I've said it before, but one of the best shows every year is the "Divas Simply Singing" AIDS benefit. This year, Sheryl Lee Ralph completely reinvented the enduring event as an elegant, swanky reception, dinner and concert.
The evening began with a VIP reception and book-signing with my dear friend, Jenifer Lewis. At the concert, I was onstage singing and leading the chorus as Jenifer belted, "I Don't Want Nobody Fucking With Me In These Streets." Then the ageless Thelma Houston did a dynamic set, ending with Jenifer and Sheryl Lee Ralph joining her for a reprise of "Don't Leave Me This Way." Ralph then joined Kenny Lattimore for a touching rendition of "When I First Saw You," from Dreamgirls. Lattimore raised a few thousand dollars for the cause by auctioning off the chance for some lucky ladies to sit at his feet while he serenaded them.
Then it was time for Jennifer Holliday. She joined Ralph for a very brief, but memorable, snippet of the dressing room scene from Dreamgirls when Effie calls Deena "common." Then, like Lattimore, she auctioned off the chance for people to sit onstage with her as she sang "And I Am Telling You." The first $500 bid came from our table. DJ Pierce ( aka Shangela ) was up onstage before Holliday even finished talking. Several others paid $500. Then a couple of folks ponied up $1,000! Finally, a couple women paid $250 for this once-in-a-lifetime chance. I think Holliday raised about $6K with that one song. One guy offered a thousand bucks if she would sing "I Am Changing." She called him up to the stage, held him in her arms, and sang directly to him as the tears streamed down his face. It was a beautiful moment.
The show officially ended with Ralph and Holliday singing "Joy To The World." Then the real show started. While people milled around taking photos, Jenifer and Jennifer came together. The two divas have a complicated and combustible chemistry. Holliday proudly helped promote Lewis' book. Sheryl joined them for photos, and then the three divas sang together. You can see it all on BillyMasters.com .
Last week, London's Daily Mail ran the following headline: "Bryan Singer: I wasn't fired from Queen film for rape." Somewhere, Singer was thinking, "Stop helping me!" It's been a harrowing time for Bryan. With less than a month of shooting left on his film about the band Queen called Bohemian Rhapsody, he was unceremoniously dumped by the studio. Whispers of trouble began with rumors of escalating tensions between the director and star Rami Malek ( rumors Singer denies ). Singer did miss several days of shooting in early November and his duties were assumed by cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel. Then the production unexpectedly shut down when Singer didn't return from Thanksgiving break due to family health issues. While he claims he asked the studio for time off to deal with this personal matter, people in the know say this was a convenient excuse for the brass to make a change. Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher, who was already slated to direct a biopic about Elton John.
Now, about those rape allegations: Within 24 hours of Singer's ouster from the film, word filtered out that he was being sued for allegedly raping a 17-year-old back in 2003. Cesar Sanchez-Guzman claims Singer forced him to engage in oral sex and then raped him. According to the complaint, Singer later went up to Cesar and said he was a Hollywood producer. Singer said, "If you ever want to get into Hollywood, I could help you." According to the complaint, "He then told Cesar that no one would believe him if he ever reported the incident, and that he could hire people who are capable of ruining someone's reputation." Cesar said he kept quiet all these years because he was scared of being outed.
Stranger still, Singer said he'd be open to working with Kevin Spacey again, stating, "I helped launch his career. He's an acquaintance of mine and it depends on the project, I guess." The latest Spacey scandal states that he once groped royalty. Admittedly, it isn't any of the good royals. It isn't even someone underage. These accusations come from Ari Behn, the former husband of Princess MÃï¿½rtha Louise of Norway. Back in 2007, Ari found himself sitting at a table with Spacey at the Nobel Peace Prize award dinnerI couldn't make this stuff up! According to Behn, "We had a nice conversation. He was sat next to me. After five minutes, he says, 'Hey, let's go out and have a cigarette', and then he touched me right on the balls under the table." Giving new meaning to the phrase "under the table."
Time for more of Billy's Holiday Gift Giving Suggestions. Our first suggestion is one of my favorites. For the sixth year in a row, a bunch of Romanians have assembled a calendar focused on Orthodox priests in erotic settings. They've even come up with their own anagram: PILF, which is a "priest I'd like to fuck." The group markets the calendar as "an artistic effort to creatively protest homophobia in the Orthodox Church." I have no idea if they are accomplishing that goal, but I'm happy to tell you to check out their wares at Orthodox-Calendar.com .
When I can finally say I was a diva simply singing, it's time to end yet another column. Check that one off the bucket list. And you can check quite a few things off your list by going to www.BillyMasters.com, the site that doesn't care whether you're naughty or nice. If you have a question for me, send it to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before Bryan Singer announces his next projectThe Courtship of Kevin Spacey! Until next time, remember: One man's filth is another man's bible.