Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Winter 2003-2004

Warren Allen Smith

Gossip from Across the Pond

by Warren Allen Smith

Australian-born Leigh Bowery is being played by Boy George in Taboo on Broadway. Meanwhile, the part of English-born Boy George is being played by Scottish-born Euan Morton. The American-born Rosie O’Donnell-produced musical describes them in the decadent, early 1980s, the time in London of New Romanticism. Taboo is quite different from the previous West End production, having been rewritten with bitchy putdowns galore by the drag diva Charles Busch, who is currently melodramatically starring in a movie, Die, Mommie, Die!. In November, he was found not guilty of plagiarizing some parts of the movie’s script.

The play follows Leigh and Boy George in wildly arranged club scenes, starting with “Give Me a Freak”, that feature flashily dressed, stylish dancers and music that rocks the house, even the upper balconies. Depicting how Boy George rises to stardom and descends into drugs, Morton sounds, acts and looks eerily like the early George O’Dowd he is portraying. In one scene, Bowery (George himself) looks in upon four guys at a urinal, hands on each other’s ass, and sings “I’ll Have You All” in the vaudeville-like voice he now has. He also sings another of his own tunes, “Ich Bin Kunst”, while displayed as a work of living art in a gallery window.

The 1993 Wigstock scene that I had the good luck to witness, in which Bowery gives birth to a baby, was conservatively repeated in Taboo, except this time Nicola (played by Sarah Berry) doesn’t come out all bloody with umbilical cord attached. The play has a strong ending but could not show that Bowery went on to become Lucien Freud’s huge naked model, who, when he died, was buried naked. Freud paid to have the body shipped back to Australia, where it was placed next to his mother’s body. As if his life’s show never ended, undertakers – when attempting to lower the casket with the naked corpse, which weighed 16 or 17 stones, into the ground – found the coffin was too big for the allotted space. On Broadway, at any rate, Bowery is very much alive!

Tony Kushner’s six-hour Broadway Tony-winning Angels in America, now an HBO movie, is causing as much controversy now as when it opened as a play. It excoriates President Ronald Reagan for his administration’s slow response to the AIDS crisis. “I had friends who died in really terrible circumstances,” freethinker Kushner told reporters, “because Ronald Reagan couldn’t bring himself to say the word ‘gay’ in public till 1987.”

Christopher Wilson, author of Dancing with the Devil, gave many blow-by-blow accounts of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s activities and those of their coterie. He reiterates in Vanity Fair (November 2003) that Oscar Hammerstein’s wife, Dorothy, witnessed the Duchess of Windsor as she “play[ed] oboe” with Jimmy Donohue on the deck of the RMS Queen Mary in 1951, adding that Donohue – grandson of Woolworth’s founder F. W. Woolworth – wore skirts almost as often as Wally Simpson, the duchess, did.

It was always an illusion when master illusionists Siegfried and Roy made 600-pound white tigers disappear. It was equally amazing to find that the elusive pair were for years among the world’s openly closeted celebrities, even when Roy was seriously injured by one of the tigers. Journalists covered the story of their 44 years together rather thoroughly, except for mentioning whether or not the two are believers or freethinkers and failing to mention that Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher are, according to Steve Friess in The Advocate, “former lovers”.

Barry Manilow, writer of the Broadway-bound musical Harmony, found that the show’s producers were short of millions of dollars and the show had to be canceled in mid-November. The show was to be about a German vaudevillian sextet, the Comedian Harmonists, during the fall of the Weimar Republic. Once asked if he believed in God, Manilow replied, “Yes, his name is Clive Davis, and he’s the head of my record company.” Asked then how important his Judaism is, he responded, “It isn’t. My humanism is.”

Sex ed formerly consisted of teachers at the chalkboard showing anatomical parts, then asking, “Any questions?” Students seldom asked anything, of course, wondering more about the teacher’s sex mate. Today, teenagers trying to understand human relationships turn not to textbooks but to their TV sets. Friends covers topics like unplanned pregnancies, torn condoms, infidelity. Joe Millionaire includes Joe’s postponing a date because of a herpes flare-up. Sex and the City has above-the-blankets episodes about contraception and STDs.

But it’s Jerry Springer that brings the exceptional people out of nowhere and onto a stage to reveal their innermost secrets, show their hickies and butts, even fight in the nude. Manhattan roués look forward to Jerry Springer, the Opera and predict that the West End production will be Broadway’s next big ticket grosser.

Britney Spears, who sucked tongue with fellow believer Madonna during the Emmy awards, also educates the young about sex. In “Touch of My Hand”, she sings about masturbation. Gays can empathize with her response to a People reporter’s question about her favorite kind of kiss: “when a guy just comes up and grabs you and kisses you and makes you feel really vulnerable and does it very spontaneously”.

Now that New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is out of office, kissing – and more – is occurring in some East Village bars, particularly on weekends if you are available between 2 and 4 a.m. Britney was seen at one on 18 November, resulting in cellphone calls that within minutes brought packs of drag queens to the place with its active dark corners.

Katharine Hepburn’s will left $17.4 million to her heirs. Probate court records show that her four-story townhouse at 244 East 49th Street in Manhattan is being offered at $4.95 million. At her death she had $4.1 million in securities and cash, a $2.6 million trust fund, and $700,000 worth of art, furniture and other belongings. Her four-acre estate on Long Island Sound was donated to an environmental charity, and her house on the remaining three acres is on the market for $12 million. She left no money to organized religions. “I’m an atheist, and that’s it,” she once said.

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Created : Sunday, 2004-02-01 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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