Pictured: Tatum O'Neal | Photography by Mickey Boardman
"I'm a gay camp icon," Oscar winner Tatum O'Neal told me a couple of weeks ago, paraphrasing a recent vice.com mention about her. "So what's the campiest thing you've ever done?" I asked. "This show!" she responded, laughing.
It was a sprawling autograph show called Chiller Theatre, held twice a year in the Parsippany, New Jersey Sheraton, and Tatum was just one of the idols positioned at tables throughout the main floor and selling photos and other memorabilia to the masses. The weekend gig does have a camp element to it, especially when you bump into old starlets from 1960s monster movies walking around in very dark glasses, but mainly it's a sincere and loving chance for fans to pay back their favorite stars--literally.
In between autographs, Tatum stopped to chat, telling me it was nice to reconnect with her Little Darlings costar, Kristy McNichol, at the event. (In the 1980 movie, the two teens vied to see who could lose their virginity first, with Tatum's character fixating on camp coach Armand Assante.) "Armand wore one of those lose-weight things around his waist so he'd look thinner in the movie," remembered Tatum. "But I love and respect him," she added, with a grin.
I cornered Kristy McNichol at her own table and congratulated her on coming out after all these years. But the former star of Family and Empty Nest declined the interview. Does the little darling not want more attention paid to that subject, or maybe she didn't care to do press at an autograph-show venue? I don't know, but after I dejectedly crawled away and talked to her really nice brother Jimmy, Kristy beckoned me back to simply state her message: "Be who you are." Oh, don't worry, I am!
As such, I asked Lesley Ann Warren if Victor Victoria gave her a big gay following. "A hundred percent," she said, "But I found out that Cinderella (the 1965 TV version that she starred in) has a huge gay following." "Well, it's a musical!" I remarked, sagely. "Rob Marshall, Lee Daniels, and others have told me stories about their youth," Lesley Ann said, "and how it affected them deeply. And then Victor Victoria really shot it out of the park." Especially with Lesley Ann's line: "You two-timing son of a bitch. He's a woman!"
I avoided Good Times' Jimmie J.J. Walker because he recently lit a stick of dy-no-mite by speaking out against gay marriage. I instead chatted up porn star turned actress/singer Traci Lords, who loves the gays and extremely vice versa. "I'm grateful for my gay fans," Traci told me, dressed like a nautical imp. "A girl can never have a big enough gay following." ("Or vagina," I saucily replied, but I'm really glad she didn't seem to hear that.) Traci said John Waters' Cry-Baby is still her biggest gay draw, along with the album 1000 Fires. "People still bring that record in for me to sign," she exclaimed. "On vinyl!"
Trying to light a new fire, Mason Reese--who became famous for fudging the word "smorgasboard" as a child in deviled ham commercials--told me he's moving on to kickstarting/starring in a sitcom pilot called Life Interrupted. "And Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson in Little House on the Prairie) and Erin Murphy (Tabitha in Bewitched) play lesbians!" I hope their coitus isn't interrupted.
Noted photographer Terry Richardson was running around the place in celebration of all the above names--he's obsessed with this event--and he even stopped to take a quick pic of me and Paper's Mickey Boardman.That made us instantly famous, which means that 15 years from now, we can probably have our own table at Chiller Theatre.
But in the meantime, I ran into Kathrine Narducci--the Sopranos actress who played Frankie Valli's mother in the Jersey Boys movie--and asked how she got that part. She joked about having slept her way to it, then laughed, "No, if I was in Clint Eastwood's casting couch, he'd have a heart attack. Actually, I sent a tape of myself, and time passed, so I forgot about it. A month and a half later, I got the call. It was the same day we got the go-ahead for my new series, Power, on Starz. I play a lesbian attorney named Frankie." And Narducci told me the character will have a girlfriend soon enough, thank you. She even related one of the show's best scenes to me. A detective at the station blurts, "I just made a fresh pot of coffee. That one tastes like dick." He then notices Frankie sitting there and says, "Oh sorry." She replies: "Relax, I don't like the taste of dick either."
