December 9, 2013
Do you know how old Mary Martin was when she starred in the original production of The Sound of Music? She was 47. When Florence Henderson led the first national tour, she was 26. Julie Andrews was 30 when she made the film - the same age Carrie Underwood is now. And yet, these were two very different 30 year olds. One had oodles of acting experience on stage and screen and even had an Oscar. The other was in a made-for-TV movie about a shark biting off a surfer's arm and had six Grammy Awards.
For someone who had never done a musical (let alone on live TV), Carrie sang well - better than anyone had any right to expect. And her acting was as good as any other multiple Grammy-winning non-actress. But most people held her to a much higher caliber - one set by Miss Andrews, to say nothing of what should pass as acceptable on network television. My expectations were based on the rehearsal footage shown in the thoroughly entertaining Making Of special. Carrie was delightful, endearing, and at least somewhat warmer than the animatronic Hall of Presidents portrayal we all witnessed. In just about a week, she became the most aggressive Maria in history - as if Eva Braun were playing the part! All of the natural charm had been beaten out of her. And that's what was missing from the whole show - charm. Thank heavens for the glorious Audra McDonald, who was playing to the balcony (the fact that there was NO balcony is a minor quibble). Then there was the brilliantly nuanced performance of Laura Benanti as Elsa (she's also the youngest Maria in Broadway history, having appeared in the 1998 revival when she was 19). She conveyed more raw emotion in a four-second cutaway while Maria and the Captain were dancing than anyone else in the three-hour telecast. And when the dashing Michael Park stepped on her gown, she handled it with aplomb.
But you may ask, who would have been a better choice for Maria? Bearing in mind the correct choice would be someone who could act the role, sing the score, and be as big a draw as a former American Idol and multi-platinum recording artist. So, who? Taylor Swift? Yeah, she's charming - ask any of the guys who she slept with and then wrote songs about. Demi Lovato? The mother superior would have looked like a Jack the Ripper victim by the end of the first verse of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"! Kelly Clarkson? Did you see From Justin to Kelly?
Of course, that's not the big story of the week. What everyone is talking about is a certain celebrated individual coming out of the closet. Obviously I'm referring to Maria Bello from Prime Suspect and Touch - two shows I don't believe I've ever watched. Be that as it may, there she was, in the New York Times, talking matter-of-factly about her relationships with both men and women in a piece called "Coming Out as a Modern Family".
I know that's not the story you've been waiting for. If I know my readers (and I know many of you intimately), you want to know the coming out details of sexy UK diver, Tom Daley. In case you've been living under a rock, Daley went public last week about being in a relationship with another man...ostensibly his first same-sex relationship. "Come spring this year, my life changed massively when I met someone and they made me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great - and that someone is a guy," said Daley in a videotaped statement that was, reportedly, co-scripted by the guy in question. Days later, he told TV presenter Jonathan Ross more. When Tom saw this guy across a room at a party, "I didn't know what to do or if he was gay at first". Has HE been living under a rock? Daley approached this much older man. How much older (and get ready with your collective groans)? When he was Tom's age, Daley wasn't even born. But I am not going to preach. Please don't ask me to.
Because - and here is the truth - who among us wouldn't sleep with Tom Daley? Put your hand down, Jodie, I'm not talking to you. But dating....well, that's different. There is a responsibility that goes along with dating someone... particularly someone who is a teen. Someone said to me, "I don't disagree with you, but Mr. X does so much good for the community, I think he should get a pass." I heard this same line back when, in the midst of the aforementioned good work, photos surfaced of him being the recipient of unprotected sex while his judgment was somewhat impaired. The argument his people made (firmly, I might add) was that we should bury the story because it could negatively impact his good work. I don't think reporting it did that - but perhaps the actions did. Of course, none of this makes him a bad person. Truth be told, I like him, but I do think somewhat less of him for being foolish enough to smile for those photos. That's my two cents. To decide for yourself, check out BillyMasters.com to see some snaps of Tom, his mates, and his beau. Then you tell me if it looks an awful lot like Chris Hansen drinking iced tea on a special episode of To Catch a Predator.
