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May 23 2017
A Night To Dismember: Behind The Scenes At Michael Musto's Birthday Roast Comments (0)

*IMG_4846_newKing & Queen (which is which?) — Michael Musto & Bianca Del Rio (All images by Matthew Rettenmund)

I was so happy to attend Michael Musto's pig, I mean big, roast Monday night — which raised cash for Callen-Lorde — until I actually went.

Just kidding; I guess the evening's rancor rubbed off!

*IMG_5089_newEverything was comin' up Rosie!

*IMG_4758_newMusto with Broadway baby Orfeh

*IMG_4686Paper's Mickey Boardman, Musto & Vogue's Lynn Yaeger. Musto claims he was saying, “Please leave!”

The big-hearted downtown legend arranged his birthday bash this way for charity, but nobody present was feeling particularly charitable, as evidenced by a barrage of insults that would've had Don Rickles questioning the taste level.

*IMG_4652Andy Sween, Robin Byrd, Robbyne Kaamil & Rob Shmalo, a fashionable foursome

*IMG_4749_newCome to think of it, he really is a hot piece — Randy Rainbow, Hell's Kitchen sex symbol!

*IMG_4705_newMoney can't buy you class, just tiaras — LuAnn (de Lesseps) D'Agostino

*IMG_4918_newOrfeh, Crystal Demure & Elizabeth Ann Berg with Lucy the Slut

*IMG_4675_newFire Island's feels-meister, Justin T. Russo

*IMG_4731_newDoorman Markus Kelle KILLED!

*IMG_4788_newRide a cowboy — Randy Jones

*IMG_4672_newHunky barkeeps

The roastee appeared as an emperor with lots of clothes, seated in an impressive prop throne while enduring the barbs of Bruce Vilanch, RuPaul's Drag Race winners (undoubtedly evil losers to Trump) Bianca Del Rio and Jinkx Monsoon, Scruff's Johnny Skandros, lesbian comic Judy Gold, Crystal Demure (Kinky Boots), Village People veteran Randy Jones, Broadway diva Orfeh, partly-Real Housewife LuAnn (de Lesseps) D'Agostino, viral sensation Randy Rainbow, theater columnist Michael Riedel, Elizabeth Ann Berg with Lucy the Slut puppet and the city's most famous doorman, Markus Kelle.


*IMG_4725_newJinkx Monsoon, an evil winner

*IMG_4969_newScruff Team Member I want to make passionate love to

*IMG_4836_newNightlife producer extraordinaire Daniel Nardicio with adorbs person extraordinaire Artem Shcherbakov

*IMG_4986_newTussaud's is getting really good! Musto & Vilanch frozen in eternal satisfaction

*IMG_4955_newThe always fab Johnny Dynell & Chi Chi Valenti

(There were also video interludes stacked with well-wishes and go-to-hell-wishes from the likes of Michael Urie, Joe Dallesandro, John Waters, Chita Rivera and many more.)

Yes, that is a lot of people, and you know you've been talking for too long when the audience at a roast attempts to boo you off the stage, which happened to the first roaster. Don't worry, it was all in bad fun.

*IMG_5130_newHer heart attack was one of her better recent memories.

*IMG_5257_newI don't recall what was being said here, but it was something that would make Ruby Rose tweet a sad face.

Before things got rolling in the mud, Rosie O'Donnell appeared and gave a layered speech about her no-good-awful-very-bad year, including what her therapist terms as her overinvestment in the motherhood narrative (!) and, of course, Trump's world-challenging win. I actually liked her this way, less a stand-up act than a monologuist. Loved hearing her remember how Musto outed her, something that bothered her to the point of distraction at the time, but which she now thanks him for. She also pointed out this was only her fifth public appearance since Trump won, saying she wants to show up for her gay family.

Then she left and everyone stopped being nice.

*IMG_5177_newHolding court

*IMG_5229_newJoe Dallesandro, not in the Flesh

*IMG_5303_newAn outburst by Frank DeCaro

Interestingly — and this is perfect, considering Michael Musto's savage writing style — there seemed to be a teensy bit of genuine beef between some of those onstage, with participants openly glaring at each other, interrupting and even stepping on punchlines. Things went from worse to even worse when the roasters, all of whom were taking hits themselves, started passing around a mic in order to talk back while they were being skewered. Tempers flared, but hey, the best jokes came out when people were pissed. Did I mention they were all drunk?

I was going to go through each of the stars and trash them in the style of a roast, but that takes a lot of work, so instead I'll just cut to the chase and say I was blown away by how funny Markus Kelle was! He was channeling Joan Rivers, had excellent timing, pulled no punches and came up with the best mean remark of the night, saying the last time Vilanch got f*cked was by genetics! He also claimed Musto's face was the original PrEP.

I like blanket viciousness like those remarks because they're not person-specific, so there's no chance for hurt feelings.

Demure was also a breath of fresh hell, expertly filleting everyone around her. *IMG_5188_new

I thought Gold and Monsoon might come to blows, and Judy was not thrilled when her first jokes didn't land immediately, but of course she was just getting warmed up and she wound up slaying. I wanted to yell out, “We love you, Rosie!” but had misplaced my balls.

Randy Rainbow should go to more roasts — he was attacked for being cute and f*ckable, with jokes about how well-endowed he is in the front, and how accommodating he is in the rear. The “insults” he took made me hard.

By the end, Bianca's professionalism was welcome by everyone, including the people onstage, even if it came wrapped in a verbal splash of acid to their faces. O'Donnell, Gold, Jones, Orfeh and D'Agostino had given up and gone home, allowing her even more leeway to trash them, and she landed several zingers on others who weren't there. She also looked amazing, and had to feel very much on her home turf at an event that encourged people to say mean things. Those who zinged her were either rewarded with her good-natured cackle, or were smacked down hard. You can't weakly insult an insult queen — you gotta be committed.

I suspect Michael may have chosen this format because he himself is good at it. He was one of the only people making side remarks who was consistently funny, and his speech was filled with appropriately fake-nasty verve. Plus, it didn't take a hook to get him off the stage, and this was after enduring hours of eyebrow slams! (I don't get it — I happen to love all three of his eyebrows.)

*IMG_4644_newStab here!

The evening was definitely a case of bad blood for a good cause, and as some of the roasters noted, it was a thrill to be at this event having grown up reading Musto's columns. A real role model, and one who deserves a very happy birthday.

Now, where the hell was Lady Bunny?

*IMG_5067_newRosie showed the kind of support for her LGBTQ family that was in short supply as this photo op transpired!

Sidebar: Downstairs before the show, I was among several photographers shooting the guests. It was no big deal, but when Rosie arrived and would only pose outside (smart — it was a sauna in that basement), the Getty photographer, who had been nice all night, physically shooed me and two other photographers back inside, saying, “Inside! Everybody inside!” as if we were all being instructed to do this by some higher power. Once he had gotten us there, he looked us right in the face and slammed the door! I was shocked. Bianca was right there, and even she was taken aback. “Don't listen to that queen, just go back out,” she said, which was what I was going to do and did. We went back out and nothing more was said, we all got pictures. I can assure you no one will retire on the money we make from our nice pictures of Rosie O'Donnell, so I don't know if he was taking orders (which he shouldn't have been doing) from Rosie's people or just decided on his own he wanted fewer competitors. It was so unnecessary — Getty is a big deal, so everyone was deferring to him anyway, and we were all invited.

Can't figure that one out at all.