Ziegfeld, and on Earth Day yet. Yes, it was the first time a premiere there had no red carpet, celebrities, flashing lights, or people who’d gotten the memo that Jerry Garcia died. But that was perfect for the sweet, homemade documentary about the sweet, homemade Wetlands Preserve, an ecologically conscious activist rock club that was ultimately edged out by realty realities. In the film’s most memorable moment, DAVE MATTHEWS reveals that he was once so stoned on the Wetlands stage that he had no idea where the fuck he was in the song. When he paused, looking dumbstruck, in the middle of that soundbite, the audience screamed with laughter.
High on my own dizzying stardom, I went back to the clubs—God, I’m a dancer; a dancer dances—and found out why Splash’s basement is now emptier on Wednesday nights than BUSH‘s brain. Since that recent raid forced the club to close for a few days, they haven’t been having their famed underwear contest! (But fortunately, the other night they did allow a half-clad British go-go boy to sloppily make out with virtually anyone who approached. Don’t tell him that’s not how we do it here.)
At XES, host MIMI IMFURST forced various guys to strip—I guess that’s still allowed there—and made them jiggle around, taunting the most rhythmless one by tastefully screaming, “You dance like a corpse! You’re Terri Schiavo!” And that was far from the last esoteric name I heard dropped in a Chelsea dive. Over at Barracuda, while SHASTA COLA had the crowd spellbound for hours on end, the doorman entranced me with remarks like, “A Voice writer once introduced me to Robert Mapplethorpe. He photographed me. Look it up online.” Sure thing, doll—after I decide who should get the award for fastest psycho name-dropper, you or the guy at Happy Valley who stepped up to the plate with, “Hi. I’m from Colorado. If you ever see TOPHER GRACE, say hi for me. I know him.” Oh yeah? Well, I’m from New York. Please point your hard-on elsewhere!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2006