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Michael Musto

Being Gay Isn’t A Choice, But Religious Intolerance Is

Jim Parsons
Jeremy Daniel

Also: Jim Parsons as God, Jinkx Monsoon as a drunken mom

Pictured: Jim Parsons and Christopher Fitzgerald in 'An Act of God' | Photo by Jeremy Daniel

In all the talk about protection of religious freedom, some critics have noted the absurdity of intolerance craving sanctity by law because it supposedly comes from God on high. Are we supposed to just take the believers' word for that? Isn't this a case of "Don't be intolerant of my intolerance. Mine comes from the heavens"? Rather than make extra sanctions protecting oppressed communities like LGBTs, we're supposed to protect the people who want to discriminate against them, simply because they have selectively read an ancient book and have decided that's the sacred thing to do?

The reality is that it's not a choice to be gay, but it is a choice to embrace a religion or to blindly back all of its supposed tenets. Even someone who may feel overcome with spirituality is free in our society to question religious elements they don't feel comfortable with if they involve an un-Christlike sense of bias. No one's forcing you to go to that particular place of worship or to follow every bit of questionable "humanity" that may be preached there.

I have no problem with religion, as long as you don't use it to beat down responsible citizens out of a sense of sanctified righteousness. Or at least be consistent about your holier-than-thou condescension. If you're going to use God's word to discriminate against gays, why don't you refuse to serve pizza to adulterers too? Or to people who sacrilegiously wear polyester blends?

Here's what Matthew 5:27-30 has to say about adultery: "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away....And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go to hell." So why aren't there a whole mess of one-eyed, one-handed people running around the red states? Because they're all monogamous? No, I sincerely doubt that; it must be because they deep-down realize that the bible uses metaphor and hyperbole and is not to be taken literally at all times. After all, if every word were absorbed as pure truth, a lot of their friends (and/or themselves) would be either enslaved or stoned to death on sight. But when it comes to gays, the bible is suddenly a literal guidebook to the Lord's ghastly desires and should be protected by law? I choose not to believe that. "God is not a homophobe," as a very wise homeless man on my block is prone to exclaim whenever I pass.

But having said all that, I also feel that gays who are not religious have a long way to go in dealing with devout people. The automatic contempt and copious assumptions that sometimes spew up is not healthy, nor is the refusal to engage these people in conversation about what could end up getting all of us to heaven on a one-way trip. Let's get to know each other, talk things out, and try to find a more reasonable means to universal sanctity. We have to shine a spotlight on our own kneejerk reactions, even if deep down we're thinking, "Well, they started it!"

Jim Parsons God


In discussing the Broadway play An Act ofGod, we can now take the religious discussion to a far more amusing (if way lower) level. In fact, the comedy -- by ex Daily Show writer/producer David Javerbaum -- seems to exist in order to ask the proverbial question, "If God came to earth as a Borscht Belt comedian, would you still worship him?" In the one-deity show, our Supreme Being appears as "beloved television star Jim Parsons" and proceeds to do approximately 90 minutes of standup in the form of jokes, quips, namedroppings, and observations, complete with celestial rim shots.

This God is weary of being associated with the 10 commandments and wants to redefine them in the flesh for all time, at top prices. So he's taken over Parsons--who wears a flowing white robe and running shoes and perches on a white couch with a chalice--and tells us the real deal about pop culture, sex, and religion in an irreverent but I must say rarely dangerous way.

He tells us why he has let some horrible things happen ("No holocaust, no Cabaret.") He remarks that Bruce Jenner is "the first Kardashian woman I can actually tolerate." He swears he's not anti gay, as the set--a design marvel centered by an awesome stairway to heaven--instantly turns rainbow colored. And when latecomers arrive, he lets them sit, but snarls, "You're all lucky I'm God and not Patti LuPone."

Christopher Fitzgerald and TimKazurinksy appear as God's winged sidekicks, who work the audience while working shtick. And our star Parsons is wryly funny, milking every possible laugh out of the material (which isn't easy when you get to stuff like, "Jesus was no pussy. Jesus was one tough son of a bitch. Jesus did not complain when he was put to death.") The result is sometimes sassy and witty, but there's a certain lameness to the proceedings, which makes you think God should probably go back to keeping up some mystery about himself.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Let's talk about a goddess -- namely Chita Rivera, the Broadway legend currently starring in The Visit, who was feted at a swanky lunch at the Four Seasons last week, filled with theater royalty bowing and scraping before her fabled feet. I happened to enter the event at the same time as Chita, who was sardonically asked "Name?" by a PR intern holding a guest list. "Rita Moreno," she deadpanned, as I spit out my gum. Interestingly, once inside, they read aloud a respectful telegram from the real Rita Moreno, and that was just the start of it. Columnist Liz Smith remembered how crusty genius Elaine Stritch had introduced her to a young Chita and predicted stardom for her. "It hurt her to predict it," added Liz, smiling. Liz also said that Chita should win the Tony for her commanding turn in The Visit, then she interjected, "But when is there any justice?" At this point, I refrained from glancing at my tablemate Montego Glover, who should have won for Memphis, as opposed to the big star who copped the trophy for A Little Night Music, but whatever.

