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Posts Tagged ‘Academy Award’

Bruce Vilanch To Receive Icon Award April 26

Friday, March 28th, 2014

White Party announces firstIcon Award winners
Dave Nyczepir, The Desert Sun 1:54 p.m. PDT March 27, 2014

4-27-2013 3-54-35 AM

PALM SPRINGS – White Party Palm Springs will recognize people whose achievements “embody the spirit” of the gay dance music festival with the first Icon Awards at this year’s 25th anniversary celebration.

The festival is April 25-28, with the awards bestowed April 26.

Among the 28 recipients are singer Cher in the artist category, songwriter Sir Elton John and husband David Furnish in the philanthropist category, actor Bruce Vilanch in the activist category, and BRAVO TV personality Andy Cohen in the pioneer category.

“We are thrilled to present our special Icon Awards to individuals who have exemplified White Party’s defining principles of unity and celebration, commitment to excellence and leading edge creativity,” Jeffrey Sanker, founder and producer, said in a statement. “I look forward to presenting those attending recipients their awards on the White Carpet.”

About a third of the honorees have tentatively committed to attending, according to organizers. Sanker promised elaborate video displays, Bent Collective’s live DJ performance debut, and that SiriusXM would broadcast live from the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Conceptual photographer Duke Shoman will create photographic tableaus throughout the weekend as part of a fundraising auction effort to benefit Desert AIDS project.

Uber, a ride-hailing service through your phone, will serve as the official transportation, with stations set up throughout the festival.


Icon Award recipients


Carmen Electra — artist, activist

Cher — pioneer for LGBT community, activist

Jai Rodriguez — actor, activist

Kathy Griffin — comedian, philanthropist, activist

Lady Gaga —pioneer for LGBT community, philanthropist, activist

Lance Bass — actor, activist


Aaron Walton — philanthropist, activist

Bryan Singer — director, activist

David Cooley — founder of Abbey, philanthropist

Fred Arens and Jason Duguay — philanthropists, activists

Roland Emmerich — director, philanthropist

Sir Elton John and David Furnish — philanthropists, activists


Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley — NoH8 Campaign, activists

Bruce Vilanch — actor, writer, activist

Lisa Vanderpump — reality star, activist

Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo — Prop 8 activists

Ron Oden — Former Palm Springs mayor, activist

Ronnie Kroell — activist

Todd Saporito — philanthropist, activist


Andy Cohen — BRAVO TV personality, activist

Candis Cayne — pioneer of LGBT community, activist

David Stern — former publisher of Frontiers, activist

DJ Abel Aguilera — deejay, activist

Reza Farahan — BRAVO TV personality, pioneer of LGBT community

“An Evening with Bruce Vilanch” Saturday, Aug. 31, Los Gatos

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Thursday, August 29, 2013
A wacky night at the JCC with Oscars joke-meister Bruce Vilanch
by dan pine, j. staff

4-27-2013 4-01-43 AM

Comedy writer Bruce Vilanch is normally not a praying man. But backstage at the Academy Awards, for which he has long served as head writer, he often gets religion.

“You pray that somebody will make a fool of themselves in the early minutes of the evening,” Vilanch says of the unpredictable live telecast, “then you take it and run with it.”

The classic example came during the 1992 Oscars, when Jack Palance celebrated his Best Supporting Actor win by doing a few one-armed push-ups. That sparked a night of priceless quips from host Billy Crystal, many written on the fly by Vilanch (“Jack Palance just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood Sign”).

With his Elton John eyewear, kooky T-shirts and trademark blond tresses on display, Vilanch might recount that story in delicious detail when he appears Saturday, Aug. 31 at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos. The event is billed as “An Evening with Bruce Vilanch.”

Avilanch_bruce_vilanch_normal_sizeAs this JCC performance shows, Vilanch is not just a behind-the-scenes funny man. He starred in a Broadway revival of “Hairspray” and currently stars in an off-Broadway hit, “Rubble.” He’s acted in films and for many years he was a familiar X and O on “Hollywood Squares.”

