Is This Man The Real Hedwig?

tish gervaisNo, not the owl from Harry Potter. There’s a controversy brewing over Hedwig and the Angry Inch, currently enjoying a hit Broadway revival headlined by Neil Patrick Harris. Who’d have guessed that 16 years after its debut, it’s still getting people all riled up?

Society chronicler Michael Musto has a new interview with Brian Belovitch, AKA Tish Gervais. Brian was born a boy, then spent the ’70s and ’80s as a woman, and then transitioned back to being a man in 1987. And according to Musto, Brian’s always felt that the character of Hedwig was awfully close to his own life story.

Brian (and Tish) was a cabaret-type performer and event host during his time of gender adjustment. In the mid-’90s, he says, Hedwig creators John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask brought Mark Tusk, a producer at Miramax and New Line, to see his autobiographical show, Boys Don’t Wear Lipstick.

There are indeed a few odd similarities: Brian ran away from home to change his gender, falls in love with a soldier and lives with him in Germany. That happens, more or less, in Hedwig. And that’s pretty much it for similarities.

So is that a ripoff? Ehhhhh, hard to say. For their part, Mitchell and Trask and Tusk deny any plagiarism. In fact, Mitchell says it’s a bit flattering that audiences feel they can identify so closely with the character that they think of Hedwig as their own story. (This isn’t the first time it’s been revealed the character was based on a real-life person.)

If anything, this seems like a case of artists all stirring around in the same creative melange, inspiring and being inspired by each other.