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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Vilanch’

Hollywood History With Bruce Vilanch By Nick Hardcastle

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

SBS
Loud and proud: Bruce Vilanch’s Hollywood history
By Nick Hardcastle
April 18, 2016

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Upon meeting a legendary Hollywood personality it’s only fitting that we meet in a legendary Hollywood establishment. Musso and Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard. Since 1919, stars from Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin to Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall have been sipping martinis in its old worn leather booths or throwing back scotch in its infamous back room – a watering hole for some of the finest writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, and Raymond Chandler. I arrive and Bruce Vilanch greets me as ‘Nick Hardcore’.

A regular here, Vilanch is instantly recognisable wearing his signature bright coloured glasses and a t-shirt with a cartoon image of Liam Neeson and the slogan ‘Carpe Liam’.

He has had a long and colorful history in show business and Hollywood. A six time Emmy winner, Bruce has also won a number of awards for his support of LGBTQI and HIV/AIDS charities.

He has written for the Oscars for 23 years as well as the Tonys, Emmys and Grammys. He has contributed to many Broadway shows including Peter Allen’s first, Up in One, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical. He is currently penning a new show based on the music of Petula Clark. He has been a long time gag writer for Bette Midler, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as having worked with the late and great Elizabeth Taylor, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. Whether he set out to be or not, Bruce Vilanch has been a pioneering gay voice in the entertainment business.

A New Jersey native, Vilanch spent five years in Chicago where he wrote for the Chicago Tribune and occasionally did stand-up comedy. There he met Bette Midler in the mid ‘70s. He thought that she was “funny and should talk more on stage” so he wrote some new material for the rising star and they’ve been working together ever since.

When he relocated to Los Angeles, his first gig was on a late night show called Midnight Special in 1978. There were many people who had appeared on TV before Bruce Vilanch who were gay of course, as well as gay characters in shows like All in the Family and even Australia’s Number 96, but you would be hard pressed to find an openly gay man who discussed his experiences on air before Vilanch did.

“I was completely open from the word go. It was very novel because it was one o’clock in the morning. But being openly gay on TV hadn’t become my schtick yet. I just never denied anything.”

“I was completely open from the word go. It was very novel but because it was one o’clock in the morning. But being openly gay on TV hadn’t become my schtick yet. I just never denied anything.”

Considering the cultural climate at the time, it was a bold move. In 1976 Elton John announced that he was bisexual in Rolling Stone and he was immediately removed from the playlists of many the major radio stations. “Those regional stations were where you broke records. So if some minister comes in to the local radio station in Kansas city and says you can’t play that cock sucker Elton John’s records anymore – you’d better believe he’s getting dropped off the playlist! Elton’s career was pretty much over there for a while – you can understand why it might have just been easier to say nothing.”

“So there was a lot at stake. Although no one ever told me that I couldn’t be out on TV. What they all did say was that I need to be sure. ‘Is this what you want to be known as? Because there are consequences – there will be no working with children and no big money endorsement deals and there certainly won’t be leading man parts because you can’t kiss the girl.’ But I got to be myself.”

At this point our conversation takes a slight deviation into ‘little people porn’ and ‘feeders’ but I assure him that the details are entirely off the record. I order another martini.

Vilanch’s mainstream profile rocketed when he became a regular panelist on the long-running game show ‘Hollywood Squares’ from 1998 – 2002, with his old friend and client Whoopi Goldberg. He says that this was the only time that he ever came under pressure about his sexuality on television.

“And that was only because I was graphic. I had to really fight to get some of my lines across,” he explained.

Producers would insist that there were other ways to get the laughs, and that Bruce should ‘go easy on the gay’.

“But this was coming from the same people who would say to Whoopi, ‘Go easy on the black. You don’t have to be so street’. The notes were always back-to-back. They never said to Gilbert [Gottfried] not to be so Jewish.”

At this time, Vilanch was becoming somewhat of a gay icon and it put him in a position to be able to counsel other LGBTQI people in the media. “I tell other famous people who come out that you really have no idea the affect you are having on young people who are unsure or conflicted – it gives them hope.”