But his role as a writer for awards shows such as the Oscars and Emmys has given him his widest notoriety. Somehow, in a town famous for eating its young, Vilanch has lasted 23 years at the Oscars, serving up jokes for hosts great (Billy Crystal) and not so great (James Franco).

The New Jersey native credits the great Jewish comedians of old for his sharp wit. “I was exposed to so many of them as a kid,” Vilanch recalls. “I was a rabid fan of Henny Youngman and Alan King.”

He also salutes his mother, who was a master quipster like her son.

Vilanch tells the story of how his mom used to keep the living room furniture covered in plastic most of the time. Eventually she decided to reupholster the well-preserved pieces, and when Vilanch asked her why, she replied, “I’m telling people it’s because Sonny Bono died.”

The Vilanch family belonged to a local Conservative synagogue. Little Bruce attended Hebrew School three times a week, was a member of United Synagogue Youth, and was bar mitzvahed.

After college he gave journalism a try, but when Bette Midler met him in 1970 and offered him a job writing jokes for her, the comedy die was cast, and a lifelong personal and professional relationship began.

A move to Los Angeles led to staff writer positions on variety shows, and hired-gun joke-writing jobs with stars such as Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers.

He made his premiere as an Oscar writer in 1989, eventually becoming head writer in 2000. Once asked if he wanted to keep working on the show after so long, he replied, “It’s the greatest show on Earth. It’s like asking somebody ‘Hey, would you like to play in the Super Bowl?’ ”

Long before it was cool or commonplace, Vilanch, who is gay, was a major activist for LGBT rights. He says the social progress made on that front in the last two years has been “absolutely staggering.”

But now he has turned his attention to Russia, which recently instituted harsh anti-gay laws and has seen an uptick in anti-gay violence.

Says Vilanch, “All of a sudden comes [Russian president] Vladimir Putin, fresh from a midnight reading of ‘Mein Kampf,’ and he decides to make gay people the new scapegoat in Russia.”

It’s a rare solemn moment for Vilanch, who prefers to make light of most situations.

And though he’s far from the first person to note the long, powerful link between Jews and comedy, Vilanch has his own theory as to why it’s been such a fruitful association.

“Any people who are oppressed find humor as a way to deal with it,” he says. “African Americans have, gay people have. It’s a common thread, and the Jews are really good at it.”

“An Evening with Bruce Vilanch” takes place 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Addison-Penzak JCC, 14855 Oka Road, Los Gatos. $15-$20. or (408) 358-3636.

Interview: A candid conversation with Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety coach, appearing at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this week

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Modern Luxury
Bruce Vilanch Has “More Chins Than a San Francisco Phonebook”
Caleb Pershan | July 17, 2013

4-27-2013 3-58-43 AM

Bruce Vilanch would be the first to admit he’s had a strange career. With that in mind, we decided to look over his Wikipedia page with Vilanch himself to see if we could make any sense of it. “A lot of the stuff on here is wrong,” Vilanch said from his home in L.A., where he’s caring for a sick pug (“It’s a pug kind of town—there’s no air to breath anyway”). “I’m not 64, in fact I’m 65, and I’m collecting Obamacare like crazy.” The Hairspray star, Hollywood Square, and Academy Awards head writer also bills himself as Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety coach and the latest success on Christian Mingle (“just got set up with a guy who used to be Pope!”). Vilanch regaled us with the following thoughts and anecdotes “from behind, before, and squatting over the footlights.”

This Wikipedia entry says you have Hitchcock’s hair—what?
No no, not hair: My wobbles, I have Hitchcock’s wobbles, his chins. He was pretty much hairless in the ‘50s when he was on television every week. It’s more that I have his profile. I’ve got more chins than a San Francisco phonebook.

What can we expect at the Nikko on Thursday night?
I’ll be doing stories about my dark career in show business, writing 23 Academy Award shows, Hollywood Squares, et cetera. There won’t be any Sondheim, that I promise.

