I understand fully now how old I am. Because I like to keep these reports lively and up-to-date, and am in New York where everything is offered and it is not all Central Park, me and Mimi, I went last night to an event at Loew's on 34th Street, where is being held the 17th NY Film Festival wallowing in all the above. I have rarely, if ever, been more bored and uncomfortable, especially since I had come from watching a video of the first hour and a half of 'Elmer Gantry,' acquired at the selling to the walls closing of a video store on Columbus near where Mimi is groomed, while waiting for her to emerge in all her preened excellence.
So there I was, in Theater 9, for the showing of a documentary on Charles Busch, the female impersonator and playwright whose earlier efforts I had never seen, but whose 'Allergist's Wife' I had considered funny enough except Betsy Hailey told me it was better when he played all the parts. That event, the showing of the documentary was sponsored by Tylenol-PM which they should have handed out before so I could overdose myself into a coma. Trapped as I was, sitting next to my new friend Nancy Friday, who murmured to me that she thought perhaps her life had been too sheltered, as she, too, seemed to be in pain, there was naught I could do but endure, and wonder where it was I had failed, not just myself, but society and the planet. Shakespeare said 'The time is out of joint,' but I think the joint is out of time.
Anyway, I wrote this letter to Frank Rich, a critic I truly admire, whom I know slightly, but well enough to hope he can set me straight, so to speak. Here is what I wrote him. There was no piece by him in today's Times, so the alarm I felt at hearing he had praised Busch, author of 'Vampire Lesbians of Sodom' on his move to Broadway, was compounded by my fear he might have been offed by the current administration.
Besides that my week is punctuated by your take, I am very much in need of a word from you on a particular issue. Because I warm up my brain and fingers for the serious task I am presently engaged in with a brisk and, I hope, sometimes witty look at a present scene behind wherever I am, I write a 'Report from the Front,' to friends. So it was that I attended last night's event at the 17th New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival, thinking it would provide fodder, in addition to which a woman I know, straight I think, who wants to mount my musical is a wild fan of Charles Busch's, and invited me. The event was a documentary on him, which I must evenhandedly appraise as according the reverence due to a figure somewhere between George Bernard Shaw and the Dalai Lama.
I was unable to escape as Busch sat a few seats away, so I tried, sincerely, to figure out what all this was really about. To my greater surprise, part of the endless self-absorbtion and masturbatory accolades was a moment when someone rushed in and said about a particular production-- I don't remember which as I was mercifully out of the country during this period-- "Frank Rich gave it a rave."
You have some idea, I hope, how much respect I have for you,--that I share Floyd Abrams' contention that now that you are back on the Opinion page, "everything will be all right." So please, sir, for the sake of my sanity and continued respect, can you tell me why you raved, and about what, or, if it would be easier, send me that review?
A pair of young girls were making out in front of the Loew's as I went in, and I tried to swallow my distaste, since I am still of the 19th century opinion that sexuality is personal and should be private. In the same way I am annoyed at my Alma Mater, among the last of the fiercely women's colleges, for allowing Lesbians to recruit during the (I assume) Innocent's first look at the campus, as it is my opinion that one's sexuality should not be a factor in what you want from an education. When I went there it was still a magnificent place, and as I remember, my own sexuality at fifteen was not a part of my agenda, which included mainly what I wanted to learn and be. I understand I am outdated, but please, dear sir, help me a little to deal with this strange new world by telling me what you saw that was so wonderful.
I came home and watched a recently acquired video of 'Elmer Gantry', and remembered when writers were writers and stories were great ones, and performances were dazzling. Good God. Bush and Busch. Where are we?
PS. Not a part of the letter to Rich. I was overjoyed to come home andwatch the end of Gantry and some episodes of 'Sex and the City' which righted my brain and what's left of my hormones.
Did anyone remember that Burt Lancaster could also sing? Does anyone want to go with me to hear Billy Graham in Flushing on the 24th of this month? I think if I am to survive in a world of Bill Frist and Rick Santorum I have to understand fully the extent of the insanity on both sides. By the way, if anyone's free tonight, they're showing 'Bad Girls Behind Bars.'