2022 Recap – Billy Style


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26 December 2022

“He doesn’t like gay people.  Doesn’t want them in Russia. 
And then he’s got the wonderful basketball player and he won’t let her out. 
Make up your mind!  He’s always acting so butch and strutting around. 
You know what that means, don’t ya, uh-huh?  The lady doth protest too much!”

Leslie Jordan’s two cents on Vladimir Putin.

Around now, everyone will be doing their 2022 retrospectives.  And far be it from me not to jump on a bandwagon.  I think we can all agree that the most scandalous moment of the year happened at the Academy Awards.  Why, it was the most outrageous thing to happen on live TV since that incident with Jack Ruby!  In case you were under a rock, Chris Rock made an innocuous joke, and Will Smith went crazy, strode onto the stage, and slapped Rock.  Oh, yes.  Not a punch – a slap!  How metrosexual of him!  What I found most shocking is that this obvious assault happened in front of thousands of people, and there were absolutely no ramifications.  Strike that – the assailant was later given an award…and a standing ovation!  Since then, the Academy has banned Will from the festivities for the next 10 years.  Which I’m sure thrills the producers of his most recent oeuvre.

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It takes lots of drama to make the world pay attention to Broadway.  From the beginning, the Funny Girl revival seemed ill-conceived.  Based on a flawed and forgettable UK revival, it lacked the show-stopping glamour required to evoke the Ziegfeld Follies.  And Beanie Feldstein seemed to lack the vocal chops to play Fanny Brice.  Along came Lea Michele (and a rabid group of Gleeks), who felt that she was being robbed of some kind of birthright.  She didn’t openly campaign against Beanie, but she let the powers that be know she was available if they needed her.  And need her they did.  Feldstein’s notices were unremarkable, while Lea was giving concerts around the country…singing songs from Funny Girl to acclaim.  Something had to give, and negotiations were made for Michele to replace Beanie.  Feldstein caught wind of the skullduggery and left the show prematurely.  This allowed her standby, Julie Benko, a moment to shine while Michele got up to speed.  The end of this story was like every Hallmark movie.  Lea went into the show, got great notices and re-recorded the score in time for the holidays.

Except (there’s always that except) she can’t win a Tony Award because she’s a replacement.  Or can she?  Back in 2005, the Tonys ruled that “high-profile replacements” can in fact be nominated for an award.  If that doesn’t work…Lea’s best friend is in a show that is slated to transfer to Broadway late next year.  My sources suspect Michele is angling to oust the current female lead and replace her.  That way she can originate the role on Broadway and win that Tony.  Sounds far-fetched?  Go back and read that Funny Girl paragraph again.

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Not all diva-drama is limited to Broadway.  Another big scandal of the year took place in Las Vegas when Adele cancelled her entire run at Caesars Palace 24 hours before opening night.  “I’m so sorry, but my show ain’t ready,” she said.  This did not make her fans happy – fans who had flown in from around the world!  But, the story has a silver lining.  Someone came up with a concept Adele liked, and she debuted six months later to acclaim.

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On the small screen, my pal Sherri Shepherd has a hit on her hands.  It started by filling in for the “indisposed” Wendy Williams, and led to her own show – with much of the same production team in place.  While a flurry of other daytime talkers have debuted this season, Sherri has emerged as the highest-rated newcomer.  Meanwhile, Wendy has been seen strolling the streets of NYC late at night, buying booze and smokes.

In primetime (admittedly, on a streaming service), Shangela made history as the first drag performer to compete on Dancing with the Stars.  The real-life DJ Pierce tackled each challenge with aplomb and knocked everybody’s socks off.  And took third place.  We haven’t heard the last of Shangela – she’s poised to mount a nationwide tour starting in my native Boston in January.

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Elsewhere in Massachusetts, another drag diva was felled.  The vivacious Varla Jean Merman was performing Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow at Provincetown’s Crown & Anchor.  At one point in the show, she downed numerous pills – for stage purposes, the pills were Tic Tacs.  One errant edible was underfoot as Varla launched into her big dance number from Anything Goes.  Her shoe landed on the candy and she tumbled with a thud!  Patrons thought this was part of the show, when in fact Merman suffered a complete detachment of her quads at the tendon and fractured her kneecap (I keep copious notes).  Always the trooper, she returned to the stage several days later in a wheelchair with her newly-adapted show, Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow…On Wheels!  Alas, most of her engagements for the remainder of 2022 had to be cancelled.  While you can make Varla go down, you can’t keep her down.  She’s rescheduled those dates and has emerged triumphant.

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Less triumphant was Billy Eichner’s assault of the big screen.  Much of the damage was done during the advance publicity – which included Eichner mocking the successful streaming film Fire Island.  When Bros was released, it was met with mostly positive reviews, but largely ignored by the ticket-buying public.  That said, the film is entertaining and is doing well…ironically via streaming!  While Eichner is undeniably funny, he’s also unlikeable.  But in the right role – the caustic best friend, the catty neighbor – he’d steal the show.  I’m told that the limp response to this maiden endeavor puts many of his future plans in flux.

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This inevitably leads to celebrity deaths.  In terms of sheer drama, nothing will ever top Anne Heche’s immolation.  After erratically driving through an LA residential area, she literally plowed into a woman’s living room.  It took emergency workers close to an hour to extricate her from the blaze.  When the gurney finally emerged from the scene, a sheet was over the body.  And then, as if out of a movie (admittedly, not a very good movie), Heche popped up as if to say, “Fooled you!  I’m alive!”.  That burst of energy was her last, and she succumbed days later.

Far more notable for many in our community was the passing of Leslie Jordan.  While the coroner has yet to determine a cause of death, it is assumed he had a cardiac episode during rush hour while driving to film his sitcom, Call Me Kat.  Leslie made an indelible impression on everyone he met, and many whom he didn’t.  He was a pint-sized dynamo who packed a whole lotta living in his brief 67 years.  He left the world a bit better by being in it.

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I could write endlessly about Betty White, Olivia Newton-John, Judy Tenuta, Nichelle Nichols, Angela Lansbury, and many others.  But kudos to Tony Dow, who managed to die not once, but twice.  Take that, Heche!

What can you say about Queen Elizabeth II.  Few can remember a time she wasn’t a part of their lives.  She was not only a witness to history – she was history.  QEII was a stabilizing force in a turbulent world.  She grew into her role as the world’s grandmother – a role that is impossible to fill.  Long live the Queen.

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I know my audience – you love the hot guys.  Most recently, people have been lusting over Big Daddy on American Horror Story (played by bodybuilder Matthew William Bishop).  But it was Jesse Williams in the Broadway revival of Take Me Out that made the biggest stir.  And, without a doubt, that brief clip that leaked shows Jesse’s stirrer is sizeable.  And he’s in good company.  You should check out the entire cast of the show in some exclusive shower footage that can only be seen on BillyMasters.com.

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When we’re wrapping up with a gaggle of nude guys, we’ve definitely come to the end of yet another column.  Trust me, if you were gonna gag, you could do worse than the boys on www.BillyMasters.com – the site that has no gag reflex!  If you’d like to sample our wares, reach out to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before my balls drop!  Until next year, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.

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