Illustration by Ryan Casey
My recent column critiquing the 12 worst types of gay men drew a firestorm of controversy, with lots of people lining up to say that I was #13 just for writing such a thing. Well, those naysayers had better absolutely adore this column because it’s positive and appreciative and oh so loving of the good things about our community. And if you don’t, then you’re #13, nyah nyah.
And so, the 12 most fabulous types of gay guys are:
1. The ones who are aware of current political events. They don’t just think everything’s hunky dory in the world—they’re fully cognizant of crises, challenges, and debates about gay rights. These guys have a healthy sense of anger about homophobia-related issues and what’s more, they vote, attend rallies, and post opinions on developments other than the new Thom Browne window display. What’s more, they care enough about the LGBT movement that came before them to want to do an occasional search or maybe even ask someone a question about it. They might not necessarily have heard everything about Stonewall, but they want to, and I award serious points for that, as long as they do so pronto.
2. The kind who think of LGBTs as a community. They actually want to know all sorts of queers, figuring us connected in spirit, not just in name (and community centers). They even have some female friends! Including some male-to-female friends! Of a different color!
3. Guys with a wide bevy of cultural fixations. They care about things other than pop divas and reality shows. Their interests run larger than just whatever is being talked about on the most bubblegummy gossip boards. They’re free to enjoy all that stuff, mind you, as long as they drag their asses to theater, dance, opera, lectures, and museums once in a while. And not so they can cruise the ushers.
4. The kind who enjoy a wide variety of dating preferences. These guys couldn’t imagine issuing edicts like “No fats or femmes” and they certainly don’t prefer partners to be “straight acting.” Why would you want to date someone who’s acting anything? (I’d never date an actor!)
5. Queens who can joke about their bouts of stereotypical behavior. If they find themselves blurting things like, “Hey gurl, hey,” they should be able to at least stop for a second, stand back, and make a joke about it. Like, “Sorry, gurl!”
6. The ones who think heterosexuals are people, too. Mighty white of them.
7. The ones who can banter right back at you. When you say, "Celine Dion walks into a bar...," they don't go, "Really? You'd think she would have beverages in her limo!"
8. The ones who have no clue how to decorate an apartment, an earlobe, or a soufflé. They're completely lost when it comes to filling the designer shoes of a stereotypically tasteful gay. But what they do have is character, and you can't get that in a store, honey. (Oops. Sorry, honey.)
9. Muscle gays who have a healthy, casual relationship with the working out lifestyle. They don’t consider the gym a complete evening out or a real life’s goal.I’m sure it can be totally rewarding, but please take it for what it is. Whether it’s a feel-good healthy treat or merely a vain ritual, don’t think you’ve been to Mecca. It’s just the gym.
10. Disco bunnies who can surprise you on the dance floor. They know moves beyond right-foot-cha-cha-cha, left-foot-cha-cha-cha, plus an occasional fist in the air. The best gays can bust out of that routine and work a few original moves, even if some observers might think they look silly. They don’t. It’s only a boring dancer that’s shameful to be around.
11. Married men who will let you be a third wheel now and then. Just because they have a husband doesn’t mean they want to isolate themselves into a coupled life, removed from all other contact. They’ll reach out and welcome you to join in their fun out of a sincere desire to share their lives and keep the friendship going. And you should say, “I’m so there. Can I bring my husband?”
12. The kind who like to meet people in person. You know, face to face. It’s revolutionary, but it happens. (And not just ushers.)
PIA ZADORA ON GAYS, TALLULAH, AND LONELY LADY
With Pia Zadora Reloaded—her act at NYC’s Metropolitan Room, August 5-10—show biz’s feistiest petite lady sings standards and tells stories about her decidedly offbeat career. As a child, Pia Zadora starred on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof and in the cult movie Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. In the ‘70s, she emerged as the younger wife of the wildly rich Meshulam Riklis, and then the star of the campy 1981 melodrama Butterfly (for which she won both a Golden Globe and a Razzie), and the trashy The Lonely Lady, in which she played a screenwriter who sleeps her way to the top. A part as a beatnik in John Waters’ 1988 classic Hairspray proved, she could be in on the joke.
And now that the punchlines are long worn out, Pia aims to continue focusing the spotlight on what she loves doing—performing. I spoke to her as she readied for her gig.
Musto: Hi, Pia. Miss you! Tell me about the act you’ll be doing.
Pia Zadora: It’s kind of like a soundtrack of my life—where I started and how everything evolved, going to the rock roots and the opera roots and Broadway and the standard Sinatra roots. The title is not a reference to my carrying a gun or to drinking. It’s better than the original title, which was Pia Zadora’s Still Alive. My kids wanted to name it after an Elton John song: “The Bitch is Back.” I said, “Uh uh. You’re outta the will.” [laughs]
You mentioned opera. I didn’t know you had opera roots.
