In the gay mecca of Provincetown, Massachusetts, last week, the weather was glorious and the place was hopping with hot guys--and I spent the whole time indoors at screenings! Another act of masochistic maladjustment?
The Pedro film turned out to be a minor diversion--a pastel-colored trifle of sexual liberation under pressure--but the scare-in-the-air scenario, as it affects swishy flight attendants, closeted pilots, and a mixed bag of customers, all on "ass-packed mescaline," leads to one classic scene. It's when the flight attendants elaborately lipsynch the Pointer Sisters hit of the title to distract everyone aboard from panic. Picture Priscilla in the sky and you'll understand why this bit stays deliriously airborne. But the film could have definitely used a cross-eyed Karen Black type to help land the plane!
Two documentaries in the fest redefined "excited" by looking back at the glory days of '70s hedonism, and somehow I ended up in both of them. ("Those who can't, teach" as they famously say.) Jeffrey Schwarz's I Am Divine is a sweet tribute to the late, plus-sized drag actor who could wear an acid-scarred face while rubbing a fish between his legs and jumping on a trampoline. Multi-tasking has never been so glam. Among the film's eyebrow-raising revelations about the punk-trash goddess: Divine had a girlfriend for a long time (and she still pines for him); he went on to date porn performer Leo Ford; and Divvy resented Ricki Lake for being John Waters' new leading lady (in 1986's Hairspray, with Divine in that supporting role as mom Edna). But the two butterballs warmed to each other, and Lake remembers Divine affectionately urging her, "Let's share a pie! Let's eat a roast!"
They ate other things at the Continental Baths, which were sort of the original Grindr, minus all the annoying small talk. Malcolm Ingram's film Continentalexplores the legend of the uptown NYC 1968-'75 bathhouse, which hosted not only in-and-out action, but separate-admission sitdown experiences in the form of electrifying shows by future legends like Bette Midler and Labelle. The baths' owner, Steve Ostrow, says Midler was a "frumpy little redhead girl" who became utterly magical under a spotlight. "She was an emasculating woman," he adds in the doc. "Still is! But we got along because I could scream louder than she could."
At the fest, director Ingram spoke softly when he revealed that Midler declined to be in the film, but he decided that was OK when he realized that Ostrow's story should be the focus anyway. He said he didn't even try to interview Bette's then-accompanist Barry Manilow, because "You're not going to be able to talk honestly with Barry Manilow about the Continental Baths, so why fucking bother?" Besides, he's probably busy making a biopic with Steven Soderbergh, lol.
Even some non-docs on the schedule dabbled in '70s sexuality, like Lovelace,Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's glimpse at porn star Linda Lovelace's fascinating fusion of liberation and oppression. At a meet-and-greet, Epstein said Lovelace was "the genie that brought [porn] out of the bottle" whereas Friedman called her "in some ways the first reality star." But while Lovelace's starmaking classic--Deep Throat--is a nonstop hummer's holiday, the directors explained that Lovelace is an R movie that couldn't show oral action up close. (You don't see head; you see the backs of heads.) Still, Epstein said star Amanda Seyfried was willing to go the distance for the role. In fact, "She was hungry for it!"
Ravenous for entertainment, I stayed at the Crown and Anchor, the sprawling P-town complex with a hotel, restaurant, video bar, leather club, and two cabaret rooms that helped mix up my screening-heavy getaway, thank you. In one of them, lesbian comic Kate Clinton was slick and funny, talking about how it kills her that Dubya Bush wears a helmet when riding a bike. ("What is he protecting?") Clinton was way nicer about her marital partner, Urvashi Vaid, though she's reluctant to use the word "wife" because it summons the old gripes about our patriarchal society. "So I call her my Wi-Fi hotspot," she asserted.
Hyperactive bachelorettes fill the Crown & Anchor's Illusions drag revue audience, and they get a helluva show, hosted by quick-mouthed Anita Cocktail. Lively impersonators strut through the crowd as Cher, Celine, Gaga, Aretha, Pink...everyone but the Pointer Sisters, as the gals squeal over everything, even rimming jokes! The whole town, in fact, mixes gay and straight cultures with a minimum of fuss or self-consciousness. It's positively sick, I tell ya.
PRIDE, A DEEPER LOVE
But back to the all-gay scenario of NYC, where I spent Pride Week looking for a Wi-Fi hotspot. I didn't land one, but I did spot Cher--the real one--at the Brandon Voss/Justin Luke/Susanne Bartsch Q party at Marquis, after waiting so long for her to emerge that I thought the Gaga duet might be on again.
At 2:25 A.M., Cher finally appeared like the virgin at Lourdes, glowing in the club's balcony in a glittery gold outfit and a perfectly practical tiara. Just then, a procession of drag queens took the downstairs stage to impersonate her, and she stood beaming down at them in the year's most surreal image: Cher smiling at drag queens smiling at Cher in a gender blur that was perfect for Pride and proved that, though it's a "woman's world," some men can get into the act if they tuck really hard.
Coming back down to earth, I put a fish between my legs and helped judge Queer and Sober's Mr. Sobriety contest, where any "ass packed mescaline" in the house stayed packed. And what a show! Anonymous was a great contestant, and so was Anonymous, but they both paled next to the incredible winner...Anonymous! Drag judge Gusty Winds, sardonic hosts the Parodivas, and I evaluated the guys based on talent, formalwear, swimwear, and abstinence, and though we all would have looked better after a few drinks, I'm thrilled that everyone stayed sober. It's so much healthier to just share a pie and eat a roast!