Cheers to survival. Charlie Hides is the oldest contestant ever to appear on RuPaul's Drag Race, and he's in top form. I first became aware of the British performer--who's on season nine, premiering March 24 on VH1--through his YouTube channel, where he impersonates Cher, Christina and other icons with a dryly amusing precision. Friday night at the Triad, his TransAtlantic Dame show confirmed that he's gifted and riotously funny.
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Looking, by his own admission, "like a zebra fucked a smurf," Charlie dove right into the old-age jokes, claiming "I'm so old, that my ears are still ringing from the Big Bang." When a scrim descended and almost hit him on the head, he quipped, "I already have onset dementia. I don't need another concussion!"
And then came an onslaught of quotable quips and numbers about his experience on Drag Race:
There was a song that went, "You ain't shit till you're picked by Ru," featuring lyrics like, "I'm flying first class; I've got glitter and sequins coming out of my ass."
Charlie said, "I was warned, 'Don't attack Michelle Visage. She's RuPaul's best friend.' But in my audition video, I said, 'Michelle has her tongue so far up Ru's ass, she could tickle his tonsils with it.' Well, RuPaul saw it and still hired me!"
"They probably hired me to get some use out of the bathroom bars they put in for Kasha Davis and Tempest DuJour."
"When I walked onto the set and saw Kimora's and Trinity's asses, I wasn't sure if I was on Drag Race or Botched."
"The delightful Farah Moan told me, 'You look pretty good for your age.' I don't look pretty good. I look fucking fabulous--and not just for my age, for any age!"
Hides also scored portraying different female figures, like Marge Simpson ("What do you call Susan Boyle with a rape whistle? An optimist") and Joan Rivers ("When Anne Frank played hide-and-seek, she hid in the oven.") Oh, by the way, Hides is unrepentantly un-p.c. and doesn't care who he offends. His best bit had him coming out as Cher and conversing on the phone to other icons (on video), including the real Kylie Minogue, plus himself as Madonna. "We have a lot more in common than you think," said Hides as Madge. Replied Hides as Cher, "Did your daughter become a man? Do you have an Oscar? We have nothing in common."
Fellow season 9 star Alexis Michelle--who Charlie was staying with--scored with a beautiful "Somewhere That's Green" (ending with "Somewhere that's Ellen Greene"). Then Hides gave a lovely speech about friends he lost to AIDS (and the accompanying homophobia), urging the gay kids out there to realize they're beautiful and loved. This led to an audience singalong on "True Colors," and then Alexis Michelle re-emerged to duet with Charlie on the Golden Girls theme. A wonderful evening of release without remorse--just what we needed.
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After the show, I asked Charlie if he's really older than Victoria "Porkchop" Parker. "Yes," he assured me. "But she's 100!" I blurted. Hey, I can get away with it. I'm 101.
RISE AND SHINE
Another Season 9 star, the fabulous Peppermint, was in the audience for Hides, and the next night, as if by magic, she was onstage at the annual Night of 1000 Gowns gala, hosted by the imperial Court at the Marriott Marquis, all done to a Casino Royale theme. Pep performed and said how great it was that the evening's beneficiary was TLDEF (Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund) because she's used their services in her transition.
Photo via Wilson Models Photography
Also performing--en route to Royal Harrington and Madison Mansfield being crowned the new Emperor and Empress--were disco/R&B singers Linda Clifford and Sarah Dash, who teamed up for a rousing "It's Raining Men." And it was raining Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, one of the evening's honorees, who told me he loves the Imperial Court "because they represent the 'we' in When We Rise. When they come after trans people, we will rise. When they come after immigrants, we will rise." "Excuse me," I interjected, "but by 'they,' do you happen to mean 'he?'" Dustin nodded and smilingly said, "The Cheeto bigot!"
TAKE A GANDER AT SOME GAYS
Not only is Come From Away a timely show about kind people welcoming foreigners, it's also sort of a feel good musical about 9/11. It centers on the real story of planes that were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland on that hideous day, thereby almost doubling the population of the rustic town. But that's not even the most shocking thing--it's that the town welcomed the influx of people to the point where, even when the newcomers stole barbecue grills from lawns (as instructed), the homeowners helped them do it and welcomed them in for tea.
The musical--with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, directed by Christopher Ashley, with musical staging by Kelly Devin--manages to tell this story without mawkish sentimentality or manipulation, keeping things moving with a fluid staging that incorporates group numbers, solo spots, narration, heart, humor and a finale by the band.
Among the characters stranded in Newfoundland are a gay couple (Chad Kimball and Caesar Samayoa)--both named Kevin--who try to be coy and closety, until they're totally clocked, at which point they realize this is one of the gayest towns on the continent. Their relationship hits some turbulence, and there's also religious profiling against a Muslim man--plus there's a character desperately trying to find out what's happened to her son in New York--but other than that, things are generally sunny, yet believable. Finally, a musical not based on an old movie, but on an actual occurrences--it feels fresh and welcome.
REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST
But back to fiction: The Sense of an Ending is a well-made drama with Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as a man who "reconnects with the first love of his life and in the process clarifies his relationships with his ex-wife and daughter," as director Ritesh Batra described it at a Lotus Club event last week. Aside from jokey references to a group of pregnant lesbians, this is a movie about straight people and how revelations from the past dramatically redefine their connections.
Explained Broadbent about his character, "He's a grouch and self satisfied, but he's also gentle and loving to his family. But he's fairly obnoxious at times. He behaves like a teenage boy. He hasn't grown up--but in the end, he has, I think." Charlotte Rampling plays his ex love, which is interesting, since two years ago, she was acclaimed for 45 Years, also about revelations from the past affecting marital relationships. Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery appears as Broadbent's pregnant daughter and talked about the inspiring way women rule certain movies these days. Dockery remarked that as brilliant as Ryan Gosling is, "Emma Stone drives La La Land." She also contended that "Amy Adams drives Arrival. Jeremy Renner just looks very pretty, next to her."
BROADWAY GOSSIP TIDBITS
I'll feel gorgeous just by relaying some high-toned dish to you: First of all, as you know, there's an opening at the New York Times for a second-string theater critic, and everyone in town wants it. Well, I hear their first-string critic, Ben Brantley, won't be reviewing the revival of The Price, starring Mark Ruffalo. (He can't review everything; there's a scary amount of shows coming down the turnpike before the Tony deadline). And I bet whoever does review it will then be named the new second-string critic. So let's wait a few days and see, theater queens.
As for future potential nominees, I'm hearing that two projects in the very early stages are planned Broadway versions of The Turning Point and All That Jazz. I know it seems like every single movie ever made is being turned into a show, but those two I can live with. And not just because I'm old! And guess what else is coming to Broadway? I hear Othello--with David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig--is looking at Circle in the Square for the fall. Moor, moor, moor!