read now, cry later

Dominique Jackson slays, Sondheim’s final words, and a secret gay classic

Dominique Jackson
Dominique Jackson at the 2022 Hetrick-Martin Institute Emery Awards. Photo by Andrew Werner.

Hetrick-Martin Institute’s Emery Awards Ball at Terminal 5 brought out a glam crowd honoring personality-actor-activist Ts Madison, Leiomy Maldonado (“the Wonder Woman of vogue”), New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, and corporate honoree Nike, Inc. Pose’s Dominique Jackson was a stellar presenter, starting out by cutely admitting that she wasn’t sure how to pronounce Nike. (“Is it Nike or Nikee? I’m from Trinidad and Tobago.”) She went on to reference the HBO Max competition show Legendary and Season 3 winners, House of Juicy Couture, who were performing at this event, but she wasn’t happy with the level of response from the audience to her mention. “If you know Legendary and Juicy Couture, then you know they slay, so give them their flowers!” demanded Dominique.

She then had another recommendation for the crowd. “Put your phones on silent. Well, not silent, since I still want you to take my picture … But seriously, the food will be there. It’s only bread and sandwiches. It’ll be fine. I want a moment of silence. To acknowledge the lives that have been lost — the trans women and men who have sacrificed their lives unwillingly so that many of us can stand here.” Amazingly, she managed to get a crowded ballroom full of people to be completely quiet and think the same thoughts. It was a powerful moment. Brava. Give her flowers.

Of course, once the silence is broken, the words can be quite strong too. Another queer activist, lesbian comic Robin Tyler — a pioneer who came out to the masses on a 1978 Showtime special — had this to say on Facebook regarding the Colorado shooting: “Dave Chappelle, homophobic, transphobic comedy has consequences. It is just hate speech couched in ‘laughs.’ Shame on you, and shame on Netflix paying you, a bigot, 20 million dollars. If you want to debate this as a ‘free speech’ artist issue, I will debate you anytime, anywhere.” Hey, Dave, please take Robin up on the challenge. You might learn a thing or two about truly courageous creative expression.

On a lighter note, let’s turn to some queer-empowering gossip …

Streisand and Redford gay?

Were Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford really a gay couple in The Way We Were? Wait, what? OK, to explain: The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen is the extremely vivid title of a new book by critic and author Robert Hofler. The book centers on the hit film The Way We Were, which had Barbra (as an angry Marxist) and Redford (as an apolitical blonde) unexpectedly falling for each other in the 1940s, to the tune of a glossy Marvin Hamlisch score. Arthur Laurents (West Side StoryGypsy) penned the screenplay, and it turns out he may have drawn a bit from his own life, particularly his relationship with actor Tom Hatcher, who became Laurents’ life partner.

Hofler quotes the author’s friend Mary Corliss saying, “Arthur believed in love, and he wanted a love story, and The Way We Were is a story of mismatches. How could it not be about them [meaning the Brooklyn-born leftist Laurents and the Ken doll-looking Hatcher]?” So true to life, Hubbell! The book releases on January 23, 2023.

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Related: 32 of the best LGBTQ+ books to read yourself or gift others

Another revealing book en route is Finale: Late Conversations With Stephen Sondheim by D. T. Max, a New Yorker writer who takes off from several interviews he did with the great composer and lyricist. In the talks, we learn about the musical Sondheim had worked on with David Ives, based on films by surrealist Spanish director Luis Buñuel.

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“It’s a series of vignettes, really,” said Sondheim. “There are six main characters, and they interact, but there’s very little plot. I mean, it’s about a group of people trying to find a place to eat. The first half [based on Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie] is they try to find a place to eat. The second act is The Exterminating Angel. They find a place to eat, and they can’t leave.” Sounds like me at Popeye’s. In the book, Sondheim also reveals that he was working on a big project with Meryl Streep, but it was very early stages. Sadly, that musical won’t likely ever see the light of day. Send in the clowns.

Sondheim, naturally, is one of the featured artists memorialized at the new Museum of Broadway at 145 W. 45th Street. At a press preview of the multi-level museum, I delighted to the displays celebrating theater history via costumes, videos, scripts, and information panels. I gagged at the two nearly-a-century-old showgirl costumes on display from the Ziegfeld Follies and the fact that the real Fanny Brice was singing “Second Hand Rose” on the background soundtrack as I took them in.

Museum of Broadway
Costumes from The Ziegfeld Follies at The Museum of Broadway. Photo by Michael Musto.

Also interesting is an exhibit honoring  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, which was filled with rows of fake corn stalks. The fake corn was as high as an elephant’s eye! As I walked in to view the display, a young gay was spraying the stalks with water. “Just to break it up,” he explained to me. “They’re too glossy. I’m crop dusting!” he added with a laugh. These children of the corn never fail to deliver.

Last Supper

Sondheim’s unfinished Buñuel musical has nothing on the messiest, most absurdist real-life night on the NYC food scene in ages. It came last month when a promoter who now lives in L.A. swept back into Gotham, having invited his friends to dinner at the long-running Indochine restaurant. They all showed up, happily expecting a free meal — and the fact that it was a limited, pre-chosen menu seemed to cement that idea — but after their last carafe, the bill came, and it turned out each person owed $200! The guy had never specifically said the dinner was going to be comp, but the wording of his invite certainly sounded like it was!

The result was the biggest takedown of the booboisie since Triangle of Sadness, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and The Menu. A few brave souls paid their bills and went home in a daze, while others simply walked out on the whole situation, traumatized, and yet others grabbed the owner and sobbingly begged for a discount. What a hilarious sh*tshow — and for once, I was thrilled I wasn’t invited to something.

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