Did I mention that I had the most fun table ever? An American in Paris' Max Von Essen was filming a vlog, so we all played around with the cotton candy dessert, putting the plate on our heads for sassy head shots. The King and I's Ruthie Ann Miles was more seriously talking about the imminent Tony telecast and saying her 30-second performance can't be cut because they need it for star Kelli O'Hara to change. Publicist Pete Sanders was remembering when Joan Collins chided him for not having photographers in the airport when she arrived in NYC to do Private Lives. When he told her his clients generally like to get off the plane unbothered, the actress replied, "But I came as Joan Collins!" The King and I's openly gay Conrad Ricamora--who's been in a steamy arc in How to Get Away With Murder ("half naked")--decided that he'll say, "I came as Conrad Ricamora," from now on. But Tony winner Harriet Harris--who's currently in the gay-themed musical It Shoulda Been You--corrected: "No. You have to say, 'I came as Joan Collins,' " and we all cracked up, laughing.

Over by another table, Something Rotten nominee Brad Oscar was holding a glass of sparkling water and cracking, "I'm so tired of not drinking at these events!" And suddenly Chita was soberly serving gratitude and telling us, "At this point in my life, I never expected to have a magnificent play and meet new phenomenal actors that make me even better." Out of respect, I took the cotton candy off my head--and just ate it.


Another goddess, Madeline Kahn, was a quirky and inspired actress/singer who was Oscar nominated for Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles and who was so good in What's Up, Doc? that after the table read, Barbra Streisand was heard to exclaim, "I'm an extra in this picture!" Well, Madeline also had an interesting romantic life, according to a wonderful new biography of her by William V.Madison. While filming the gay-themed 1980 movie Happy Birthday, Gemini, she started dating one of her costars, the 13-years-younger David Marshall Grant (who played the closety Mormon in Angels in America many years later). Grant was the love of Madeline's life, until 1984, when he sat her down and told her something--he's gay! According to the book, the compassionate actress was concerned about his happiness, while shielding him from the fact that her heart had been inexorably broken. Yikes. I knew she was a "fag hag," but I didn't realize it went that far.

There's even more evidence of that in the book. When Madeline starred in Hello, Dolly! in 1992, she hit it off with director Lee Roy Reams and told him, "Before I knew what was what in show business, you're exactly the kind of man I used to fall in love with." Reams, naturally, is a big, ole gay. What's more, when a fan in the audience told Madeline that he worshiped her, she deadpanned, "Oh, really? And how long have you been a homosexual?" I loved her, too--which really cements the case that she was a gay fave.

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Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales in 'The Vaudevillians: Bringing Up Baby' | Photo by Hunter Canning


Jinkx Monsoon loves Madeline Kahn. In fact, backstage after her new show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, Jinkx told me she aims to be a mix of Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, and Sarah Silverman, with a strong hint of Madeline. And in all her talented lunacy, she succeeds. The RuPaul's Drag Race winner is costarring with the Chaplinesque Major Scales in The Vaudevillians: Bringing Up Baby, the latest incarnation of their 1920s duo Dan and Kitty Witless, who were accidentally put on ice, then defrosted into today's pop world, which is stunned to see them.

The show is as loopy as you'd imagine, with the preggers Kitty ("I'm drinking for two now") and the closety Dr. Dan viciously bickering in between delivering a ferocious "Papa Don't Preach" and an operatic "Heart of Glass," not to mention Kitty's sexually charged lap dance with an audience member, and a climactic "Royals," with Kitty holding her newborn child, who she delightfully maneuvers around like a dazed puppet. Along the way, the two stop to chat about modern phenomena like Grindr, noting that it's nice to see a woman on there--namely, Michelle Visage. "I haven't seen Michelle since the 1920s," notes Kitty/Jinkx. "She was Michael then." A seven-year-old drag queen named Desmond was in the crowd to cheer on Jinkx, and so was the B-52s' Fred Schneider, who wrote a song for Jinkx's next album. "She could do the Jayne Meadows Story," Fred told me, referring to a quirky redheaded actress who died this year. Or The Madeline Kahn Story! That would truly be a religious experience.

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Michael Musto