Michael Musto: “I Was Royally Screwed By Michael Moore’s Broadway Show”

Also: Raw gay sex in new British romance, "God's Own Country"

I’ve always appreciated Michael Moore, who’s been informed and angry about all the right things. I’ve long praised him, and vice versa. When I first met him in the ‘90s, Moore gushed, “Wow! You’re at a party for me!” At another event some time later, Moore told me, “I wish I could write your column. It’s so funny.” In 2015, I interviewed him at a promotional bash in his apartment and we still got along famously.

Knowing he was coming to Broadway this past July, I requested an interview. The person from the publicity firm was excited and happy to make it happen. They never got back to me. Fine, I got glossed over. But then, someone from the show’s producing team contacted me to say they wanted me as a guest star one night. I was beside myself! It was a hell of an invitation, and my Broadway debut. (I’ve only done talkbacks and also was the guest star for Oh, Hello when it was off-Broadway). I was alternately on a walker and in a wheelchair at the time, recuperating from surgery after a horrible injury, but I got all pumped about the opportunity and excitedly told friends as I readied my recovering leg.

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The day of my appearance, I got a confirmation for the car pickup, but later that same day, the guy who’d booked me texted that I was bumped. The show was running too long, he said. People were streaming out in disastrous fashion. The producers wanted the evening down to 90 minutes and it was going way well over two hours. They were playing around with the format by adding and subtracting things, and I was being subtracted that night. I was very hurt—humiliated, actually—and spent the evening hopping to the Bareburger on my block, then hopping home in despair. Still, word got out that indeed the show was long and being toyed with (though it apparently never got close to 90 minutes). I thought, “It’s sad, but I guess that’s what happens in previews. Maybe they’re just getting rid of certain segments.”

And then I heard that the next night, they had a guest star. Someone even commented on one of the Broadway boards that the segue between Moore’s song and the guest star was awkward that night because she was so serious. (I wouldn’t have posed that problem, though I certainly have a somber side, too.) I texted the person who’d booked me and expressed my pain. He didn’t answer. And a few nights later, they kept a big movie actor as the guest star. (Both my friends who went that night said the segment didn’t work at all.) So much for fighting inequality.

Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Trying to keep this private, I tweeted Moore a congratulations about Broadway (not mentioning the ghastly Times review) and asked if I could DM him something. I didn’t hear back. Fine, he must get millions of tweets. Hoping for restitution, I wrote the show’s publicist, whom I’ve had good dealings with. I underlined the fact that I’m quite relevant, since Breitbart and Fox News had been attacking me—and I’d been getting lots of good press, too, from better venues—though I could also steer away from politics and talk about any imaginable topic, if need be. I had originally been told the conversation would be more about my personal hopes and dreams, which would have been perfectly fine. What’s more, I’ve always had a nice relationship with the Moore show’s director, Michael Mayer. Once, a Broadway site misattributed a quote of mine as being about him, but they corrected that when I alerted them.

Well, the publicist assured me that Moore wanted to rebook me and this would be fixed. I was thrilled. I even told a few of those same friends, praying I wouldn’t be setting myself up for another round of humiliation. Sure enough, it wasn’t fixed. I wrote the publicist again and he said he’d nudge them. But Moore was as silent as Trump is during Evita. I guess they’d booked me, then decided I wasn’t big enough, so they changed their minds. Charming. And now I had to read Moore’s constant tweets bragging about who’d guest starred the previous night, plus the press releases I was getting, trumpeting some of the upcoming guests. Maybe they thought, “Well, you’re not exactly Roger Waters,” and that’s true, but I have my own allure, and I managed to center two sellout benefits this year.

Besides, they’d booked me—and that was during the first week, when Moore was crowing about the high grosses. (It later ended up doing less than 40% of the potential gross for six weeks in a row.) This kind of treatment is alien to my own work ethic. I’ve never scheduled an interview subject and then dumped them in hopes of “better” people. And I’ve never promised to rectify a bad situation and then failed to do so. (That sounds like something Moore’s favorite target would do). So, yes, Michael, you were right to praise me. Will I still praise you? To quote Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, “Guess.”

 

Yorkshire Pudding for the Soul

And that’s not the end of gays getting fucked. Homophobes who found Brokeback Mountain squeam-inducing will be projectile vomiting during God’s Own Country, and that’s a good review. In its tale of inarticulate men meeting and mating, it’s real and immediate, with sex scenes that are tough and believable—and sexy. I usually half close my eyes in embarrassment during screen encounters, but this time I was riveted and even aroused, and I’m not a young girl!

