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Billy Masters
by Billy Masters
2019-10-02

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"I spent the first 23 years of my life playing a straight man."—Gus Kenworthy's response to criticism about him playing Emma Roberts' boyfriend on American Horror Story: 1984. He added, "A gay actor playing straight is a big deal. There aren't many openly gay actors getting cast in straight parts." He adds that some people wondered, "Gus has no credits, no experience. How did he get this role?" Too easy—not the question, the subject.

If you saw the film Pacific Heights, you know it's pretty hard to evict someone in California. Here in West Hollywood, a prominent political activist and donor wasn't evicted when a random person died in his apartment. He also wasn't evicted after a second suspicious death in that same apartment. Everything changed when a third person nearly died in the apartment. If you don't know the story of Ed Buck, it's a doozy. In 2017, someone died of an overdose in his apartment during a sexual tryst. But this is West Hollywood, so most people didn't bat an eye. When an eerily similar incident occurred 18 months later, many saw a pattern. Both victims were Black men who overdosed on meth. But the police said insufficient evidence. When a third African-American man survived a similar scenario a month ago, Buck was arrested and charged with three counts of battery and allegedly injecting the third victim with meth. He also was charged with operating a "drug den" in his apartment, which is probably against the rules of his lease. The eviction paperwork was filed last week.

Fresh off his historic Emmy win, Billy Porter went to the Pasadena Playhouse for the opening night of Little Shop of Horrors to support his Pose co-star, Mj Rodriguez. She made theatrical history as the first transgender actress to play Audrey. So, for those of you who wondered if trans people could only play trans characters: The answer is no—they can play whatever roles they are suited for ( and, obviously, the converse is true ). Aside from some key changes and awkward harmonies, it worked just fine. BTW, Billy Porter's voice was used for the opening narration. And here's a bit of trivia: Porter was the voice of the plant, Audrey II, in a 2003 touring production of "Little Shop" that closed just prior to opening on Broadway.

In this production, Amber Riley played the plant. The innocent little sprout in Act 1 remained throughout—except during feeding when puppeteers swung giant tentacles. ( I initially wrote giant testicles .... Freudian slip. ) George Salazar was a solid Seymour, while Matt Wilkas' portrayal of Orin's death scene took on operatic proportions—not that there's anything wrong with that. While it was a good, solid, stripped-down and basic production with admirable performances, I didn't think it was special—aside from the non-traditional casting. It runs through Oct. 20, and you can get tix at PasadenaPlayhouse.org .

Someone I saw at "Little Shop" was an ebullient Alexandra Billings. The trans actress has reason to celebrate. She'll be joining the Broadway cast of Wicked as Madame Morrible. A press release stated, "Alexandra is the first openly trans actress to play the role." Her first night will be Jan. 20.

On the flip side, Erika Jayne is going into Chicago. This, too, could be seen in a historic context, because I believe Jayne is the first openly discussed possible transgender performer to play the role of Roxie. And if you think I'm going to get into the "is s/he or isn't s/he," no dice. That's between her and her gynecologist and/or proctologist. What I got a kick out of is that her press release goes to great pains to state that this will be Erica Jayne's first appearance on Broadway. Really? You mean she never did The Cherry Orchard, or Elektra?

Making real history, playwright Charles Busch will lead an all-star Broadway benefit performance of his play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and he'll take over the titular role, originally played by Linda Lavin. But Lavin will still be performing—filling in for the late Shirl Bernheim, who was the original Frieda. The rest of the original cast will also appear—Michele Lee, Tony Roberts and Anil Kumar. This is an Actors Fund benefit and will take place Nov. 18 at the Friedman Theatre. Grab your tix at ActorsFund.org . See you there ( God willing ).

Our "Ask Billy" question comes from Karl in Chicago: "I just heard that Tuc Watkins and Andrew Rannells are a couple. Is it true? Really?"

As people online are saying, they are an "Instagram couple"—whatever that means. Cheyenne Jackson chimed in, commenting, "You're Insta-ficial now"—and he knows a thing or two about online love affairs. Tuc and Andrew co-starred as combative lovers in the Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band, and they're currently shooting a film version for Netflix with the same cast. So, needless to say, they're "close." Perhaps that's why they've both posted several steamy pix together on their social media accounts. While I'm happy to see two hot shirtless guys, I'm troubled that all of these photos feature Rannells embracing Watkins from behind. Oh, the humanity.

When I'm presenting real and/or fake couples, it's definitely time to end yet another column. And if they're hot, who really cares. Far more important is that we must acknowledge the passing of Linda Porter, who played Myrtle on Superstore. Happily, her hologram will live on. If you need a bit more life for your viewing pleasure, check out BillyMasters.com—the site that has its finger on ... well, on something you want. If you have a question, dash it off to Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I find me an Instagram husband! So, until next time, remember: One man's filth is another man's bible.


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