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The Playbill

The Playbill


I know we're not supposed to make fun of other people's cultures, but it really is hard to stop laughing at those pictures of George W. Bush holding hands with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Of course, the culture we're really laughing at is our own, the one that thinks it's unseemly for two guys to hold hands in public unless one of them is 10 years old and the other is Michael Jackson. This is a culture that thinks putting a well-established slacker in a uniform and letting him climb out of a fighter jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier gives him the bearing of a righteous warrior--a warrior who pronounces "mission accomplished" and then goes on vacation while a thousand more soldiers die on his watch. This is a guy who won't knowingly hire a homosexual but who has now asked the Army to drop its reservations on such behavior so they can harvest more kindling for the inferno they've set in the Middle East. So it's really pretty rollicking to watch this guy get forced into holding hands and looking to all his constituents like Norma Desmond being swept off her feet by Rudolph Valentino in some fantasy silent movie.

The Saudis may have gotten a laugh out of it too, but not for the same reasons. In Saudi Arabia men do hold hands. In fact, men spend so much time exclusively in the company of other men that if you ask modern gay Saudis, they will tell you there are worse places to be.

The idea feels strange, I grant you. But consider some of the places where we've always thought it was easy to be gay, only to find it isn't. Broadway, for example.

I've spent the last year working there in wigs, heels, and, most bizarrely, a fat suit for Hairspray. One of the downsides of working in the theater is that you don't get to see many shows, because everyone is on the same schedule. Occasionally the incoming shows will stage a full dress rehearsal on the afternoon of their first preview so that other show folk can come and take a look and the cast can get their first taste of an audience before they have to perform for people who have actually paid to get in. In such instances they don't hand out Playbills or programs to the theater crowd. Maybe that's a perk that comes only with the $100 you've shelled out for a ticket. But I have another theory.

The producers and creative types, many of whom are gay, don't want show people to read the biographies the actors provide for the programs. It's too embarrassing. Almost every actor between 18 and 49 throws in a loving reference to his wife, his lady love, or his children. If he doesn't have any of those, he dedicates his performance to Audrey or Leslie or Sharon, which is usually his dog. One good-looking gay actor told me he does it to ward off trolls. I decided not to take that personally. But we know why most of them do it.

Theater is considered such a gay profession, and so much of current theater deals with gay issues, that actors don't want to be typecast offstage. One tiny way of guarding against that is to reinforce their straight credentials in their bios. But you can't hand this stuff in a Playbill to a theater crowd. Too much of the audience would be shrieking with laughter before the curtain ever went up.

But enough about Broadway. Now I must return to my Arabic lesson. I want to be able to decode the playbill when The Full Monty opens in Mecca.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Bruce Vilanch