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  NIGHTSPOTS

Billy Masters
by Billy Masters
2018-05-02

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"You know what? You have no sense of humor. That's your problem."—Joy Behar to Megan McCain on The View after the conservative spawn criticized a joke about Melania Trump spouted by Shecky Behar. The next day, McCain was curiously absent from the table. I'm counting the minutes until the next split-screen!

"Can I bum a fag?" I've had my share of propositions, but this seemed more forward than most. Turns out, the gent simply wanted a cigarette. Well, excuse me for hearing the words "bum" and "fag" and conjuring up a sexual image. That got me thinking—in these days of rampant political correctness, should I be offended that the Brits call cigarettes "fags?" Typically, hearing the word "fag" might elicit at least a raised eyebrow. However, since the word in this context had nothing to do with gay people, I wouldn't blink if he screamed it in Leicester Square.

Most people aren't as laissez-faire as moi. Broadway was buzzing with news that Actors' Equity would be renaming the legendary "gypsy robe" in "response to the cultural implications of the term"—i.e., so as not to offend the Romany people. Have I missed a huge outcry about this relatively private Broadway tradition? A Broadway "gypsy" is someone in the chorus who goes from show to show, city to city. The tradition of the "gypsy robe" dates back to the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1950. A male chorister put on a robe and let everyone touch it. He then sent the robe to Call Me Madam, where the choristers did a similar thing, except they attached a feather from Ethel Merman's costume. They passed it on to Guys and Dolls, etc. The current tradition dictates that the robe goes to a Broadway show on opening night. The chorister with the most Broadway credits wears it. That chorister circles the stage three times while cast members touch it for good luck. The robe wearer blesses each dressing room. Finally, a memento from the show is affixed to the robe. When a robe is filled with mementos, it is retired and exhibited in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian, or at Actors' Equity. That's the history.

Somehow, this use of the term "gypsy" has been mixed up with the derogatory term for the Romany people—as if the chorister in the robe is shaking a tambourine and reading palms! The "gypsy robe" has as much to do with the Romany people as the "wandering Jew" has to do with Israel! But, you know—some people want to sanitize anything that could offend two people. Petra Gelbart, a curator at RomArchive, said, "The fact that the term 'gypsy' is so often used to denote free-spirited or traveling lifestyles has real-life repercussions for actual Romany people." Yes, I'm sure people often look down on free-spirited travelers! I wondered where this would end. Days later, Tom Viola from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS announced that they would not change the name of "Gypsy of the Year," an annual fundraiser where choristers and dancers raise millions of dollars to help those in need: "Words have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. In our theatrical community, 'the gypsy' is beloved." Bravo! Personally, I refuse to get behind any "gypsy" ban that hasn't been officially sanctioned by Miss Mitzi Gaynor!

As I mentioned, I'm in London to see some plays, visit the baby, get ready for the wedding ... you know, the usual. You know who else is planning a trip to London? Donald Trump. Although he'll be meeting with the prime minister and, perhaps, some members of the royal family, it is not an official state visit. So ... no banquet, no carriage procession and probably no hookers.

One of Mr. Trump's previous overseas jaunts was confirmed by a member of our community. In his capacity as host of the Miss Universe Pageant, Thomas Roberts met Trump in Moscow on Nov. 8, 2013, and interviewed him the next day. "During the after-party for the Miss Universe event, Mr. Trump offered to fly me and my husband back to New York. He said he would be leaving directly from the party. We were unable to accept the invitation. That was the early morning hours of Nov. 10." Now, I don't have my sundial handy, but it sounds like Mr. Trump spent at least two nights in Moscow—despite saying that he "didn't stay overnight in Russia for that."

The long-gestating Elton John biopic has inched closer to fruition. It was just announced that Rocketman will star Taron Egerton. In case you can't place him, he starred opposite Hugh Jackman in Eddie the Eagle. Would I call him Elton's doppelganger? Well, he's a hot Welsh lad with a full head of hair—you decide! What's interesting is that Elton's iconic recordings will not be featured in the flick. Taron is actually re-recording the songs. David Furnish says his hubby heard three of the songs and was "blown away." Of course, Egerton already had experience singing Elton John songs—in the animated feature Sing, we are treated to his rendition of "I'm Still Standing." The Paramount biopic is being directed by Dexter Fletcher, who replaced Bryan Singer on the Freddie Mercury film Bohemian Rhapsody, which comes out on Nov. 2.

Let me put on my psychic hat and predict what a future "Ask Billy" question might be "Billy, do you have any nude photos of Taron Egerton?" Better than photos: videos. He was on the UK series The Smoke and, well, let's just say his shower scene left little to the imagination, as you'll see on BillyMasters.com .

When people are smoking in the shower, it's time for me to end yet another column. We've gone from gypsies to Brits pretty effortlessly. So while I deal with jet lag, you can check outBillyMasters.com—the site that never sleeps. Even overseas, I'm here for all your queries. Feel free to send them to Billy@BillyMasters.com, and I promise to get back to you before I put on yet another hat ( which will be during this trip in about two weeks ). So, until next time, remember: One man's filth is another man's bible.


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