Ever since last year, when an LCD Soundsystem song blared that I’m “no Bruce Vilanch,” I’ve been desperate to be the comic/writer—or at least to get him on the phone again.
Miraculously, that happened just the other day, when Bruce and I got a chance to discuss his writing duties for the Oscars, among other glittery controversies.
Me: Hi, Bruce. We have to talk Academy Awards, but first of all, you’re playing Queens Theatre in the Park on May 7.
Vilanch: People say, “Are you gonna do Queens jokes?” How can you do Queens jokes when you’re in Flushing? There are so many better things to say. I have an entire song called “Flushing”! [Laughs.] No, I’m gonna tell stories about my ridiculous career.
Me: Speaking of which, do you like the LCD Soundsystem song?
Vilanch: You’re the only one I was coupled with in a rock and roll lyric. It’s my cred! If I ever meet those boys, they can have me.
Me: No, you’re mine first! Tell me: What did you really think of the last Oscar telecast?
Vilanch: It all depends on how you react. There was a lot of stuff that was great. It came in really short. People are always bitching that it’s too long.
Me: But I sincerely doubt James Franco and Anne Hathaway will be back. Who will host next year’s Oscars?
Vilanch: I think there might be a revival of Billy Crystal. It was such a success. They were so happy to see him that even as we speak, they’re sending a gold wagon to his house: “Please come back!” My guess is they’ll go back to a comedian—maybe just one person, so you don’t have to worry about servicing two. I’d like not even a comic but a Renaissance person like Hugh Jackman. Or someone may surface. It’s Charlie Sheen’s time!
Me: God help us. Who was responsible for Franco in drag on the telecast?
Vilanch: That started as a Cher impression because we were certain her Burlesque song would be nominated. To introduce Cher, there would be James Franco as Cher. Cher would tap him on the shoulder and throw him offstage. The biggest surprise was the song not being nominated! But at that point, he was jazzed about being in drag. We negotiated him down to Marilyn Monroe. The “Diamonds” dress Madonna had already popularized for another generation had the most Hollywood-icon status to it. And Sheen exploded the week before, so it was ideal to put in the one and only joke about him.
Me: That was funny. But whose idea was Hathaway singing “Flushing,” I mean “On My Own”?
Vilanch: I think she should have done a number. If she was hosting a show alone, she would have, but the two of them had to be equal. “On My Own” was not my idea. I think it was maybe Bruce Cohen’s. We wanted Anne to sing. She wanted to turn the joke around and humiliate Hugh Jackman. When he was hosting, he had brought her up and done a bit, which of course was rehearsed. She was nominated that year for playing a sober alcoholic who goes home and slips. I can’t remember the name of the movie.
Me: Rachel Getting Sober—I mean Married.
Vilanch: Hugh’s doing all these things lately because Wolverine has been delayed.
Me: But this time, he just sat there.
Vilanch: There was not much time to rehearse, so we decided not to burden him.
Me: Well, Kirk Douglas didn’t just sit there. He hogged the stage!
Vilanch: That’s Kirk Douglas. That certainly wasn’t planned. That was him showing that he’s alive and kicking—literally kicking. I thought it was great.
Me: But it was mean to make five nominees wait and squirm.
Vilanch: Yeah, but nobody said, “Let’s put something out there that’ll make you cringe.” That’s what he wanted to do.
Me: Let’s make people cringe with some Broadway talk. What did you think of Priscilla?
Vilanch: It’s fabulous. It’s smart with heart. I’m a sucker for a dancing cupcake. I wanted to eat the cupcake and the thing that was wearing the cupcake.
Me: Should Spider-Man reopen after its hiatus?
Vilanch: No. I think they should go away and pretend it never happened. Write off the $70 million. What could they do to it besides turn it into a theme park show?
Me: In another costly matter, your thoughts on Kobe Bryant being fined?
Vilanch: If I called Kobe a nigger on national TV, I’d be out of a job and a house and I’d be targeted. We have to keep hammering that it’s unacceptable behavior. His non-apology was very insincere. He’s appealing the fine! I think he’s a spoiled brat who’s been enabled since he was a child. The irony is he was a guest star on Bette Midler’s sitcom and he was perfectly nice.
Me: How about Trump’s presidential run? Should we enable that?
Vilanch: As soon as Celebrity Apprentice is over, Trump running for president will be over. He hit upon a genius promotional scheme for himself. It will end when he has nothing to promote. I can’t believe that a guy who’s so injected in pop culture has political positions that went out with the Oscar Wilde trial!
Me: Meanwhile, I can’t believe you dated Judith Regan on Millionaire Matchmaker. Did she not get the memo?
Vilanch: It was lost in the avalanche of O.J. emails she got. It was not something Murdoch pointed out as he showed her the door. “By the way, Vilanch goes for guys.” But I think we’re the hippest couple since Cher and David Geffen.
Me: Or Cher and James Franco!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 27, 2011