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Academy Awards 25 Years Ago: Not So Different From Today

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

New York Times
Academy Awards 25 Years Ago: Not So Different From Today
FEB. 24, 2017


From the moment the host Billy Crystal was wheeled onstage wearing a straitjacket and a face mask à la Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs,” viewers knew the 1992 Oscars were not going to be normal.

“It was a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” Jodie Foster, the “Silence” star who won best actress that year, recalled in a telephone interview. “You were being catapulted from one surreal experience to the next.”

The circumstances surrounding the Academy Awards 25 years ago were not so different from the ceremony set for Sunday: Presidential politics served as the backdrop (in that case, Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown, whom Mr. Crystal jokingly compared to that year’s self-destructive cinematic rebels Thelma and Louise, were trying to unseat President George Bush). Major social issues played out at the podium (then it was homophobia and sexism), and black filmmakers were making inroads. But in 1992, four of the five best-picture nominees were among the year’s top 20 domestic box-office hits; this year, that’s true for only two of the nine contenders (“Hidden Figures” and “La La Land”).

“In those days, people still believed the recipe to make a popular film was to make a good film,” Ms. Foster said. “The way the economy has shaped the industry over the last 25 years, it’s ghettoized films into either big, dumbed-down mainstream movies that are trying to attract as many audience members as possible, and movies that are substantial and meaningful, which are relegated to a different sphere.”

I asked winners, nominees and one of the show’s writers about that year’s most memorable moments.

The Show Opener

A review in The New York Times described the 1992 ceremony as “uncharacteristically lively,” and that began with the first bit the writers devised for the host. “It’s a great entrance for Anthony Hopkins in the movie, so we knew it would work with Billy,” Bruce Vilanch, one of the telecast’s writers, said in a recent telephone interview. “It was kind of irresistible.”

One-Armed Push-Ups

Jack Palance doing one-armed push-ups at the Academy Awards in 1992. Credit Craig Fujii/Associated Press
The bizarre mood was struck early when best supporting actor went to Jack Palance, Mr. Crystal’s co-star in the western comedy “City Slickers.” Mr. Palance gave, as The Times put it, a “cheerfully unprintable acceptance speech.”

“It was an odd thing to say at the Academy Awards,” Mr. Vilanch said, recalling a specific line in the speech. “But that was Jack. He was a genuinely strange and scary guy.”

Then, in a display of his virility, the 73-year-old character actor dropped to the floor and did one-armed push-ups. Backstage in the writers’ room, “we looked at each other and said, ‘We have to go with this — it’s too funny.’” Thus began a run of on-the-fly jokes from Mr. Crystal (“I was just given a bulletin: Jack Palance is now on the StairMaster”) that stretched through the night.

A Family First

For supporting actress, Mercedes Ruehl won for “The Fisher King,” but it was one of her competitors, Diane Ladd, who made Oscar history. She was the first mother to be nominated along with her daughter (Laura Dern) for the same film, the Southern drama “Rambling Rose.” Ms. Dern and Ms. Ladd also presented the award for best visual effects to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

“When I was standing on that stage, and I looked out at my peers and then over at Laura, it was a great honor,” Ms. Ladd said. “I had to fight to keep from crying.”

A Surprise From Space

More emotional moments played out as George Lucas received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from his old friend Steven Spielberg and, in a bit of technical wizardry, the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, complete with a floating Oscar. Another satellite link allowed the acclaimed Indian director Satyajit Ray to accept his honorary Academy Award from his hospital bed in Calcutta; he died 24 days later at 70. “Gil Cates, who produced that show, loved technology,” Mr. Vilanch said. “He always had remotes.”

Gay-Rights Protesters

Many Oscar ceremonies come with some controversy, and the 1992 show had its share. Gay-rights advocates picketed over villainous characters in “Silence” as well as in “J.F.K.” (Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for best supporting actor for his turn as a gay man put on trial and acquitted for an alleged conspiracy to kill the president) and in the just-released “Basic Instinct,” which starred Sharon Stone, who was also a presenter. “It was a good discussion, but it was also very stressful,” Ms. Foster said.

The protesters could take solace in the fact that Howard Ashman — who had died a year earlier at 40 — became the first person lost to AIDS to win an Oscar: best original song for “Beauty and the Beast.” His longtime companion, Bill Lauch, accepted the award on his behalf.

