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Michael Musto

Queer Icon Freddie Mercury Gets New Life Through Polish-Born Performer

Queer Icon Freddie Mercury Gets New Life Through Polish-Born Performer

Mark Allan
Mark Allan/AP

Also: Atlanta strippers bare (almost) everything in All Male, All Nude.

Kuba Ka has optioned the rights to Lesley-Ann Jones' bookAn Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury, and it doesn't take a genius to see why; when made up properly, the Polish-born performer is a dead ringer for Mercury, the wiry icon who rocked out on hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are The Champions." (Mercury--who grew up in Zanzibar, India, and England--sadly died of AIDS in 1991, but the songs of his group, Queen, are still played all over the world. His blazing vocals are as unique as the details of his extraordinary life).

Kuba--a bodybuilder who's of Italian, Swedish, and German descent--has an interesting background, which includes a lot of time spent as an international ambassador doing charity work, a Vegas casino named after him, and of course the music. He was managed by Michael Jackson's ex manager Frank DiLeo and was later on LaToya Jackson's label with Universal.


Naturally, optioning a book doesn't necessarily mean the film will ever get made, and I have my doubts, since Kuba's publicist sent me photos and info and set up an interview weeks ago, then postponed it and never contacted me again at all (one of the most bizarre gestures in my many years of covering entertainment)! But rather than say, "Another film bites the dust," I'm hoping this one makes it as big as a "fat bottomed girl."


Actor/writer/director Gerald McCullouch is reachable, even though he's been crazy busy finishing up and promoting All Male, All Nude, his fabulous 57-minute documentary about the Atlanta strip club Swinging Richards, which is available for streaming on The hotspot that centers the film is a popular place for fantasies, with lots of peen on parade--though it's based in some tangible realities that aim to ground the experience. There's an elaborate system as to where the money goes--some to the house, some to the dancers. And the dancers are keenly aware that the city is always watching--for picky things like making sure their garter belts are on their arms, not their legs--so they mind their p's and q's as they ritualistically disrobe. They also make sure that the patrons--who are both male and female--realize there are boundaries in the interaction that goes on there, so it doesn't become a free-for-all. But the guys are basically game for a lot in their aim to make top dollar, most of them angling for loftier ambitions by using this gig as a bridge to their futures.


There are some amusing bits along the way, like the dancer who gives a rather vivid description of the interview for the job: "You drop your pants and you're either hired or fired." (There's even a measuring stick, where the ultimate achievement is 11 inches, also known as "mule dick"). Another guy reveals, "My ex-wife is a stripper...She's out for money...That's why we ain't together." But even if you stay together, the result isn't necessarily nirvana. One stripper says all that bumping and grinding desensitizes you to the point where his girlfriend sometimes rubs up against him, then wonders, "Why aren't you hard?"

The mood grows in poignancy when one of the dancers dies of a drug overdose and it becomes clear that the survivors have to work extra diligently to stay disciplined and alive. But at what price? There's one guy who adamantly refuses to say what his sexuality is. So he'll show his business to strangers, including in a movie, but sexuality is the last taboo? Seems that way--especially down South.

While the doc should feature more input from customers (there's just a brief bite by a lady patron) or outside commentators, it still is sexy and illuminating. I've had some great times in Atlanta nightspots, and I'm glad to add this one to my roster. It put my mule dick at attention.


Pure entertainment from the UK comes in the form of The PlayThat Goes Wrong, a hilarious romp about eye-poppingly shoddy theatrics, co-written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields. In presenting the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society's version of an alleged 1920s mystery, The Murder at Haversham Manor, this play owes a lot to Noises Off, the oft-revived 1993 comedy about the outrageous mishaps that occur during an extremely amateurish production of a travesty called Nothing On.


But while Noises Off gives us backstories between all the actors and other creatives en route to showing them performing for an audience, this one simply delivers the play-with-in-a-play itself, starting with an actor's announcement that this is from the same company that brought you scaled down versions titled Cat, James and the Peach, and Chekhov's TwoSisters, and ending with the entire cast bruised, distraught, in chaos, but taking a bow. Along the way, every manner of screwup happens, like mispronunciations, tilting set pieces and actors being knocked out by the other actors' careless gestures. (When the siren, Sandra, played by Charlie Russell, is made unconscious, the stage manager, Nancy Zamit, throws on a red dress and comes out with a script, imitating the character's twitchy "episodes" to the point where she becomes enamored of this new thesping opportunity. Ultimately, there are two actresses playing the part at once, to riotous effect). As in Noises Off, that character strikes dumb, sexy poses, and also, the behind the scenes person becomes part of the show.

But this play goes even farther with regard to hair-trigger, precisely choreographed bits that are howlingly funny. Since the premise is so thin, I didn't think Act Two could sustain the same level of mirth, but somehow it did, keeping up a giddily daft Carol Burnett Show-style slapstick throughout. Something as silly as this could only work if it was put together with serious craft, and it was, like a pristinely assembled jigsaw puzzle that, when put together, makes you scream with laughter. Kudos to director Mark Bell, scenic designer Nigel Hook--and Duran Duran.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Michael Musto