Don’t Even Think of Taking Photos at the Notorious Black Party—No, Really!

Also: Udo Kier is playing a gay hairdresser in Todd Stephens’ next film.

In 2011, I snuck my tight derriere into the Saint At Large’s annual Black Party—held at the now-defunct Roseland Ballroom—and couldn’t seem to find the sex despite searching all over the place like the only gay private detective. “It’s all a scam!” I decided, wondering if I should pull out a flashlight and try harder. “This party is as vanilla as a furniture store opening! The circuit has clearly been short circuited! What’s all the fuss about?”

And then, someone in nipple clamps urged me to sneak up to the balcony and push the swinging door, so I obediently did and found some swinging all right. Bingo! There were more guys on their knees than at an NFL game. Hands were going up interesting places. Mouths were turning somersaults in Olympic-caliber movements. There was sex, sex, sex, and not a phone app in sight. I wanted to give these guys a hand—but they already had one. My tongue dropped—and someone tried to use it. And after I wrote up the whole experience, I wasn’t exactly invited again.

The party emphatically doesn’t court reviews or coverage (though they will release authorized photos, usually of the hired performers or of crowd long shots). They want to be a free space for antic adventures of the carnal kind.

Courtesy of Saint At Large
A vintage Black Party poster.

This year, Rites XL: The Black Party, with a Caligula: The Last Party theme—the 40th anniversary of the event—adamantly continues the no-photos rule. Held this Saturday at the New York Expo Center in the Bronx, they are holding to the mandatory phone and camera check at the door, and anyone who doesn’t pay attention to that could get 86’d from all the 69-ing.

If you’re busted, your phone will be seized, and at the end of the night, you can reclaim it as long as you delete all incriminating evidence. This policy might discourage some guys who were hoping to get filmed doing their stuff—since they’ll be doing it for an audience anyway—but I guess they’ll have to drum up their own party, with different rules. And if so, please invite me! But this Saturday, I’ll be home baking gingerbread cookies while singing songs from Mary Poppins Returns to my imaginary pet rabbit. Want to join? You’re definitely invited—and actually, I insist that you film it. But unlike the Black Party, there’s no controversial discount ticket for those 27 and under and arriving early. Everyone pays in full all night long!

Udo Kier Finds His Own Private Ohio

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Someone who’s never been afraid of cameras is German-born actor Udo Kier (pictured above). Known for culty films like Andy Warhol’s Dracula and My Own Private Idaho, Kier has always embraced interesting career challenges in off-center auteur works. In his latest development, he’s signed to play a real-life gay hairdresser named Mister Pat in a semi-fictionalized movie called Swan Song, the third part of the Ohio trilogy by Todd Stephens (Edge of Seventeen, Gypsy 83). To launch the film, Stephens recently had a successful kickstarter campaign that made $76,870, which he’ll use when he starts shooting in May in his hometown of Sandusky.

Stephens (who’s also done the outrageous comedies Another Gay Movie and Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!) was a teen when he first saw Mister Pat spinning around on the dance floor at a Sandusky club called the Universal Fruit and Nut Company. He was captivated. Says the writer-director, “Swan Song is a love letter to a man who changed my life by always having the courage to be fabulous. Mister Pat was a revelation—out, loud, and proud in a very different era.” The flamboyant hairdresser would no doubt have been tickled to know that his persona is wrapping up this Sandusky trilogy. “The first two films were about trying to escape it,” explains Stephens, “and the last is about embracing where you came from.” As well as your hairstyle!

I’d Rather Reeve While I’m in Love

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“I’m flying without a set list tonight because I want to feel your vibe,” said Reeve Carney (pictured above) in his show last night at Yotel’s the Green Room 42. Reeve is known to Broadway audiences as Peter Parker-slash-Spidey in the ambitious Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Now, he’s Orpheus in the currently previewing Hadestown, but he’s also a jazz influenced rocker with shades of Billy Joel, Peter Allen, and Spencer Day, as well as a one-man band who accompanies himself on electric guitar, with the help of a piano, a kazoo, and a violin bow. Cutting a Dickensian figure in a white T-shirt, suspenders, and tuxedo tails, Carney has a boyishly earnest face that crunches up into closed-eyes passion as his voice wails and surprises with clarity and range. Doing an exhaustive set heavy on original songs (“Up Above The Weather” is a particular beauty), interspersed with relaxed banter, he projected a mix of easygoing affability and trancelike intensity that made him come off like a heavenly talent from Hadestown. I might even forgive him for talking about the “soundtrack” they’re doing for the show. Reeve, it’s a cast album!

