Charles Busch: Broad Appeal

Charles Busch talks Liza and Judy at the Palace and takes Kathleen Turner camping off-Broadway in The Third Story.

BY Brandon Voss

February 02 2009 12:00 AM ET

It’s been 25 years since Charles Busch’s outrageous play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom made him a star of Manhattan’s East Village performance scene. Since that unlikely long-running sensation, Busch has channeled his obsession with Hollywood’s Golden Age — and a penchant for drag — into a legendary theatrical career crowned by his Tony-nominated 2000 work The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. Now, the actor, playwright, novelist, director, and screenwriter behind campy genre parodies such as Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die! is back off-Broadway portraying three delicious female roles in his new too-hard-to-summarize show-within-a-show sci-fi mob comedy The Third Story at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. There’s no trimming this Busch as he recalls romancing costar Kathleen Turner and his other favorite divas.

Advocate.com: I spotted you in the audience of Liza's at the Palace on Broadway back in December. What did you think of the show?
Charles Busch: I thought it was thrilling. It’s the kind of show business that just will not exist anymore. And I saw it under wonderful circumstances. I remember I was 13 and at sleep-away camp when Judy Garland was at the Palace the last time, so I was devastated that I had to miss it, but my aunt sent me the clippings from all the papers. I was the only 13-year-old at summer camp getting clippings about Judy at the Palace. Now I have this 16-year-old protégé — this young kid I’ve known since he was 12 — so I took him to see Liza at the Palace, which is the closest thing to Judy. It was great seeing it with him particularly. I enjoy exposing him to all sorts of cultural events. We went backstage afterward, and it was like going to see Santa Claus at Macy’s: You’re led into a bright red room, there’s a mythical creature sitting there, you say a few words, you have your picture taken with her, and then you’re ushered off.

Did Liza know your work?
Gosh, I’ve met Liza Minnelli maybe six times now, but I wonder if she really knows who I am. She always greets me with great enthusiasm and says, “I’m a huge fan of yours,” but I’d know if she’d been at one of my shows, and I wouldn’t count on her having seen Die, Mommie, Die! I think she just has very good manners.

I also noticed you chatting up Judith Light at intermission.
Judith Light was sitting in front of us by herself, so we kind of ended up being her dates for the night. She’s a lot of fun.

I hope you asked for a cameo on Ugly Betty.
Well, it seems like everybody else is getting one these days.

Tags: Theater

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