Bruce Vilanch recently took time from his busy schedule to chat with Bradford Shellhammer about the blogs he reads, the Bush administration, and this year’s Oscars. He also dishes on a few of our favorite divas.
Ok. Hi Bruce. We at Queerty love you. And we are sad we missed your show Almost Famous 2005 in San Francisco. What did we miss?
Full-frontal nudity. The first three rows had to move back.
You have so many projects lined up. Tell us about Queer Duck?
I play myself. It’s a stretch. But it’s never gotten in Jerry Seinfeld’s way. This is a feature-length version of the cartoons that used to follow Queer as Folk on Showtime. They once had me pop in as a guest joke, and we all thought that this time I should do the voice instead of Mercedes McCambridge.
And Celebrity Fit Club! This is one of our guilty pleasures. We only wish you were on the same season at Jackee. How did this come about?
I think I can lay the blame at the feet of ant. Which is better than laying ants at the feet of, oh never mind. He recommended me and when they called they said we’re hoping you can add some humor to the proceedings. Losing weight is such martyrdom that people give themselves over to their own drama. Maybe it’s because they’re deprived of the one thing that they could count on — food. It’s a pity party three times a day. So I’m trying to do it and have a few chuckles along the way.
You’ve worked with so many of our favorites divas. Tell us your honest opinions about: Miss Ross?
I never called her that. I used to call her Mrs. Silberstein, which was her first husband’s real last name. It just made me smile every time I asked for Mrs. Silberstein and this glamorous ebony diva waltzed in. She has always been the opposite of what she’s described as — I’ve never seen her be high-handed or belittle anyone. Without her eyelashes and makeup, she still looks like Michael Jackson circa 1975.
We’ve been working together for 35 years, which is strange, as she is only 32. She can make an audience really laugh and really cry and all within a few minutes. She’s the greatest entertainer I’ve ever seen. I would have married her in 1974, but she insisted I be straight and lose 30 pounds. These women are so demanding.
She has my unending admiration. Her entire career, people have been trying to turn her into Diahann Carroll because her street blackness scares them. She has resisted and as a result she is unique. What you see with Whoopi is what you get — no airs, no bullshit, tremendous grace under fire. Even with an Oscar, she’s underrated as an actress.
You have a news weblog on your site. Do you ever read blogs?
We Got Bruce is actually a fan site started by a fellow in Nashville who discovered me in the course of creating his Bette fansite, Bootlegbetty.com. I read his blogs and I love to read Andrew Sullivan and the Huffington Post and, of course, Defamer, which is the best gossip blog in the world.
It is a big enough task taking over a role from Harvey Fierstein. But taking over a role from Harvey Fierstein who was doing a role originally played by Divine. That takes courage. How was your Hairspray experience?
I loved everything but the pantyhose. Edna is such a big, fun, earthy, funny and tender character, plus when I’m in her makeup I closely resemble my late aunt Pauline, which puts the fear of god into my entire family. When I started the show, I realized that both Harvey and Divine had put their own spin on the material and it was my turn to come up with some of my own. John Waters was a tremendous support. He kept reminding me that the audience wasn’t interested in comparing me with anyone else, only the critics were.
What is your favorite John Waters film?
Eat Your Makeup. Little known, but highly revered.
Anything new in the works you can let us in on?
I’ll be co-writing the Oscar show next spring, host to be announced. It’s my sweet 16, although I missed the last two years because I was out of town doing Hairspray.
If you could cast the squares on a new Hollywood Squares, whom would you pick and why?
The Bush administration. They’re the best bluffers I’ve seen, but I think people are finally on to them.