Simon vs. Simon

5.20.2009

By Derek de Koff

What liberties were taken in turning the book into a comedy series?
One of the biggest differences between the book and the series is that they updated the show and cast it in the nineties. I think that was a smart decision because most of the action in the book takes place during the '50s and '60s. The show is going to resonate more with '90s iconography. Instead of Dusty Springfield, you get the Spice Girls. They wanted to play with more current cultural references.

Like the Simon character in the film, were you actually prone to critiquing your teacher's wardrobe choices...?
Yes. One of my earliest memories was being completely focused on style and enjoying that my mom was done up like Betty Grable. I remember one Christmas she gave me a blue and gray checkered scarf and said, 'Look what Santa bought you!' and I said, 'I don't like it -- you can have it. Santa's taste is a bit dodgy.' Later that day, she went in to get all her teeth pulled out. She came back with that scarf around her head. When she'd sneeze, her dentures would fly out. Post-war England was so dismal; I think they wisely shifted gears into the 90s'

You were so lucky to have a gay best friend when you were young.
Well, I realized while writing the book that having a gay best friend is everything: it's having a co-conspirator. If you're in a hostile environment, and you can't find a gay best friend' you kind of need to move, right? If you've got a co-conspirator' Even if it's 'Ratzo' Rizzo, a co-conspirator is what everybody in this world needs.

Are you going to make a cameo appearance?
Believe me, I would be there in a hot second but no one's asked. I think when they updated the show, I emailed them and said, 'If you want me to come over when you do the launch, I will.' They said, 'It's entirely up to you.' If I were cast in the show, people would assume I was the kid's grandma.

Any upcoming projects?
I'm actually working on a book, which is kind of a retail memoir, because I've always lived in retail. Some English newspaper reporter said to me, 'I don't get it -- you're a writer but you still work in a store?' I said, 'Listen, madam: maybe if Virginia Woolf had done a few hours at the Saks make-up counter, she wouldn't have killed herself.' I realized how much being in retail has informed my sense of seeing the world; I have thirty-five years of anecdotes and gruesome embarrassments' so I'm playing around with a retail memoir, and my column for the New York Observer, and my boyfriend Jonathan Adler and I travel a lot. I'm not having a sex change if that's what you're thinking. I wouldn't make a good girl -- my legs are too chunky.

What aspect of the series resonates with you most?
Well, it's a bit of a Dorothy story. Many gay people think they have to find that intoxicating mirage of glamour on the horizon. That mesmerizes gay people -- and then, when you get there, you see that some of it is groovy and some of it is not. It's all about finding out who the beautiful people in your life actually are.

Beautiful People airs on Logo starting May 26. Check your local listings for times and channels.

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