I don't quite remember when I first saw Victor/Victoria: when it first came out, later, or even if I saw it PG (pre-gaying). What I do remember though, is how it made an indelible impression on me regardless of my leanings at the time. I'm not even sure I recognized myself within the words and scenes. What possibly could I have in common with a woman, pretending to me a man, pretending to be woman? Well, as it turns out, a whole hell of a lot more than I didn't imagine.
As I am sure most are aware, the premise of the movie, which is set in Paris in the thirties, is that Victoria (Julie Andrews) has fallen on hard times and hatches a scheme with Toddy (Robert Preston) to become the toast of Paris' underground scene as a world famous drag queen. What is without question the ironic part, is that her portrayal of an effeminate gay man is the real drag role of the movie. It's all about being a drag king, and the queen is left to strut her stuff on stage. The effeminate king gets the meat of the piece, so to speak. As Victor, he freely confronts those who may mock his behavior or mannerisms with such vigor, wit, and aplomb, that you can't help but be left cheering, (unless you're a closeted bully ... but then there is something in there for you too ... hello Alex Karras) Lesley Ann Warren could really be considered to be the drag queen role of the film (although in today's terms it might be more akin to a faux queen). Maybe that's why when I first saw the movie, it didn't 'speak' to me with such resonance that it does now upon further viewing. For me, I was watching a straight woman play dress up and fool a bunch of people -- I don't think I really understood what I was watching and the dialogue it put forth on positions of gender and sexuality. It's a great melding of characters and behaviors that do not cast a disparaging view of homosexuality, something rarely seen in the movies in 1982.
Now, yearsssss later, that I am skilled in the ways of "the gay" and "the drag," it is one of my top ten movies and I was thrilled to hear the movie, and Lesley Ann Warren, were coming to the Castro Theater ... on Valentines Day ... yeah, so what, I didn't have a romantic dinner or anything, whatever!! (See, the ways of "the gay" and "the drag" have schooled me how to be single, cause like those P.S.A.s say, "It gets bitter.") [Too soon? --Eds.]
Luckily, we arrived early enough that our place in line only took us around one corner this time and when we entered the theater, clips of Lesley Ann Warren's career were being shown on screen. Now I will freely admit here, that I really only know of Warren from Victor/Victoria onward, so it was refreshing to see a glimpse of her career (including her 19 year old turn as Cinderella, which played for ten years around the holiday season.)
There was a great pre-show, (Because as always with a Marc Huestis production, there is a reception, a pre-show, the show, the movie, and the meet and greet) replete with a stripper reenacting a scene from a movie she does with Chris Atkins (whose crotch she totally feels up...Chris Atkins, not the stripper).
And then a tremendous performance by Mathew Martin lipsynching and dancing his way through 'Le Jazz Hot' and perfectly hamming it up in "Chicago, Illinois"(ps... if I only knew, I do a pretty fierce "Shady Dame" ... just sayin'.) Marc Huestis puts on a great production and chose wisely to have the hilarious Coco Peru introduce and interview Warren.
The crowd gave her a great reception and you could tell by her beaming smile that she genuinely felt the love, (on Valentines Day to boot.) Coco did her best to fit in all the questions we wanted answers to, in the short amount of time she had, and I think she did a stellar job of moving things along, but also highlighting a career spanning 40-plus years.
A hilarious moment came when Coco put Warren on the spot to sing. Naturally the audience got in on it as well, and she relented. As she starting singing "My Funny Valentine," you could tell the crowd was moved, but then without missing a beat, she looks at Coco, stops singing and says "I probably shouldn't look this way when I sing the next line." There is a slight pause with the audience, as they sing along in their heads, and realize the next line is "Yours looks are laughable," and everyone howls with laughter and Coco realizes she just been dissed....HILARIOUS!!!!! That's what she gets for making her sing!
Another great little moment came when Warren fills the audience in on a little secret about Victor/Victoria. When she calls James Garner "Pookie," she said she would deliver the line like she was talking to his penis, yes, penis. So later in the night, when the movie is playing, this elicits great laughter from the audience when her character is eating chocolates and utters that now infamous word, too funny indeed.
The interview was great ... I mean stellar ... and watching that movie at the Castro Theater could not have been better. The speeches Julie Andrews delivers as Victor still have amazing resonance today, when he/she stands up to James Garner in a non-confrontational way, using reason and intelligence, the audience applauded wildly. The movie doesn't judge homosexuality, it just accepts it as a given and the people moving through the scenes don't treat anyone any differently...you know, like when you're a kid, and you don't know you're supposed to hate someone until someone tells you to hate them?
Speaking of hate, I now have no reason to hate Valentines Day. With this memory, I have a renewed hope for the cause (my love life, not the gay movement) and that was just Monday ...
But my column is not really a column, it is a post, so I will quickly recount Wednesday and Thursday by saying:
Thursday I attended the opening night of The Last Days of the Barbary Coast My friend Ena is the choreographer and my friend Alex isn't nearly naked enough in it... but it is really unique and entertaining ... maybe I liked it cause someone flirted with me, who knows, I'm kinda easy like that. It doesn't run very long, but it's at SOMArts, and they put a lot of hard work into the show ... although no drag queens, but now that I'm on the scene, that should all change, HA.
Totes all ding-dongs of a week
Cheers for now