Randy Rainbow—yes, his real name—has stuck himself in some videos lampooning Broadway and politics, and struck gold in the process. A theater queen with a taste for deftly mocking societal absurdities, Randy has scored with clips for Broadwayworld.com in which he has imaginary yet hilarious chats with Broadway stars, and for his YouTube channel and Facebook page, where he deflates political weirdnesses, most notably faux-moderating the first Trump/Clinton debate by asking Donald, “Do you need a tissue?” and wondering, “ ‘Braggadocious’—is that even a word?” That leads to a zippy new version of “Supercalifraglistic…,” which quickly went through the roof, clicks-wise. This guy is a hoot and a half, so I wanted to get him on the phone and see what makes his mind tick.
Hi, Randy. Were you always into politics?
Not always. I was always interested in hot topics—mostly celebrity stuff, and over the past two years I’ve caught up with the political thing. This last election cycle, I can’t stop following what’s going on, it’s like a circus. I make statements through humor. I’m doing it about politics right now because that’s the hot button issue, but I like to go to the thing everyone is going crazy over and getting worked up about and put a pin in it and deflate it a little bit. An equal part of my Facebook likes are left as they are right. They all say, “I don’t necessarily agree with you, but thanks for making me laugh.” That’s my intention. To calm the fuck down, take a step back, and laugh at it a little bit because if you don’t, you cry.
You don’t block Trump voters?
Unless they say horrible things, no. Everyone is welcome on my fan page, but they’ve got to stay in check. Out of 200,00 likes, I have a block list of only 11 or 12 people. The trolls are not as bad as you would think, volume-wise. I get a lot more positive than negative, considering the nature of my videos.
Your debate video got the most clicks ever, right?
Yes, it got 28 million views in two days. It was on a lot of websites, and all the Facebook shares. My numbers on Facebook are the most impressive as of late. All the political stuff, the last eight or so have broken a million. The Music Man parody broke five million. [It’s a funny spoof called “Ya Got Trump Trouble!”)
Do you start with the footage and then immerse yourself?
People always ask me how I come up with the song parody ideas. “What would make you think of The Music Man or Mary Poppins?” That’s how I think. I’m a true show queen. And I think in show tunes. When Trump said the word “braggadocious,” that was my lightbulb moment and I thought Mary Poppins. Then I watch the actual footage of the debate and listen to the rhythm of it and see how I can insert myself in the most absurd, obnoxious way.
I love the video you did of Patti LuPone reciting her memoir.
That’s one of my most popular things that I do. I’ve always been fascinated with lipsynching in general. When I was a kid…remember Barbra’s Just For The Record boxed set? It had a collection of all her stuff from the ‘60s, including award acceptance speeches. I’d sit in front of the mirror and lipsynch to Barbra Streisand’s Emmy speech.
Were you always a cutup growing up in south Florida?
You could say that. I was always putting on shows in the backyard. I’d always play the girl part. I did musical theater as a kid. For college, I went to Orlando for a hot minute, but dropped out to work on a cruiseship, singing and performing.
Did you aspire to be a Broadway actor?
That’s always been a part of me. I’ve always wanted to be a performer. But when I moved to New York, I put everything on hold and had to grow up a little bit. I worked in producers’ offices and p.r. I was always around it, but never participated. Once I was a receptionist, I was so bored, I started blogging. I was Richard Frankel’s receptionist for a couple of years.
What tickles you about Broadway that makes you want to lampoon it?
Everything. I’m old school with the Broadway stuff. I’m always talking about Patti or having fake conversations with Carol Channing. I like the old, grandiose fabulosity of Broadway that you don’t see so much of anymore. Merman, Stritch, LuPone, Streisand…those are my girls.
I enjoyed your Chick-fil-A video too. [He sings and camps up a storm as an untraditional worker at the homophobia palace.]
Thank you. You wrote it up. You called it “the gayest thing since spandex kneepads.” I‘ve been using that as a pull quote ever since.
Speaking of which: What’s happening in your love life?
Oh my God, nothing. Please direct people to my online profiles. I’m telling myself I’m focused on my career right now, which is what people say when they want to make something happen, but I’m available.
Have you had long term relationships?
I didn’t know we were going to go there, Michael.
You don’t have to answer.
Oh, I’ll answer. I’m really not a long relationship person.
Then you’re doing fine!
I’m good. I’m perfectly happy.
ALMODOVAR AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS HAVE NEW MOVIES
I’m happy too, since a spate of films with LGBT connections has been coming at us via the New York Film Festival, and even some others, so we can check out how the other half live, lol. Here are some of the arthouse-ready highlights I’ve witnessed so far:
*Gay Spanish director Pedro Alomodovar’s Julieta—based on Alice Munro stories—is a hypnotic journey into broken bonds, and it's great to see Rossy de Palma seep even more into her unique character mode in a supporting role. At the festival, Almodovar said about the film, "I wanted to be very austere, and that was a huge adventure for me as a storyteller." He added that the film deals with the mystery of the central daughter/mother abandonment, "and more broadly about how we come to abandon the people that we love." Well, Almodovar isn't abandoning his love of cinema—he said Neruda (about an investigation into the famed Chilean poet) is the best film he's seen this year—and by the way, he happens to be praying for Hillary to win.
At a party for Neruda the next night, I talked to that film’s director, Pablo Larrain, about Almodovar’s comments. He said, “Filmmakers don’t talk about other filmmakers very often. It was a very beautiful surprise. As a Latin American, I grew up with his movies. It’s more than a filmmaker—it’s a concept.” And he was planning to have lunch with that very concept a few days later.