What was it like, in your first acting role, to work with Diana Ross
Bizarre, because I thought I was rehearsing with her stand in, this skinny kid, and then she would come out of the trailer with the eyelashes and the wig, and glamour, glamour, glamour. I was like oh my, that’s Diana Ross. I told her this, and she told me yes, it’s all done with mirrors.

When you appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race 3 dressed as Santa, what were some of the items contestants asked for when they sat on your lap?
Big ticket items. And hey, I also worked with RuPaul back in his “Sashay! Shantay!” days, before Drag Race, when he had his talk show on VH1. And, there may be more RuPaul in my future.

How did you identify with your character Missy, the gay porn director from Going Down in LA-LA Land?
I didn’t want to play it like Boogie Nights: the role I played was an homage to Chi Chi LaRue, my neighbor across the street, a great friend of mine and a hysterical character. If I were directing porno everything would be IMAX. Not 3D, though, it makes everything look closer to you, but it’s all smaller! It should be bigger.

Fine, tell us about the Oscars already!
Well, I’ve been writing since 1989, and it’s the greatest show on earth, isn’t it? It’s like the Superbowl— and some years you fumble. But it’s the kind of show that tries to reinvent itself every year, because it has to say something every year. They take it dead seriously, the Academy. At the core of it is the idea of serious people in a serious profession, and in it, everybody is equal to everybody else, the guy who does sound as well as the best actor: everyone has to be treated with equal reverence. So of course, I write jokes. One of my favorite moments was when Whoopi [Goldberg] was hosting the show, and two people had been nominated for playing Queen Elizabeth, and Whoopi came out in white face and said “I’m the African Queen!” Only a Hollywood crowd really gets that one.

You’re responsible for the Star Wars Holiday Special, right?
Right, and George Lucas won’t even speak of it, he’s disowned it. I don’t think there’ll be another one of those.

You’ve done lots of charity work—what makes you most proud?
All the AIDS work I’ve done, especially at the very beginning, because it was something we had to do. When AIDS hit, lots of people banded together to take care of each other and do what the government wasn’t doing. When you grow up Jewish, as I have, you learn that everybody hates you, no one’s going to help you, and you have to take care of yourself. That’s a great maxim to the gay community and we took it to heart, we took care of our own. I would trade off other disease fundraisers, raising for other causes that would raise for ours, and that’s how I learned all the major diseases and got into “big charity.” As I’m fond of saying, though, if the Holocaust led to the creation of Israel, then maybe AIDS has led us to where we are now.

Vilanch performs tomorrow (Thursday, 7/18) at 8pm at Feinstein’s at the Nikko.

An Interview With Bruce Vilanch

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Park Me
An Interview with Bruce Vilanch
By Kevin
July 1, 2013


In Los Angeles, traffic and parking are part of the daily grind and everyone’s got a fun story to tell.

We’ve noticed that parking often merges with LA culture, whether it’s a viral video of Larry David getting stuck, or a clever tune about the happenings in the Whole Foods parking lot. When we can, we like to seek fun and notable locals to get their own perspectives on the rituals of parking around town. Nobody’s more fun than West Hollywood’s own Bruce Vilanch.

Vilanch, a six-time Emmy award winner and head writer of The Oscars since the year 2000, was kind enough to chat with us about his experiences. He’s a prolific comedy writer, so we knew we were in for some witty responses about parking, particularly within “The Biz.” We hope you enjoy Bruce’s unique responses as much as we did!

What’s your favorite thing to do on a LA Sunday?

I’m a Jew! We like to eat Chinese food and go to the movies. We would do that whether we were in LA or Baghdad.

What’s the best restaurant for a first date?

(Laughs) Any place that has flattering lighting. Angela Lansbury’s dressing room would probably be a good spot.

Do you have a particularly interesting/humorous parking story you’d like to share?

Parking on the Fox Studios lot used to be heinous until they built a new garage. I used to park in Natalie Wood’s space. She’d been dead for years, but they’d never gotten around to re-assigning it. Odds are she wouldn’t be coming in on any given day, so who would notice? She had also been a friend, so I felt like she was urging me on from above. “Don’t be a schmuck,” I could hear her shouting in her daisy clover voice. “Park!”

