The Off-Broadway play Trust is a mixed bag of tricks in which four people take turns dominating each other—and it all starts with a kinky ad in The Village Voice! How proud are we? Also of note, the dramedy has Broadway’s girl-next-door Sutton Foster playing a dominatrix who whips and chains people, but won’t “do brown.” It’s a long way from Little Women, which did do brown.
And on came the Fringe Festival, which will do anything and everything. An onslaught of theatrical wack raided from the vaults of pop culture, it’s so calculatedly, defiantly different that the weirdness becomes the norm for two weeks of unair-conditioned rainbow-reaching.
First off, Jim David‘s South Pathetic had the long-standing comic finding fun in recalling the low-rent but kind of endearing A Streetcar Named Desire production he once directed in Thermal City, North Carolina. (“Ethelene,” he instructed the lead actress, “that’s the first time I’ve seen the rape scene with Blanche on top!”)
And the kindness of well-meaning strangers resulted in a pared-down revival of Platinum, a ’70s flop musical about a faded film star trying to score a comeback in a Hollywood recording studio. The reworking is almost semi-intriguing, but the show still suffers from clichéd carryings on about how quickly stars can become has-beens and vice versa. Also, there was an unasked-for pre-show when an uppity customer had to settle for a seat in the back and fumed, “I’m the most famous person here!” And the antics kept going when a box-office fight reverberated through the entire theater during the very first scene. (“I’m the house manager.” “Fuck you!”)
But the actors were pros, and even Bruce Vilanch—co-writer of the original musical’s book—wasn’t shaken by the whole evening. “I feel old again,” he cracked to me when I asked him for his take after the show. “It was interesting to see it without jokes,” he added with a grin.
Let’s have no one-liners calling Mao’s Last Dancer “Billy Elliot with chopsticks” or any other such irreverent bit of sass. It’s quite serious stuff, though at the special screening after a cocktail reception last week, double Oscar winner Jane Fonda sat with her fluffy dog and a glass filled with some liquid. “Is it champagne?” someone in the crowd drummed up the nerve to ask her. “Are you kidding? I don’t drink champagne,” responded lovable Fonda. “This is vodka—the real stuff!”
Let’s toast Montauk, which has become so buzzy that a homeowner there recently told me, “I used to have to beg people to come and visit. Now I have to beg them not to come.” Everyone suddenly wants a part of the place because it has the charm of the Hamptons without the pretensions, but, ironically, the resulting influx might provide the pretensions. Still, though there’s a new trendy restaurant and celebrity presences from De Niro to Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, it mainly feels like a sleepy fishing village with a lot of pride, lobster dishes, and crafts fairs.
Fortunately, there’s an open-door policy, too—and I’m the house manager. I ran into some fab oddballs there, like a Dazzle Dancer on the run and also a heavily breathing man who approached me with a brochure explaining that he has copyrighted the name “Woody Hoodies” for condoms and that he’s looking for a business partner to merchandize them. Alas, I’m already busy marketing “Peepee Teepees.”
Condomless, I stayed at the Panoramic View Resort & Residences, a sprawling cond-op with lovely views of the ocean, and though I don’t swim, sunbathe, or relax, at least I can get off on watching other people doing so.
I was a tad more comfortable back in my element: Amanda Lepore‘s Big Top at Carnival, where so many people will do brown. Lepore’s newest video has her doing Marilyn Monroe, who Lepore told me was a kindred spirit “because her mother was schizophrenic, too, and also, Marilyn transformed herself. It wasn’t like Pamela Lee, where she throws a wig on and she’s pretty.”
Marilyn, said Lepore through her Cinerama mouth, “tried to make her lips 3-D with cotton swabs and makeup, but I skip that part.” So what killed Marilyn? “I think if there was Botox then,” said Lepore, “she’d have lived, and she’d still look fabulous today.”
Same place, another week, and original Village People cowboy Randy Jones told me he had just played Casablanca Records founder Neil Bogart in a reading of the Village People musical. (I guess they can’t stop the music.) And the same night, today’s Village people—i.e., the trannies—were in full force, one prancing around on stilts and saying that doesn’t require talent (“Unless you’re drunk. That’s talent”) and another cooing to me, “I don’t mean it when we fight. It comes from my heart,” as she shoved my hand down her cleavage, where it got lost for four days.
When I got it back, it was applauding the couples swirling around the dance floor of the Edison Ballroom during a Friday-night performance by Joe Battaglia and the New York Big Band. This was quite possibly the last shocking frontier left for me. While the Fringe Festival revels in aggressive wackiness, and the clubs bring out fractured fairy-tale creatures in full affront, the swing-dancing scene envelops nostalgia, coordination, and actual touching. I became fascinated by the distinct pairings of people—the middle-aged marrieds rigidly doing the same three-step all night, the Bebe Neuwirth look-alike being gleefully swung around by her man like an ironing board, and the senior citizens gliding through them all with an effortlessness that would have been stunning even if they were teens with Woody Hoodies.
Most interestingly of all, cute young men in vests were performing all kinds of intricate steps with older women. Were they gigolos? No, one of the boys explained to me, “We’re instructors from the Dance With Me school in Ridgefield, New Jersey. We took our students for a night out.” I’m signing up for lessons as we speak. By the way, Battaglia’s band was swell, and they even did my request: “Girl Talk”!
It was back to the Village people when I foxtrotted onto the Queen of Hearts on Pier 40 for a “Sea Tea” (as opposed to a “CT”) that put the Pose back in Poseidon. The cruise was hosted by the pageantry-laden LGBT organization the Imperial Court of New York—particularly Vanity and Pepperica Swirl, who, I hear, are the frontrunners to be the next Emperor and Empress. And it was smoother sailing than I expected, especially since there was a buffet on the bottom level, dancing on the top deck, and nice views of Jersey fading into the background on the middle. But I do wish that during the drag show portion of the evening, the Judy Garland impersonator hadn’t almost given me a concussion while running through the audience grabbing tips for the charity, Friends House. We don’t need to save some gays while disabling others, darling.
And speaking of the big business of fucking over oppressed people, don’t you love Sarah Palin begging Dr. Laura Schlessinger not to “retreat,” though Palin is the one who quit her governor job without looking back? And don’t you adore her praising Laura’s constitutional rights while simultaneously trying to stop a place of worship from opening? Meanwhile, Laura admitted that she was wrong with that whole “N-word” debacle, but she still went on to paint herself as a victim of the p.c. police. You can’t have it both ways, honey. I should know—I’m the most famous person here!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 25, 2010