Above, an occasionally shirtless gallery of photos from The 7th Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant.
Monday night was The 7th Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant, a ribald affair that pits chorus boys from various Broadway shows against each other based on their talent, their ability to sell the good in a swimsuit and their answers to random questions. It raises money for The Ali Forney Center, so attracts a lot of support. The show's celebrity judges don't hurt, either—this year featured Andrea Martin (Pippin), Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar—best play I've seen in years) and Billy Porter (Kinky Boots—I hate that I could not get review tickets to this show, of all shows!), all of whom had just won Drama Desk Awards for their performances the day before.
For the first time, the event was held at NYU's Skirball Center in the Village. Timing being what it is, the event fell on the same day that people from all over the city were gathering down the street to protest the wave of anti-LGBT violence that has swept NYC, including the cold-blooded murder of Mark Carson. It was quite a night-and-day experience for anyone who managed to hit both events, a chance to experience rage and grief before settling into irreverent tomfoolery and balls-out (not literally, unfortch) entertainment.
We arrived early for the red carpet. An adorable couple macked on my companion (why do people assume we're not together?), I had a juicy political chat with an anybody-but-Christine-Quinn operative and I saw my buddies Curtis and Peter. The carpet was somewhat disappointing this year in that two of the judges avoided it, I somehow missed the superdreamy Max von Essen and even the contestants only popped out for a brief photo op. (In the past, I've sometimes interviewed the guys before the show and have had access to the judges.) But on the bright side, the one judge I did get, after she sat with Cindy Adams for a Q&A, was the one I was dying for...the legendary Andrea Martin!
I have not yet seen Pippin (I'm gonna!), but I have heard nothing but raves. Martin, a household name among households with taste for her SCTV past alone, was a total delight. Before our brief interview, she did a pic-with and used it as a way of checking her hair and makeup. "I wish I had someone do that for me tonight!" she fretted, before saying her dress was ridiculous, too. (It wasn't. She is 66 and looks amazing!)
After I'd reassured her that my video camera had a cheap light on it that would blow her out like an Andy Warhol Polaroid of Joan Collins, she answered my questions warmly and gamely, including my query about what, if anything, in her career was something she still can't believe she did or is even embarrassed to admit she did. Who knew that she made a movie in 1971 for Ivan Reitman called Foxy Lady in which she had a brief nude scene? (She claims no one has ever seen it.)
I was also excited to connect with Paul McGill, whom I had encountered when he was plugging his 2009 role in the remake of Fame. He's an amazingly gifted dancer; if you never saw his beauty in the reenactment parts of the spellbinding documentary Man on Wire (2008), you're missing out.
Inside, we were treated to box seating, which was great for the view but less than ideal for shooting. (The judges were stage left, as were we, so I got precious few shots of them.) Great venue, though.
Carl Siciliano said my Encyclopedia Madonnica was a staple of his youth. Wondering what he looks like nekkid is a staple of my oldth.
Oink Tank: Dave Hughes (VP of marketing & PR) & co-founder David Lauterstein of Nasty Pig.
For the sixth year in a row, Tovah Felshuh, 60, was our filthy emcee. The show is set up very loosely, so there's plenty of awkward time to fill. Tovah is the ideal host for the times when you need someone with a faulty filter to vamp.
Before getting raunchy, though, Tovah gave a moving speech in remembrance of Mark Carson that brought down the house and reminded us all that along with fun and games, our community knows how to get pissed off and get involved.
The show was a hoot, as always, from its Our Gang-esque let's-put-on-a-show opening (McGill was the evening's volunteer choreographer) to featured performer Nathan Lee Graham's appearances as a Diana Ross-esque "Fairy Godmother."
The guys competing for the title of Mr. Broadway were:
Callan Bergmann (from Silence! The Musical), Orion Griffiths (Pippin), Julius C. Carter (Spider-Man), Matthew Goodrich (The Nance), Paul Heesang Miller (Mamma Mia) and Yurel Echezarreta (Matilda).
The guys introduced themselves, which is where I thought Griffiths forfeited—he announced immediately that he was married (to a chick) and flashed his ring.
The talent portion was a gas. Goodrich did a hysterical combo of an intentionally awkward striptease followed by a scene from Bus Stop; Miller did a fab "Gangnam Style"-ized dance number; Bergmann beautifully sang and danced the funny parody "Off-Broadway" based on "On Broadway" by The Drifters; Carter went all in with a racially stereotyped drag act replete with Kentucky Fried Chicken (Urie wolfed down the chicken he was jokingly handed, and even Porter eventually had to embrace the moment and take some, thought it felt like it was against his better judgment!); and to-the-circus-born Griffiths blew everyone away with ridiculous balancing act you really and truly have to see to believe.
Echezarreta, a huge Beyoncé queen, fulfilled a dream by lipping to her music while recreating her every dance move, right down to the fan.
The talent numbers were far BIGGER this year than ever before, with most of the guys employing multiple back-up dancers to put across their vision.
The Q&A period was completely chaotic, which was part of the fun. The poor guys had no idea what to expect, with Griffiths having to answer what it's like to be in the circus (he's no longer in one...) and Vermont native Miller having to explain which Ben & Jerry's flavor he'd like to be and why.
Finally, it was time for the mercilessly brief swimsuit competition. We'd already seen lots of skin, including from a helper covered in glitter who Urie seemed rather taken with. (Who wouldn't be? He was gifted front and back.) But there's always an appetite for more.
After watching Griffiths do a strip while balancing in the air and also bending so far back he wound up inches away from his own ass ("I know what you're thinking," he teased. "And the answer is no.") I said at that point, "I don't know if he won the whole night, but he won that." The thing is, the other guys looked spectacular in their near-birthday suits. Bergmann has the kind of body you see in ads under the word "AFTER" and Carter, who'd minced around as a drag queen moments earlier, butched it up convincingly, even employing a (terrified-looking) puppy.
If I'm being completely fair, I'd have to say that Echezarreta deserves a big shout-out for his swimsuit performance. He was barely contained in his Speedos and carried himself like a man almost has to carry himself, if you know what I mean.
A spirited number by former winner Anthony Hollock kept us entertained while the audience's votes were tallied (I went for Bergmann, but honest to God, any of them could and should have taken top honors...or bottom honors...or let's just go with versatile honors since that leaves more options open). But it was the vulgar joke-off that Tovah got Andrea and Michael in on that was unforgettable.
I must admit I was surprised Griffiths won. As was Tovah! He was so geeked it was endearing. I guess the gays love their trade!
Afterward, I hung around to get the usual photos of the winner posing with his crown and the non-winners (no losers here) posing with, well, me, but the only one who came out was Callan. As I felt when Martin was the only judge I nabbed, I felt pretty good about the get.
Good job, guys. You've shown off your talent, beauty, creativity and humor, all in the name of helping homeless LGBT youth. That deserves a crown in my book.