Brace yourself for the shocker of last night’s Tony awards: There are gay people in the theater! Even openly gay people! And they’re talented! Congrats to the LGBT winners, including Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s Neil Patrick Harris, A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder’s director Darko Tresnjak, and After Midnight’s Warren Carlyle, who won for choreography. I hope next season they collaborate on The Gentleman’s Guide To Your Angry Inch After Midnight, while somehow working in that light-loafered genie character fromAladdin.
But let me start at the Astaire Awards last Monday, where prize winner Warren Carlyle thanked “the love of my life, Justin Bowen, for dancing by my side.” He meant metaphorically. Carlyle told me that he and Justin met three years ago while working on Chaplin. “It was the only time I was distracted,” he smilingly added, about first noticing the guy. So Justin’s an actor/dancer? “He’s an actor/singer,” Carlyle replied, then interjected, “He moves extremely well.” Just then, Bowen came over—moving well indeed—so I asked the guys if they’ll get married, feeling like some old-school Hedda Hopper type, but in a whole new terrain. Weighted pause. “Yes! Yes!” said Carlyle. “You’ve got to come to the ceremony!” Sorry, I’m busy going to another Tony award winner’s wedding that night. Kidding. So there.
But back to the Tonys, which were splashy, witty, and wise, with so many LGBT bits it was almost like a televised version of the pier dance on Gay Pride. Between Alan Cumming’s Cabaret MC pinching chorus boys and Harris kissing hubby David Burtka twice (once as Hedwig), the show was so gay it turned me straight! Add glowingly attractive presenters like Matt Bomer, RuPaul, Zach Quinto, and his ex Jonathan Groff, and I turned gay again.
At the after-party at the Plaza, I caught up with Reed Birney, who’d been nominated for playing a viperish cross dresser in Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina. “At least you lost to another drag queen,” I cracked, meaning Mark Rylance for his Olivia in Twelfth Night. “That’s not comforting at all,” he replied, laughing. More seriously, he said the show needed the awards to survive, adding, “We’ll close now.” But then he switched gears to a more pressing matter, wondering, “Do you know where the lobster rolls are?”
And there was that giant, cuddly crustacean Fierstein himself at the after party at the Carlyle thrown by O&M Co., the red-hot publicity firm which did P.R. for all four Best Musical nominees. Rather than ask about closing, I congratulated Harvey on the play, as he exclaimed “Mary!” and hugged me back. “So,” he said, smiling. “Last year you didn’t like heterosexual transvestites.” (He was referring to our little spat over whether the Kinky Boots character was really hetero.) “But in the Catskills, yes!” I declared, laughing, to bury the hatchet—hopefully in somebody else.
At the party, I talked to O&M Co’s Prez, p.r. whiz Rick Miramontez, who said it was the most laven-delicious Tonys in history. “Even more so than when Carol Channing won!” I declared. “Tommy Tune wasn’t there,” said Rick, “and Harvey and Terrence McNally didn’t win, but it was still the gayest Tonys ever. Is that good?” he wondered. “Depends on the ratings,” I laughed.
It also happened to be a stunning celebration of African American rights, thanks to wins by Audra McDonald, All The Way (about President Johnson’s fight to pass the landmark civil rights bill), and Lorraine Hansberry’s legendary play A Raisin in the Sun, which beat the drag-laden Twelfth Night for Best Revival and copped two other major awards.
I only didn’t thrill to the Sting performance from The Last Ship, which looks like it’ll be Billy Elliot meets Titanic, lol. And I was glad 86-year-old Estelle Parsons didn’t win or she would have had to hop around like a lunatic for the finale and plotz!
By the way, Audra McDonald’s passionate acceptance speech was deserving of a seventh Tony. And there’s no truth to the rumor that Angela Lansbury plans to mount musicals of every single Murder She Wrote episode in an attempt to topple Audra’s record.
Here’s another free tidbit, heard on my not so sour grapevine: There’s buzz that Emma Stone will play Broadway legend Gwen Verdon in the HBO version of dance king Bob Fosse’s life. And apparently she won’t need The Help in singing and dancing.
Meanwhile, two old-time Tony winners just hit the stage to show why they’re prize worthy. At 54 Below, Leslie Uggams reminded us that she’s a sublime stylist with a honeyed vibrato, from her “Some People” served without bitterness to a “Hello, Young Lovers” with just a jazzy drum accompaniment. She also soared in saluting Lena Horne, whom she played in Stormy Weather, a show that broke records out of town—“and hopefully before I’m in a walker, we’ll get to do it here in New York.” Meanwhile, Uggams will definitely star in Gypsy at Connecticut Repertory Theatre, and gushed, “I’m the first little chocolate brownie to do Mama Rose!”
Most deliciously of all, she recounted the tale of her messing up the lyrics to “June Is Busting Out All Over” at a live, televised concert outside the Capitol in the 1990s. It had rained and the man with the cue cards fell into the mud, prompting Uggams to fake the whole thing as she paraded around, finishing the song with sheer gibberish. Two weeks later, a friend alerted her that a video of her messup “is on the wall of every gay bar in town.” I wanted to yell out, “It still is!”
At the Roundabout, Just Jim Dale is busting out all over, as the chipper Brit tells career anecdotes with the energy of someone who would never thrive and bloom living life in a living room. The man has done everything from writing the novelty hit “Dick-a-Dum-Dum” to narrating the Harry Potter audio books (which, he admits, was hard to do with him nervously jiggling his leg a lot). Dale’s Broadway peak was starring in 1980’s Barnum, several songs from which he includes in the show. And the three rings come full circle with the news that Neil Patrick Harris wants to do a revival of Barnum. Just like Dale, he’ll play it as a man.
Now, step right up to the dazzling carnival of movie star gossip and get your darts ready. I’ve long known Skip E. Lowe as the public access interviewer who gushes over all manner of stars and who was allegedly part of the inspiration for Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick character. I had no idea the guy had a sexual past that could outdo a Kardashian. Lowe’s new book, Hollywood Gomorrah: Sex Lives of the Hollywood Stars, is clearly an answer to Full Service, that epic 2012 tome about the secret sexploits of screen icons. Lowe spills lots of wild stories himself, and you might want to take them with a grain of, I don’t know, decaf coffee. Like:
- Lowe was once asked by an exotic dancer friend to buy her a cucumber. It ended up being used by the lady on a submissive Marlon Brando, as Lowe dutifully watched. I guess it was an offer Brando couldn’t refuse.
- Playwright Tennessee Williams had an obsessive foot fetish. I guess he should have written A Feetcar Named Desire.
- "Troy Donahue,” writes Lowe, “claimed he was straight but was only interested in men when he was drunk.” Well, the actor must have been absolutely smashed when, according to Lowe, he started pleasuring the author one night. “I immediately asked Troy to stop,” insists Lowe. Hmm, is that really what Sandra Dee would have done?
- Late-period Monty Clift, wandering drunkenly on the street after coming out of a gay bar, was helped home by Lowe. There, Monty forcefully shoved his penis in Skip E.’s mouth. “Or tried to,” to quote the book. “Alcohol kept Monty from getting a full hard-on despite my enthusiastic efforts.” Cheers, small ears.
- David Carradine used Lowe to procure a transsexual sex partner, whom the actor wanted to be slapped around by. She obliged, for a price.
- Cesar Romero told Lowe that he used to have sex with Tyrone Power. Now that’s a movie I would have paid to see. And it should definitely be a Broadway musical too!