Please note: This entry, “The Gayest Week Ever,” is a holding tank for the following cultural events (and others) in 2005:
Chanel show at Met Museum
Barbara Cook concert
William Finn interview
*La Cage aux Folles*
Lypsinka: *The Passion of the Crawford*
Les Paul concert
My friend Scott came to town for a week at the end of May in 2005 and we had what must have been The Gayest Week Ever. It was endless activity, nearly every last thing was gay, and a total blast.
William Finn at Gay Center
Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club
Scott flew into town from Wisconsin sometime that afternoon, and I met him at the Gay Center in Chelsea after work. Where else could we start The Gayest Week Ever? I’d never been there before, and we went directly to a second floor conference room. It used to be a men’s room, and its walls were painted with a startlingly pornographic mural by Keith Haring, in his signature kinetic style. We looked at it for a good ten minutes.
We were there because they were hosting an interview with and performance of songs by William Finn, a Broadway musicals composer whose current Broadway hit is *The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee*. He also wrote *Falsettos* and a musical dramatizing his bout with a brain tumor, *A New Brain* (I did not make that up). The audience was mostly people in their 50s and above, quite a number of old male-female couples, with a few 40-something Chelsea gay men thrown in. There was one boy who looked about 16, there with his parents, it was the dearest thing I’ve ever seen. He was wearing a bubble gum pink polo (Bubblicious pink, to be precise), with the collar turned up. I said to Scott, “He got that look from watching *The Isaac Mizrahi Show*.”
Finn was marvelously droll, full of grouchy <<bonhommie>>. His interviewer was young and lovely, with carefully groomed eyebrows (Scott sang, “He’s got Judy Garland brows”), but dumb as a stump, and Finn does not suffer fools gladly.
JUDY GARLAND BROWS: I notice that lots of your musicals are about crusty middle-aged gay men. Any particular reason for that?
FINN: [looks at him with a quizzical expression] Well, uh, I’m a crusty middle-aged gay man. What more do ya need to know?
After twenty minutes of this kind of repartee, Finn was good and ready for the audience question-and-answer section of the evening, when at last someone would ask him something intelligent. A few singers from *Spelling Bee* did some of his songs, a couple from that show and a couple from other shows, and they were impressive. We stuck around after it was over and Scott got his autograph (Scott’s luggage was heavy with things to be autographed).
Our next stop was The Stonewall. This bar is recognized as the birthplace of the American gay rights movement. The cops did a routine raid of the bar on June 28, 1969 which broke into a riot, building up to a crowd of 2000 fighting 400 cops. Raids of gay bars were typical, but what made that night different was it was the day of Judy Garland’s funeral. Lesson to be learned: Don’t kick a bitch when she’s down! For more info on the Stonewall riots:
I’d never been to The Stonewall before, can you believe it? They had a two-for-one rail drink special - - Scott got a gin and tonic, I got a gin gimlet. We tried to involve the bartender in some sort of enjoyable conversation, but he would have none of it (Scott thought he was straight). We finished our drinks, and the bartender asked what we wanted for our second drink - - it turns out we didn’t get those two drinks for the price of one, but we could both have a second drink for free. I wasn’t up for another drink (I’m such a lightweight), but Scott had another gin and tonic.
We stayed in the West Village for dinner, at Kavakas Pizza. This is your typical no nonsense New York pizza joint, with Greek and/or Latino men working there, and you’d think there’d be no gay flavor to be found there, unless you brought it yourself - - but lo and behold, they were playing Edith Piaf on the stereo. Wonders never cease. Scott had a sausage roll, I had the ham and pineapple pizza.
Then we took the train uptown to see Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club.
Les Paul is credited with more or less inventing the electric guitar. He owns the Iridium, and plays there every Monday night. He was approaching his 90th birthday, so Scott was eager to see him while he was still semi-ambulatory. It’s a handsome club on 50th and Broadway, underground, with warm lighting and a chic yet homey décor. There was a small minimum, in addition to our cover charge, so I got the crème brulée, I don’t remember what Scott got.
