In the Wake of Tragedy, The Tony Awards Celebrated Diversity: 'Hate Will Never Win'
Also: Ronan Farrow On Hillary’s Goof and Trans Bathroom Right
June 13 2016 10:24 AM EST
June 14 2016 11:46 PM EST
Also: Ronan Farrow On Hillary’s Goof and Trans Bathroom Right
The horrifying massacre in the Orlando gay club Pulse early Sunday truly took a lot of the urgency out of "Best Lighting in a Musical goes to..." But the Tony Awards kept going, dedicating the telecast to the families and friends of those affected, and managing to keep celebrating Broadway, which made sense to me since it's all about diversity, culture, and freedoms that we cherish. But as a chill crept over the proceedings--even as some of the self-congratulators willfully ignored current events--I thought, "Wow, the deranged shooter must have really hated gays to mess with my poor Tonys" (not to mention Gay Pride month). It really redefines American Psycho.
Before I get to the specifics of the Tonys, let me say how awful it is to hear certain political sectors follow the biggest shooting in American history with cries of, "We need more guns!" Ironic much?
May I dare to also bring up the fact that gays can give their blood while being slain by a homophobic psycho with weapons, but they're not allowed to give blood to save lives in the same situation!
Let me also say that anyone who uses religion (or anything else) to propagate discrimination is partly to blame for the air of bigotry that fuels this sort of wanton attack. I'm tempted to tweet Kim Davis--the Kentucky clerk who gleefully refused to perform same-sex weddings because it went against her "good book"--"Get thee to a nail salon, babe. You've got blood on your hands!"
And let me take you to the inspiring rally in front of the Stonewall Tavern in NYC last night, where commentator Ann Northrop told the mournful crowd, "This did not happen in a vacuum. LGBT people are being killed every day in this city, this country, and all over the world. One of the reasons is what our politicians and religious leaders teach. We must confront them, we must object to what they say, we must organize and vote against them. And we can triumph over this hate."
And now, let me align with the Tonys in recapping the night, all with an eye to soldiering on, while praising the work of theatrical LGBTs and everyone else.
This season, LGBT material surfaced in The Color Purple, The Humans, FullyCommitted, School of Rock, and, yes, American Psycho. There was also the gay smear in the revived drama A View From The Bridge, which was pretty progressive for the 1950s in that it further revealed the perpetrating character's dementia.
Here's a gay-by-play account of the highlights of the Tonys (or, as wags dubbed them, the Hamiltonys).
8 PM: The telecast started with a pre-taped speech by host James Corden assuring us that theater welcomes everyone, and "hate will never win." After some musical fun with the Hamilton cast, he re-emerged to say, "Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity. It's so diverse that Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theater." He then did a raucous, quick-change medley that spanned Funny Girl, Gypsy, and Dreamgirls. And he's straight! At one point, Corden sang out "to the boys and girls, transgenders too..." But transgenders are boys and girls. He meant well.
8:47: In accepting Best Score, Lin-Manuel Miranda referenced "senseless acts of tragedy," said "hope and love last longer," and soared with "Love is love is love is love is love..."
9 PM: Gay director Ivo van Hove (A View From The Bridge) thanked gay producer Scott Rudin and mentioned bi icon David Bowie. Just sayin'.
10 PM: Best Actor FrankLangella (TheFather): "I urge you, Orlando, to be strong because I'm standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on earth and we will be with you every step of the way."
10:06 PM: A commercial for the anti-gay Chick-fil-A! On the Tonys! That's like the Klan advertising on BET! Hate is hate is hate is hate....
11:01PM Former host Neil Patrick Harris was briefly on, sporting a cutely bald noggin. He looked like a replacement in The King and I! And he made that same joke!
11:05 PM Audra McDonald is not a gay man. She got the pronunciation of Laura Benanti wrong. But she was correct when pronouncing The Color Purple's Cynthia Erivo for Best Actress in a Musical. Erivo won for playing the liberated Miss Celie, who leaves her male oppressor for the sexy siren Shug Avery. At the Drama Desk Awards party last week, I asked Erivo if she felt Celie is bisexual. She said she's wondered about that, sometimes thinking the character is bi, but generally feeling that she's straight but falls for a woman. "She's gotten nothing from meanness from men," said Erivo, "and a woman comes along who's kind to her, so she falls in love with her". I guess Celie was the original Anne Heche.
11:10 PM: The gayest Tony moment of all: Barbra Streisand emerged, looking like a door knocker shaped like a lion--no, make that a dandy lion. Said Babs, "Our joy is tinged with sorrow." But she was primarily there to spread joy and announce that Hamilton won Best Musical. If you were surprised by that choice, you probably think Trump's tax forms will reveal him to be a great philanthropist. And already I'm getting gossip for next season: JackieHoffman, who was in Hairspray!, Xanadu, and On the Town, tweeted, "Learned a song today from MarcShaiman. Not too shabby." I'm guessing that means she's landed a part in the imminent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with a score by Shaiman/Wittman)--and that she'll finally be nominated. A role in the Mary Poppins sequel would also be divine; it costars Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I went to the after party at the Plaza and the DKC/O&M bash at Baccarat Hotel & Residences and chatted up some of the head spinning notables. I told SergioTrujillo, nominated for choreographing the Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet!, that the swirling medley they did from the show on the Tonys was a wow, and sure to sell mucho tickets. "That number doesn't exist in the show," he said, explaining that it was cobbled together and reconceived. "We had to make those two and a half minutes count!"
