Happy Black History Month! Happy NYC Fashion Week! In commemoration of both landmark events, stylist Christian Freedom and I picked the 10 most exciting black male models of all time, and the result is an embarrassment of gorgeous. Here goes:
Says Christian, “Tyson was recruited by Ralph Lauren to be the face of his brand, Polo. He is without doubt the most famous black male supermodel of all time, scoring lucrative contracts similar to those of his female counterparts. His fame has also brought him into appearances on television and in films.” I feel Tyson is the most recognizable of all male models, and he’s always been surreally beautiful and exotic—sort of like a male Grace Jones.
According to Christian, “The super sleek images of David for Calvin Klein’s 2009 campaign became immediate classics and put him firmly on the model map.” David has a unique look, brimming with a whole lot of character that makes him extremely photogenic.
Relates Christian: “Before he became famous as Shaft, Roundtree was a successful model, primarily appearing in hair care ads for magazines like Ebony and Jet.” Roundtree helped sell lots of product to African American men before igniting the big screen as a sexy private eye.
Christian: “With his megawatt smile and chiseled features, the Portuguese model broke barriers appearing in campaigns for Balmain and Givenchy. His only real competition seems to be his younger brother, Armando.” Together, they are truly unbeatable.
Says Christian: “With rugged good looks, hunky Clayton has been modeling regularly for the past 30 years. He also found time to open a restaurant, an agency, and create fine art paintings.” If he needs any help in handling all of that, I’m here!
Offers Christian: “Born in Switzerland, Urs finished his business studies before storming the runways of Paris and Milan. The openly gay model/author recently published his memoir, Urs, The Swiss Black Boy.” He’s so much more than just a pretty face.
Christian says: “The powerfully built, bald headed Vladimir had all eyes on him, whether in skirts by Gaultier or in semi-nude ads for Versace.” He also looked steamily hot in the Bruce Willis movie The Fifth Element.
STERLING ST. JACQUES
Says Christian, “Sterling was known as the original male supermodel and adopted son and reputed lover of actor Raymond St. Jacques. He twirled down the runaways with Pat Cleveland, as well as burned up the dance floor at the legendary disco Studio 54. He died in 1984, tragically, of AIDS.” I would watch Sterling spin around at Studio 54 and wonder who the hell he was, while hypnotized by his charisma. I later learned his whole fascinating story.
Christian: “Renauld is the African American model of many firsts. The first to appear on the cover of GQ and the first to have mannequins made in his likeness. He has promoted everything from furs and luxury cars to grooming products and cologne. He’s gone on to star in soap operas and off-Broadway plays.” And “chiseled features’ doesn’t begin to describe it.
Christian: “The multiracial beauty was omnipresent in the 1990s, appearing in ads for Banana Republic, YSL, and CK perfume. He’s since transitioned into acting, mainly in TV productions by Tyler Perry.” You’ll know him when you see him—Jason is a beauty for the ages.
BODY (OF WORK) BY JAKE
Broadway is also coming into its landmark period, when we’re overcome with revivals and new shows, all vying for customers and acclaim. One of the prominent contenders is the retread of the Sondheim/Lapine musical Sunday in the Park With George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the fastidious artist Georges Seurat (and a sort of spiritual descendant) and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford as his mistress/muse, Dot, and grandmother, Marie. Last week, the two stars and other creatives joined in cutting the ribbon for the Hudson Theatre, a long dormant place which has been refurbished and will fling its doors open again for George. Said producer Jeanine Tesori, “It’s the oldest newest theater in New York City. Like my face in 10 years when I have more work done,” she laughed.
Gyllenhaal was more somber, saying, “I can’t stress enough how important it is to have joy in the world. That’s what the show is about—it’s all about love and joy.” At that point, a cameraman angled for the best shot of the notables, and Jake got on the Tesori bandwagon and joked to him, “A lot of us are aging, you know!”