Three guys came out onstage: a pianist, a guitar player (rhythm guitar, a nice complement to Les’s solo guitar), and a drummer, and played a short song as an intro. Someone’s voice came over the sound system and introduced Les, who slowly but surely came out onstage. Much applause. Les said a few words and introduced the guitar player, the drummer, “…and as a special guest tonight, at the piano we have John Corigliano.” Scott and I looked at each other with disbelief! Corigliano is a first-rate composer - - he’s won a Pulitzer (for his 2nd Symphony) and an Oscar (for the score to *The Red Violin*), and is best known by me for having written *The Ghosts of Versailles*, which was commissioned by the Met and telecast in 1992, it’s a marvelous opera. He did a good job at the piano, played with style and occasional flash.
We got back on the 1 train and headed uptown to my place. Scott had never been there before, and marveled at how large and nice it is. I had the guest room (aka the dining room) all set with an inflatable mattress, sheets, etc, and my pink satin Hello Kitty! pillow. We got to bed at about 1:15 AM. I got six hours of sleep at the most all week long, and ya know, I was never tired at work, because I’d had so much fun the night before and had the lure of more fun that night.
* * *
This was the one night that we didn’t do something together - - I had the annual meeting for my choir, so Scott went to see *Spelling Bee*, which he really enjoyed.
* * *
*La Cage aux Folles*
Scott had no less than FOUR celebrity sightings during his visit, not counting the celebrity we saw that night. First he saw Jeff Goldblum, who was talking to himself and seemed generally deranged. Another day he saw some theatre-goers fawning over a tiny old woman, asked them who she was, and it was Charlotte Rae, of *The Facts of Life*! Then he saw Mandy Patinkin - - I don’t remember any details there - - Scott, anything you want to mention about that? And that night, on his way to dinner, he saw Christian Slater, who was appearing in *The Glass Menagerie* just down the street.
*La Cage* is a musical from the 80s, an adaptation of the French film with the same title, which was turned into *The Birdcage*. Karen Miller and I saw the current production when it first opened, when Daniel Davis was playing what I will call the Husband, Georges. Gary Beach, who was in the original cast of *The Producers*, and will be in the movie, was playing the Wife, the drag queen, Albin, aka Zaza. And of course the chorus of starved boys in drag.
Scott went to see *Pillowman* that afternoon, a play starring the aforementioned Jeff Goldblum and Billy Crudup, and liked it a lot. We met for dinner at the Café Edison, one of my very favorite restaurants in town. Karen Miller introduced me to it, and we often go there before seeing a Broadway show - - it’s right at 47th and Broadway. Scott had never been there, and we ate like sows: matzo brei (a special that day, and not that great), cabbage soup (the best anywhere), blintzes (ditto), and beef brisket over potato pancakes (a dream). We basically had them put all the food on the table and went at it, forks flying.
Scott suggested we go to Sardi’s for a quick drink before the show. I’d never been there before, and was charmed by it. Sardi’s is a Broadway landmark, it’s where the cast historically goes to eat and drink opening night while waiting for the reviews to come out in the paper. We sat on the side, at the bar, under the caricature of Eydie Gormé (who I adore).
We still had a little time to waste, so we went to a little store that sells lots of Broadway tchotchkes. We walked through the door just as someone was walking out, and Scott said, “Is that Rip Taylor who just walked out of the store?” It was! We went back outside and talked with him, laughing riotously, for the next twenty minutes. You might know Rip Taylor, even if you don’t recognize the name.
He was at his peak in the 70s, making frequent appearances on *The Gong Show* and hosting *The $1.98 Beauty Show*, throwing confetti everywhere, wailing like a gay banshee.
SCOTT: What show are you going to see?
RIP: I’m not going to a show, I’m not feeling well…
ME: Hence the scarf?
RIP: My dear, I never go anywhere without a scarf. I’m going back to the hotel, I’m going to curl up in front of the television. What show are you going to?
SCOTT: We’re seeing *La Cage*.
RIP: Fabulous. Have you seen it?
ME: I have, I’m excited to see it again.
RIP: So you saw it earlier in the run?
RIP: With Daniel Davis?
