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20 January 2020

“OK, people, time to recalibrate our gaydar.  Batwoman is a lesbian? 
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but talk to me, Gotham –
what ever happened to politics staying out of our superheroes?”
 
Not only did Batwoman just out herself, it was discussed in the on-air commentary
of Vesper Fairchild – as voiced by Rachel Maddow.

“Some people call it a train wreck.  We call it The View.”  Truer words were never spoken than during this Saturday Night Live spoof of the talk show’s opening (said by Cheri Oteri as Barbara Walters).  Whatever you may think about The View, it is appointment television.  The show not only reports the news – it makes news.  And it opened the new year with a bombshell – the departure of right-of-center Abby Huntsman.  A popular co-host’s departure would be news at any time.  But a co-host’s departure during an election year is huge – especially for a show the New York Times recently dubbed “The most important political TV show in America”.  The first question is why – why is Abby leaving?  The immediate answer is that she’s going to help her father, who is running for governor of Utah.  But then, more tidbits trickled out.  First, who knew that Meghan McCain was pregnant?  Hands?  Anyone?  Apparently, she was pregnant last summer and even wrote a New York Times piece about her miscarriage.  So, bad Billy – I missed this entirely (in my defense, in the summer I am at my most self-involved and promiscuous).  According to sources, Meghan considered Abby’s on-air “child-centric chats” during this difficult time “insensitive”.  While this isn’t the only reason Abby left, the term “toxic work environment” was brought up more than once.  Abby’s dad running for governor may simply be a good excuse.

This leaves us with the bigger question – who will fill the seat?  An election year is not the time for a revolving door of co-hosts.  Friday fill-in Ana Navarro would be a perfect fit, but she won’t relocate to NYC.  Perpetual also-ran, Rachel Campos, has surely already made herself available.  What I believe the show needs is a newswoman.  Of course, Meredith Vieira is the obvious answer.  Diane Sawyer likely doesn’t want to continue being a Barbara Walters stand-in.  But what about ABC’s former golden girl Elizabeth Vargas?  She’d fit in perfectly.  Or, if the show wants to be really edgy, why not reach out to Megyn Kelly?  Replace one Bombshell character with another?

Speaking of former Fox News anchors, we’ve been hearing stories about Shepard Smith’s next move.  Since his departure from the network in October, Shep has had several meetings with CNN and MSNBC.  His non-compete clause doesn’t run out for another six months, but that would be a perfect time for him to slip into a new seat.

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Last week, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had a fundraiser scheduled in Providence, Rhode Island.  The event, which was hosted by the mayor’s hubby, Chasten, was supposed to take place at The Dark Lady.  At the last minute, the venue was changed – but not because The Dark Lady is a gay bar.  It’s because it’s a gay bar with a stripper pole!  Someone from the mayor’s camp checked out the venue and felt there was a “visual element” that wasn’t appropriate for a fundraiser.  Personally, I’ve made lots of money on a pole – but that’s neither here nor there.  The event was moved from here to there – there being the Backstage Bar at the Hotel Providence.

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Meanwhile in Hollywood, I was invited to a gathering of the leading ladies of Knots Landing at the Hollywood MuseumMichele Lee, Donna Mills, and Joan Van Ark were on hand to unveil an exhibit of costumes which were worn on the nighttime sudser.  These events always bring out some luminaries from Hollywood’s bygone days.  At one point, I found myself standing between Kathy Garver from Family Affair and Donna Pescow from Angie.  I think that’s when Anson Williams stopped by to say hi.  The Knots ladies were delightful, and I was happy to catch up with each of them.  I saw Michele Lee two months ago when she joined the Broadway cast of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife in a special performance for The Actors Fund.  I spent time with Joan Van Ark last year when she participated in an all-star reading of Valley of the Dolls to raise money for the LA LGBT Center.  And a few months earlier, I saw Donna Mills in Driving Miss Daisy.  The fact that all three of these ladies recently did high-profile theatre events got me thinking – why not find a project for them to do together?  “Why not?” said Van Ark, excitedly.  “We could do it as a big benefit.  We’d have a ball”.  Why not, indeed.  In the meantime, check out the exhibit at TheHollywoodMuseum.com.  And check out photos from the event on BillyMasters.com.

This time last year, the Hollywood Museum hosted Batman ’66 – the first-ever retrospective of the classic television series, Batman.  One of the notable people at that event was the Boy Wonder himself, Burt Ward.  Last week, Ward revealed that the ABC brass were quite upset over the size of his…er…utility belt.  “They thought that Robin had a very large bulge for television.”  On the big screen, Chris O’Donnell’s was just right.  Ward was sent to a doctor who prescribed him some pills that would “shrink me up”.  He took them for three days, but then worried there could be long-term fertility effects.  “I stopped doing that and I just used my cape to cover it.”  That cape not only did the trick, it raised a pretty penny.  Last month, the costumes worn by Batman and Robin in the series were sold for a record amount of $832,000 for the pair.  I’m sure the fact that Robin’s costume was stretched out of shape only helped the sale.  I know it helped me through some hard times.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – Jussie Smollett is his own worst enemy.  After last year’s “incident”, he could have simply paid the City of Chicago $130,000 to compensate for the investigation.  By refusing to pay, he’s opened the whole case up to scrutiny.  Last week, a judge signed a search warrant for Smollett’s Gmail to be turned over to investigators.  And you people laughed at Hillary having a private server!

Despite his legal woes, rumors continue to swirl that Jussie may return to Empire for the series finale.  If they want him, I hope they don’t send him an e-mail!

All of Broadway is buzzing about a proposed revival of Funny Girl.  The last time this plan was discussed was in 2011, when it was being arranged for Lauren Ambrose.  Now, the star is rumored to be Idina Menzel.  How on Earth is the youthful Fanny Brice going to be played by a menopausal woman?  Rosie O’Donnell recently claimed that she would play Fanny’s mother in a revival that would star Lady Gaga.  Well, at least she’s pre-menopausal.

It’s been a great few years for RuPaul.  She’s everywhere.  OK, perhaps not on FOX, which took a hard pass on Ru’s daytime talk show.  But it certainly isn’t slowing the drag diva down.  She’s starring in AJ and the Queen, which has a 10-episode commitment from Netflix and producer Michael Patrick King.  And she’s got another season of the award-winning RuPaul’s Drag Race.  Then there’s a Las Vegas residency coming up at the Flamingo Hotel (formerly the home of Donny and Marie).  And RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK was a huge hit.  Alas, that also led to some woes.  Last weekend, the UK hosted their first-ever DragCon – a popular event for drag queens and their fans.  Alas, DragCon was a victim of its own success, with too many tickets being sold and people queuing in lines for hours.  Photos at the Olympia London (the venue) show hordes both inside and out.  World of Wonder (the producers) issued a statement offering to honor tickets the next day, or offer refunds.

With all this hoopla, more producers are cashing in on the drag craze.  TLC has announced a new show –Dragnificent!, which will star Drag Race alumnae Jujubee, Bebe Zahara Benet, Thorgy Thor and Alexis Michelle as sort of a drag version of Queer Eye.  The ladies will travel around and try to make people’s lives better.  I hope they let them loose on some of those people from My 600-lb Life!  The show debuts in the spring.


When Jujubees aren’t just for eating, it’s definitely time to end yet another column.  You know what’s never a drag?  Checking out www.BillyMasters.com, the site where you’ll never wait to be serviced.  If you’d like to cut to the front of the line, drop a note to Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you before RuPaul replaces Abby Huntsman on The View.  Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.

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