“BOULEVARD” OF BROKEN DREAMS
Glenn Close may be more than two decades older than when she did Sunset Boulevard on Broadway in 1994, but she doesn’t seem it, which makes the musical about a movie star romancing a way younger male writer seem less quease-making. (Besides, today, we welcome the idea of cougars, even if this one happens to be a barracuda. And furthermore, the show’s central relationship is supposed to be bizarre.) The musical is based on the brilliantly witty 1950 Billy Wilder movie, which is the best film ever made about show business. (Nope, it’s not La La Land. Sorry.) In it, fading gargoyle Norma Desmond ensnares a caustic writer named Joe into her lair, to the detriment of both of them, especially when the truth leaks into Norma’s decaying mansion.
The musical—with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton—softens things a bit, so Norma isn’t quite as grotesque and Joe isn’t nearly as hard boiled. Fortunately, despite some so-so passages of recitative, it still retains power as it explores dark territory involving disappearing stardom and escalating illusion. Director Lonny Price’s scaled-down revival plants a 40-piece orchestra center stage, and in lieu of the sumptuous house from the ‘90s, there’s a winding staircase and a stack of hanging chandeliers. But no set at all is needed when Close breaks your heart, especially with her two showstoppers—“With One Look” (about the visual impact of the cinema) and “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (her ode on returning to the old studio, though it’s for a way more degrading reason than she could ever imagine). Aside from Glenn, Joe (Michael Xavier) shows off his cleavage in his bathing suit scene, Fred Johanson convinces as her pervily devoted servant Max (another younger paramour of hers), and the dead monkey is OK. But I could have done without the flapping wrists of the flaming stereotype of a guy who sells Joe the vicuna.
PAR FOR THE “COURSE”
Another Tony winning musical—A Chorus Line—is back, but in a satirical version that has wannabe waiters competing for choice positions. At the Laurie Beachman Theatre, A Course Line hilariously reimagines the ultimate audition musical into a job hunt for people into tips, not taps. The creators are Michael Busted Fitzgerald (who plays Sheila, the chain-smoking 40-year-old who feels “Everything is beautiful at the ashtray”), Alfred McKeever as restaurant owner Zach Michael Douglas, and his sister Patty McKeever as Cassie, the ex head waitress who’s desperate to get her job back, though she’s too good for the lunch shift! All the familiar songs are funnily reworked, so the Puerto Rican girl (Susan Campanaro) sings about a customer who leaves her “Nothing”; a flamboyant gay waiter (Samuel Benedict) croons about “tips and sass”; and a new character (played by Edward Lynn Davis, aka drag queen Blackie O’Nasty) rattles off his credits, then takes pains to point out, “I’m a pedophile.” Best of all is the revelation that these aspiring waiters have no idea what the fuck gluten is “and why so many white people are afraid of it.” Take my tip—this show is the main Course.
AND AS LONG AS WE’RE HAVING FUN WITH SHOW TUNES…
At Marie’s Crisis—the long running piano bar in the West Village—pianist Kenney Green told the crowd, “By day, this is a gay bar. At night, it magically turns into…a gay bar. I want to thank all the straight people here for letting us tolerate you this evening. And for my LGBT brothers and sisters, welcome home!”
Then I went to my home away from home, the Howl Gallery in the East Village, where Heather Litteer was doing a slinky “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” for writer/cartoonist Anthony Haden-Guest’s 80th birthday. At the event, Litteer told me she was in Darren Aronofky ’s 2000 druggie drama Requiem for a Dream. “All I remember is the two-headed dildo,” I replied. “I was at the other end of that dildo!” she exclaimed. And in her one-person show, Lemonade, Litteer talks about recently running into Aronofsky, who brushed her off and kept going. How rude! But it reminded me of the time I asked Chloë Sevigny about her blow job in Brown Bunny and she ran, screaming. I’ll toast her again if there’s ever a Brown History Month.
And finally, filmmaker Chad Darnell tells me he’s going ahead with X-Rated, a feature flick about the life of fascinating gay porn star Joey Stefano (who died in 1994). I will have the exclusive on the biggest casting search since Scarlett O’Hara.