RIP: [leaning forward, in a conspiratorial tone] I hear Robert Goulet is having trouble remembering his lines.
SCOTT and ME: [laugh heartily]
RIP: But I’m sure the rest of the cast is very helpful.
A cute guy walked by, saw us talking with Rip, and interrupted us.
HIM: Excuse me - - my brother and I saw you in Las Vegas in 1967.
RIP: You need to go back there.
It was unclear whether he meant back to Las Vegas, back to 1967, or both. We enlisted the guy to take pictures of Rip with Scott, Rip with me, and Rip with Scott and me. Scott says Rip grabbed his ass when the photo was being taken, which explains the surprised, amused, and frightened expression on his face. Rip cuddled up to me in a very affectionate and cozy manner, which made me laugh my head off. We also took a photo of Rip with the cute guy (Rip is sticking out his tongue at him, due to that Las Vegas ’67 remark) and a photo of Rip with two women walking by. Here are the photos of us with Rip:
On the train home that night, Scott said, “What was Rip doing out in that neighborhood at 7:30 PM on a show night, when he was feeling sick and just wanted to go back to the hotel? He was walking around wanting to be recognized, that’s what he was doing.”
On to *La Cage*. It was playing at the Marquis Theater, nestled into the Mariott Marquis in Times Square. If feels like a theater at Six Flags Great America, but I love its garishness, and it was perfect for this show. Karen had a friend who saw it before we did, and warned us about a dance number where a man (a “specialty dancer”, as they say in the business) wore a white body stocking with feathers and rolled around a pseudo bird cage, spreading his legs apart in the splits many, many times. Her friend thought it was the highlight of the show, watching this number and looking for his candy (as they say in the business). Sure enough, it WAS the highlight of the show, and Karen and I had sore ribs from laughing so hard, but making very little sound (since the other members of the audience would have no idea why we thought it was so funny). This number was just as impressive the second time, as was all the spectacular dancing.
The original production, back in the 80s, had a chorus line of ten men and two women, just to keep you guessing. This production had twelve men and no women, and there was no need to guess. Some of them looked good, some of them looked OK, and a few of them were, to use Karen’s word, “horsey”. But they danced up a storm and the gorgeous costumes by William Ivey Long distracted the eye away from the horsey faces.
Gary Beach, in the role of the drag queen Wife, was marvelous. He sang beautifully and acted with dignity in a role that could turn into dreck. I really liked Daniel Davis (who played the butler, Niles, on *The Nanny*) in the role of the Husband, but I guess there was offstage tension between him and Beach, so he got the axe to make way for Robert Goulet. Goulet, Goulet, Goulet, what can one say about the Goulet?
He sang gloriously, it was truly thrilling singing - - gorgeous voice, showing no sign of his 72 years, and first-rate phrasing. He likes to sing LOUD, and you know I support that. But the singing was the only good thing about his performance. He had no sense of timing, his costars often had to wait two to three seconds (an eternity) for him to come in on his next line, and yes, Rip Taylor was right, he did have a few flubs! In one scene he referred to his son, Jean-Michel, as Jeanne-Marie. I think Jeanne-Marie was some French strumpet he shtupped on the Universal lot back in ’63. And saddest of all, he couldn’t move from here to there without decided effort. As Charles Isherwood snarkily put it in the NY Times, “He rarely strays too far away from a solid piece of furniture.” This same article mentioned that Goulet felt a little skittish about the gay content of the show, and the final kiss in particular. He asked the producers if the could just hug, or possibly hold hands, and the producers said no (bless them). So this is how he did the kiss: he planted his feet on the floor, grabbed Beach’s head with both hands (like a cantaloupe) and kissed him with great force. It reminded me of Michael giving his brother the Kiss of Death in *The Godfather Part II*.