And finally, I got a wonderful taste of pop chanteuse Debby Boone when I asked her if her big hit, "You Light Up My Life," could be done at gay weddings. "I don't see why not," she replied, correctly. But I reminded Debby of the song's hideous back story: The songwriter, Joe Brooks, killed himself in 2011 after being charged with 11 rapes, less than six months after his son murdered a woman in a NYC hotel suite. Said Debby: "I was nervous it would put a bad color on the song, but few people had heard about all that. It kept getting worse and worse. He wrote a beautiful song. He wasn't a beautiful individual." I guess in this case, "Be who you are" wasn't the best idea. And now, I'm off to make myself a big, heaping pot of that very special coffee.
ALAN KEEPS CUMMING AND CUMMING
Let's keep up the name dropping and add some pants dropping as I reveal that Alan Cumming has a mammoth tool and is really good in bed. I already knew that--because someone told me, not because he ever wilkommed me there--but I relearned it in graphic detail by reading Josh Sabarra's new memoir, Porn Again. It's the true story of a late-blooming gay marketing exec/producer who made up for lost time and has scads of sexploits, including one or two with Alan at a time when the Scottish-born actor must have felt extra frisky. Sabbara also generously informs his readers that Johnny Weir performs some incredible triple lutzes in the sack. Did I need to know that? No, but I'm a giver and somehow I felt that you did.
THE BOYS IN THE BANK
But back to the old-time gay icons. The Dog is a fabulous documentary about the real story told in Dog Day Afternoon, the 1975 Al Pacino-starring film about John Wojtowicz, the Brooklyn man who robbed a bank allegedly to pay for his transsexual girlfriend's sex change operation. John Cameron Mitchell hosted a special screening of the film at the Maysles Documentary Center last week, where he noted that each generation deems certain people to be unbalanced, but often those are the types who make a change in the world. "After all," he quipped, "Joan of Arc was probably a psycho bitch."
And then we watched the fascinating doc, which portrays a self-possessed man who had three consecutive wives--a woman named Carmen, a transsexual woman (Ernest/Liz), and a black Irish drag queen he met in jail. But it's the middle wife--a mouthy lady with loads of charisma--who provides the impetus for the story. "I wanted a guy with big tits and a little dick," says John, "but he (Ernest/Liz) wanted to be a woman." So John staged a bank holdup and it became a historic showdown with the cops as the world watched on TV. The whole time, the gay community found him to be a terrible role model because he was obviously sick and a criminal, though the reality is also that John was gay positive, had "married" Liz in a splashy wedding, and was thrusting LGBT issues into the public's face with a vengeance, many people absorbing them for the first time. He was a psycho bitch, but his illin' behavior had an occasional good ripple to it.
After the movie, I talked to John Cameron Mitchell, who cowrote Hedwig and the Angry Inch, about a transsexual who could have desperately used a boyfriend that loving. I asked if he'd ever step into the lead role on Broadway, since he originated it years ago. After all, rumors have surfaced that he might be replacing Michael C. Hall in January. "I'm busy doing a movie," Mitchell replied. "And when I saw Neil Patrick Harris do the part and climb up all the scenery, I thought, 'This would have to be radically scaled back'," he laughed. "Plus I haven't been onstage in a show in 15 years." "Ah, it's like bike riding," I offered. "Yeah," responded Mitchell. "With the seat off!"
AROUND THE WORLD WITH 80 GAYS
Patti LuPone never loses her affinity for the art of intimate performance--or traveling. "I was born with wanderlust and a vivid imagination," said the two-time Tony winner in her Far Away Places, Part Two act at 54 Below last week. (It runs through the 15th.) "Apply your patches and take your pills," she wryly advised, "and if you start to get queasy, keep your eyes on the horizon--or just stop drinking." Well, no one got queasy. Gussied up in a snazzy tuxedo, LuPone was in tip top voice and as seductive as an aperitif as she ambiently ushered us around the globe with smoky, atmospheric, longing, rueful, and rollicking songs of foreign affairs. She smoldered on Brecht/Weill's "Surabaya Johnny," haunted on "Calling You" (from Bagdad Cafe), and rocked out on "Me and Bobby McGee." She took us to piazzas, alleyways, and cafes, and guided us to Vienna, Nagasaki, Istanbul, a supermarket in old Peking, and the Berlin ruins--everywhere but Argentina! But she gave us some delicious Latina flavor nonetheless. LuPone triumphed with her version of "Madrid" from the 2010 flop musical of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that she costarred in. With a simmering backup quartet, Patti yelped the fiery song out from her gut and made it a whooping paean to the Spanish city and a real showstopper. If they'd have let her character sing it instead of the taxi driver, Women would have been on the verge of smashing success.