A Toon Dispute

Disney’s wildly popular “Beauty and the Beast” stirred up discord when it became the first animated film nominated for best picture, which didn’t sit well with some Oscar purists. “They created the best animated feature category after that because they didn’t want more cartoons nominated for best picture,” said. Mr. Vilanch. (Only “Up” and “Toy Story 3” have managed the feat since.)

Streisand Slight

The night’s loudest contretemps surrounded Barbra Streisand, who was passed over for a best director nomination even though her drama “The Prince of Tides” snagged a best picture nomination. The group Women in Film cited sexism. “In some circles, they said I took her slot,” said John Singleton, who at 24 became the youngest and first African-American best director nominee, for his searing debut, “Boyz N The Hood.” “What people don’t know is that I’m a huge Barbra Streisand fan. She signed my application to get me into the Directors Guild.”

Mr. Crystal gracefully defused the situation with a satirical lyric during a musical number. Referring to “The Prince of Tides,” he crooned, “Seven nominations on the shelf, did this film direct itself?” The cameras quickly cut to Ms. Streisand, laughing appreciatively.

Rookie Mistake

Mr. Singleton lost best director to Jonathan Demme for “Silence,” but he had higher hopes of winning best original screenplay. Yet the award went to another first-timer, Callie Khouri, for the feminist road-trip saga “Thelma & Louise.”

“I was trying not to jinx myself, so I wrote an acceptance speech in pencil,” Ms. Khouri said. “By the time I opened it up, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, so I just winged it. I forgot to thank the producer, so that was fairly horrifying.” (For the record, Mimi Polk Gitlin produced the film.)

A ‘Silence’ Sweep

The biggest winner, of course, turned out to be “The Silence of the Lambs,” which became only the third film in history, after “It Happened One Night” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” to sweep the top five awards: best picture, director, actor, actress and adapted screenplay (by Ted Tally, based on Thomas Harris’s novel).

“Three years earlier, I had won best actress for ‘The Accused,’ and I was the only person nominated from the film, so I was by myself,” Ms. Foster said. “But for ‘Silence,’ it was really extraordinary — we kept winning, one after the other, and we all met backstage. I remember everybody was really hot and sweaty, and we all had our arms around one another.”


That wasn’t the only happy ending. Five months later, Mr. Crystal, Mr. Vilanch and his fellow writers Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Robert Wuhl and David Steinberg took home Emmys. “We won for throwing out the script and rewriting it on the spot,” Mr. Vilanch said. “That’s Hollywood.”

“Child Of The 70’s” Permanently Featured In The Hollywood Museum Exhibit Reel To Real: Portrayal And Perceptions Of Gays In Hollywood

Friday, September 16th, 2016

“Child Of The 70’s” Permanently Featured In The Hollywood Museum Exhibit Reel To Real: Portrayal And Perceptions Of Gays In Hollywood
By ShootOnline Staff
Thursday, Sep. 15, 2016


Michael Vaccarro

Popular international TV and web series “Child of the 70’s” was featured in the Hollywood Museum exhibit “Reel to Real: Portrayals and Perceptions of Gays in Hollywood.”  The landmark, third annual exhibition was developed in alliance with Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’ Farrell to highlight LGBT characters and icons in film and television from Hollywood’s past and present. The “Reel to Real: Portrayal and Perceptions of Gays in Hollywood” exhibit ran at the museum’s historic Max Factor Building in the heart of Hollywood.  This was the first time the show was featured in the exhibit and was simultaneously inducted as a permanent part of it.

“It was such a great honor to be recognized in this exhibit,” says the show’s creator/writer/producer, Michael Vaccaro. “The rest of the cast and I are moved by the museum’s dedication to the gay and lesbian entertainment community.”  Now in its fourth season and seen on OUT TV, “Child of the 70’s” is a parody of and a loving homage to the sitcoms Vaccaro loved growing up in the 1970s.  Vaccaro (“A Play on Words”) portrays the central protagonist of the series, Carlo Perdente, a wannabe actor who is trying to break into the entertainment business by being an assistant to the narcissistic and egomaniacal 1970s TV star KiKi Lawrence played by Ann Walker (“Sordid Lives”).

It also stars a prolific number of actors from film and television during that decade including Susan Olson who played Cindy Brady in “The Brady Bunch,” Ted Lange who played bartender Isaac Washington on “The Love Boat” and Donna Pescow in the title role on “Angie” and Annette in “Saturday Night Fever.”  Additional cast members from the era include Gina Hecht (“Mork and Mindy”), Amy Linker (“Square Pegs”), Carole Ita White (“Laverne and Shirley“) and the original Cowboy from The Village People, Randy Jones.