But in spite of the horsey chorus line and the straight-and-narrow, walker-ready leading man, it was a delightful show, well worth seeing a second time, especially with Scott. As is his custom, we waited outside the stage door after the show, and saw all the horses leave the stable (they look much less horsey as men). Our first autograph was from Gavin Creel, a pretty young man who played the son - - Scott and I had seen him in *Bounce*, the most recent Sondheim musical, which Creel referred to as “that troubled little show.” Here's Creel in High Twink Mode:
Next was Gary Beach, who is maybe the handsomest man of a certain age (58) I’ve ever seen. He was wearing these sharp funky glasses, has a gorgeous head of reddish brown hair (expertly dyed, to be sure), a killer smile, and had on a natty blazer, button down shirt, and linen trousers. The most sublime element of his ensemble, though, were his shoes, chocolate brown spectators with white uppers.
ME: Great job!
BEACH: Thank you so much.
SCOTT: It was just great.
BEACH: Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. [Moves on to the next person]
ME: [whispering, to Scott] He’s wearing fabulous shoes.
BEACH: [turning back to us, thrilled] Yes, aren’t they! Someone was just commenting on them backstage.
ME: I LOVE them.
BEACH: I had shoes just like this when I was a young man.
ME: But we won’t get into that.
BEACH: [with a chuckle and a sly look over his eyebrows] No, we won’t.
A cute candid picture of Beach, at some random press event:
Of course I immediately put him on my list of Gay Men in the Public Eye Who I Must Date, but the problem is I don’t know if he’s single, and I will NOT ask a man out on a date unless I know he’s single. It occurs to me that I know someone from my high school who was assistant to the costume designer for this show - - he could probably get the 411 for me. I’ll keep you posted.
And then Goulet came out last (he probably has to spend a good deal of time on the john after a show) and flirted vigorously with every woman in sight, just to show us all that he’s NOT REALLY GAY.
* * *
Scott did the Lincoln Center tour and also a tour of the Louis Armstrong House in Queens. He went on and on about it, said it was amazing. The thing that most impressed me (in his telling of it) was Armstrong’s wife’s fixation with wallpaper. She would wallpaper a room, and then put a different print lining the closet, and a third lining the shelves. This woman was an artist.
We met that night at Barnes and Noble in Union Square where Charles Busch was doing a reading and signing the paperback edition of his novel, *Whores of Lost Atlantis*.
He’s the actor and playwright who brought us *Psycho Beach Party*, *Die, Mommie, Die!*, and *Vampire Lesbians of Sodom*. We showed up a little early and had a fun time looking at the crowd. We had a particular interest in a handsome, earnest young man lying on his stomach over on the side of the room, very engrossed in his book.
ME: What do you suppose he’s reading? Hawthorne?
SCOTT: [after a moment’s consideration] Camus.
The reading was a riot and Busch was gracious if a bit chilly when he signed Scott’s books.
We went to Chat ‘n’ Chew for dinner - - Paul Stoller introduced me to this place when my parents moved me here, it’s well-made junky food (hot dogs, grilled cheese, etc) in a cute kitschy environment. I had the veggie burrito, Scott had the fish tacos, we split some cole slaw and sweet potato fries. Scott had a birch beer and I had a ginger ale. Our waitress had glittery blue eye shadow, which of course we commented on. She was fun, and got a big tip.
And then, on our way home, we had maybe the highlight of the whole trip, and a highlight of my whole gay life! We were walking down 16th St to the A subway station on 16th and 8th Ave and this little cute gay man with a shaved head was walking toward us, broke into a huge grin when he saw us, and said, “Hello, ladies!” as he passed by. We said, “Hello, sweetheart!” or whatever, and he said, “Have a good night!”
Scott said, “Random gay affirmations on the street - - NEVER happens in Madison.” But I quickly told him that it’s never happened to me in New York! I don’t know what it is about Scott and I, but we project an aura of Happy and Comfortable Gay Man, and people just love that shit.
Scott gave me a marvelous present when we got home, a DVD of Broadway performances on the Ed Sullivan Show. We watched Celeste Holm singing “I Cain’t Say No” and Anthony Newly singing “Who Can I Turn To?” before I turned in for the night. Newley is a FRIGHT, especially with his Judy Garland eyebrows.
* * *
Met Museum, Chanel show
Café Carlyle, Barbara Cook
We met at the Met Museum right after I got off work, to see the Chanel show. I read about the Costume Institute’s show of Coco Chanel months before it came to the Met, and told Karen Miller (my date for every show at the Costume Institute) that when we went to the show, she’d have to bring along a wooden spoon to put in my mouth, because I would surely be on the floor having a seizure, being in a room surrounded by original Chanels.
