November 24, 2014
One of my best friends is constantly enraged when Barbra Streisand is referred to as an EGOT winner - winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Why? Because she never really won a Tony, at least not in competition. She was only in two Broadway shows - I Can Get It For You Wholesale and Funny Girl. She got a Tony nomination for both, and lost both times (to Phyllis Newman for Subways are for Sleeping and Carol Channing for Hello, Dolly!, respectively). In 1970, she was given an honorary Tony award for "Star of the Decade" - whatever the hell that means. It's a distinction I believe they never honored before or since.
I bring this up because last week I went to see The Trip to Bountiful in Boston starring Vanessa Williams, Blair Underwood, and the incandescent Cicely Tyson (playing at the Cutler Majestic Theatre until December 7th). No one can question Tyson's extraordinary talent - this show is a must-see, should this national tour come to a city near you. But my interest was piqued when I read in Tyson's bio that she won a "rare double Emmy" for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. What is a double Emmy? I thought perhaps she designed some costumes, or sang a song, or maybe was a producer. Turns out Tyson won "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie" and also "Actress of the Year - Special" - a distinction given for no good reason. The Emmys added this category for 1974, and then dropped it.
While researching Miss Tyson, I came across another tidbit. In 1981, she married trumpeter Miles Davis in a ceremony that took place at the home of Bill Cosby. Please, don't think that I'm trying to drag poor ole Cicely into this whole Cosby mess. But a transition is a transition. I'm not taking sides but, like Rosie O'Donnell, I believe that when 13 people come forward with a similar story, it's probably not a coincidence (although the credibility of that list is somewhat diminished by the presence of Janice Dickinson). One headline jumped out at me: "Billy Cosby assaulted me during Tonight Show". Well, that's a very special episode of the venerable late night chat show I somehow missed. Turns out the assault happened backstage before the show. Actress Louisa Moritz, best known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, was alone in her dressing room when Bill Cosby (another guest on the show) came in to tell her how impressed he was with her work and how he wanted to help make her a big star. Then, says Moritz, Cosby "took out his penis, which was now in line with my face, and pressed up against it. He took his hands and put them on the back of my head and forced his penis in my mouth, saying, 'Have a taste of this. It will do you good in so many ways.'" I believe that's the same catchphrase he used to sell Jell-O Pudding Pops!
Far more relevant to my readers is a recent story about Olympian Michael Phelps and his self-proclaimed girlfriend, Taylor Lianne Chandler. She gained attention after revealing this on Facebook: "I was born with male genitalia with no testicles, but I also have a uterus and no ovaries." The name on her birth certificate is David Roy Fitch. From her earliest memory, she behaved and dressed as a girl. She went on testosterone blockers and estrogen as a teenager. She legally changed her name to Paige Victoria Whitney. Eventually, she had gender reassignment surgery in her 20s. Fast forward, Taylor claims that she met Phelps on Tinder (which is kinda like Grindr for straight people). Michael invited her to his Baltimore home to watch a football game - because, apparently, that's what straight people do when they're cruising for sex. According to Taylor, "We made love during halftime" - well, who hasn't? She continues, "Later, we had sex again. the intimacy with him was amazing! It was the first time in my life that someone has made me feel like a true woman."
What Taylor neglected to do was explain her "situation" to Phelps. "I never lied to him. We were together for such a short period of time, I never had a chance to tell him about my life." Or did she? In a later interview, she says, "I told my story to Michael a day before I posted it on my private facebook and then public." Seems to me that she has a rather fluid grasp of facts. Days later, she posted this: "Heard from Michael he is out of rehab and back home." Then she told a reporter that she has not heard from him. Critics point out that there are no photos of the two of them together, nor has Phelps ever mentioned her name. Is this all a fantasy? Taylor insists that she has what she describes as "forensic" proof of their relationship. While I'm sure you have visions of a blue dress dancing in your head, it's nothing quite so prurient. "My phone with the messages between Michael and I is locked up in a safety deposit box in Florida. I also have a 17,000-page forensic report showing everything - all the geo scans, the cellphone tower signals, the pings. And they're coming from his phone." How dull!
Elsewhere in the world of swimming, Ian Thorpe was named a Man of Influence by the Aussie edition of GQ magazine. Thorpe says, "The thought that young people are looking up to me, watching what I do and say closely, has always been strange for me." He added, "I'm a little bit ashamed that I didn't come out earlier, that I didn't have the strength to do it. I didn't have the courage to do it, to break that lie." He's more than making up for it now.
By the way, the domestic edition of GQ named Michael Sam one of their Men of the Year. He shares the title with Chris Pratt, Dave Chappelle, Steve Carrell, Ansel Elgort, and Shailene Woodley. Huh?
Speaking of role models coming out, two people from the world of country music have joined our ranks. First, Ty Herndon came out. The 52-year-old country star said he wondered about his sexuality from the time he was 10, and started coming out to family members when he was 20. He reveals that both of his ex-wives knew he was gay and that he's in a long-term relationship with his partner, Matt. The reason he's finally coming out now is to help others - particularly young people. "Maybe they wouldn't have to go through as much pain and suffering. It's time to tell the truth." It should be added that way back in 2002, I applauded Ty for participating in a fundraiser for the Trevor Project, the only nationwide 24/7 LGBT suicide prevention line.
In 2008, I took notice of a dashing, articulate and talented young man on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. That was Billy Gilman. Although I had a vague recollection of him as a child star, this was him all grown up - well, 20 years old. By that time, he had already released five albums (curiously, his last studio CD came out in 2006). On the same day Ty Herndon came out, Billy posted his own coming out video on YouTube (similar to that other tyke, Tom Daley). He says Ty's announcement made it easier, although his video had been a few weeks in the making. "It's difficult for me to make this video, not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist, or a gay artist, or a gay person. But it's pretty silly to know that I'm ashamed of doing this knowing that....because I'm in a genre, in an industry, that is ashamed of me for being me." Billy also reveals he's been with a boyfriend for five months - presumably not Dustin Lance Black.
Fitness guru Richard Simmons is going through what many are calling a personal crisis. The slathered-up fitness guru has not made any public appearances for close to a year. He has even been absent from his Beverly Hills fitness studio, Slimmons. While some chalk up his hermit-like existence to agonizing pain because he's avoided knee replacement surgery, others say he's been in a deep depression since the death of his dog, Hattie. I can tell you that when my dog was hit by a car over a decade ago, Richard was one of the first people to donate money towards her surgery and was a great source of comfort and support. Come back, Richard. We miss you.
Lastly, since I'm in Boston, I want to mention a very special upcoming show - 4 Girls 4 - A Christmas Together. The four girls in question are Andrea McArdle, Donna McKecknie, Faith Prince and Maureen McGovern. And they're all under the musical direction of my bosom buddy, John McDaniel. This concert takes place at the Wilbur Theatre on December 2nd. If you happen to be in the area, they'll also be at the Bushnell in Hartford, CT on December 1st and the 710 Main Street Theatre in Buffalo, NY on December 3rd. See ya there!
When coming out is the new normal, we've definitely come to the end of yet another column. In this time of giving thanks, I want to once again thank you, my readers. Without you, I'd be nothing but a crazy person scribbling on the web - and there's enough of those out there! I also must thank the proofers, lawyers, and everyone that contributes to the family at www.BillyMasters.com - they keep me out of jail and make sure I never have a dangling participle. If you want me to look into anything else dangling, send it along to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Jamie Lee Curtis is cast as a romantic lead in The Michael Phelps Story. Until next time, remember, one man's filth is another man's bible.