He recalls a young man telling him that he used to watch Hollywood Squares with his grandmother and would be inspired, thinking, “Look at him – he’s so unafraid.”

Vilanch cites Ellen DeGeneres as another great example of that fearlessness in spite of the potential consequences. “When Ellen came out on her sitcom she was very courageous, but she was very smart. She said once she came out that they should cancel because now they would have to go in to storylines that the audience probably won’t like.

“The network thought the numbers were great, but sure enough the southern states cancelled the show and because she wasn’t being seen on the same amount of stations the numbers dropped and the show got cancelled. It took a while for Ellen to really come back from that.”

“I tell other famous people who come out that you really have no idea the affect you are having on young people who are unsure or conflicted – it gives them hope.”

But the landscape was starting to change, albeit, slowly. Will and Grace in particular became a huge hit. According to GLAAD, (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), a US non-governmental media monitoring organisation, by the time the show had aired its final season in 2006 almost 2 per cent of regular characters on prime time broadcast TV were gay. While it was certainly not a fair representation of the population, it was a sign of positive change.

Now in 2016 more than 4 per cent of regular characters on prime time are identified as LGBTQI. Guest characters and LGBTQI personalities in non-scripted television are also starting to be represented in more significant numbers. In the last year alone the number of regular LGBTQI characters counted on cable increased from 64 to 84, while recurring characters increased from 41 to 58. In 2015 for the first time, GLAAD counted LGBTQI characters on original series that premiered on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix and found 43 series regulars and 16 recurring queer characters across 23 series.

In 2016, Vilanch says that it’s much more difficult to say if someone’s sexuality really affects their media career as much as it did in previous decades, as each case is individual. “There’s still no leading man action hero who has come out and said he’s gay. We’ve had a few pro sports people but no huge major figures. When that happens maybe things will really change because we’ll finally have an example where the audience will have to believe whether say, James Bond is still James Bond when the actor playing him is openly gay. Can they buy him shagging Pussy Galore when they know he wants Balls a Plenty? That hasn’t been demonstrated yet.

“We have people like Neil Patrick Harris, Lance Bass and Melissa Etheridge and Portia de Rossi, who are big stars doing great things – but it’s unlikely you’ll see them as action heroes.”

At this point Vilanch accidentally spills come creamy salad dressing right on Liam Neeson’s cartoon face on his t-shirt. Make of that what you will.

As talent, humour and fame can be powerful aphrodisiacs for some people, I finally ask Vilanch if he thinks that being on TV has increased his sex appeal.

“I was only ever a lust object for creepy people– chubby chasers,” he replies.

When I insist that humor is the sexiest quality in any person, he cuts to the chase, “I would love to say it’s the case… but I find that they’ll laugh with you, but they’ll go home and fuck someone else. But humour sustains in a way that physical beauty doesn’t… at least I still have my card to play. ‘Snap!’”

Chilina Kennedy and More Set for Bruce Vilanch’s ‘A Sign of the Times’ Reading Prior to Goodspeed Production

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Theatermania
Chilina Kennedy and More Set for A Sign of the Times Reading Prior to Goodspeed Production
Bethany Rickwald • Connecticut • Apr 20, 2016

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Casting has been announced for a private industry reading of Bruce Vilanch’s A Sign of the Times musical, which will have a production at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatrefrom July 29-September 4. The reading will take place April 28-29.

Set in 1965, the plot of A Sign of the Times is described as follows: “The pulse of a changing era lures Cindy from Middle America to the swirl of Manhattan. Unexpected friends, lovers, careers, and conflicts are all a subway ride away in a pop-fueled new musical featuring songs made famous by Petula Clark and other hit makers of the day.” The show’s songs include “I Know a Place,” “The Shoop Shoop Song,” “If I Can Dream,” and more.

The cast of the staged presentation will feature Chilina Kennedy (Beautiful — The Carole King Musical) as Cindy, Ryan Silverman (Side Show) as Brian, Bryan Fenkart (Memphis) as Dennis, Marrick Smith (Fun Home) as Matt, and Crystal Lucas-Perry as Tanya.