Chanel is the Alpha and the Omega when it comes to women’s fashion. I see her not only as one of the most important figures in fashion history, but as one of the most important figures in the fight for equality for women. This might seem excessive, but Chanel was the first fashion designer to see women as active, independent women capable of having their own lives and forming their own destinies, and her lightweight and exquisitely tailored clothes gave women the freedom of movement they needed to do literally whatever they wanted to do.
A few Chanel landmarks:
She was the first designer to use cotton jersey for garments. Up to her time, it had only been used for underwear.
She popularized large, bold costume jewelry.
She liberated the color black, which had previously been reserved for mourning.
She was the first designer to create a perfume, Chanel No. 5. It was also the first abstract perfume - - it didn’t try to replicate a familiar scent, like lilac or rose. And it was packaged like a pharmaceutical product, in a plain square bottle, unlike the ornate, sculptural bottles of the time.
She created the unmistakable, iconic Chanel Suit, absolutely timeless. A Chanel suit from 1929 would look chic and perfect today, at a board meeting or dinner and dancing at the Rainbow Room.
I went to the show a total of four times: the first time alone, the second time with Ilya Chaus-Hyatt (who went to FIT, it was marvelous seeing the show with her), the third time with Scott, and the last time with Karen. The show was a mix of original Chanels and Chanels designed by Karl Lagerfeld, who took over the Maison Chanel in 1984. He’s done a marvelous job using the Chanel iconography and adapting it to the current fashion climate. The show grouped pieces by theme, so you had, in one vitrine, three original Chanel suits and two Lagerfeld Chanel suits. The Lagerfelds were easy to spot, because the hemlines were often above the knee (or in one case, practically above the buttock), where Chanel would never go. She thought the knee was the ugliest part of a woman’s body.
For more about Chanel:
My favorite piece was a Chanel suit designed by and worn by Chanel, in a delicious yet sensible shade of cocoa brown, with darker brown trim. The sleeves ended a few inches above the wrist, it looked incredibly comfortable - - Karen asked me why I loved it so much, and I said, “Because my eight-year old niece could wear it, my boss could wear it, and my mother could wear it, and they’d all look great in it.” I took a closer look at it in my second trip to the show, and noticed the detailing in the skirt: usually the front of a skirt is made of one or two pieces of fabric, either one continuous piece or two pieces with a seam down the middle. In the Chanel suit (and most of the suits I saw at the show were done this way), there are two narrow strips of fabric, about two inches wide, sewn down the center of the skirt. This would create a suppleness of movement along the knees. I’m sure that walking in that skirt would feel totally different from walking in a skirt made in the typical way. This suit is the wrong color, but you can see the construction in the skirt:
Scott was tickled to have his own person audio tour for the show (that would be me). Of course photography was forbidden, but he took out his camera anyway - - he saw a security guard, who more or less shrugged, so Scott took a picture. No big deal. But this random woman came up to him and scolded him and went on and on about how the fabric is so delicate that the flash photography harms it (which reminded me of injecting a lab rat with 10,000 grams of saccharine and saying it causes cancer), and she would know because she worked on a show of clothes worn by Princess Diana in Winnipeg. I swear she brought up this tenuous Princess Diana connection about five times, I think she wanted us to admire her.
We made a few friends along the way, during the rest of the show, young women, old women, all with something delightful and/or insightful to say, or who laughed at the things we said. This is what Scott and I do wherever we go, we sprinkle our fairy dust and make friends. We came to a vitrine of silk satin evening gowns from the 20s and 30s, in peach, silver, cream, divine. I saw the annoying Winnipegian hovering near us (probably poised to attack, in case Scott tried to take another photo), and said to Scott:
ME: So which of these do you want?
SCOTT: Hm, I’m not sure… Which do you like?
ME: The silver, with all the buttons in the back.
SCOTT: Yes, that’s divine. Which would you choose for me?
ME: I think the peach.