I asked OITNB's Lea DeLaria if the Tonys were dykey enough for her. "It could have been a little more dykey," she smiled, "but we have the Obies for that, honey!"
And finally, I asked The Color Purple's nominated Danielle Brooks--who's fab as Sofia--for her thoughts on the stupefying shooting spree. "It's so awful," she said. "What else can you say? That's why we need to tell stories that matter." Like a woman's awakening? "It's more than that," she said. "The story talks about LGBT issues--two women falling in love with each other. It's unfortunate that someone feels they need to take someone else's life. It reminds us every day to be grateful we have life."
"TAKE MY CANCER...PLEASE!"
Off-Broadway is alive too. Halley Feiffer's comedy A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To The Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City is a dark and often funny look at some highly unlikely bedfellows in a cancer ward. Marcie (the wonderful LisaEmery) is sleeping off her surgery while her standup comedian daughter, Karla (an eager BethBehrs from 2 Broke Girls), loudly works out outrageous new material involving rape and vibrators. Across the curtain in the next bed is the dying Geena (JacquelineSydney), whose middle-aged son Don (EricLochtefeld) doesn't want to hear the racy comedy bits, instead preferring some decorum and respect for the two sick women. He and Karla go antagonistic on each other, but before you know it, he's eating her out in the wheelchair-accessible bathroom as her delighted moans contrast with those of the ailing Geena. One of Feiffer's favorite themes happens to be a running thread here--the importance of parent-child communication and the roadblocks that get in the way of achieving that. (Her real life dad is satirical cartoonist Jules Feiffer.) The separated Don has a son who barely speaks to him, except through occasional long texts, while Marcia routinely cuts down Karla, being the kind of person who watches L.A. Law to relax. The manic young comedian is anxious for a pat on the back, and while the play sometimes strains, Feiffer deserves such a pat for giving a healthy edge to a potentially sitcom situation.
HOT IN CLEVELAND
Pat Cleveland on the cover of Vanity Fair, 1971
A funny thing happened on the way to the Mao PR party at the Jane Street Hotel for ageless supermodel Pat Cleveland; I bumped into Calvin Klein! Nothing comes between me and my Calvin, but I kept going and found a fashion frolic filled with glitterati like KennyKenny, MarcBalet, PatrickMcDonald, and of course Pat Cleveland, who was beaming, her entire life flashing before her. The woman--a pioneering African American model--is also a poet, performer, author (her new memoir is Walking With The Muses), and life presence who's defied every stereotype about the fashion biz by doing things her way. At the peak of the night, Zac Posen marched to the top of a steep stairway to say, "She changed fashion. She changed the world." And out came Pat, swanning around and lipsyncing to a goofy disco song about Josephine Baker. She had everything but the bananas!
More African American-based dance worth looking at come with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's current run at the David H. Koch Theater. The troupe elicited cheers on Saturday night, when the work shown was jazzy, hypnotic, topical, powerful, and potent. It was all good, but the final piece, Exodus--choreographed by RennieHarris--had the audience engaging in their own stylized movement; a standing ovation.
RONAN FARROW ON HILLARY, TRANS, AND HATE
Michael Musto (L) & Ronan Farrow. Photo by Victor Zonana.
But back to the honors: The Stonewall Community Foundation's 2016 Vision Awards were held last week at the swanky Tribeca Rooftop. Among the honorees--who were cited for their work with LGBT issues--was Ronan Farrow, the ex-MSNBC host who currently does the #Undercovered series for the TodayShow. I asked Ronan for his take on the trans bathroom brouhaha and he replied, "I talked to a younger trans person for a TodayShow piece. She and her mom would tell you this young woman just wants to go to the bathroom. The fear because of the controversy presents a safety issue." "And the only real misbehavior in bathrooms is usually caused by Republicans looking for anonymous sex," I cracked. "It's not a partisan issue," Ronan replied, soberly. "It's a safety issue. Anything that creates a culture of fear is a detriment. Thirteen trans people have been killed in suspected hate crimes this year, most of them people of color."
I told him one thing that gave me fear was Hillary Clinton's attempt to paint the late former First Lady Nancy Reagan and her husband Ronnie as AIDS advocates, back in March. "I think she was right to quickly say, 'I was mistaken'," related Ronan. "The comment did not comport with the historical record, shall we say." "Thank God for social media," I chirped, and he agreed, saying that while there's a down side to all that sometimes, "I'm heartened that there's a new way of doing business, and we're generally speaking truth to power." Speaking of power, Ronan informed me that it's much more effective to "mute" the dummos on Twitter than just "blocking" them. Fortunately, he'll never stay mute himself. But if we can somehow silence the homophobia of conservative (and/or religious) bigots, I bet we'd have fewer incidents like the Pulse horror in our midst.