read about my trip to D.C. for the Inauguration in the latest GAY CITY NEWS
I also heartily dis Young Jean Lee’s play, THE SHIPMENT, in the honest belief that we Koreans really can do better…
A highlight of my D.C. trip was seeing my all-time favorite celebrity portrait, hanging in The National Portrait Gallery
Tallulah Bankhead, Augustus John…this painting was done in 1930, when Tallulah was at the height of her popularity in London. She made John promise to sell her the portrait for $1,000 and kept it hanging in her bedroom. It was donated to the museum by John Hay “Jock” Whitney, the sexy millionaire who was Ambassador to the UK, invested in Technicolor and Selznick Pictures and was Tallulah’s lover. In the recent book, THE LETTERS OF NOEL COWARD, one learns that Tallulah evidently gave Coward the portrait and then demanded it back, which the Master, peeved, was only to happy to return.
D.C. museums are filled with glorious divas of the past these days. The National Portrait Gallery had a 1936 photo of Janet Gaynor hanging in their new acqusitions gallery and also one purported to be Dolores Del Rio. It was no such thing, and I mentioned to this to a grateful curator. The permanent collection has a section called BRAVO! focusing on composers and entertainers of the 20th century where you can see Isamu Noguchi’s bust of his friend, Ginger Rogers, appropriately executed in pink marble.
There was an exhibit of famous American women, that included portraits of Judy Garland on the set of A STAR IS BORN, filming the “Somewhere there’s a Someone” number, Anna May Wong, Katharine Hepburn, Lillian Gish and others. Another exhibit, BALLYHOO! POSTERS AS PORTRAITURE , used Amsel’s iconic ’70s image of Bette Midler for its publicity
There were also advertising images of Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS, and Grace Jones in her punk-y “Eraserhead” period
watch Grace at her peak, singing “Libertango,” which Karen Kohler brilliantly covered at her recent Zipper Theater (now sadly shuttered) engagement in NYC.
Like everyone in NYC I was besotted by Jones in the ’70s, living for sightings of her at 54, where on opening night, she took over a major portion of the dance floor spinning in a billowy saffron Issey Miyake robe, surrounded by screaming, moustached gay clones. She showed up once at the unique, truly Fellini-esque G.G. Barnum Room, where you danced under a net stretched overhead which caught the Discobats (Puerto Rican acrobats, some of them transsexual), performing trapeze acts in the rafters. I was at the release party for her first album PORTFOLIO at 12 West, and when legendary DJ Jim Stuard, who perished in the 1977 fire at the Everard Baths (http://bitterqueen.typepad.com/history_of_gay_bars_in_ne/2007/12/the-everard-bat.html), played “La Vie En Rose” for the first time, with Jones gyrating in a ’50s ballgown you were truly in disco nirvana.
I interviewed her shortly after that in the office of her manager, John Carmen. She showed up in a hot pink Kenzo batwing sweater over brown satin Miyake boxing shorts, with a black satin, yellow-lined coat and one of her signature satin military brown envelope caps. We got on like a house afire and she did a perfect Eartha Kitt impersonation for me, calling Kitt a major inspiration. After she left, to my horror, I discovered that my photographer had left his light meter on the sofa which burned a hole in the cushion. We turned the cushion over before we left, but, years later, Carmen rightfully called my shit on it, albeit with total good humor.