The performing company also includes Alet Taylor, Lori Ann Ferreri, Lauren Nicole Chapman, Melessie Clark, Lindsay Moore, David Jennings, Dave Schoonover, Keven Quillon, Drew Franklin, and Jeff Kuhr.

The cast of the Goodspeed production will be announced shortly.

Bruce Vilanch To Perform At The 32nd Annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE)

Saturday, April 9th, 2016

Playbill
20 Artists Currently Set for Sondheim No. 5 Concert in Beverly Hills
BY ANDREW GANS
APR 08, 2016

4-27-2013 3-49-54 AM

 

The 32nd annual Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event (STAGE), which is entitled Sondheim No. 5, will be presented June 18 at 2 PM and 8 PM at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Currently scheduled to perform are Susan Anton, Barrett Foa, Loretta Devine, Allison Janney, Andrea Marcovicci, Cortes Alexander, Alexandra Billings, Mary Jo Catlett, James Clark, Carole Cook, Davis Gaines, Jason Graae, Alvin Ing, Branden James, Jean Louisa Kelly, Vicki Lewis, MaryJo Mundy, Madison Claire Parks, Bruce Vilanch and Lisa Vroman.

David Galligan directs with Michael Orland as music director.

Begun in 1984, STAGE is the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world. To date, STAGE has raised more than $5 million for HIV/AIDS organizations in the Southland. Funds raised through S.T.A.G.E. support a variety of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) programs, including its Vance North Necessities of Life Program food pantries; freestanding and mobile dental clinics; in-home health care ; housing assistance; HIV prevention and testing efforts; and a range of other services on which thousands of Angelenos affected by HIV/AIDS depend.

For ticket information visit Stagela.com.

An Evening With Emmy Award Winning Comedy Genius Bruce Vilanch March 26, 7:30 PM, The Rrazz Room, New Hope, PA

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

An Evening With Emmy Award Winning Comedy Genius Bruce Vilanch March 26, 2016, 7:30 PM, The Rrazz Room, New Hope, PA

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From Mr. Vilanch: “Currently celebrating his seventeenth year as Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety coach, Bruce Vilanch is descending to The RRazz Room At The Raven to dispatch more updates on his bizarre career behind, before and squatting over the footlights. A Hairspray star, a Hollywood Square and the latest success story on Christian Mingle, (who just hooked him up with a guy who used to be Pope), Bruce has more than a few songs to sing and stories to tell.”

 

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Bruce Vilanch shares what it’s really like to write jokes for the most prestigious awards show

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Business Insider
Bruce Vilanch shares what it’s really like to write jokes for the most prestigious awards show
February 29, 2016

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When you hear the word “Oscars,” big stars, stunning gowns, emotional acceptance speeches, and the red carpet probably come to mind.

But much of what happens behind the curtain — the elements we don’t see, like the writing — makes the award show the prestigious and memorable event it is each year.

Comedy writer and six-time Emmy award-winner Bruce Vilanch, 67, has written jokes for the Oscars since 1989 and served as head writer for the show from 2000 to 2014.

In the book, “Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers,” he talks about this huge responsibility.

“Out of the hundreds [of jokes] that we write — really, hundreds — if one or two are used, it’s a big deal,” he told the books author Mike Sacks.

Vilanch told Sacks that some of the writing team’s best jokes are ones made up on the spot in the wings during the live show. But, he explains, the writers actually start coming up with jokes for the Oscars about two months in advance and keep them in a 300-page “playbook.”

This huge outline is kept just off stage so the host can flip through it during commercial breaks to refresh their memory.

The idea to make this mega-outline each year came from Billy Crystal, who has hosted the show nine times and wanted to help out future hosts with the burden that comes from having to recall so many lines and so much information.

The playbook contains a complete rundown of the show, which typically lasts between three and four hours, as well as numerous jokes. Out of the hundreds of jokes the writers come up with ahead of time, Vilanch says it’s a big deal if one or two are actually used in the show.