One day I pulled into Fox and the name Saul Turtletaub was painted on the curb. He was an esteemed comedy producer, not one of the teenage ninja turtletaubs. I turned right around and went to Warner Brothers.

Larry David coined the term “pig parker” for someone who takes us two spaces while parking. Have you ever been guilty of this?

Never. I would not want to incur the satirical wrath of Larry David, unless there was real money in it.

Have you ever had a confrontation/meltdown with someone over a spot?

Life is too short to get worked up over a parking space. I always remember Clint Eastwood’s spot at Warner Bros. He’s got a sign in front of it that has his name in large letters and, beneath that, the legend: don’t even think about parking here. I’ll bet that scared Meryl out of her Italian accent.

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

New York Post
Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
June 13, 2013

4-27-2013 3-55-20 AM

Popping up on the 54 Below stage wearing a T shirt with the message about “Adele,” Bruce Vilanch launched into “Hey, Don’t Look At Me” from Follies with special lyrics about his appearance at his old stomping ground, the basement room of 54 Below. Without a break, Vilanch jumped into “Gee But It’s Good To Be Here” perfectly impersonating Ethel Merman’s high note! His accompanist was the talented Brian Nash who plays for the late open mic show at 54 Below every Monday night at 11:30 PM.

Most of Vilanch’s show was funny stories from his writing experiences on shows including the Oscars, his appearances on Hollywood Squares, and his writing for several beauty pageants. He described how one could get to the major beauty pageants by starting small, taking a local contest first, then moving up to regional, then to state, and ultimately one of the big international contests, especially if you were spotted by professional trainers “Guy and Rex.” Their training method was hysterical, especially when they got to a Miss Universe contest in high altitude Peru. Because there was a sumo wrestler shaped contestant, when she descended the staircase she would knock over all the other contestants! His job was to write the questions and answers for the contestants and they always wanted some special disease to talk about. The response of the girl contestant who blew her line was hysterically funny.

He also did a riff on Pia Zadora who lives in Las Vegas and has just been charged with assaulting her fifth husband, a cop, with his pistol! One of Vilanch’s first jobs was to write an act for her that her rich husband could put in his Las Vegas hotels. He told everyone to watch her movie “Santa Claus and the Martians” for a special Christmas treat. Marvin Hamlisch was also hired and she was to open for George Burns who was 100 years old at the time. Vilanch grew up worshiping Burns and was able to suggest old jokes for his shows which Burns remembered instantly! When Burns saw Zadora in rehearsal, he said it was the worst act he had ever seen! And he had been seeing bad acts for 100 years! Zadora’s husband paid other headliners to come and see her act.

Vilanch’s best stories, which I will not fully disclose here, were about Steve Martin when he was hosting the Oscars and not wanting to do a specific joke which dealt with his fly on camera. The censor lady had approved it and insisted it be done. At the last minute, Martin refused to do it and the Stage Manager announced the cutting of the joke which was broadcast to all the audience! There was also a very funny story about Dolly Parton singing the song she wrote for “Beethoven’s Fifth” with the two dogs at her feet. Suddenly one of the dogs took a big dump so they cut to the upper part of Parton’s torso while a stage manager swept off the droppings. However, Parton was wearing a transparent top and the waist up shot showed her naked big breasts and nipples driving the censor wild. So they cut to her face and as Parton smelled what had happened her mascara started dripping! Vilanch was back stage with Deborah Kerr who was to get the special career award. Vilanch explained that everyone who gets this award usually dies a few months later, which is why Doris Day has always turned it down. He had the job of taking Ms. Kerr, in a blackout, to a platform where she was to appear after Parton’s number. Kerr’s reaction to the smell was priceless!

He also regaled us with the stories of the Lucas repressed Stars Wars Holiday Special, done to promote the next sequel. It was to star the Chewbaca family, who spoke in that language, and featured all kinds of name guest stars including Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, and Bea Arthur. Bea Arthur was to be featured in the nightclub scene and chose to sing “The Alabama Song.” The costumes on the extras were left over unfinished costumes that kept melting. Most of them looked like Vaginas. And on her last note, Arthur knocked over the vagina on her shoulder! Sometimes you will find that clip on you tube!