WINNIPEGIAN: I think you’d be better off in black. It’s more slimming.
Then we went to a sculpture gallery to see the Greatest Ass in Art History.
It’s a marble sculpture of Perseus with the head of Medusa, done by Antonio Canova between 1804 and 1806. Look at that musculature! Scott and I stood and gaped at it for a good ten minutes, studying it from every angle and discussing various options. I showed it to Karen a few weeks later, and she didn’t like it, she thought there was too much tension, too much effort involved.
We went up to the roof, where they have a few colorful sculptures by Sol LeWitt. I’d only been to the roof of the Met a couple of months before, and it’s a magical place, with a stunning view of Central Park. Scott took a fantastic photo of me, and you know I don’t generally photograph well. Then we were off to dinner at Serafina, a charming Italian restaurant Ilya had taken me to on one of my visits here. We had a nice leisurely dinner.
And then to The Carlyle for Barbara Cook!
I’d been there once before, years ago, to see Eartha Kitt, and will be back in a month to see Elaine Stritch. It’s a lovely room, the perfect setting for cabaret. Warm, charming, big enough to seat a fair amount of people but small enough to feel intimate. We got there earlyish (it was a 10:45 show) and waited in line for quite a while, chatting with an adorable pregnant woman who looked to be in her mid 40s (bless her heart) and her adorable old mother. A man with a ridiculous combover walked by, and we all got a good laugh out of that. It was like a wedding cake.
I’d heard Cook a year or so before, in her *Barbara Cook’s Broadway* show, which was very good. She’s one of the only remaining Grand Old Dames of the Golden Age of the American Musical, and maybe the only one who’s still performing with such frequency and to such acclaim. This show was called *Tribute*, and served as a tribute to three men: Bobby Short, who performed at the Café Carlyle for nearly 40 years and died this past year; Wally Harper, Cook’s longtime pianist and musical advisor, who played beside her for over 30 years and also died this past year; and Harold Arlen, whose centenary is this year.
For Short she sang two songs I’d never heard before, songs he performed at the Carlyle, a gorgeous lush Cole Porter song whose name I don’t remember and a darling Gershwin song called “Nashville Nightingale”. Adorable song, with sort of a boogie woogie beat. She sang three songs that Wally Harper had written - - one was good, one was OK, and the other was awful, but she sang them all with such grace and feeling that it made them all worth hearing (just that one time, surely I’ll never hear any of them again). The most dreadful of the songs had lyrics about how the singer of the song had never known that a man could cry - - grow up, get a life. And the Arlen songs, they were marvelous, and I don’t remember what they were. I dutifully wrote down all the songs she sang (for my benefit as much as for yours), but left the slip of paper at the Carlyle. What a dolt.
She told a very funny story about being at the Russian Tea Room in the early 60s with a friend of hers and seeing Jeanette MacDonald eating at a neighboring table with Agnes de Mille. She’s always loved MacDonald, and since she knew de Mille (she’d choreographed a production of *Carousel* she did on Broadway in 1957), she built up her nerve and went over to introduce herself. They chatted for a while and MacDonald was very sweet. Years later, Cook was looking through a book on Hollywood musicals, and saw that MacDonald had DIED five years BEFORE she had even met her friend who she remembered being with when the story happened - - she had dreamed up the whole thing! I turned to Scott with a, “What a marvelously bizarre story!” expression on my face, and he made a gesture that I can only describe by having you demonstrate: pretend you’re holding a glass in your hand. Take the “glass” and bring it up to your mouth, as if you were taking a drink. This is international sign language for, “She was a drunk.” Which she was, in the 70s (a good time to be drunk, I’m told).
Scott got Cook’s autograph and we were off. It was such a gorgeous night (it was nearly midnight by now) that we walked home through Central Park. I told my mom about this and she was concerned, that we were walking through The Park so late at night. Believe me, there didn’t seem to be any danger, we stuck to well-lit areas and felt perfectly safe.
