THINGS I LOVED/HATED THIS WEEK #178

LOVE:

War Paint:

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When I visited New York City last month, I had a single goal in mind: give Glenn Close a standing ovation for her performance in Sunset Boulevard. That was most certainly accomplished. But I was blessed to see more than one play on this most recent visit. Thanks to the TodayTix app, I became something of a theatre queen who went to a new show every night. If I lived in a big city like that all of my mad money would go to the shows on Broadway. I’m addicted to being part of the audience, the people you meet, the stars you see, the unique experiences that are awaiting you in the cramped seats in the back of the theatre. That first morning in the city, I was lying in bed, sure that I wanted to see a show, but unsure of what I wanted to see. Thinking of my spirit animal, RuPaul, I launched TodayTix and was intrigued at the image of two women in profile, their faces painted in pastel.

Clicking on it, I was shocked and thrilled to see that Patti LuPone was one of the leads. I couldn’t miss this opportunity, and so I immediately bought the cheapest tickets available. That night, I collected my ticket and made my way to the penultimate row. There, I was sat next to two wonderfully New York women who chatted with me the entire night and shared their binoculars as we sipped on overpriced cocktails. It was decadent. Anyway, reader, the show was tremendous. I can’t quite tell you how delightful it was to see Patti LuPone with my own eyes and her her fabulous voice with my own ears. She is bigger than life for me. I own dozens of theatrical production recordings she’s been in, and I have grown so accustomed to her voice. She is the Mrs. Lovett that I learned to love, and the Norma Desmond that I know best and the Witch that sounds perfect to me. But more than that…so much more than that…she is my Evita. I have belted out so many shows with her that she feels more like a duet partner than a star these days. The people of West Hollywood know our grand performances of Sunset Boulevard and Parisians are still talking, I’m sure, of our Sweeney Todd show. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So, when she took the stage with that voice of hers, I was completely swept up. That would be the perfect way to describe my trip to New York. I was completely swept up. Repeatedly. Anyway, reader, War Paint, was a complete and total delight. It tells the story of Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, two pioneers in the cosmetic empire. They were powerful women, independent, wealthy, and worried about a number of things they never should have needed to worry about. I shan’t give you the show since I have every certainty that it will travel and you will go. It’s flawless. The music is tremendous, and the story truly touches your heart. I applauded Christine Ebersole’s magnificent song, “Pink,” for an excessive number of minutes. It’s a gorgeous show. Go. Go right now if you’re able.

Malala:

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At this point in culture and politics, everybody knows who Malala Yousafzai is. She’s the girl who was shot by the Taliban for daring to suggest girls should get an education. We know that she is daring and courageous, but that is about all that most people concern themselves with. I was much the same for the longest time. I couldn’t give you a Malala quote or tell you anything about her. Recently I decided that I should read her book, I Am Malala, which has been following me around in airports and train stations around the world. Every Waterstone or Hudson has a copy of I Am Malala prominently displayed near the entrance. Her eyes and barely-there smile haunt me. I didn’t know what to expect when I cracked the binding, but I was immediately charmed by the voice of the curious young Malala. You could tell that this was something missing, though, and this is probably due to the co-author who aided her in completing the book. This this did detract a bit from the courageous voice we’ve grown accustomed to hearing come from Malala, but I didn’t care. I was immediately swept up into Pakistan. People don’t want to go there, don’t want to think about it, and don’t think about it, but over the past two years, I’ve developed the oddest craving to visit the militarily beleaguered nation. I’m a traveller of many continents with friends and acquaintances around the world, but I’m ashamed that I was unaware that Karachi was one of the largest cities in the world. I didn’t know that there were beautiful valleys and soaring mountains. I didn’t know that there were crumbling Buddhist statues and decadent mosques. I just didn’t know. I blame the media. But back to Malala. I devoured the book, each day a new chapter, and I fell so in love with Malala’s passion, her love for living, and her amazing resistance to negative thinking. After being shot, removed from home, thrust into a new country with an extremely different culture, and having to deal with international recognition…well, most people would have responded differently. Malala is defiantly optimistic and she is proof of the indomitability of the human spirit. You should read the book, reader, but you must watch the documentary of her life, He Named Me Malala.

I regularly wept as I watched it. It was a joyous, heart wrenching, devastating, and ultimately hopeful film. It’s beautiful and on Hulu right now. Go watch. Fall madly in love with Malala and her message. I did. I now want to be a teacher in Kenya or Botswana or anywhere that needs teachers. It seems so rewarding.