In this first feature by Francis Lee—SPOILER ALERT—Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) works on his family’s farm in northern England, tending to some passive looking sheep in between casual sex acts that are passionate but impersonal. (He refuses to kiss his male partner or go for “a pint” with him after the deed. He simply turns the bloke around and, with both standing up, plows him till climax.) All of that changes when a Romanian migrant worker named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) drops by the farm as a temp and stirs up unforeseen emotions. Gheorghe is strong, enigmatic, and very handy, and soon enough antagonism between them turns to sex and eventually tenderness. “Fuck you, fag,” they half-joke to each other, fetishizing their oppressive place in the world. But Gheorghe becomes very sweet toward Johnny, who isn’t quite ready to handle it—or is he? The Hollywood-style ending is the only weak point of the film.

Unlike the relatively idyllic Call Me By Your Name that’s coming our way, this film is aggressively gritty and raw. The two flicks should be on a triple bill with Brokeback Mountain, and by the end of it, everyone will feel a little sore (from sitting so long), but definitely in favor of gay love.

Life is a Cabaret

As New York’s cabaret scene strangely seems to receive less press coverage, its inhabitants have bonded more tightly than ever to trumpet the importance of the world of two-drink minimums and soigne entertainment At Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater last week, the 28th New York Cabaret Convention’s opening night was a gala sampling of the best in the biz, with highlights coming from KT Sullivan (who hosted and also sang two songs from Kiss Me, Kate), veteran chanteuse Marilyn Maye (who served old-style class), Luba Mason (who did a jazzy version of a Slovakian anthem), Joshua Lance Dixon (who sweetly interpreted Dean Martin’s hit, “Everybody Loves Somebody”), and Lyric Peterson (an 18-year-old who trilled a lovely “God Bless The Child”.)

Best of all was the evening’s winner of the Mabel Mercer Award, two-time Tony nominee Vivian Reed, who showed the crowd how it’s done, by commanding the stage and delivering a fierce “Hold On, I’m Comin’” and other fiery songs. I recently ran into Tony winner Trazana Beverley (For Colored Girls…), who told me she wrote and stars in a show about Mabel Mercer, the British-born song stylist who influenced biggies like Sinatra. Well, Vivian’s doing a tribute to another legend, Lena Horne, at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Stormy weather ahead? No, nothing but blue skies.

Glitter and Be Gay

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I happen to have been in a couple of dizzying docs that played NewFest, New York’s LGBT film festival: Jeffrey Schwarz’s The Fabulous Alan Carr, about the caftan wearing showman, and Anthony&Alex’s Susanne Bartsch: On Top, which follows the long running NYC party promoter who celebrates anyone with an edge and a headdress. I hosted the Q&A after the latter film, when Bartsch admitted she was bemused to be in a gay festival. She said she and her ex-husband David Barton are straight, though there have always been all kinds of rumors. Said Bartsch, “People would ask our son who the real father is.” “Well,” I quipped, “we all came out in the steam room of David’s gyms!” I also asked Susanne if it’s true that she likes younger men, and she replied, “We’re all the age that we sleep with.” “So, Michael Jackson was five years old?” I wondered, to catcalls.

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As for Allan Car, Schwarz’s film entertainingly captures a man who surrounded himself with cute twinks, but took care of them and was more of a voyeur than a participant. Carr famously produced Grease on film and La Cage aux Folles on Broadway, but he also had some terrible ideas, like Grease 2, Where The Boys Are ’84, and the 1989 Oscars with Snow White singing “Proud Mary” with Rob Lowe.

A fat guy who wanted to be a matinee idol but instead became popular as a flamboyant personality, Carr seemed to share some personality traits with plus-sized drag star Divine, whom Schwarz also made a documentary about. Interestingly, Carr didn’t have sex until his 30s, and though he was campy, he never came out on the record as gay, and a ‘70s interview with Vito Russo in The Advocate didn’t even go there. But remember, this is the time when After Dark was a gay magazine without saying so and the Village People were a gay group without admitting it. Another bad idea was Carr producing the 1980 Village People film Can’t Stop The Music, which some called Can’t Stop The Cocaine. Late film historian Robert Osborne says in the doc that the musical’s director, Nancy Walker (from Rhoda), walked out of the premiere before the film started, telling him, “You think I want to sit through this piece of shit?”

After the doc, the Village People’s original cowboy, Randy Jones, said Walker once instructed him, “Movies are little pieces of shit snipped together to make something pretty to look at.” The very-nice-to-look-at Bruce Jenner (before being Caitlyn) was also in Can’t Stop, and a talking head says Bruce seemed bemused when surrounded with a million gays running around the set. Comic actress Marilyn Sokol, who was also in that big disco flop, remembered that she went on a date with Jenner, “but he accused me of flirting with the waiter.” That’s better than flirting with Trump, which Caitlyn seems to be doing nowadays, despite all transgressions. But I’ll leave that to Michael Moore’s next show.

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.
@mikeymusto