* * *
Lypsinka, *The Passion of the Crawford*
We slept late-ish and then went out to get breakfast. Scott, having vacationed a few times in Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America, felt right at home with all the breakfast fare at the Latino stores in my neighborhood. Me, I don’t know squat, I feel out of my element, I do nothing. So we went to one little store and got sausage rolls (OK), guava pastries (divine), and some vaguely chocolate, vaguely malt-flavored hot gruel in a cup (amazing, in small doses). And fruit smoothies from another store down the street.
Then we went downtown to the TKTS line to see what was available at half price - - we thought long and hard about *The Light in the Piazza*, but Scott decided we’d do a tour of Harlem instead. But just for fun, we went to the theater where they were showing *Doubt*, the four-character play that ended up winning the Tonys for Best Play, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, and a few others. A middle-aged couple was on the sidewalk selling their tickets, and it was just like being at an Arab bazaar:
HIM: We’re asking $50 each.
HIM: Yes, they were originally $100.
SCOTT: Hm. Maybe. We did have other plans.
HER: We’re not going any lower than $50.
SCOTT: Hm. Give us a second, will you?
[Scott and Chris walk away, to increase the anxiety of the ticket sellers.]
SCOTT: We’ll give you $40.
HER: Oh, come on, don’t insult me.
HIM: How about $45.
SCOTT: [after a moment, perhaps a sigh] OK, $45.
Cherry Jones was stunning as the lead, she blew me away. You’ve probably seen her in one or more of the following movies:
*Signs*: she was the kind cop
*Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood*: she was Ashley Judd’s mother in the flashback sequences
*Ocean’s Twelve*: she has a small but juicy role at the end
Her greatest performance so far was as a woman working for the WPA in *The Cradle Will Rock*. It’s not a big part, and in the script I’m sure her character wouldn’t have a lot of impact, but she creates a living, breathing, intelligent, charming, strong person out of what she’s given. Her performance in that movie would probably make my top 50 film performances (maybe I should write that list).
The other lead performer was Brian F. O’Byrne, playing the priest, fresh from having played a priest in *Million Dollar Baby*. Jones played the Mother Superior of the convent, and principal of the school where O’Byrne teaches. It’s a great play, with fantastic opportunities for each of the four actors. We stuck around after the show and Scott got autographs from the four actors, and we chatted with Jones for a minute, who was terribly sweet.
We went down to Greenwich Village to kill some time, hung out at a poster store for a while. They had an enormous Warhol print of a bottle of Chanel No. 5, which I did not buy - - it was only $75, but it would cost another $200 or more to frame it. And ya know, I might get tired of it after a while, and then where would I be? We walked around, caught a bit of a guided tour, and chatted with a cop by Tweed City Hall for a while. And we had dinner at a marvelous and cheap Indian restaurant (this town is full of cheap tasty Indian food).
And then we went back uptown for the Lypsinka show. Lypsinka is the world-famous drag entertainer I’ve seen four times, and the second of my Celebrity Dates (Isaac Mizrahi was the first, surely you’ve heard both those stories numerous times - - if not, I can dig them out of my archives). The Lyp was doing a show called *The Passion of the Crawford*, a lip-synched re-creation of interview Joan Crawford did at Town Hall in the 70s, and other Crawford bits.
I saw it right after it opened, and loved it. Thankfully the run of performances was extended, so Scott was able to see it when he was in town. I emailed John (Lypsinka in real life), reminded him of who I was, and asked him if we could come backstage to visit after the show. His reply was a terse, laconic, “OK”. Hm, not exactly effusive, is he?
The show was a blast at the Zipper Theater, a somewhat reconstituted zipper factory. It’s an odd space, but in a charming way. The seats are car seats from 70s vehicles, that’s the nicest touch. There’s a bar attached to the theater, and you have to wait there before the show, then line up to get a seat. It’s a very cruisy scene when Lypsinka plays there, as you can imagine. I’m sure there must have been at least one man there who had been at one (or more) of our events previously that week.
The show was almost as much fun the second time. Lypsinka had hired another actor, Steven Ciuffo, a handsome young man, to play the interviewer, and he did a good job. What a thrill it must have been for him, to be hired by, and surely tutored by Lypsinka in a lip-synched performance! Joan Crawford was dripping with disdain for the interviewer, she shuddered with barely masked horror whenever he touched her. There were a couple of flashbacks, one being a Christmas radio interview with Joan, Christina, and Christopher Crawford - - this interview is one of the high points of *Mommie Dearest*, but Lypsinka dug deep in the vault and found the actual original interview.