We have yet another story tackling the connection between Hollywood and sports. A few of you have asked who openly gay soccer player Robbie Rogers is dating. I can answer that - he's dating Greg Berlanti, the openly gay writer/producer of such shows as Arrow, Dawson's Creek, Brothers and Sisters, etc. Before you ask, Robbie is 26, Greg is 41. Yes, an age gap. But, you see, Robbie is no longer a child and has been in relationships. And Greg....well, I'm gonna just stop talking and run some photos of the happy couple on BillyMasters.com.
For a while, there was a rumor circulating that Robbie was going out with Josh Berman, the openly gay creator of Drop Dead Diva. I found out that rumor wasn't true at a pool party when a well-connected lesbian mentioned that Josh was dating "one of those hot young guys on TheCW". She couldn't be more specific since all hot young guys looked the same to her. She then lost all credibility when she tried to fix a friend of mine up with someone who ended up being neither hot nor young.
Proving that chicken-hawking isn't limited to the gay world, we hear that Kris Kardashian has been spending quite a bit of time with Ben Flajnik, the former Bachelor star who has a vineyard. Well, if you were the matriarch of the Kardashian Klan, you'd be drinking, too. Despite denials from reps for both parties, the twosome were once again seen in public - this time, dining à deux prior to Kris meeting up with daughter Kendall for Beyoncé's concert at LA's Staples Center. Why didn't Ben go with them? It was probably past his bedtime.
Days ago, I finally got to see Bette Midler playing legendary superagent Sue Mengers in I'll Eat You Last. Sue had strong-armed Babs into making Up All Night directed by Mengers' husband, and the film bombed. Someone had to take the fall and it was Sue, who waits for Streisand's call. In the meantime, she shares great stories from the bygone days of Hollywood delivered, with panache by Midler. As Bette was taking her bows, I zipped out of my aisle seat to avoid the crowd. But one person was faster than me and was whisked out a side door. Perhaps he did not want to be seen. Perhaps he wanted to avoid people asking him what he thought. Perhaps he didn't want his mom to know he was there. But that person was Streisand's son, Jason Gould - looking lovely, by the by. Apparently he gave his mom a good report because, three days later, Babs went to see the play herself. In the words of Ms. Midler, "Okay! Barbra Streisand came to the show! And she liked it!! I was so thrilled. AND relieved!!"
Time for Billy's Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions. Since we've spent much of this column talking about illicit love, I will once again express my undying affection for Sam Harris. Sure, I'm a sucker for his sweet singing, but he's also cute as a button (although I'm not exactly sure how cute I find buttons). He's just written his memoirs, Ham: Slices of a Life. Sam's unique storytelling voice comes through loud and clear in this collection of essays which give you a glimpse into his hilarious and chaotic life. If I have one Christmas wish, it's that Sam will also release this as an audiobook - that would be priceless! His story about Liza's wedding to David Gest alone is worth the price of the entire book (although the story about opening for Aretha and not getting paid is pretty fabulous, too). Aside from the celebrity dish, there's also touching stories about his childhood, his family, his husband, and his son. If you love Sam as a singer, you'll love this book. And if you don't know a thing about him, you'll fall in love with him long before the final page. The book doesn't come out for another few weeks, but you can pre-order it on Amazon.com or check out Sam's website at SamHarris.com for more details.
I never endorse something just because it's gay - it also has to be good. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Old Dogs & New Tricks. I thoroughly enjoyed the DVD of the first two seasons of this web series about gay men in West Hollywood nearing 50. In addition to being somewhat realistic, it's also well produced and well written. Best of all is the cast. In addition to the four leads (one of whom has shared my bed), there are also great guest stars like the incandescent Ian Buchanan, Thom Bierdz, Patrick Bristow, and Greg Louganis (speaking of gay divers). You can grab it - along with many other gay-themed DVDs - at WolfeVideo.com.
When we can start and finish with old dogs looking for new tricks, it's definitely time to end yet another column. Once again, a super-sized column. There's not much more to say, except to direct you to www.BillyMasters.com, the site that never scrimps on size. If you've got a question, send it along to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before we get photographic evidence of what does Daley's body good. So, until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.