I come from a family of opera singers. They had a saying: “The opera ain’t over till the short lady sings.” It’s in my DNA. I never pursued it because I did Broadway, but it was a good base for me and it’s fun to show off with it because it’s impressive. In the act, I do a few bars of “O Sole Mio.” I’ll crack a few glasses. “Is it Pia or Memorex?”
What was your first Broadway show?
Midgie Purviswith Tallulah Bankhead. She was what I always wanted to be and what I decided to be. She was my first strong influence. She took charge. She had an amazing touch of humor. She spoiled the crap out of me, and I connected with her and decided I wanted to follow in that brave strong woman footstep. She’d do crazy things. She’d come in on her day off dressed like a bag lady and cause a little skirmish, then disrobe herself and say, “Dahling, it’s me.” She taught me to always be who you are and don’t let anyone eff with you. That’s been my M.O.
You’d have to be strong, considering some of the things you’ve been through in your career.
The Lonely Lady, all that stuff was kind of abberant, but I went along doing what I could do. “OK, you’re a comedian and a singer and that’s what you need to be doing.” [Pia ultimately toured with Sinatra, got credibility, remarried, and had a third child, who she told me has some special needs. She took time off, then started missing “channeling my inner diva,” so she took to stages again.]
So Butterfly and Lonely Lady were basically stepping stones for you?
I don’t know what the hell they were. Butterfly really threw me out there-- whether it was the controversy part, the incest part. Whatever it was, it made me a household name. I’m sure you’re old enough to remember that I became Johnny Carson’s answer to Rula Lenska. “Who the hell is Rula Lenska? “Who the hell is Pia Zadora?” Nobody knew who I was and all of a sudden I win the Golden Globe [for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture]. It was a huge category—for the person who made the biggest impression on the screen, male and female. It’s lucky I was tenacious and I had the Tallulah influence imbedded in me. It was surreal. Sort of like the nervous breakdown scene in Lonely Lady, on the typewriter.All the shit goes in front of you. “What is this? Who am I now?”
And later on, you got to do Hairspray.
I loved that. John Waters is just great. That and Naked Gun 33 1/3 are the only ones I enjoyed. The other ones were tortuous. With Lonely Lady, the script, director, and concept were bad. With Butterfly, I had Stacy Keach and Orson Welles, and I played a trollopy, brazen little girl. That wasn’t that torturous.
You’re a tough survivor.
You gotta be. I have a great life, a great husband. I’m married to a Las Vegas cop. We met when I had a stalker… We had a blind date, and two weeks later we were engaged.
Do you feel you’re a gay icon?
I do. I feel there’s a connection there. I think it’s because of my image of a diva. I sing “The Man That Got Away” and “I Am What I Am.” They’re wonderful audiences, and I feel at home in their presence. I hope it’s mutual.
It is. By the way, you had an incident last year, where you were arrested for some violence. I hope everything’s OK with your family.
Somehow I knew you would ask that. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I came home, and my 33-year-old stepson was in the backyard. I couldn’t get him to go home, so I hosed him down. He got upset…I told my 16-year-old son, “You need to go to bed.” The 33-year-old, 300-pound [son] one-handed him the phone and said, “Just dial 911.”… Next thing I know, Jordan is on the phone saying, “My mother’s a crazy woman, running around the house with a gun.” Next thing you know, the police were there.
Everything was dropped. I scratched the back of his ear when I grabbed the phone. It was misunderstood—a family crazy thing that went haywire. The kids decided to get smart and call 911 because I turned the hose on them. Just another chapter in the book. The hard part was the mug shot: “Really, you’re gonna arrest me, and there’s no hair and makeup?” For one day, I was the most trending person in the world, even though I was behind bars. I’m trending behind bars. That’ll be the title of my book! I’ll get John [Waters] to write it for me!
On a much lighter note: What is the opening number in your act?
I played Bonnie in Applause. They changed it to Pia. I always wanted to play Margo, but I wasn’t mature enough. So I’m doing “But Alive” from Applause. Last week, there was an Internet post that I was dead. A lot of people think I’m dead.
Well, Pia Zadora’s Still Alive. I can’t wait to see your show.
I’m at the point now where I have fun with everything I do. And I’ll buy you a Pia-tini. It’s a signature drink—a martini with two onions, an olive in the middle, and no splash of water because that’s what got me arrested.
Make me a virgin.
I’ll make it with Perrier.