Do Not Call Charles Busch a “Wan Transvestite”


Credit: David Rodgers

Playwright and actor Charles Busch has just opened his latest play, The Third Story–an MCC production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre that counts Kathleen Turner among its fine cast. On the occasion of the new piece, which naturally features Busch in copious amounts of female couture, we thought we’d ask the drag legend a few questions.

What was the impetus for The Third Story?

I wanted to try juggling three different stories and have them all come to the same conclusion. I’m a big channel surfer, and watching three shows simultaneously is sort of what I do every night.

What Kathleen Turner movie part would you most like to play?

I’d like to play Kathleen’s role in Prizzi’s Honor. She was incredibly cool in it. I could never be as wonderful as she was in that movie.

What’s your favorite positive and negative line from any review of any of your shows?

My favorite was when Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times, “It doesn’t matter that the lady is a man. The lady in question is a star.” The worst was when John Simon wrote that I was merely a “wan transvestite.”

Would you rather play Medea, Hedda Gabler, or Virginia Woolf‘s Martha?

Definitely Hedda. I love when she burns the manuscript and says, “I’m burning your child.” With the ever-growing population of noisy children in my building in the West Village, that statement is sounding extremely appealing and sensible.

If Oscar Wilde were to show up at your door tomorrow and ask you to show him New York, where would you take him?

At the risk of name-dropping, I’d take him to my friend Joan Rivers’s apartment. It’s so beautiful and the three of us would have a very campy time.

What was the best dress you ever wore?

The magnificent full-length fuchsia silk coat I wore in the last scene of my movie Die Mommie Die. It was designed by Bottari and Case, and the combination of the costume, the crowd of extras, the camera on the boom, the whole thing was beyond my greatest fantasy. I’m a very lucky guy.

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