We hung around in the bar for a while after the show, then went back to his dressing room, which was tiny and paneled like a 70s trailer (for the record, I don’t believe I was ever in a trailer in the 70s, but according to *Hedwig and the Angry Inch*, this is what it would look like). We waited at the door while he finished with the sassy young woman before us, and we struck up a conversation with his dresser, who was a hoot. Then it was our turn, and John very graciously said, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.” I introduced myself, and Scott, and the three of us talked for about ten minutes, maybe a bit more. I could tell that at first John only knew me as the guy who had emailed him, but after a while I think he put two and two together and remembered that I’m the guy who had bought him dinner at The Red Cat in January of 2004.
I told him that one of the highlights of the show was seeing a diva who was so full of disdain. Opera divas, you used to be the gold standard of haughty disdain, are now down to earth, approachable, nice normal people - - and who wants that? An old school opera diva, Grace Bumbry, has this to say about a diva’s relationship with her public: “Crack the whip! Make them fear! Blow them a kiss, and thank them!”
* * *
Brunch with Karen
Scott goes to wedding
We slept kinda late, did a little laundry, then had brunch with Karen Miller at my favorite breakfast place in town, Le Pain Quotidien.
Paul Stoller introduced me to this place on one of my visits years ago, and I took my parents there when they moved me here. Karen, Scott, and I went to the one on 72nd and Central Park West. I always get the same thing, the Baker’s Basket, which has five or six different kinds of bread (including two nutty kinds), a large slab of butter, two pots of jam, and a pot of hazelnut spread. Not for those on Atkins, but a dream for me! They also have dreamy ice cold rugged apple cider.
Karen met Scott when she came to Wisconsin for my farewell recital in July 2002. They hit it off like mad, and she and I are after him to MOVE here. He is made for New York, and he would be my ideal date for all those odd things that no one else wants to go to (like *The Pirates of Penzance* in Yiddish, which I’m seeing next week). They had met for lunch earlier in the week, so this was a second date for them. Scott told us all about his annual fishing trip with five straight guy friends from college. The same group had just gone to Las Vegas, where they talked Scott into seeing Cirque du Soleil. Scott said, memorably, “You expect me to pay $100 to watch a gay man in a leotard dangling from a swing? I can get that in Minneapolis for a $5 cover.” Neither Karen nor I have been to Vegas yet, so he explained what their brand of entertainment is like - - and he and I, right there at Le P Q, became co-authors of a new word:
SCOTT: It’s entertainment at the lowest common denominator. It’s like jingling keys in front of a baby. It’s entertainment for ‘tards.
Ta-dah! This word is second only to “faggle” (a co-creation with Kathy the Mezzo) in my personal invented lexicon. Scott introduced the word to his sister, who said, as the two of them drove past a billboard for Tommy Bartlett’s Laser Show in Wisconsin Dells, “That looks entertarding.”
We finished brunch, walked through a street fair, and then Scott went uptown for a wedding. Karen and I walked back to Columbus Circle (it was a lovely day) and I went home. I see in my notes that I spent three hours on the phone with Howard. I can’t imagine it would take that long to tell him about my week with Scott (even with the Rip Taylor sighting), so he must have gotten in a few words edgewise.
Greg (my roommate) and I watched *The Cat’s Meow* on IFC that night, and Scott got home at about 12:30.
* * *
MONDAY 5/30, Memorial Day
Fire on subway tracks
This was the day that Scott had to meet the kids coming into town for his conference. We had a leisurely breakfast of more goodies from down the street (I’m not sure if we got more gruel), packed up his stuff, and I walked him down to the 1 train. We stood there, on the subway platform, waiting and waiting - - it seemed something was askew, so we asked an MTA employee what was going on, and it turns out there was a fire on the tracks! Some tall, strapping firemen showed up and hauled around their hoses, so that was a fitting way to top off the week.