All in all, there was not a dull or unfunny moment in Vilanch’s act.
He repeats Friday, June 14 at 11 PM. Reservations are a must! Given his popularity with Broadway community he’ll probably sell out.

Maitre D’ & Reservations: (646) 476-3551
To purchase tickets visit or call (866) 468-7619

54 Below – 254 W 54th St, Cellar – New York, NY 10019

Bruce Vilanch Talks Movies, Oscars, And Cutie Pies

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The Backlot
Interview: Bruce Vilanch on His MovieOy Vey! My Son Is Gay!!,” Oscars, and Cute Boy Neighbors
June 11, 2013

4-27-2013 3-51-51 AM

Bruce Vilanch has enjoyed what I’d call the ideal pop cultural existence: He’s written jokes for about two dozen Oscar ceremonies; he’s costarred in glamorous movies and insane Broadway spectacles (Mahogany, Hairspray); he took up Paul Lynde‘s mantle on Hollywood Squares; he’s become an icon himself thanks to his bright blond hair, red glasses, and goofy t-shirts; most fabulously, he’s relished casual and working relationships with everyone from Bette Midler to Lainie Kazan, the latter of whom costarred with him in the cute indie comedy Oy Vey, My Son Is Gay!! Though that movie was released in 2010, director Evgeny Afineevsky recently tried garnering the film greater distribution with the aid of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a Bruce Vilanch/Lainie Kazan vehicle, guys. The world deserved to receive and cradle this.

To celebrate that effort, we phoned the awesome Vilanch to talk about working on that movie, the stars who’ve impressed him over the years, and the celebrity men who lived in his “cute boy cul de sac.”

TheBacklot: You shot Oy Vey, My Son is Gay!! back in 2010. What was the set like?
Bruce Vilanch: We shot in Spokane where I’d actually been before, but only for like a night. We were at a studio where they shoot a lot of Lifetime movies. They were very happy to see us because we were the only film to shoot there where no one in the plot had cancer. There were no women in jeopardy either; no one was being chased by her deranged Iraqi vet husband. No Post Traumatic Stress. It was a comedy, and they were relieved they could laugh. It was tremendous amount of fun, though it was the dead of winter, there were blizzards, and we pretended it was spring in New York. That cast: Lainie Kazan’s a riot, and Vinny Pastore, who you remember as Big Pussy from The Sopranos, Jai Rodriguez, Carmen Electra, such an eclectic group. We had a really good time. And it’s a throwback, a ’50s style of comedy.

TB: You’ve known Lainie Kazan for years, right?
BV: She’s an old, old friend of mine. We ended up working on a couple of movies, but we just knew each other for years. This was a chance to really hang out together intensely.

TB: I assume at this point in your life you’ve gotten to work with tons of people whose work you’d admired for years and years.
BV: Sometimes! It depends. In your mind’s eye you think they’ll going to be like their characters onstage or onscreen, but sometimes they’ll be all business. About 23 years ago I did a movie with Charles Durning, and at the time he was a very serious actor who had done all of those gangster pictures. He was a real tough guy. He was playing Santa Claus in this movie, and I was his elf. I was the elf who took steroids. I didn’t know what to expect from him, but he was hilarious and easygoing — and a great actor at the same time. He was nothing like the people he portrayed. One of the leads of the picture was seven years old and from Utah, because we were shooting around there. The second day of shooting, Charles said to me, “I was expecting a seven-year-old kid! Look what I got. Faye Dunaway.” He was going through the same thing I was; he was expecting one thing from his costar and got another.

TB: Do you have a favorite onstage moment?
BV: Oh, Hairspray. Two years of Hairspray onstage. I did Broadway for a year, then toured for a year. It was amazing. First of all, eight times a week with a different audience, it pushes an OCD button you didn’t know you had. Each show is different, and you find yourself making slight variations. I didn’t know that was what it was going to be like. You hear about people doing a robot version of a performance after six months on the same show, but for me, the minute I went out onstage I felt the excitement.

