ABOVE: Check out the street portraiture of Jovan Williams.
ABOVE: Check out the street portraiture of Jovan Williams.
The Lavender Effect is stepping up to host a Virtual Pride Parade on Sunday, May 31, at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET. To find out how to participate, email VPP@TheLavenderEffect.org.
Alexandra Billings is hosting, and the lineup so far includes Lily Tomlin, Judith Light, Bradley Whitford, Kathryn Hahn, Amy Landecker, Sally Kirkland, Lady J, Bruce Vilanch, Michael Musto and many more.
ABOVE: Hey, I can look like that guy. I just have to hurry up and start working out 30 years ago.
Above, over 75 bonus shots from the night!
ABOUT THIS POST: Please let me know of any names I got wrong or am missing. Please feel free to pluck photos for posting on Facebook, but tag me and the people in them. Shots too naughty for this blog appear at my adult tumblr (Work Unfriendly). And finally, a whole separate post for "Rotation" photos is here. Enjoy, and please donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
As most of my readers know, I am obsessed with Broadway Bares, the annual show that benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Part of recovery is learning to admit you have a problem, and I have no qualms acknowledging that for someone wholly uninvolved with the production, I spend entirely too much time thinking about Bares.
I think about Bares so much that I have its many stand-out performers dancing around in my head in the days leading up to the show. This year, two days out, I spotted Peter Nelson—featured prominently in signage for the show—riding his bike, and promptly Facebooked that I'd seen him, and that it might herald the beginning of summer. Never mind that I've only met him briefly a couple of times. He gamely "liked" my comment and replied; a friend and I had been joking about this in terms of stalking, but I told him even most of my arresting officers agree that stalking has to be done on purpose, and chance encounters like this are just luck—his bad, my good.
Instead of laying off a bit this year, I doubled down—I decided to attend both the 9:30 and midnight shows. My reasoning was that perhaps I'd get lots of great photos from the first show and could then relax and watch the second one. This is the pretty lie I told myself.
I wound up with extra tickets for 9:30, so figured I'd pick them up early at the Roseland, around 3, and try to give them away. As I got my tickets, who is the only dancer walking up at 3 but Peter Nelson. We said hello and I promptly prayed for death; I hated the idea that he might think I was camped out at the theater hours early. If I made too much of a nuisance of myself, I worried I'd wind up in a half-Nelson, which isn't nearly as much fun as the full Monty.
I couldn't get rid of my tickets, so I offered the agents a swap—three G.A. tickets for VIP standing for the first show. Deal! I found myself in line with two really sweet guys, one of whom wound up being the boy pulled onstage by Brandon Rubendall in a video I'd shot for Boy Culture! It's a small, perverted world.
The most gorgeous guy ever came by selling souvenirs and making change; I just couldn't believe he wasn't a performer with an ass so bewitching it had something similar to the Medusa's power to turn men into stone upon viewing it. (Well, at least parts of them.) He gamely posed for a photo, thinking he'd never see it again. Later, I realized it was none other than Justen Kilmer, and had to beg him to let me post them. He thinks he looks out of shape, I think he looks like the last thing a straight man sees before swearing off pussy. You be the judge.
Not that we couldn't have watched the 250-pound drag queen working the entrance to Lucky Cheng's across the way all night, but it was a relief when they let us in early as a break from the steamy heat. Having never been to the first show, I was shocked to see very specific places to stand for priority vs. VIP vs. G.A. attendees, clearly marked off by ropes. I was afforded a spot flush against the central catwalk, a seemingly golden position. Determined to take great photos, I had to consciously overlook the wall-sized posters positioned everywhere, begging us to "respect the performers" and refrain from taking pictures. See, putting Peter Nelson's bare butt on a poster demanding that I not take a picture of it just does not work for me.
Unfortunately, my spot lost its charm early on. In spite of the gorgeous Latin guy across from me whose dark skin glowed under the blue gels, I had to deal with a jerk in front of me who pushed his way in after I'd staked my spot. He also maneuvered to get two more friends against the stage, pressing me into the seam between the catwalk and its circular termination. Not comfy, but a good way to brace myself for disrespecting every performer who came near. (Later in the show, he leaned back hard on me to get me to back off, so I said directly into his ear, "My shoulder is in the exact same spot it was when I first got here. You're pushing me. I'm not moving—at all—and I'm not going anywhere." He stopped.)
