Arts Hairspray: The “Very Special” Edition
posted by July 17 at 12:07 PMon
So the premiere was last night. Two premieres, actually—the real one, in New York and the “very special” one at the 5th Avenue, where the Hairspray musical hatched and squawked and gorged itself on the blood of local virgins before flying off to Broadway.
A few notes:
• There was an inadvertently hilarious “very special video message” from the musical cast (attending the NYC premiere, of course) to all us “very special” schlubs stuck in Seattle. Their eyes wandered around, searching for the camera, reading awkwardly from the teleprompter, culminating in one of the stars reading (actually having to read), “enjoy the movie, Seattle!” You could smell their itch to get the fuck out of their “very special” video hole and make for the premiere, with its hors d’oevres and champagne. It made me feel a little guilty, like I was some pesky kid brother keeping them from having their fun.
• There was also a kind-of-sad, kind-of-hilarious big-hair contest with little kids, old ladies (go Angie from Issaquah!), drag queens, and one irrepressible gal of size who obviously won the audience applause vote. And when 5th Ave artistic director David Armstrong mistakenly awarded first prize to a drag-queen trio (who were fine, but really—that gal obviously won), the crowd turned ugly, booing and hissing, emboldening the gal of size to force her way between the drag queens and shout “it should be me!” It was tacky. It was brash. And it was perfect since this whole “very special” evening was an homage to the Marquis de Tacky.
• Hm? The movie? It’s fine, it goes down easy, except John Travolta. Watching him swim around in his drag fat suit was embarrassing. But greater minds than mine (like David Schmader’s) will be reviewing Hairspray in this upcoming issue.
• As for Travolta’s Scientologism (“we cure gays!”) and the gayness of the movie and alleged “gay boycott“—even though the Marquis de Tacky himself defended Travolta in the New York Times (“If he were homophobic, he’d have had a heart attack on the set”), the movie ties itself in knots to prevent Travolta and husband Christopher Walken from kissing. They peck on the cheek, they slap each other on the ass, they have an extended song and dance about their undying love, but (weirdly, almost ostentatiously) they never kiss.
Which, in a movie with flashers, charged interracial make-out scenes, and a bushel of double entendres, seems odd. Especially when the ostentatious kisslessness involves a Scientologist in drag who doth protest too much:
“There is nothing gay in this movie,” Travolta told the London Times on-line. “I’m not playing a gay man.”
(You are, John. You’re playing Harvey Fierstein’s interpretation of Divine’s character. Meaning you’re playing a woman via two gay men. It couldn’t be any gayer.)
Anyway: Very Special!