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, is one of the most pungently affecting show biz docs I've ever seen, not to mention a celebration of two gay icons, as directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens. In the HBO film, caustically funny Carrie Fisher is shown basically becoming the parent to her mom, movie legend Debbie Reynolds, and even to her dad, singer Eddie Fisher, who's seen three months before his death, as Carrie opens up about how much she craved his validation and they share some belated love. "Age is horrible for all of us," notes Carrie, "but [Debbie] falls from a greater height." Debbie's own mom, Maxine Reynolds, is quoted contending that her daughter was only gifted with brains in her dancing ankles—though she does concede that Debbie loves what she does. Alas, Debbie has to finally face the reality that she's advanced in years to the point where she needs to put down the tiara. She retires, rallying to get a SAG honor and turning on her charm on command for the spotlight. Her son Todd Fisher also adds to the humor and wisdoms, and the net result has you adoring these funny, flawed, indomitable people.
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is a stately and moving portrait of a janitor (Casey Affleck) who becomes guardian of his nephew (Lucas Hedges), both characters—and in fact, all the characters—engaging in a battle of wills that has them pushing each other away in their grief while awkwardly reaching out for comfort. At the Festival, Lonergan said Matt Damon was originally slated to direct and star, but he had to bow out because of scheduling, graciously agreeing to make way for Affleck (who’s great, as is Hedges and all the others). Particulary memorable are Hedges’ frozen chicken freakout and Michelle Williams’ attempted reconciliation with Affleck.
NYC DRAG RESTAURANT IS 20!
Photo of Gusty Winds at Lips by Gino Kuo
Every drag queen on earth reconciled with every other one at the gala 20th anniversary bash at Lips restaurant, a drag haven that started in the Village and morphed up to the East Side. At the event, Ginger Snaps, Rajene, Frankie Cocktail, All Beef Patty, Jesse Volt, and so many others were in their finery; Porsche told me the burned-down Grove Hotel on Fire Island is en route to coming back, maybe by July; and when I asked Peppermint if she’s indeed transitioning, she laughed that it was an old rumor and said she wouldn’t confirm or deny. Lips’ owner, Yvonne Lame, did confirm that there are now Lips restaurants in New York, San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale, and Atlanta, and next year there will be one in Chicago too—this is apparently the new Chipotle! And performer Gusty Winds told me, “I’m the first Lips waitress ever to get a two-day suspension. For conduct unbecoming a drag queen.” Meaning good behavior, lol? “I think it included a patron, a bathroom, and a busboy,” she said. “Sort of like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. A hustler came in. I proceeded to take care of him in the bathroom. And a busboy followed me to the back of the bathroom and was ready to rat me out to the manager. As a pre-emptive strike, I went and confessed my sins. I was suspended for two days, but they said I could pick the shifts I’d miss. I picked the next two Mondays because Monday is the slowest night at a restaurant.” And that’s why drag queens run so long. They’re freakin’ intuitive.
GETTING STUFFED WTH LISA LAMPANELLI
I recently caught up with caustically funny comic Lisa Lampanelli on the set of the long running TV program Theater Talk, and she told me she loved Hamilton so much, she can’t bear to see any other show because she'd feel like she's cheating on Hamilton. She’s so enamored of the Tony winning hit, she's even wondered why there isn’t a lesbian version called Clamilton. One musical she loathes, though, is Rent. Smirked Lampanelli, "It made me hate struggling artists. Get a day job! I was glad some of them died."
Photo of Lisa Lampanelli & Michael Musto
Fortunately, Lampanelli has her own play—Stuffed, which is running off-Broadway—concerning food and body issues women have been forced to deal with their whole lives. Lampanelli, Ann Harada, Jessica Luck, and Zainab Jah star in the play, which started as a one-woman show, but Lampanelli developed it into a fuller play to include broader concerns. It’s a breezy, candid, insightful look at four women exchanging their feelings about food and weight, in between isolated monologues giving back stories. Lampanelli’s lines particularly zing—“Weight Watchers, as in ‘Wait, watch her gain it all back’ ”—but there’s also pathos and feeing to make this a full meal, smoothly directed by Jackson Gay. And by the way, Lampanelli has real acting chops. As far as Orifice Theater goes, Stuffed is much higher up than The Vagina Monologues. (And I loved The Vagina Monologues.)
IF WE TOOK A “HOLIDAY”
A bonafide showstopping number is upon us in Act One of Holiday Inn, when the cast explodes into an ebullient version of “Shakin’ The Blues Away,” complete with happy dancing and precision jumproping. (In Act Two, Corbin Bleu gets to do a pretty fun firecracker routine. Denis Jones did the choreography.) The 1942 Astaire/Crosby movie with Irving Berlin music has been reimagined with a new book (by director Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge), dealing with a song and dance man (Bryce Pinkham) who retreats to a farmhouse and ends up battling the familiar wisdom, “Do you know what happens in Connecticut? Nothing!” But in the ultimate “Let’s-put-on-a-show” tradition, the title spot becomes a home for holiday-based productions, which leads to “Easter Bonnet” and “Song of Freedom”—and the show naturally, incorporates “White Christmas,” which the movie famously introduced. Along the way, there are shifts in his romance with blonde showgirl (Megan Sikora) and an attraction for the very single teacher Linda (Lora Lee Gayer), all of its pretty synthetic. But even if this is basically a tourist-driven piece of fluff, it occasionally winks at the clichés rather than just embracing them, and I liked Sikora as the Betty Grable-like showgirl who wants to be normal, but not until she becomes famous first, and Megan Lawrence, who’s a riot as Louise, “the fix it man.” And since the show borrows from Hollywood, it makes sense that it climaxes there. The result isn’t exactly Hamilton; it’s sometimes blandish, if generally entertaining. And unlike White Christmas, it can play at any time of the year.