A couple of blocks away, the Playboy Club—on the site of the old gay dance palace called xl—served swell dinners to a mixed crowd for their Playboy Live! Monday, which kicked off last week with talented singers like drag star Nedra Belle. Seeing a few gays mix with the Playboy bunny crowd was really something, especially since I also came face-to-face with famed mentalist The Amazing Kreskin, who’s always come off remarkably credible, though I don’t think he ever predicted Miss Cleo.

I took the opportunity to ask Kreskin what he predicts for Madonna’s future, just for the hell of it. Alas, the guy didn’t have his hearing aid in, so I kept screaming, “What do you predict for Madonna?!” as he looked at me blankly. Everyone thought I was nuts, and they might have a point.

I was crazy about Brian Butterick (AKA drag performer Hattie Hathaway), who was the creative director of the legendary Pyramid club in the East Village and went on to be a producer at the experimental Jackie 60 nightlife space in the 1990s, as well as run a gay bookstore. At a Howl Gallery event celebrating Butternick, his friend Hapi Phase extolled the way Butternick would encourage all zany and fun ideas for shows in the Pyramid days. I also spoke, relating what the always direct but optimistic Butternick had told me about millennials: “They actually are smart, they value your interaction, they know all the social media and use Wikipedia in the best way. They fetishize some of what we did, which is always a good ego boost, and they give me hope.” Brian had lung cancer and I hear he took his own life to exit the pain. Tonight (Monday, April 1, his birthday), there is a celebratory event, complete with a brass band, gathering at Tompkins Square Park at 6:30pm and moving on to La MaMa.

Heidi Schreck Addresses “We the People…”

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One of the most original and thrilling pieces on Broadway is Heidi Schreck’s What The Constitution Means To Me, in which the award-winning writer-performer from the abortion-free town of Wenatchee, Washington, delves back to a speech she made about the Constitution when she was 15, an exciting and lucrative habit of hers that paid for her college education. But that’s just the start of this offbeat one-acter (which would make a frisky double bill with another re-evaluation of what our founding fathers had in mind for our country, Hamilton).

Schreck intersperses her old speechifying (about how the Constitution is a hot, sweaty cauldron) with flips back to her current state as she ruminates on the dark history of her family, which was beset by domestic abuse that was dealt with in differing ways by the various generations of women. While illustrating the loud “Greek tragedy crying” she and the other women on her maternal side always partook in, she wails against our “culture that makes it clear it has no interest in protecting you” and details ways the Constitution either lets us down or more often is misinterpreted by old, white men of the type that wrote it. (In an audio segment, we hear Antonin Scalia decide that the word “shall” doesn’t really mean “shall” in the document’s part about how the police shall protect the victims of a crime. You didn’t think he’d rally to the defense of someone named Jessica Gonzales, did you?).
 

Schreck also touches on how the Dred Scott case—in which a slave sued for freedom—was shot down, but paved the way for huge racial advances. Then, actor Mike Iveson, who plays the good-natured man supervising Heidi’s teen speech events, drops the fourth wall and talks about his own experiences as a gay man in the hands of white, straight America.

For one more twist, Schreck brings out a student debater—the amazing Thursday Williams the night I saw it—who then argues with our star about whether the Constitution needs to be thrown out and redone, or is essential to our democracy after all these years. (Thursday’s pro-Constitution argument won, as decided by a woman chosen from the audience, who turned out to be a law professor. One can only imagine who would do the Constitution rewrite and what it might encompass; sequels are usually even worse than the original.) And then Schreck and Williams answered various written-down questions, Williams leaving us with her hopeful and diverse view of her future. Schreck radiates star presence, and as directed by Oliver Butler, this is 100 well-spent minutes—and I haven’t even mentioned all the Dirty Dancing references.

As for making points about the rights shredding of the current administration, Schreck barely even has to bother; unlike our treasured document, that stuff writes itself.

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