Photo of Jane Lynch by M. Sharkey / Carol Channing photos by Wilson Models
The sardonically funny Jane Lynch has seared herself into our consciousness with her Emmy winning turn as the bullying cheerleader coach Sue Sylvester on the hit show Glee. And the woman has range. She recently went mean in person as the girl-hating Miss Hannigan in Broadway’s Annie revival. And now Jane—an out lesbian who actually loves females—enters a more sedate mode as a self-absorbed lesbian shrink in Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight, a comedy flick with Kathryn Hahn as a married woman who befriends a young stripper and definitely needs counseling.
Speaking of therapy, the last time I spoke to Jane, she told me how she grew up wanting to be a boy and later tried to smash her breasts with special bras. This time, we both embraced our femininity for a relaxed yet lively chat about her spectacular now.
Musto: Hi, Jane. Is Afternoon Delight the first time you’ve played a lesbian since Best in Show?
Jane Lynch: Let me think. It might be.
Was Best in Show your first lesbian role?
It was probably the first that America saw, but I‘ve been doing stuff with Jill Soloway for a long time. I’m sure I played a variety of people, including lesbians, in the shorts and other things we did.
Can a lesbian play a lesbian better than a straight woman?
No, it’s irrelevant. Good actors are good actors.
Your shrink character fudges the boundaries of professionalism just a little, no?
It’s narcissism on parade. The sessions always start with, “Can I share something with you?” and she goes on to regale her client, Rachel, with how fabulous her life is. By the end of the film, we find out why my lover has left me—because I’m a huge narcissist! Everybody struggles in Afternoon Delight.
One character says of yours: “She probably orgasms with her eyes wide open.”
Don’t you love that? That’s Jill Soloway, baby. She comes up with that. How can anybody orgasm with their eyes open? No one is ever present during an orgasm.
Especially my boyfriends. In other career news, I saw you on the Tonys as Miss Hannigan. I knew you could sing, but I didn’t know you could sing like that! Is Hannigan even meaner than Sue Sylvester?
I think Miss Hannigan is just as mean and hellbent on revenge, but sloppier. Sue is much more stealthy.
I think deep down, she actually likes girls and would like one of her own.
I don’t think so. I think she’d rather have a ton of cash to blow town.
Years ago, you honed your chops with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Annoyance Theater. Did you love being on Broadway?
I realized in the first moment of the first performance why I do this. It was so much fun, and I couldn’t wait to get to the theater. I fell in love with the cast and crew. What was great about it was I present for it. I wasn’t drunk or wishing I was somewhere else!
Is that how you used to behave?
I always wondered if this will get me somewhere, if it’ll get me the next job. But when in the theater, I was always in the moment.
You do realize you have arrived, don’t you?
Yes, I do. I’m fully aware I’ve arrived. [laughs]
I feel Glee is the gayest TV show in history, by the way.
Even gayer than Will & Grace? Will & Grace was pretty gay, and not just because there were gay characters, but because there was such a great celebratory feeling of the things that make us human. Glee is a very gay show, but it’s also great for kids. Any kid can watch it and see themselves portrayed on the screen. That’s something Ryan [Murphy] was adamant about—he wanted every kid to watch it and see themselves up there.
Except me. I can’t relate to anything, anywhere.
There you go.
But how could Glee be on Fox? I mean, they’re not exactly Logo.
Logo couldn’t afford this show. But Fox is a separate thing from Fox News. They literally divorced each other recently. Fox has been the network of Arrested Development and Married with Children. Very blue shows.
I hear they’re planning a live stage show of Glee. Would you be in that?
I didn’t hear that. They’ll have to ask me. And then I’ll see. I’ll think about it. [laughs]
Do you have any other projects coming up?
I did a movie called A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce), which I shot around the same time as Afternoon Delight. Stuart Zicherman, a writer for The Daily Show, directed and cowrote that, and Adam Scott is the lead.
And you play a lesbian?
I play a therapist! Actually, a woman who poses as a therapist. She’s a researcher.
I wonder if my therapist has been faking it all these years.
They’re going to write a book on Michael Musto!
Great, bring it on. Speaking of divorce, I’m so sorry to hear about yours. But is there any guilt about the fact that we fought for and got gay marriage, and now this?
We were also allowed to have gay divorce too! Where’s my parade? [laughs]
I just hope you’re OK.
I had a feeling. Mwah. Love you, lunch.
