Photo by Frankie C
As the curtain goes up on this crackling new column, I can’t promise high-stepping chorus boys or lavish sets, if any sets at all. But at least you won’t have to read it while fellow customers rustle plastic, answer their phones, and kick your seat as an usher looks the other way.
And this will be a musical all right! The chirping you hear will be me singing the praises of the bad and the beautiful, the fast and the furious, and all the other live wires who make voyeurism riveting with their cultural exploits and personal mishaps. After a slight 28-plus-year side trip to an alternative weekly, I’m free to be your guide to the gossip, while maintaining my legend as the gayest person on the planet, as well as the one who cares more about superficial show biz matters than is healthy, while also lending a voice to issues that actually mean something in the larger picture.
To me, the Tony Awards mean something. They’re the gay Olympics, the theater-fanatic’s answer to the Miss California pageant, and the rare show that actually deserves the subtitle “The Musical.” But it’s been tragic to see Best Actor in, you know, a Musical turn into a showdown between two drag performances—Bertie Carvel as the evil Miss Trunchbull in Matilda and Billy Porter as the finger-snapping Lola in Kinky Boots. Why must even a prestige night like the Tonys turn into one more drag queen catfight?
And that’s just the beginning of the internal battling going on. Kinky’s book writer, Harvey Fierstein, has been running around calling me names! Harvey went on Michelangelo Signorile’s Sirius/XM’s OutQ show and referred to me as “idiot boy” (though I’m sure he said that with nothing but love). But I’d merely quoted Harvey saying that Lola is a straight transvestite, to which I added some mild skepticism, then reported Billy Porter’s response, which was extreme skepticism. Squawked Billy: “Do you think after 25 years of being out and now wearing a dress and playing the character the way I do, that I’m gonna be straight in it? No one’s gonna believe my version of the character is straight! That’s not how I play it!” When I told Billy he needs to speak to Harvey about this disparity, he admitted they’d been arguing that point for some time. Later, I caught up with costar Stark Sands and he said he agrees with Billy! Oh, well. Every controversial thing Harvey’s ever said has turned out to be spot-on, so I’ll just wait this one out and prepare for some gay hatchet burying. But “idiot boy”? Not nice! “Carb face” would have been better, especially since Harvey also remarked of me--with love--“I’ve never seen him pay for a meal in his life.” And yet, isn’t it amazing that I still won’t let people dictate what I write?
I looked fat and fabulous on the Smash finale, which happened to air opposite the other gay musical, Behind the Candelabra (a TV movie some found too self-loathing-based, though it didn’t take an intellectual leap to find it a blistering condemnation of closety secrets and lies. And will you ever forget the moment when Calvin—I mean Liberace—was being plowed by Nick—I mean Scott—in an actual bed?) That night provided the Gay DVR Olympics, but the real winner was Cheyenne Jackson, who proved to be the double header’s MVP. On Smash, Cheyenne announced faux Tony nominees with Christine Ebersole, while on Candelabra—which should have been called Pianist Envy—he was the discarded boy toy slash keyboard tinkler of the predatory glitter ball Liberace. “It was surreal and fun to be on two shows at the same time,” Cheyenne related to me a few days later. “Actually, a buddy told me a rerun of Law And Order that I did was also on that night, so I guess it was three!
“Being a part of Candelabra was great,” he went on. “I wanted to do it to work with Soderbergh and Matt Damon (who I know from 30 Rock) and Michael Douglas. I actually turned down a much bigger part in a different project, but I knew even if I only had one line in Candelabra (which I did), it would be worth it. It was a fun challenge to create a whole character with a life and history and personality with no words.” His reaction shots alone were more priceless than even Scott Thorson’s gifted jewelry.
“Smash was just me reading from a Teleprompter playing myself, so that was easy enough,” added Cheyenne. “And nice job, btw, Michael. You also play yourself well.” Thanks, guy! Note to celebs: Stroking is so much lovelier than bitter name-calling. Though if anyone wants to collaborate on Idiot Boy! The Musical!...