Vilanch says the writers are aware that certain celebrities are off limits to joke about, either because the situation is too embarrassing for them, the joke would be too cruel, they will be in the audience.

“You have to be careful to not cross the weird line,” he told Sacks.

Vilanch remembers a joke from the 2003 Oscars in which host Steve Martin would have said, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that my fly was open throughout the monologue. The good news is that the camera puts on ten pounds.”

Vilanch, his team, and even the network censor thought the joke was hilarious, but Martin didn’t feel comfortable delivering it at such a classy event.

Vilanch understood Martin’s dilemma though, because a joke at the Oscars will stick with you throughout your career.

“The choice you have to make is, do I, as a comedian, want to be remembered for this joke or not?” he told Sacks.

Child of the 70’s Season 4 Set to Premiere Monday, February 29th 2016 at Pump in West Hollywood

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Digital Journal
Child of the 70’s Season 4 Set to Premiere Monday, February 29th 2016 at Pump in West Hollywood
February 26, 2016

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Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/2850701#ixzz41MWSRGpJ

The brainchild of lead actor Michael Vaccaro, Child of the 70s is the story of Carlos Perdente played by Vaccaro (creator, co-writer, producer, star) who moves to Los Angeles where he meets television star Kiki Lawrence and the egomaniacal owners of a talent agency played by Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch) and Bruce Vilanch (Writer, Comedian).

Child of the 70s, an homage to sitcoms of the 70s and child stars of the 70s premieres Monday, February 29th 2016 at www.theofficialchildofthe70s.com.

The brainchild of lead actor Michael Vaccaro, Child of the 70s is the story of Carlos Perdente played by Vaccaro (creator, co-writer, producer, star) who moves to Los Angeles where he meets television star Kiki Lawrence and the egomaniacal owners of a talent agency played by Susan Olsen (The Brady Bunch) and Bruce Vilanch (Writer, Comedian).

The webisode series also stars: Ted Lange (The Love Boat), Randy Jones (The Village People ‘original cowboy), Judy Tenuta (comedienne), Kat Kramer (Little Fockers), Sheena Metal (LA Talk Radio host), Amy Linker (Square Pegs), Gina Hecht (Mork and Mindy, Seinfeld), Ann Walker (Sordid Lives), Terry Ray (From Here on Out), Carol Ita White (Laverne and Shirley), Chuck Saculla (Please Don’t Eat the Pansies), Kat Kramer, Jeremiah Caleb, Charlene Geisler, Lorinda Lisitza, Leo Forte and Dr. Ralph Mayer (Executive Producer).

In addition, Child of the 70s has partnered with Friend Movement to champion the anti-bullying cause within the gay/lesbian community.

To learn more about Child of the 70s, please visit www.theofficialchildofthe70s.com.

About Actor and Executive Producer Dr. Ralph Mayer

Child of the 70s is Executive Produced by ‘Hollywood’s Favorite Doctor’ Dr. Ralph Mayer (www.ralphmayermd.com) (Keeping Up with Ralph, Dating in LA): A native Angeleno, Dr. Ralph Mayer finished medical school at UCLA and completed his training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. His fellowship in Urogynecology at Harbour UCLA Medical Center honed his surgical skills for the complex repairs required to reconstruct and rejuvenate the vagina as the result of trauma at the time of childbirth. In his twenty years of practice, his excellent skills in vagina rejuvenation, labial contouring and minimally invasive procedures are well known in the medical community, having performed thousands of procedures with outstanding clinical results. While maintaining privileges at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Mayer has been a prominent figure in Medical Staff Services at the California Hospital Medical Center. He has served as the Department Chair of the OB/GYN department for eight years prior to being appointed Chief of Staff elect. He has also served on numerous committees including credentialing and surgical services. He has surgical duties teaching USC family medicine residents and Cedars Sinai OB/GYN residents. Dr. Ralph Mayer is also an openly gay father of two children.

To learn more about Child of the 70s, please visit www.theofficialchildofthe70s.com.