CHANNING IS A GAY’S BEST FRIEND
Another lady who’s “still crowin’, still growin’, and still going strong” is Carol Channing, and if you didn’t recognize my reference to the Hello, Dolly! lyric, you probably should stop reading this, lol. Broadway legend Carol—a seasoned gay man’s dream diva and someone the Glee characters would no doubt swoon for—appeared in Daniel Nardicio’s Icon series at the Ice Palace in Fire Island’s Cherry Grove on Saturday, interviewed onstage by Justin Vivian Bond, and it was the giddy high point of the whole gay summer.
The previous week, Chita Rivera was the Icon of the night, and when she was shown the room she was going to play, she deadpanned, “This is like an Atlantis cruise…that sunk three years ago.” (Attendees say she went on to do her usual caliber performance—a real master class that was divina to the max.) This time, Carol, 92, was even daffier than usual, which totally worked for her big-eyed, pseudo-dumb-blonde shtick. Drag star Logan Hardcore told me she and Carol had an interesting meeting at the Ice Palace during the day. “Her face was right across from my tits,” related Logan, “and she said, ‘I love your eyes!’ "
She wasn’t the only wacky chick in town. Come showtime, Justin Vivian Bond did a stunning set of love songs complete with hilariously wry banter and the admission that “I had several gin and tonics at the Tiki Bar before I met Carol at the boat, because I thought, ‘I love her so much I want to see two of her.’ ” And out came one of her—with large lashes and that megawatt smile—to a standing ovation from an audience that even knew her TV movies! More than she does herself!
But Carol was perfectly willing to plumb whatever she could remember about her life and talk about it—a lot. Justin’s opening question alone—“What was the first show you ever saw?”—prompted a 10-minute answer about where Carol wants to be buried (in an alleyway between to theaters she loves in San Francisco). And that led to a Russian song about a girl named Katrinka and her “maminka” and “papinka,” which Carol became obsessed with as a theatergoing child. As she sang it for us a cappella, I realized that only Carol Channing could serve Russian culture to a 2013 gay crowd without people throwing angry fists in the air while screaming and unfurling rainbow flags.
Carol also told us about Marilyn Monroe getting her role in the movie of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. (“She was adorable—but adorable isn’t our racket, is it?”) She sang a French song she performed at Joan Crawford’s wedding to the Pepsi guy, and Alan Cumming came up from the audience to help translate it. (It turned out to be an ode to a big banana. I’m sure Joan was thrilled.) And she blanked out about what she did in Alice in Wonderland and looked stymied when asked about the Muppets, then snapped, “I know who they are! Miss Piggy was a nightmare.”
Another high point came when audience member Tommy Tune asked Carol to do her big monologue from Hello Dolly!, and she launched into a letter-perfect version of it, complete with “Before The Parade Passes By,” as a chill swept over the room. The whole thing was a sweet and riveting lovefest, and when Bond asked Carol if she really likes raspberries--like her character in Thoroughly Modern Millie—I’m glad she didn’t hear the audience member who blurted, “She likes corn!”
Meanwhile, I like dish, so I cornered Tommy Tune to ask how his stage musical about the legendary disco Studio 54 is progressing. “Still trying to raise the fucking money!” he replied, smiling. “What happened? [Late producer] Alexander Cohen used to take care of that for me. We’ll know soon.” More immediately, he threw a fab party for Channing in his East Side NYC penthouse apartment the next night, where Carol sang “Before The Parade...” again, followed by Cinderella’s Laura Osnes and company doing a somewhat chirpier version. Tommy announced to the crowd, “Carol once told me, ‘To play Las Vegas, you must start with the finale and go up from there!’ ” I have a feeling that’s her advice for everything.
But it’s back to Glee for my finale, folks. Matthew Morrison recently told an interviewer that he’s a huge fan of the vocal prowess of Orfeh (Tony nominee for Legally Blonde and a staple on the Broadway/cabaret/film scenes). I asked the one-named dynamo for a response and she said, "I think he and I are members of a mutual admiration society. I adore Matt. He and I made our Broadway debuts in Footloose as Cowboy Bob and Rusty, respectively, and he's never let the whole Glee phenomenon change him. That's character!” Like Jane Lynch, he’s totally fine.
And so is—here's my real finale, kids—exercise guru Richard Simmons, who appeared at the incredibly gay friendly Van Dam party at Greenhouse in full drag last night (check out the picture below). Finally sweatin’ his way out of the closet?