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  NIGHTSPOTS

Billy Masters
by Billy Masters
2016-12-14

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"Why is it so hard to find a sexy, charismatic, hunky, non-girlie Link?"—A notable Hairspray alum, after seeing the live telecast. We have two filmed versions of this show where Link oozes all the raw masculinity of a young Tatum O'Neal. Strike that: Tatum had more testosterone than Zac Efron and Garrett Clayton combined.

Some people felt it was too soon to do a new version of Hairspray—after all, the John Travolta film was made in 2007. But this "live" version was much closer to the Broadway musical, due in no small part to the extraordinary talents of the show's original choreographer, Jerry Mitchell. Since he was not involved in the film version, his vision went unseen ... until now. When he introduced me to Maddie Baillio after the live telecast, he said, "Billy's known every great Tracy"—and, I daresay, some of the lesser ones!

I'd put Maddie near the top. ( Nobody can touch my Marissa. ) Her vocals were incredible, and her acting really touched me. I would have liked to have seen more exuberance and joy, but when your first major role is carrying a three-hour live television event, you've got a lot on your plate! There was plenty of joy on the screen once the two original Tracys appeared. Ricki Lake and Marissa Jaret Winokur showed up in "Welcome To The '60s" as the two lead Hefty Hideaway girls. I wondered where Nikki Blonsky—the Tracy from the musical film—was. All anyone would say was a "financial issue" kept her away. I've always loved The Dynamites—the girl group that comes to life from a poster. The live telecast reunited the original Broadway trio: Kamilah Marshall, Shayna Steele and Judine Richard Somerville. And I'm sure most of you caught the sly nods to the Hairspray history, most notably the names of storefronts. I particularly liked Divine Pet Food, with the flashing neon pink flamingo.

Of course, this production immortalized the original musical Edna of Harvey Fierstein. In many ways, Jennifer Hudson was miscast—she may have been blond and beautiful, but the only thing big about her is her voice ... and her breasts! She sang the role like nobody's business, so I got past her looking like Seaweed's sister. And how perfect was Kristin Chenoweth as Velma? Her arch, sardonic, laconic portrayal was impeccable. As Andrea Martin proved, there are no small roles. Every line reading had me howling. When she rolled over the bed to get to the window, I almost burst. She's a national treasure.

Garrett Clayton sang and danced the role great. But can we please get back to the archetype set by the unsurpassed Matthew Morrison, Broadway's original Link? Now, THAT was sex on a stick! And whose bright idea was it to have Darren Criss take us out of the show at every commercial? Wrong! There were some technical issues. Some were on the fly—like the giant Ultra Clutch can that rolled out with the door open. Chenoweth altered her lines asking what was in there, while trying gallantly to close the door with her foot. ( The West Coast didn't see this since the dress rehearsal footage was dropped in there. ) Many scenes were badly lit, and singers often sang in the dark—most notably while Tracy's walking to school during "Good Morning Baltimore."

I know this was live, but there must be some lights on the Universal backlot. At least give Tracy a flashlight! Ultimately, none of that mattered. The real star of the show was the show itself. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote a musical that is as tuneful as it is relevant. It sounded great and proved that, as always, you can't stop the beat.

Ever since the election, talks have been underway for some new Will & Grace episodes. That project took a giant leap forward when the four stars tentatively agreed. While promoting the film Why Him?, Megan Mullally filled in some details: "All I can say is that there is a very good chance that that might happen. It's not happening right this second. I mean, we're not rehearsing or anything like that. But there is a very good chance that something is going to materialize. But I can't really talk about it or say anything ... because you know how it is."

Shannen Doherty's had a crappy year. She's battling cancer and found out her management let her health insurance lapse. But she's not letting anything slow her down. She was just cast in the TV Land series based on her hit 1988 film Heathers. Rumor has it she'll be playing one of the more wicked moms. But there's another reason to check out this new version. The role Doherty played, Heather Duke, will now be played by a male actor. His birth name is Heath, but he's a "self-identified gender-queer." Sigh, if only Alexis Arquette were still alive...

It's time for Billy's Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions. I love buying people calendars. Everyone needs one and nobody buys them for themselves. Our first choice is new to this column. The Men of the Vet School calendar features the hunky frat boys from Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. If seeing a strapping shirtless stud carrying a goat doesn't turn you on, you're dead on the inside. You can find them on Etsy.com .

One of our perennials is the Warwick Rowers. The ripped rowers not only pose nude, but they raise money for Sport Allies, a group that fights homophobia in sports. "We're here with our boats, our oars and no clothes to show that your true identity is the best way to be," the group says. You might get a splinter on WarwickRowers.org .

I'm always amused by the annual calendar featuring erotic photos of Orthodox priests. Yes, hot nude ( and semi-nude ) priests! Now in its fifth year, the Romanian organizers have revealed that the models are not "necessarily" priests. I should have been tipped off by the new anagram they're using—PILF stands for "priests I'd like to fuck." The group says the calendar is "an artistic effort to creatively protest homophobia in the Orthodox Church." Have I mentioned these guys are HOT? Check out Orthodox-Calendar.com .

When Hairspray is opening with "Good Evening Baltimore," it's time to end yet another column. With the holidays upon us, it's the perfect time to check out www.BillyMasters.com, the site that always delivers gay apparel. If you have a question for yours truly, drop a note to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I hook up with a Romanian priest! So, until next time, remember: One man's filth is another man's bible.


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