Additional cast members include Lynne Marie Stewart (“Pee Wee’s Playhouse”), Terry Ray (“From Here On Out”), Duane Boutte (“Carousel”), Geri Jewell (“The Facts of Life”), Sheena Metal (LA Talk Radio icon), comedian Judy Tenuta, Bruce Vilanch (“Hairspray”), Chuck Broadway’s “Evita”), Kat Kramer (“Little Fockers”), Mel England (“Ron and Laura Take Back America”), and Sally Kirkland (“Anna”).

“Child of the 70’s is directed by Tom Pardoe (“It’s Your Move) and co-written by Terrence Moss.  Shooting for season five begins this fall.

For more information on “Child of the 70’s” please visit

Bruce Vilanch Attends Premiere Of ‘The Comeback’

Friday, November 7th, 2014

‘The Comeback’ Comes Back from 9-Year Hiatus to the Delight of L.A.’s Power Gays
Posted on 11/6/2014 11:31:00 AM by Mike Ciriaco


If you love something, set it free, and if it returns, it was meant to be.

Or have the execs at HBO cancel it, and if it returns, it was meant to be watched. Lisa Kudrow’s meta-comedy The Comeback, which was axed nine years ago, is going to be back on the air and is just as funny as ever.

Last night, Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater unfurled the red carpet in celebration of Kudrow’s reprisal of her role as the awkward, repressed, self-deluded Valerie Cherish. The artist formerly known as Phoebe Buffay was joined at the gala screening of the new season’s first two episodes by the show’s co-creator Michael Patrick King, as well as a cavalcade of returning co-stars including Laura Silverman, Lance Barber and Damian Young. The cast was bolstered by a roster of the town’s top power gays, including Andrew Rannells, Jane Lynch, Sara Gilbert, Dan Bucatinsky and queen of queer comedy Bruce Vilanch.

“I hope Mickey the makeup guy is in it,” said Vilanch, chatting about the new season before the screening. “I missed the end of the season, so I hope he didn’t die.”

Fans of Mickey, Valerie’s personal makeup artist/sassy gay sidekick, portrayed by Robert Michael Morris, can breathe a sigh of relief. The character survived his melanoma scare from the end of the previous season. And thank god, because Mickey is this series’ version of The Simpsons’ Ralph Wiggum. Every line out of his mouth is comic gold.

For those who were too cheap to spring for premium cable nearly a decade ago, here’s the CliffsNotes version of The Comeback. The mockumentary-style series is like one of those Russian nesting dolls. A reality TV show chronicles faded television star Valerie Cherish as she shoots a cheesy sitcom called Room and Bored in a desperate attempt at recapturing the spotlight. Its a show about a show about a show.

The new season is even more meta. Picking up nine years after the cancellation of the short-lived sitcom, Cherish’s career is flailing. Among her many missteps is self-sabotaging her chance at being one of Bravo’s Housewives of Beverly Hills several years prior, shown via pseudo-raw footage in a hilarious scene with Frontiers friend Lisa Vanderpump. Valerie discovers that Paulie G, the drug addict douchebag who wrote Room and Bored, has created a new show called Seeing Red, a derogatory dramedy (“its like a comedy without the laughs”) about his experience working with Cherish. When Val storms into a casting session to confront him, she ends up reading for—and accepting—the lead role, thus playing her own insulting caricature. For those at home keeping score, the series is now a show about a show capturing a show that’s rehashing what happened behind the scenes of a show that was framed by a reality TV show. Despite the thickly layered premise, the execution is clean and laugh-filled.

After the screening, the audience moseyed over to The Roosevelt for the after-party. Waitresses in red-headed Valerie Cherish wigs doled out wine and mini ahi steaks to HBO’s extended family. But the most popular gay lunch table was Bruce Villanch’s. As the adage goes, if you have nothing nice to say, go sit next to Bruce. In between the sass and the snark, the conversation touched upon the topic of Frontiers’ upcoming “L.A.’s Most Eligible Bachelors” issue.

“I’m one of you,” quipped Vilanch to the magazine’s collective readers. “I’m not young, I’m not nubile, but I’m a bachelor.”

Robert Michael Morris had a more specific notion of his perfect man. “Someone who cooks and cleans and never criticizes and thinks I’m the best thing since sliced bread,” he said.

Girls heartthrob Andrew Rannells happily played along, although he doesn’t currently qualify as a bachelor. “I have a boyfriend, so I already have the ideal mate,” the angel-faced actor beamed.

