June 22, 2018

The Highline in bloom

Dateline: New York, New York-

The laptop seems to have fixed itself, at least temporarily. Keeping my fingers crossed as I type this… which isn’t easy.

The weather has cooled off and it was perfect walking weather in the city today. Overcast with a bit of a threat of rain, but no actual rain drops until late night when I was safely ensconced back in the Gramercy Park pied a terre. After breakfast, I headed cross town on 23rd to visit Anne Devereux-Mills, a friend since elementary school who lives near where the Highline crosses 23rd. We caught up over coffee (and she added her voice to the chorus that these musings I have been writing need to become something. Message received. Something is swirling in the recesses of my brain and we’ll all have to wait and see what eventually pops out). Then, a walk down the Highline to the West Village, some window shopping, and back up through Washington and Union Squares.

After lunch, back to the theater district where I tagged along with the ‘Inside Broadway’ walking tour guided by the one and only Natalie Riegel. Natalie was a theater kid when I started my rejuvenated theater career fifteen years ago and I watched her go through high school, on to the U of A musical theater program, put in several years in regional and tour work, and now she’s in NYC working towards that first Broadway contract. She certainly kept her tourists enthralled and I will be happy to report to her parents that she is doing well.

As I had a couple of hours to kill, I went over to Don’t Tell Mama and listened to the piano bar and had dinner and then it was time for this evening’s theater going. It’s pride weekend in NYC which culminates on Sunday with the parade down 5th Avenue. Therefore, I headed to the new Broadway Production of ‘The Boys in the Band’ starring all of the out gay television actors you’ve ever heard of including Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Tuc Watkins, and Charlie Carver.

The Boys in the Band

The play is now fifty years old and is sort of a long night’s journey into day about a group of gay friends who attend a rather ugly birthday party that seems to owe a lot to early Edward Albee. It was written pre-Stonewall and while the archetypal characters get some wonderfully bitchy lines to shoot back and forth at each other, the major message is one of sadness as these men are warped by a society that refuses to allow them to just be. It’s an important milestone in American gay drama in that it was the first play that showed contemporary gay men as they were with themselves rather than has tragic supporting figures in a straight world’s story. It was a major off Broadway hit in its original production, but this is the first time it’s actually played a Broadway house.

Did I like it? Parts very much. There’s a lot of talent on the stage and the casting of well known openly gay actors in all of the roles gives it a certain authenticity that might otherwise be lacking. They all try to find the human beings under the waspish wit and psychic pain and some succeed more than others. Jim Parsons’ isn’t afraid to be unlikable as his Michael manipulates his guests in nasty ways and Zachary Quinto, as the fey Harold, has some great moments. Matt Bomer is a bit of a cipher as Donald, but the role is severely underwritten. We do get the bonus of his taking all his clothes off and he is a very pretty man.

Whomever designed and OKd the set should be shot. It’s a mirrored and plexiglass two story Barbie’s Dream Apartment which bears no relationship whatsoever to something a gay man in NYC would have lived in in 1968. The styling and colors all suggest mid 1980s. All it was missing were a couple of Nagel prints. The costumes all seemed much too modern as well, as if the actors had wandered in off the street in whatever they had thrown on this morning.

The horrible set

Anyway, it got me thinking of New York apartments I have known over the years and tonight’s story takes us to one of them… Back in 1996 or 1997, I was invited by Cornell to interview for a position on their faculty to be the medical director of the Burden Center for Aging, an umbrella for various upper east side senior service programs. It was funded by Carter and Suzanne Burden (he was the long time publisher of the Village Voice) so as part of the process, Steve and I were invited to a cocktail party and dinner at the Burden’s apartment on 5th Avenue. Carter had recently died prematurely but Suzanne was lovely and she and Steve really hit it off as they were about of an age and had had some similar life experiences. As I was looking around this fabulous New York apartment, overlooking the Metropolitan Museum, I suddenly remembered my modern New York history and genealogy and I asked Suzanne if she had inherited the apartment from her mother and she told me she had. I had recalled that she was the daughter of William Paley and his second wife. I was having cocktails in Babe Paley’s famous salon.

I didn’t get the job (not enough East Coast connections) but the interview process was worth it for that party.

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