Barbara Kopple’s film This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous focuses on a personal path that’s hardly unfamiliar: A young boy (in this case Gregory Lazzarato) is boundlessly energetic, constantly doing headstands and pool dives, all while being different “in a good way.” Gregory is attracted to makeup, and eventually to femalehood, transitioning to Gigi Gorgeous via hormones, surgery, and support, as she finds her way into an exciting but sometimes daunting new world.
But what makes this story different is that first of all, Gregory was a big hit on YouTube via entertaining makeup tutorials and personal commentaries, so when Gigi arrived, she was already in the public eye and being scrutinized by hordes of people. On the brighter side, Gigi had a wonderful, supportive mother (who, sadly, died of leukemia, a turn of events that prompted Gigi to transition) and two cool brothers, not to mention a dad who admits to being an old fogey who’s trying to understand things outside his realm, but who ends up being extremely comforting to his rapidly evolving daughter.
While maturing into her persona, Gigi also finds herself becoming a “dick magnet” and winding up with the boyfriend of her dreams, only to have that turn sour, though the whole experience was a welcome introduction to being loved and romanced for the first time. What sticks in the craw the most about Gigi is that she doesn’t care what haters think and is always there to offer support to trans kids who might feel the brunt of those bigots. She’s the kind of person she herself could have used years earlier.
At a special screening of the doc at the Whitby Hotel, Gigi revealed that the only LGBT person she knew about and admired as a kid was Ellen DeGeneres, so she’s thrilled to now be that person to younger LGBT people. “I think my life is a show,” she conceded, “but that’s what I signed up for. The good, the bad, the ugly—it’s all out there. But I’ve learned to spot red flags… and I’ve learned over the years to keep myself safe.” And she’s all of 25, wouldn’t you know.
Just don’t ask her about what private parts she has—that’s always lame and off kilter for any trans person. “Whenever I’m asked the genital question,” admitted Gigi, “I just like to leave it open ended. Because who needs to know that?”
But what she would reveal is her career ambition: “I really want to win an Oscar. No, really. And I want to be the next Megan Fox in Transformers. That’s really important to me.” Hey, the job’s available!
In a Lonely Place
There are LGBT references in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, about the stormy but tender real-life relationship between young actor Peter Turner and famed movie star Gloria Grahame in 1978 Liverpool. By this point, Grahame had been racked by scandal, but exuded an appealing vulnerability and eagerness (despite her various denials), bonding with Turner, who at first has no idea who she is and becomes increasingly wide-eyed as she blithely tosses out references to Bogie and her Academy Award.
The film brings out strong performances by Annette Bening and Jamie Bell as Gloria and Peter, both of whom reveal that they’ve dated same-sex partners before this matchup and are okay with each others’ sexual past. And at a Le Cirque lunch for the film last week, Jamie Bell disclosed that the real Peter Turner currently lives in Liverpool with his longtime boyfriend.
“I think Gloria was definitely someone who lived on the edge,” said Bening in the Q&A after the lunch. “If an experience presented itself, she grabbed it. She broke a lot of rules. She did marry her stepson and she had two children with him!”
Bell admitted that (like Turner), he hadn’t heard of Gloria Grahame when he first was offered the film. He thought this was a fictional account of a movie star in Liverpool and had heard that funnyman Mike Myers was working on just such a project. Well, Myers happened to be sitting in the crowd at the lunch and shouted out, “I’m very proud to be scooped by such a fantastic film!”
As for an anticipated Broadway revival—Once on This Island—one of its creators told me at my table that at the first preview, the show’s goat pranced onto the stage and did a #2, forcing a cast member to clean up the mess with bare hands. I’m sensing two new Tony categories in the making.
The next day, I went to a special screening of The Disaster Artist, with James Franco as Tommy Wiseau, the creepy but driven guy who wrote, produced, directed and starred in the best-worst movie of all time, The Room. I’ll give you my opinions about the film closer to when it opens, but I can tell you that Juliette Danielle—who plays Wiseau’s wily girlfriend Lisa in The Room—always reminded me a bit of Britney Spears’ wayward cousin. And it turns out the pop goddess was up for the role of Juliette/Lisa. At the screening, Franco said, “After a brief discussion with Britney, I went with Ari Graynor… An amazing actress, that’s what we chose.”
Christmas arrived early this year. The same day it was announced that Louis CK’s movie I Love You, Daddy was being pulled from the release schedule because of the comic’s sexual misdeeds, I got a screener of the film in the mail for Oscar consideration! I’m one of the distinguished few and almost felt like I‘d nabbed a copy of Jerry Lewis’s unseen The Day The Clown Cried—or maybe even The Room. And having watched it, I can reveal the movie’s real shock: CK (with the help of his co-writer) makes himself a messy and uncertain but pretty decent guy who’s surrounded by sharks! He makes other characters the pervs!
John Malkovich plays Leslie Goodwin, a 68-year-old director CK’s character reveres, but who’s been buzzed about as an uncompromising pedophile. Charlie Day is Ralph, CK’s actor cohort, who’s always there with an outrageous sexual remark, a jerking off gesture, or a low observation. And Rose Byrne is Grace, a beautiful actress who wants a part in CK’s next series, and who’s brimming over with way too permissive ideas about what CK’s 17-year-old daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) should be allowed to do on her jaunts with Goodwin.
The movie is in black and white, like Woody Allen’s Manhattan, the 1979 film about a writer obsessed with a young girl. (Gee, that one didn’t have any self-reflexive echoes, did it?) And while there are some subversively funny scenes at the beginning (Pamela Adlon is very good as CK’s abrasively wise ex-girlfriend), that bogs down into a morass of talk and tedium, though a certain hypnotic auteurist pull almost takes over. By the way, the real-life CK apologized for his behavior, but clarified that he always asked women if he could show his willy before he did so. He never said if they responded “Yes”!
Remembering Liz Smith
As we bid adieu to CK’s career, let’s also say bye-bye to Liz Smith, the gossip queen who died last week at 94. Liz was smart, plugged in, and generous when it came to supporting celebs (and even encouraging me). But as for LGBT issues, she was MIA. She knowingly closeted celebs (and herself) for years—and somehow won a GLAAD award. She criticized NYC’s Pride parade for its topless women and flamboyant outfits instead of endorsing the bravery and fierceness. And she defended Pat Buckley when she wouldn’t publicly disagree with her conservative husband William F. Buckley’s ugly views on people with HIV.
If that made you question Liz’s other reporting, you had a right to: In 1988, Liz seemed delighted when a rival columnist, Suzy, was brought down by writer James Revson for having lazily written up an event based on the advance press release, thereby getting a lot of the facts wrong. Well, I caught Liz doing the exact same thing and wrote about it, which resulted in my getting an angry letter from her office saying what I did was mean and unnecessary!
In any case, I’ll remember Liz for her love of celebs and her zest (even as Michelangelo Signorile and I were nattering away at her) and for supporting Literacy Partners and various AIDS charities. And though her column left out a lot of things, what she put in was often choice.