July 21, 2014
It's always hard to decide which story to tackle first. But this week, it's clear - the Proud Whopper. Burger King sold this product (which came in a rainbow-colored wrapper) in select markets in June to celebrate Gay Pride Month. We're told that all money raised went to fund the Burger King McLamore Foundation to provide scholarships to LGBT high school seniors. Needless to say, this whole thing generated a fair amount of negative comments. The American Family Association claims that the product was promoting homosexual conduct, which of course is ludicrous. As someone who is a Big Mac devotee, I wasn't even swayed to buy a Whopper (although I'd like one of the wrappers). If they couldn't convince me to eat a sandwich, I'm pretty sure they're not gonna be able to convince anyone to switch their sexual preference.
In one of the biggest victories in the fight for marriage equality, a circuit court judge in Monroe County, Florida ruled that the same-sex marriage ban which passed by a popular vote in 2008 violated the United States Constitution - specifically the 14th Amendment's promise of equal protection under the law. Ironically, Judge Luis Garcia was appointed by former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. The ruling stemmed from two men in Key West who sued the Monroe Country Clerk of Courts after being denied a marriage license. Although the ruling applies only to Monroe County, similar lawsuit have already been filed in other Florida counties.
Meanwhile across the pond, the Church of England has voted in favor of female bishops. This issue last came up two years ago and lost by a very small margin. This time around, the measure easily passed with only six percent voting against the measure. What this likely means is that we'll also get some new episodes of The Vicar of Dibley. The iconic show returned after a 5-year hiatus for a special episode concerning the 2012 vote on female bishops. Something tells me, Dawn French will once again don her vicar cassock in the near future.
Certainly one of the biggest stories of the past week was the death of Elaine Stritch. A fixture on the Broadway stage for decades, Stritch finally made the transition to mainstream consciousness with her incisive portrayal of Alec Baldwin's acerbic mother on 30 Rock - for which she won her third Emmy (she previously won as a guest star on Law & Order and for her special Elaine Stritch at Liberty). Last year, the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" gave an uncensored look at her life. What one saw was the highs and lows of her existence, and the superhuman strength that kept her going. As harrowing as some moments were, she always somehow endured. The idea that Stritch would one day not be with us was not something many of us considered. To die at 89 years old is no tragedy. In fact, for Elaine Stritch, it was an amazing accomplishment. Rest in peace, Stritchy.
It takes a lot for a production of a musical at a Connecticut college to get press in both Boston and New York. But when that musical is Gypsy and when the star is Leslie Uggams, people took notice. In the press material, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre says that this is the first time the iconic role has been played by an African-American woman, which I am sure is not true. But it is the first time that an African-American of Uggams' stature has taken on the role. Of course, Uggams is no stranger to color-blind casting - she's already played the leads in Hello, Dolly!, Anything Goes, Cabaret, and even Master Class (she is preparing Mame for later this year). This type of casting can work to varying degrees depending on the material and the actors. Here, it's fairly successful. Rose's dad is black, one of the daughters is black, one is white-ish. The chorus boys are mostly Caucasian (except for one African-American). Uggams is in fine voice and certainly a strong actress, which allows her to play any role. What somewhat works against her is her age. While she certainly doesn't look 71, she often carries herself as someone of advanced age. There's a slight stoop to her carriage and a hunch to her walking that occasionally reminds you that this woman could not be the mother of these children. She could be their grandmother or their nanny. Throw in her liberal use of the word "baby" and Mama Rose occasionally became Mammy Rose. But even then, the show worked. Uggams has star power and charisma that makes you root for her. She didn't necessarily deliver the monster that Arthur Laurents wrote. Her Rose is a survivor. Although the production has closed, it does live on with some significant video footage on BillyMasters.com.
After the success of last year's Sound of Music Live!, NBC announced it would be followed up by another family-friendly live musical telecast. This year, the musical of choice is Peter Pan. Up until now, the casting has been a well-guarded secret. Last week, NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt announced that the role of Captain Hook would be played by Christopher Walken. "He's one of the most unique actors but he's just really a song and dance man at heart. It'll be the first tap-dancing Captain Hook you've ever seen." When asked who will play Peter, Greenblatt offered no name, except that, as has been tradition, the role would be played by a woman. I suppose this means I am no longer sworn to secrecy and can reveal that this was NOT the network's original intention. They had wanted to break with tradition, and have Peter Pan Live! led by a man. I can tell you exclusively that the role was offered to Daniel Radcliffe. Although he was interested in the part, he ultimately declined.
There's some news regarding the upcoming biopic about Whitney Houston. The production is moving forward, and will be directed by Angela Bassett. In the cast, we have Whitney being played by Yaya DaCosta, who apparently was a hopeful on America's Next Top Model. Suzzanne Douglas is playing Cissy Houston, Arlen Escarpeta is Bobby Brown, Mark Rolston plays Clive Davis, and Yolanda Ross takes on Houston's close "friend" Robyn Crawford. One of the big issues was the songs - the price tag on using the actual Whitney tracks was astronomical. Instead, the songs will be re-recorded by the woman who Clive Davis brought into Arista as "the next Whitney" - Deborah Cox. The film is currently shooting in Los Angeles and should air in early 2015.
If this is to really be the final season of Two and a Half Men, expect it to go out with a bang. CBS's Nina Tassler announced that one of the storylines will be Walden (Ashton Kutcher) deciding he wants to be a father. Because the adoption process is apparently very difficult for a single father (even for a billionaire?), Walden decides to marry Alan (Jon Cryer) and adopt as a gay couple. Certainly there's been a constant barrage of gay jokes about these two men living together, so it is a natural progression. I braced myself when I saw that GLAAD had issued a statement about the storyline. And yet, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis didn't immediately attack the show. Instead, she declined to comment until seeing the finished product. Now, that's what I call progress! She did add, "We hope the show will acknowledge not only the progress made in acceptance of gay and lesbian couples, but also the fact that - in many areas of the country - same-sex couple are often under greater scrutiny or still barred from adoption options that straight couples have."
The bulk of this week's e-mail has been about one topic - the Will & Grace reunion. Let's put this rumor to rest - there is NO Will & Grace reunion being planned at this time. Even Sean Hayes addressed the story via Twitter: "I can officially say, no one has contacted any of us about a 'reunion' show or special." But it's a perfect opportunity to let you know about Hayes' latest TV gig. He's joined the cast of the CBS sitcom The Millers. He'll be playing the new best friend to Margo Martindale. Something tells me she'll be getting a makeover!
We have a follow-up to last week's Ask Billy question. This one comes from Victor in Sarasota: "You said that Ian Thorpe got paid for his coming-out interview. I'm just curious how much he made."
The interesting part of this deal is not so much the monetary number, but the fact that Thorpe and Sir Michael Parkinson (who did the interview) have the same manager - a match made in heaven, I'm sure. As a result, Ian got $400,000 for the interview AND his work as commentator for the Commonwealth Games. Sir Michael got a lump sum of $100,000, from which he also had to pay production costs.
When people are getting paid to say they're gay, it's time for me to rethink my entire career and end yet another column. If I knew coming out was so lucrative, I would have waited until there was a bidding war. Of course, that would require me being able to keep a secret, something I rarely do on www.BillyMasters.com - the site that tells all. If you'd like me to reveal anyone else's secrets, drop a note to me at Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before someone forces me to take a Whopper! So, until next time, remember, one man's filth is another man's bible.