TV icon Sharon Gless is de-glammed but not devalued in Hannah Free, a film “about a lifelong love affair between an independent spirit and the woman she calls home.”
As the indestructible Hannah, Gless manages to sneak out of her nursing-home bed and go down the hall to visit her lady love, despite the rabid objections of the gal’s phobic mother.
Why are so many lesbians sick and in the same home? It doesn’t matter; Gless—best known from small-screen hits like Cagney & Lacey, Queer as Folk, and Burn Notice—charms as the crusty yet loving firebrand.
Here’s our recent phone chat:
Me: Hi, Sharon. Congrats on the movie.
Gless: Thanks! Two days before shooting, I did an Ed Harris movie where I played an old lesbian in a wheelchair: “You need an old lesbian in a wheelchair? Get Gless!” For Hannah, they tried to put old-age makeup on me. I smiled, and it fell on the floor. It was a very low-budget production—a labor of love, shot in 18 days. I love Claudia Allen’s writing and agreed to do it without even asking which of her plays they were filming.
Me: So how did they end up drabbing you down?
Gless: I saw the liver spots on my hand—I’m Irish—and said, “Draw liver spots on my face.” And they put on no makeup.
Me: It’s a far cry from the flashy mother of a gay that you played on Queer as Folk. That was fun stuff.
Gless: When I signed on to do the show, they wanted me to have my Chris Cagney hair. I said, “She can’t afford that hair color.” I brought in 17 wigs—pink, purple, lavender. They let me have the red one. And as the years went on, they cleaned her up—but never her mouth! Now it’s on Logo, which I don’t understand because they don’t allow sex scenes or the word “fuck.” They bleep it, so every time I open my mouth, it sounds like a truck backing up. I thought we’d come a long way with Showtime, but we’ve gone back.
Me: Well, let’s go way back. Is it true that Meg Foster—whom you replaced on Cagney & Lacey—was axed because she was considered too butch?
Gless: She was not butch at all. It’s just that she and Tyne Daly were too similar. There was no contrast between the two. They should have put a blond wig on her. There was some guy from TV Guide who called them dykes. There’s nothing wrong with being a dyke, but he said it in a bad, caustic way.
Me: Bad little homophobe. Were you always a gay advocate?
Gless: When I started in Cagney & Lacey, I didn’t even know what a feminist was. I learned so much about lesbians and their plight from my fans.
Me: Me, too!
And the gay divas kept coming like old lesbians in wheelchairs. The woman I call home, Liza Minnelli, appeared at the Paley Center’s showing of the TV version of her dazzling Liza’s at the Palace show (the one in which she bravely did a song from the point of view of a female impersonator and also joked about having had three closet-case husbands). In her post-screening chat, it came out that Liza turned down big money for a memoir because “my autobiography is in my songs.” And it’s in her energy, too. When actress Arlene Dahl—who seemed to think this event was a Q&A—called out from the audience, “What vitamins do you take?” Liza replied, “The usual ones. C and E and all of that stuff.” So there, bitches!
High on life, longtime impresarios Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny wore matching powder-puff hairdos and Dalí mustaches as they debuted their Tuesday-night BonBon bash at the club Juliet, where the mirrored walls and sparkly snowflake ceilings make the perfect incubator box for their concentrated insanity. “We wanted to keep it low-key and relaxing,” said Bartsch as a man lit sparklers, a seven-foot drag queen toppled over, and Bartsch herself jumped on a platform and started bumping her bustier to the music.
In the crowd, burlesque star Dirty Martini said she recently went to France to shoot a documentary scene with Karl Lagerfeld. “He was fabulous,” she gushed. “Sweet and so talented. But he never took off his sunglasses. Maybe he’s a superhero with tasers for eyes!”
The blinding shafts of light over at Cherry Jubilee‘s Glammy Awards for clubbing excellence came from Peppermint‘s lavish act, which included fire-breathing dancers that made one alternately think “flaming queens” and “Great White.” Adding to the exciting sense of danger, Mimi Imfurst dressed as Anne Frank and lip-synched, “Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me,” and MC Sweetie remarked of the absentee Best Gogo Boy winner, “Get him out of the stall, knock the cock out of his mouth, and tell him he won.” While they searched for the dear lad, dancing diva Sahara Davenport‘s performance was so amazing it became clear that the girl belongs on TV—and conveniently enough, she’s going there, as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Moving on to Oscar bait, Brothers is a powerful drama about the line between heroism and immorality, as played out by two diametrically opposed siblings. Just as dramatically, the film’s machismo-obsessed dad, Sam Shepard, scared the bejesus out of me at a Monkey Bar lunch for the film. “Was it frightening to delve into such a dark character?” I asked him, routinely enough. “That’s a question?” Shepard replied, looking stymied. “Well, is your character acting out of his own insecurity?” I wondered, nervously switching gears. “That’s not really a question,” Shepard insisted, as I sweated cannonballs. Weighted pause. “Look, I don’t come at it from a psychological angle,” he tried to explain, “but from a storytelling angle. I’m not a method actor. Does that make sense?” I should have said, “Is that a question?” but I simply muttered, “Sure” and crawled back to my table.
And now, these aren’t questions coming at you—just some quick gossip bites, so don’t feel the need to answer: I hear Brooke Shields just had a meeting with John Kander and all that jazz. . . . Less felicitously, Chris Penn’s final movie, Aftermath, will not see the light of day, as crazed co-star Anthony Michael Hall is officially telling people. Some aftermath! . . . But other cinema ops appear to be popping up for scandal stars. Way back on October 8, I said on TV, “I think Levi Johnston would be great in a John Waters movie or in The Big Bang Theory.” Well, call me Mr. Magorium because Waters just announced that he wants Levi in his next movie! Big Bang folks, you’re next.
But the most cinematic development of the week was the battle royale for media attention conducted by Tiger Woods‘s top two mistresses, Rachel Uchitel and Jaimee Grubbs. Here’s the plot, as I saw it: Rachel got huge coverage swearing she’d never bedded Tiger, but a PR minute later, she got kicked to the curb in favor of the aptly named Grubbs, who whored out her soiled Gap dress—I mean her old phone tape—plus some truthful information. So Uchitel suddenly decided she did sleep with Tiger and planned a gala press conference to spill about how she was telling all for cash. But just as rapidly, she canceled the conference to negotiate a way higher amount, namely hush money. (I guess dough trumps fame, though Rachel usually strives for both.) All this as the wife was negotiating a bigger salary to stay with her slimy man for another season. Classy people, right out of Chicago. They’re the women I call trailer home.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 8, 2009