Pierre Niney photographed for Out by Steeve Beckouet
A solid relationship is as hard to put together as a proper ensemble, and no one knew it like Yves St. Laurent, the visionary who revolutionized chic while maintaining a bond with his business and life partner, Pierre Bergé, complete with the right accessories.
Yves St.Laurent—the first of two features about the designer, this one authorized by Bergé—tracks YSL’s rise as a design star, as well as his bumpy yet lasting love connection, studded with side trips into sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. At the MoMA premiere of the film [opening in select cities on June 25], I asked director Jalil Lespert if Yves was fully comfortable with his sexuality. “When he was young,” Lespert said, “he was wondering if he was gay. He wasn’t sure. He was completely fascinated by Victoire Doutreleau, his first muse, but he didn’t know if it was love or just an infatuation. But I think he was deeply gay. We do know he had a few sexual experiences in Algeria, but he was very secretive at the time. But Pierre and he became a public couple in 1958. That was not easy back then.” Long before Dolce and Gabbana started whipping up patterns together.
I asked Pierre Niney, the uncanny lookalike who plays the designer, how he felt about some of the raunchier scenes in the film—scenes where what people are wearing doesn’t really matter since they’re basically not wearing anything. “I was moved and touched by the whole story,” Niney told me. “My preoccupation was to tell that story and make [the screenwriter] happy. The darker side of Yves St. Laurent had to be revealed, and there’s sexual addiction too. But what was harder than showing the backroom activity was showing the intimacy. To play intimacy with a guy he’s known for 30 years—that’s tough, whether it’s with a guy or a girl.” “Did falling in love end St. Laurent’s sexual addiction?” I wondered, batting my fashionable American lashes. “No,” Niney replied. “On the contrary. Pierre was freer with his sexuality and liberated Yves. They have a positive message to give the world—that ‘We are a gay, powerful, successful couple’.”
Over at Jersey Boys—Clint Eastwood’s film of the Broadway smash about the Four Seasons’ high-pitched problems—gay producer/writer Bob Crewe is portrayed with a giddy truthfulness that provides a strong message of its own. Mike Doyle plays the guy as a somewhat swishy but efficient force, who references Toto, Blanche DuBois (“Young man…”), astrology, and color schemes. (Crewe wants to hear things in “sky blue,” but too often is served something aurally “brown.”) In a hilarious moment, Crewe remarks on the absurdity of his having to explain the boy/girl dramatics of the song “Walk Like A Man” to the group’s most swaggering member. The guys recognized Crewe’s position in the music world, even if they had no idea what to make of him sexually. As one of the Seasons relates in the film: “It was 1959. People thought Liberace was just theatrical.”
Another theatrical gay, Jane Lynch just performed at 54 Below, where the Glee star was in such control that even Sue Sylvester would have been proud. This wasn’t one of those “And then I did…” kinds of acts. Lynch isn’t interested in telling cute career anecdotes, and in fact, Glee was never even mentioned (though she did allude to her Broadway stint in Annie and performed a full-throttle “Little Girls,” adding a remarkable “Shut the fuck up, kids!”) Jane’s mission was more to be sardonically witty as she presented “a musical journey of songs that have very little to do with one another.”
Joined for much of the act by Kate Flannery (The Office)—who added great harmonies and facial expressions—Lynch served a few standards, but mainly stretched expectations with a jazz tune (“There ain’t nothin’ like getting your cakes slapped”), a farmer’s lament (with Flannery playing “an indigenous instrument” that signified the rain), and a number from The Real Live Brady Bunch, dedicated to the late Ann B. Davis. (It was “Go Ask Alice,” with lyrics like, “Remember what Alice said. Make your bed! Make your bed!”) Lanky, larky Lynch was delightful and sounded “sky blue” throughout, and it’s a good thing she can pull this sort of thing off. As she remarked, “If I weren’t so funny and charming and gorgeous, I’d be a drain on society because I don’t have any other marketable skills!”
Photo: Joan Marcus
I AIN’T NO HOLLABACK GIRL
Not exactly a laugh fest, Holler If Ya Hear Me is way grittier than jukebox shows using the music of ABBA, the Beach Boys, and even the Four Seasons. This one works the lyrics and poetry of influential rap artist Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) into a contemporary story commenting on racism, frustration, faith, and love. The result, as directed by Tony winning Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun), is a gritty urban fantasia with dark undertones—not your everyday Broadway experience, by any means. The cast (which includes some won’t-be-unknowns-for-long, plus the always wonderful Tonya Pinkins) is talented, there are some truly potent numbers, and anything that’s so different from typical fare is worth a hard, serious look. Alas, the result seems diffuse and a bit of a bore, not really adding up to a trenchant whole. And the matinee ladies expecting Challah If You Hear Me are really going to be in for a shock. Oh, what a night!