DNCE Concert and Joe Jonas’s Biceps:

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A million years ago, I was at the Mall of America being hurried out by my father’s urge to hit the road and begin the jaunt back home. For whatever reason, the Jonas Brothers were there, but neither my sister or myself had any interest in this. My main interest was that they were Disney stars and I find fame intoxicating. So, as we left the mall, I heard them sing, and that was the end of that story. Didn’t see them, only ever heard them. Years later, deep into my decrepit and advanced age, I got turnt up at a DNCE concert, a group headed by Joe Jonas, who, reader, has blossomed into a very handsome young man.

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He’s four days younger than me, so we’re probably soulmates. I’ll get into that at another time, though, maybe later in this post. Now, let’s rewind, months ago, I downloaded the DNCE album because Joe Jonas is a very handsome young man.

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I mean…a very handsome young man.

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I listened to the album a couple times, enjoyed it, but it was not frequently on rotation in my car. That time was devoted to Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. At home, I was having a moment and listening to a lot of 90s country music and singing about shaking a sugar tree. I cycle through those songs a couple times a year for some unknown psychological reason. I’ll get therapy someday and figure it all out. I’d quite like that. Could anything be more fun than talking about yourself for an hour? I doubt it. Back to Joe, though. I still can’t fathom why, but DNCE’s tour came to Ames, so Jessica and I immediately bought tickets. We weren’t going so much for the songs, because we barely knew two of them, we were going for the culture of the night. There’s nothing like a concert, reader. I have had the best times acting a fool with One Direction and Beyoncé and Madonna and Beyoncé again and Janet Jackson and then One Direction again. And again. And then again. And then one more time. Concerts are a hoot. Our tickets were on the floor, which sounded dreadful for an old man like me, but it turned out to be perfect. We were moving and we were shaking and the crowd was living for us. And then poor Chord Overstreet came out and sang uninteresting songs about Emma Roberts in a twang. I was not a fan. It was nice, but hardly fabulous. His hair was cute and I did love his shirt, but I liked his shirt more than him. Then promptly at nine o’clock that evening — an absurd point of the day to be out and about on a work night — DNCE came out and there were lightsabers and booming bass and JOE JONAS. He was, reader, almost too attractive. He’s short and even more beautiful in the flesh than he is in photographs. His short hair was perfect. His stubble was divine. His pants were just tight enough. And when he took off his jacket we were blessed with his biceps. They were excellent, reader. I’m fairly sure we made eye contact and he fell madly and passionately in love with me. I can’t blame him. Later in the show, he was throwing out shirts to the crowd, and the first one was aimed directly at me. If I hadn’t been so distracted by his love for me, I would have caught it. Ultimately the old gay behind me got it, but I didn’t mind. That poor dear looked so happy as he clutched it to his bosom. It was a fabulous night. Joe is fabulous. And he sings Spice Girl songs that went directly to my heart.

Meeting Martha Stewart’s Dogs:

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I have never enjoyed New York City so much as I did on this most recent trip to America’s largest city. I have always been underwhelmed by the streets, the food, the sites, and the Subway. I don’t understand that system at all. Why not have elegant and simple stops like they do in Paris? Why have three different trains using the same track? Why? It confounds me. I could do an entire post on my disdain for the Subway. I won’t, though, as this post is quite clearly about something very different. Let’s just start afresh by saying that I really enjoyed New York City this time. I think it’s my advanced years and maturation. I enjoy the pleasures of old people now like expensive Austrian cafes and art and walks in the park. And I enjoy the theatre tremendously. I went every night. I was ecstatic to see Glenn Close as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, a role I was born to play. She was fabulous and I enjoyed myself so much. The night after, I went to see The Play That Goes Wrong which was completely wonderful. That night, relaxing at the Jane Hotel with kettle chips, wine, and cheddar cheese, I scrolled through my Instagram, and then I started hollering. Dear and beloved reader, Martha Stewart — that wonderful woman who changed my life — had attended that evening’s performance of Sunset Boulevard. Could she not have gone the night before? And could somebody have simply mentioned that we were a block apart? I felt, then, that life was over. I was truly devastated. Life became pointless. What was the purpose? I have been planning for our eventual meeting for a decade. It will still happen, I’m sure, and we’ll become best friends and we’ll soon spend three-day weekends at Skylands and talk about our travels and crafts and the world as we sip expensive cappuccinos. So, the next morning, my last day in the city, and still somewhat miserable,  I packed my bag and went out for coffee at the Martha Stewart Cafe. I wanted to say goodbye to the icon and have one of her fabulous lattes. And something told me that I needed to be there whilst I was munching a raspberry tart at the Eric Kayser bakery on Bleecker Street. I never fail to have a unique experience at the Starrett Lehigh building where Martha’s cafe is housed. After a long walk on the first really spring-like day, I ordered my drink, and as I stirred raw sugar into the hot coffee, something happened. Dogs appeared. Slowly I turned. Time stopped. I was out of my body. There was a gorgeously groomed chow and beside it, two French bulldogs wearing coats. One was black and one was white. It was them. Martha Stewart’s beloved pets. I would recognize them anywhere. I’ve seen them in her magazines, her shows, her talk show appearances. I know Sharkey. I KNOW HIM. And there they were. I whipped out my camera so fast, I took dozens of hideous photos like this one.

