Looks like this is the end for Next Magazine, a staple in gay publishing in NYC for as long as I've been here. (I was bummed when HX disappeared years and years ago, and still sometimes slip and call Next by that name.)
Next is one of the last in a long short tradition of gay publications, stretching back to Bob Mizer's Physique Pictorial and being heavily influenced by such '70s magazines like After Dark and Michael's Thing.
(Image via Frontiers)
How long will gay print magazines last? 1951 through ... ? Out and The Advocate, as well as Attitude, have had their ups and downs. The death of Next—L.A.'s outstanding Frontiers and other publications are also caught up in this—is just another step toward the end.
Last night, I did something new after 24 years in NYC—I went to Staten Island, the fabled most conservative borough.
I was lured there by a siren's song: Miss Sophia Loren was making an unusual appearance on her Q&A tour, An Evening with Sophia Loren. I find it odd that she would appear on Staten Island, but I think the tour is economically driven (she wants the money, not just remind us of her fabulousness) and the venue—the St. George—was probably much cheaper than anything in Manhattan. It certainly felt cheaper—it was frankly like the event had rented it out and the venue provided little more than a skeleton crew to move things along.
She's actually appearing in Detroit next.
Getting there wasn't half the fun, but it wasn't too much of a bother, and the ferry ride cooled me off. You may have heard that New York was stultifyingly hot recently. I went in and got my VIP pass, which was the very first moment I was notified that Sophia would not sign autographs at the $400 photo op. That seemed pretty stingy to me. I went back outside and spotted some autograph hounds by the stage door, listening in as one guy bent the ear of a security guy who could not have cared less as he talked about the various celebrity encounters he'd had in his life. I decided to hang there on the way, way off-chance that she would be accessible upon entry since only five or six guys were waiting and I had a nice pic for her to hopefully sign.
If you gotta be 81, you wanna be 81 and look like this.
Her manager walked by us, never mentioning the inevitable—that she planned to be driven straight into the building and would enter without anyone laying eyes on her—until he was finally directing her SUV into the back entrance. At this moment, these pigs who hadn't been waiting at all physically pushed past us to get closer, but they got no more a glimpse of her than we did. My motto is to try, because I'd rather have her autograph than not have it, but I wasn't going to lose sleep. I think the nice guy who had roses for her might have.
When you get an opportunity to interview Bruce Vilanch, one of the most celebrated comedy writers in history and a way-out gay man to boot (and boots go with anything), you do not pass it by.
Vilanch spoke with me last week about a cause close to his heart, the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation and the great work it does and will continue to do thanks to the bucks it seeks to rake in from a one-night-only Help Is on the Way cabaret benefit: the Broadway touring cast of Beautiful will perform in Motown & More on Monday, September 12, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. at the Marines' Memorial Theater in San Francisco.
(Image via Help Is on the Way)
The highly anticipated show will be co-hosted by Vilanch and operatic drag diva Katya Smirnoff-Skyy. Get your tickets here.
Vilanch's career took off when a friendship with Bette Midler (before she was Bette Midler!) led to him writing for her 1974 Broadway show Clams on the Half Shell. He's collaborated with her many times, and has written for a dizzying array of TV shows and performers, from Donny Osmond to Elizabeth Taylor, and for some of the funniest people of our time: Robin Williams, Roseanne Barr (she really did used to be funny), Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin and more.
Help Is on the Way performers speak out about the charity:
Somehow, Vilanch has been able to be a part of the best and worst of pop culture, writing for the Oscars for 27 years and counting, and also counting The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1976-1977) and that infamous Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) among his credits. He is the nuclear cockroach of HA!, and always the best thing about whatever project he's tackling.
Vilanch survives in any milieu because everyone knows he knows from funny. He's beloved because, unlike some very funny people, he also has a sense of humor about himself, and a sense of duty toward the gay community and people in need.
Read on for my chat with the most hilarious person in the room, because the room is usually filled with people delivering lines he's given them to say ...