TB: I’m always interested to find out how knowledgeable pop culture historians like yourself stay interested in new media. Are you still excited by new, good movies, etc.?
BV: There are classics that I do watch over and over, but when you discover something that’s new that’s really good, you go completely crazy. You can’t get enough of it. If you close yourself off to the new stuff, then it’s over. You may as well find a Greek island that appeals to you and never emerge. I was watching the Tonys and saw Kinky Boots in Chicago when they were trying it out, and it’s fantastic. It’s a great show and has the same effect that Hairspray has. The audience goes through the roof, because it’s so artfully put together. They fall in love with the characters and want them to succeed. The writers have given them material to soar with. How can you not respond to that? If you become so jaded that you can’t respond to something that’s new, get your rope and do your Prometheus impression. Tie yourself to a rock and wait for high tide.

TB: Speaking of Kinky Boots, did you know Cyndi Lauper is an Oscar away from an EGOT?
BV: I hadn’t thought of that! I guess it’s true. I didn’t know that. They give out so many Emmys and so many Grammys, it’s almost hard to keep track. Now Cyndi’ll write a song for a movie and they’ll give her an Oscar, like Adele.

TB: Does that bother you, the way celebrities can phone in for an Oscar in the Best Song Category?
BV: No, because they’ve set up the category to work that way. The category was established back when there were lots of musicals and people were writing original songs for them. That period is long over. It used to be that people wrote a song for the closing credits, and at least they change that. Now it has to be somewhere in the body of the piece. It can’t be a song that gets tacked on at the end for an Oscar. Now it has to have more of a relationship to the actual movie. They bring top writers in, they write a song for the movie, and it’s not a song that they would write, you know, out of their soul. It’s a song they’re writing on assignment for a lot of money and the chance to have an Academy Award on their mantle. Those are the songs you’re getting a lot of the time. But the system has set itself up that way, so I don’t begrudge [the songwriters]. I mean, you can pretty much carry a movie and be nominated in the supporting category for political reasons and find yourself up against someone who had one four-minute scene and walks away with the picture. That’s the nature of it. That’s what they’ve set up. It’s possible for Judi Dench to win for one scene.

TB: Tatum O’Neal beat Madeline Kahn in Best Supporting Actress, which made no sense since Tatum is the star of Paper Moon.
BV: Exactly. It’s possible for someone nine-years-old to beat someone who had been in the business for 50 years. Tatum O’Neal also beat Sylvia Sidney that year.

TB: I’m glad to see you’re pretty encyclopedic about Oscar trivia still.
BV: [Laughs.] I’ve written 23 of the shows, so some of it does rub off.

TB: Do you have Oscars ceremony? One where you got to nail the perfect joke, etc.?
BV: I wish I could say that, but it’s never one line that makes the show. The Billy Crystal/Jack Palance year lives in memory because we threw away so much of the script and added new stuff as we went along. We rewrote it as we went along. That was pretty successful. There was the year that Quincy Jones produced, Whoopi hosted, and everything seemed to work. A lot of the time, the things you remember about the show are the spontaneous moments, the emotional moments, the stuff that can’t be scripted. That’s what people take away from the show. I thought the Hugh Jackman show was terrific. What I loved was Bill Condon’s idea of bringing out five previous winners in the four acting categories and each one singled out one of the nominees. It was a great idea, but it went by the wayside as it would have to because you run out of Oscar-winners. You run out of people who are willing to actually do that! Even though there are like 84 winning actresses — or less, really, because there are so many multiples — but a lot are dead or disinterested. Which will be the name of my memoirs, Dead or Disinterested.

TB: Right, there aren’t many Eva Marie Saint-types left.
BV: Exactly right. Best Supporting Actor was impossible to cast. There just aren’t that many who are left who would make sense, who the audience would look upon with reverence.