IMG_5345.JPGI stood right beside them and marveled at this moment. I followed them and their walker out the door, and finally, not wanting to be seen as a creep, I watched them go. My heart was light and my spirit was soaring. I may not have met Martha, but I saw her dogs, and that meant a tremendous deal to me. I floated to Pennsylvania Station and was soon chugging home. Life can be wonderful.

Feud: Bette and Joan:

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Unbeknownst to Ryan Murphy — even though I doubt this — he and I are engaged in an epic battle. I feel he continuously hacks into my computer for ideas for American Horror Story. Anybody who has read my debut novel, which stinks to high heaven, Terrible Miss Margo, knows that there are an absurd number of similarities between that novel and the first few seasons of American Horror Story. The characters in the first season, the background in the second season, and the setting of the third all seem like direct rips out of my work. As the years go by, I’ve learned to appreciate Ryan’s hacking, and I start to wonder what a conversation with him would be like. How would it go to lunch at the Chateau Marmont with somebody who apparently has a very similar brain and interests? He’s like my creative twin. I think it’d be too weird. Anyway, the final proof that Ryan is mining my interests is season one of Feud. Readers, gasp in shock with me the way that I gasped in shock at the discovery that this series was going to be entirely about the feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Gasp again when it was to be based on The Divine Feud, a delicious book about their rivalry that I adore and has been out of print for decades. Y’all know that Joan Crawford has captivated me from the earliest days of my youth. I’ve seen every one of her pictures that I have been lucky enough to found. I’ve still not found them all, but I have no doubt that before death, I will have seen everything from The Ice Follies of 1939 to Trog. To me, there is nobody so elegant as Joan, few lives more fabulous than the one she led. I love her, and so I worried, reader, that over the course of the first few episodes, Ryan Murphy would pull a Ryan Murphy, but for whatever remarkable reason, he hasn’t. I think it’s because he’s telling a story that actually happened instead of creating something that is supposed to be terrifying. He’s better this way. The show, reader, is decadent. And I never thought that I would ever live in a world where I would see Jessica Lange embody Joan Crawford. There have been so many special moments. When Susan Sarandon perfectly became Bette Davis and sang, “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy,” I was taken away. I was out of my body. There was an unexpected moment a couple episodes back when Susan Serandon perfectly recreated Bette Davis’s song and dance on a late night talk show. I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening in front of my eyes.

This has been a little song that I have sang for years. And here it was. It was so strange. So strange, reader, that I’m still shook. Every episode has been an absolute joy and I feel lucky that the obscured origins of my beloved genre, Grand Dame Guignol, is being thrust onto the silver screen during the golden age of television. It’s absolutely too wonderful to witness. I will watch this show again and again until my dying day. Both Jessica and Susan deserve an Emmy nomination and award for their performances last week. The episode was all about Joan snatching the Academy Award from Bette without even winning. It was the epitome of glorious. Watch the show, reader, catch up, enjoy this blessed creation. (The only rotten thing is Catherine Zeta-Jones playing Olivia de Havilland. As a major fan of Olivia’s one who has shouted up at the windows of her townhouse in Paris, “I loved you in Light in the Piazza! YOU ARE FABULOUS!,” I take umbrage with Catherine’s portrayal. But everything else is divine. By the way, have you seen Light in the Piazza, yet?

Oh, it’s divine.) Go watch Feud.

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