Well, Andrew, if you love him, let him go. If he returns to you, it was meant to be. If he doesn’t, the rest of us boys potentially have a shot at you once again.

Bruce Vilanch To Appear In Michael Vaccaro’s Web Series, “Child of the ’70s”

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Gay Writers Give Birth to a ‘Child of the ‘70s’
05/ 3/2012


For any of us who came of age during the 1970s, the era was a pop smorgasbord of fashion, art, culture, and music. From the iconic John Travolta inSaturday Night Fever, to the music of ABBA, to classic TV series such as All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Carol Burnett Show, such references have not only helped define my generation but inspired in others an ongoing love for all things ‘70s.

Actor/singer Michael Vaccaro is attempting to capture that spirit in a new Web series, Child of the ‘70s, which is currently fundraising at Indiegogo. An indie actor in such movies as Todd Verow’s Deleted Scenes and The Endless Possibility of Sky, Michael also won a MAC award for Outstanding Musical Comedy Performer and has recorded two CDs, Archangel and Wait for Him.

To create Child of the ‘70s, he has joined with friend and collaborator Terrence Moss as co-writers. Terrence is an independent writer based in Los Angeles who operates a website for long-form content,, consisting of articles, commentaries, reaction pieces, essays, actor/actress profiles, and an ongoing short fiction series.

The two recently met with me to discuss this shared love of the ‘70s and how it helped inspire their new series.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: Michael, what is it about the 1970s that entices you? Is it the music? The TV shows? Something more?

Michael Vaccaro: All of those—and more. It was a magical era. Look at TV alone. It was the best TV ever! I mean, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Carol Burnett, Bea Arthur, and Esther Rolle—and so many more. Back then TV was interesting, smart, and funny—and unafraid, just like the people who were coming of age then.

Edwards-Stout: That was your time, huh?

Vaccaro: Yeah, I was young and really cute, and I could get into clubs and drink and have sex with hot bartenders! You could dance and go home with strangers, and everybody was doing it, and no one cared or judged. It was before we all started dying, and I remember such a sense of freedom and abandon.

Edwards-Stout: So you associate it with freedom…

Vaccaro: Exactly. There was a sense of achieving whatever dream you had. Take cinema—also the greatest decade. Actors and directors and writers were unafraid, fearless, raw. It’s all pretty much sucked since. And music? No one can tell me there’s a greater album, an album that better captured the feelings of an entire generation of people, than Saturday Night Fever.

Edwards-Stout: With your new Web series, Child of the ‘70s, you’re hoping to capture some of that?

Vaccaro: I wanted to do something really fun that brought back many of the actors that I loved from that time. I’m casting a few of my absolute favorites, though I can’t talk about who just yet. So many deserving of attention. Look at the amazing resurgence of Betty White! I want to do that for a few of the people who helped make my childhood happy!

Edwards-Stout: Terrence, how did you become involved in writing the project with Michael?

Terrence Moss: Michael knew of the short story series I write for my website, as well as the pieces I had written about the Bitter Bartender Web series, and asked if I’d help him write Child of the ‘70s. We met once a week for five consecutive weeks and wrote one episode each week.

Edwards-Stout: What about the Web series intrigued you?

Moss: Even though I only caught the very tail end of it, I feel a special affinity for the 1970s—the music, the TV shows, some of the movies, the social change. I liked the concept. And on a personal note, I liked that Michael was taking this part of his career into his own hands. I wanted to help with that.

Edwards-Stout: Is the tone reminiscent of those classic TV shows, such as Laverne & Shirley orWelcome Back, Kotter?

Vaccaro: I’m interested in capturing the feeling of Love, American Style. There’s a “look” from the ‘70s that I adore: dark, grainy, saturated with earth tones. I’m trying to recapture that look. HD is so very clear and clean and bright, so I’m actually using older cameras.

Edwards-Stout: That sounds cool.

Vaccaro: I also love sarcasm, and it seems to me that everybody on television in the ‘70s was sarcastic. Rhoda, Maude, Phyllis… I love that, and we’ve made our lead character, Carlo, pretty sarcastic, but also smart, lovable, and, again, unafraid. He’s also gay, and I wanted to mix that ‘70s sensibility with a gay sensibility, which is what Heaven will be like for me.

Edwards-Stout: The series follows Carlo, who uproots his New York life to move to Los Angeles, as the personal assistant to his favorite ‘70s TV star, played by Ann Walker, who was so memorable in Sordid Lives.

