Any time you see a twisting, sexily writhing dancer’s “Fosse hand,” you can thank the late, great choreographer Bob Fosse (1927-87), whose showmanship dazzled in risk-taking shows like Sweet Charity and Chicago, and who also won acclaim for helming stylized and influentially dark films like Cabaret, Lenny, and All That Jazz.
Author-library curator Kevin Winkler’s new book, Big Deal, Bob Fosse and Dance in The American Musical, takes the time to gives the hand a hand. To celebrate its release, I asked Winkler two gay-related questions:
What was Fosse’s gift to the LGBT world, creatively speaking?
Fosse was well-known for celebrating the sexuality of his Amazonian female dancers. But he similarly celebrated the men in his shows, creating sexy, dynamic roles for male dancers in shows like Little Me, Pippin, and Chicago. Fosse demonstrated a sophistication and perception about the complexities of sexual attraction regardless of orientation. In All That Jazz, a single look between a producer and a young male dancer speaks as much about the power dynamic and attraction between them as an entire subplot charting the involvement of Joe Gideon (Fosse’s stand-in) with a female dancer.
And, naturally: Was Fosse personally straight or bi or…?
Fosse was relentlessly heterosexual, but after Pippin opened in 1972, he had this to say: “Always before, if I found a male dancer that I knew was homosexual, I would keep saying, ’No, you can’t do that, don’t be so minty there.’ This time, I used the kind of people they were to give the show a kind of individuality, and they were so happy about it, I think it helped the show.”
It was a bold statement considering the casual, unquestioned homophobia of the time. This most heterosexual of director-choreographers was not shy in admitting his own anxieties about homosexuality during his youth. In a 1980 interview in After Dark, he admitted, “There were many men I found really attractive. I sometimes thought, ’Is there some latent tendency in me I’m unaware of?’ But I never found it a big problem for me, never.” Fosse’s frankness was startling. No other figure of his stature in the musical theater was discussing this topic, either as it pertained to him or to his dancers.
The man definitely had some magic to do, and all that jazz, even if his own personal Fosse hands didn’t seem to stray from the straight landscape. And yes, a straight choreographer does happen, children.
Beige Is the New Beige
Beige is back—not just the color, the event—and more than just the hands will be gay. The indoor-outdoor soiree at B Bar (a trendy restaurant on the Bowery) brought throngs of gays out for swilling, schmoozing, and even some dancing, carrying on all the way from 1994 to 2011.
One of the original hosts, the fancy and inspired Erich Conrad, is inviting people to come to the same venue on May 1 to celebrate a return to Beige, subtitled The Rites of Spring. (Other names involved in the bash through the years included Billy Erb, AKA Billy Beyond, who I hear will DJ; the late, soigne Edwige, and DJ Jon Jon Battles.) It was a magical club that filled a whole lot of Tuesdays with possibility, and I hear that while this return won’t be weekly, it could be monthly, like a regular visitor for one and all.
If it clicks, like everything else from the ‘90s seems to be doing, one can only sit back and wait for the inevitable Plaid party. And the sight alone of Conrad (who’s also hosted at the Maritime, the Paramount, and the Standard) holding court with his tower of seafood trays will make it worthwhile.
Marc of the Vampire?
Meanwhile, the grooms might not necessarily wear beige to their wedding, but in any case, it was fab to learn that Marc Jacobs proposed to boyfriend Charly Defrancesco at a NY Chipotle the other day.
Marc has long been quite savvy about playing the media, and since he’s attracted to celebrating slightly damaged celebs, it’s no wonder he likes Chipotle, which has had its own setbacks. And as I said to a friend, “Would you be talking about this if he’d done it at a four-star restaurant?” Of course Marc might have been more on the money if he’d proposed at a Dig Inn, 7-11, Popeye’s or Dunkin’ Donuts, but, as has been speculated, this event may have had something to do with promotion for National Burrito Day. Okay, you heathen cynics? Hush! Anyway, congrats, Marc and Charly—though I bet Payless doesn’t sponsor the wedding.