TB: You mentioned Charles Durning earlier, but have you met many legends who were much funnier than you expected?
BV: That’s a great question. Bette Davis? She was funny, but I kind of expected that. I suppose Peter O’Toole because he’s so famous for doing classic roles and big serious things, but later in his career he started doing some really brilliant comic stuff like My Favorite Year where he made fun of himself and that tradition of hammy classical actors. But that was a role, and I didn’t know that offstage he still had that card to play. Offstage, he is an extremely droll storyteller. I expected that he would just be beautiful and stoic. Actually, Laurence Olivier was like that too. I met him late in his life, but though he got kind of quiet, he’d tell stories that were brutally funny and do subtle impressions of other people. That was really unexpected.

TB: Is it possible for you to be starstruck anymore?
BV: Oh, sure. All the big ones of the golden age are gone, pretty much, there are very few left. But I’m starstruck when I meet certain legends. I get can get dazzled when I meet somebody like Lady Gaga, who has created this thing for herself. She’s so smart and so talented. I think it’s more being in the presence of someone like her, you see the wheels turn. That’s pretty fabulous. Anybody who pulls themselves together in what my mother calls “get-ups” — when she walks into a room, it’s hard not to pay attention. I guess anytime you meet somebody you know is genuinely talented and not just artifice, there’s a quality of being starstruck.

TB: My dream is for Lady Gaga to play Laura Nyro in a biopic. She’s be perfect.
BV: Wow. That would be great because Laura Nyro was it for me. I play her music almost every day, and I only met her once for a minute. I was with Bette Midler, we were on tour, and Laura Nyro happened to be playing in town. We couldn’t see her because for some reason are shows were on the same night. So they arranged for a dinner the next night, and that was that. She was everything that I’d heard she was. She was crazy and mercurial, and there were mood swings, and then she was gentle and tender, and then she was manic and nuts. It was all in the course of one dinner. I realized that I was probably better off just listening to the music.

TB: Is there anybody whose jokes make you think, ”Damn, I wish I’d written that”?
BV: Sometimes you hear someone else and think, “They sound so coherent!” I hear myself and think, “You sound like you were grasping for air.” But Cary Grant never sat and looked at his movies — while everyone else said, ‘Cary Grant!’ — he would look at himself and think, my tie’s crooked, a spot of makeup is off or something. I’m always comparing myself to people who for some reason seem more collected when they talk. I used to be the press, so I understand the dynamic.

TB: Selfish question: You were in Mahogany with Diana Ross and Anthony Perkins. Any stories to tell us about the mysterious Tony P.?
BV: Well, I don’t have many Anthony Perkins stories to share because they’re so dark and sexual. [Laughs.] That was a strange movie because it was Diana Ross’ second movie and Berry Gordy fired the director, who was only Tony Richardson. You can imagine the set. We shot everything, then we had to reshoot everything because the picture had to get to Rome, which was prettier than Chicago. Things got rewritten and re-done. This one scene I had, we wrote ourselves. We kept looking down at a piece of paper in front of us, and that’s why we keep looking down — to make sure we knew the lines. The plot had changed. He was a part of that whole thing. He didn’t have too much to shoot in Chicago. I knew him later on when I moved to California because we were neighbors.

TB: Tell me you’ve had some amazing neighbors in L.A.
BV: Over the years, yeah. A bizarre collection. I had tons of people — Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland. That’s a couple no one ever talks about anymore. They almost got married. It was almost Runaway Bride! I was in a cute boy cul de sac once with Scott Wolf, Ian Ziering, Christian Slater, and uh, Paul Reiser. They were all my cute boy neighbors. I would think, “Would one of you mow the lawn with your shirt off? It would liven things up.” But no. No, they all had help. They all had third-worlders who did that. Now Ian Ziering’s a guest stripper or guest host at Chippendale’s in Vegas for a limited engagement, running the show. He’s close to 50, so he’s bulked up. He’s musclebound up there with those guys. He’s in unbelievably fabulous shape. Though he has a small daughter he carries around, so that’s maybe how he stays in shape. He’s a cool guy and a sweetheart.