A male/female singing duo called The Skivvies took to to stage as the openers, or as they put it, the "fluffers." They were fun, singing a medley of America-themed songs. (But no "American Life," boo.) The adorable dude, Nick Cearley, went bare-assed at the end, but too quickly for me to shoot...yet another reason seeing both shows would come in handy.
Finallly, it was time for Broadway Bares 23: United Strips of America to begin. From here on out, I'm talking about both shows combined, mixing and matching the best of both worlds.
First, let me get out of the way my scant criticisms. (Hey, I'm slavishly devoted to the show, but it can't all be goodness and Judith Light.) I thought the show overall was less special than some previous years have been. I wasn't wild about the American theme, which gave us numbers based on states like Nebraska, Maine and Georgia, and the writing was not funny. It was also a huge let-down that Cyndi Lauper didn't "surprise" us; she did Bares one other time and she and the show's creator Jerry Mitchell just won Tonys for Kinky Boots, so a visitation seemed a shoo-in. There are so many gigantic stars on Broadway who would've been a treat to have pop up, not least of which was Bette Midler. If Bette had shown up in a towel, it would have been legendary.
But really, these complaints are not meant as attacks or to downplay the incredible stamina and talent of everyone involved; it's like ranking orgasms or Madonna tours...they're all amazing, even if some are your favorites and some are not.
On the plus side, the show, directed by Nick Kenkel, had to overcome not featuring some of its most high-profile performers from years past, including Matt Skrincosky, Josh Buscher, Matthew Steffens, Brandon Rubendall, Andy Mills, Guto Bittencourt, Steven Wenslawski and many others, and did so admirably, minting new stand-outs (though all had done the show before) like Nelson, Patrick Boyd, Jamal Story, Daniel Robinson, and others. And as for the choreography (by Kenkel, Derek Mitchell, Paul McGill, Michael Lee Scott, Al Blackstone, Jon Rua, Peter Gregus, Kate Rockwell, Marcos Santana, Mark Myars and Marc Kimelman), it was never less than rigorously entertaining.
Also catching my eye was the fact that the show felt more ethnically diverse, less overwhelmingly male and more peopled with mature men.
The show's conceit is that two gay lovebirds (my boo Michael Cusumano as "Jay" and formerly mustachioed Evita star Max von Essen as "Jason") are stranded on opposite coasts, so wil travel cross-country and meet in Nebraska (of all places). Both are beyond adorable, though were not given as much to do as last year's central pair, Kyle Dean Massey and John Carroll (neither of whom were in the show this time around). They do make a disturbingly cute couple—cute enough that I could've stood more flesh from both!
The kick-off number—"United States of America"—featured Christopher Sieber (revealing shots of him here) and Lesli Margherita as smarmy beauty-pageant hosts, sniping at each other as they announce the Top 10. Cusumano and von Essen are picking the show apart by phone, and wind up fantasizing what it would be like if the producers gave America what it really wants...which turned out to be drag queens and hosts who are way into the SM scene—and whose safe word appears to be, "Harder!" Sieber looks good in a harness, by the way.
Next up, my buddy Andrew Glaszek, one of the show's most visible stars year after year (he's done 10 in a row!), headed up Team "New York" as they offered their take on Madonna's "Vogue," playing a photographer who will bend over backwards to get the hottest shots of model Robb Sherman, who's never looked more striking.
The choreography was light on this one, more about hitting the poses, but I loved the styling; so much ginger and the strong brows on the likes of Dave August and Michael Prince were fierce. (Since a little more skin is always in, click here if you're not at work.)
"California" (snippet of video here) was up next, using Katy Perry's "California Gurls" as an excuse for delicious Daniel Robinson, a lifeguard, to perform mouth-to-mouth before getting into a conga line for a little mouth-to-ass. Speaking of ass, you can see his here in all its glory.