Vaccaro: Yes, Carlo has quite a few eerie similarities to the character of Rhoda Morgenstern. He was born and raised in the Bronx, he has a sister named Brenda, and two overbearing parents, except his are Italian. He moved out of the house when he was 24. He meets and falls in love with a man named Joe.

Edwards-Stout: Now, a lot of that sounds like you!

Vaccaro: Yes, I can tell you that I, Michael Vaccaro, also grew up in the Bronx, moved out of the house when I was 24, and fell in love with a Joe. And a few years later, I took a job as a personal assistant to a movie star, which I did for a couple of years, so I have lots of stories!

Edwards-Stout: Now, I know that aside from your creative work, you also once worked for Broadway and film legend Lainie Kazan. Any stories you can tell us?

Vaccaro: Hmm… plenty of stories. None that I can actually tell. She is fantastic. Lainie’s funny, interesting, gregarious, and very generous. She truly does light up a room. I’m hoping she’ll be in the series. I have something really juicy in mind for her.

Edwards-Stout: You’ve assembled a great cast, including funny man Bruce Vilanch. What character does he play, and how did he become involved in the project?

Vaccaro: I’ve known Bruce for years. He’s a great friend, and he’s brilliantly funny and smart. I don’t know anyone who gives more of his time to different causes. He appears at absolutely every charity event! So I just called him and asked if he’d do it, and he said yes. His character will become a major part of Carlo’s life in Los Angeles.

Edwards-Stout: I went to college with another of your stars, the multi-talented Duane Boutte. Prior to this he starred in such films as Stonewall and Brother to Brother. What led him to Child of the ‘70s?

Vaccaro: Duane is an incredibly talented man, and I’ve wanted to work with him as an actor since the day we met. He plays a character modeled after “Lionel Jefferson” on The Jeffersons, who was played by Michael Evans, who I had such a big crush on when I was a kid.

Edwards-Stout: Another familiar name in your cast is Natalie Toro, who starred on Broadway inLes Miserables, among other shows.

Vaccaro: Natalie and I have been best friends since the fourth grade! She is my family, my sister, and in the show she’s playing the role of Brenda, Carlo’s sister, who is a real Snooki type!

Edwards-Stout: You’re currently raising funds for Child of the ‘70s through Indiegogo, and I love that for the highest-level donation, someone can not only be an Associate Producer on the series—
Moss: It’s an easy way to get some Hollywood credits!

Edwards-Stout: —But they also get a role on the show. Would they simply be Waiter #2, or would you write them a funny bit?

Vaccaro: No, I would definitely want to write something very cool for someone who helps us out in that way. I’d want it to be something really fun!

Edwards-Stout: Now, you are both out and proud gay men, so I’ve got to ask: Aside from the general ‘70s theme and your very gay and gay-friendly cast, any other hot homo moments in Child of the ‘70s?

Moss: I cameo in the first episode as a co-worker of Carlo’s at a phone sex company. I don’t know if any of what I said will be heard onscreen, but if anyone can read lips, it’s very… well… it should get me a lot of dates.

Vaccaro: And, we do have someone incredibly hot playing Joe, the love interest, and if I have anything to say about it—which I do, as I’m the star, co-writer and producer—there will be lots of skin!

Moss: I imagine the real hot and heavy homo moments will occur in season two and beyond. We’ll do the reverse of Queer as Folk by toning up the hot homo stuff as the series progresses.

Edwards-Stout: What plans do you have as for the character as the series goes forward?

Vaccaro: When Carlo changes his life and moves to Los Angeles, he’s a real fish out of water, and we get to explore L.A.’s very specific quirks. We have a terrific scene about his first car accident, and the very special ‘70s guest star who he crashes into! We already have a group of amazing actors lined up, including Jonathan Slavin—
Moss: From Better Off Ted.

Vaccaro: —and Jonah Blechman, who was in Another Gay Movie.

Moss: They’ll play his new L.A. best friends. It’ll turn into a little West Coast gay Sex and the City.

Edwards-Stout: OK, one last question for you lovers of the ‘70s! Terrence, we’ll start with you. If you could be any character or real person from the 1970s, who would it be, and why?

Moss: Well, I’m assuming Michael is going to say Rhoda Morgenstern—
Vaccaro: Oooh, don’t steal mine!

Moss: —So I’ll say Clifton Curtis from That’s My Mama, because afros were out of style by the ‘90s, and even if they came back in style, I can no longer grow enough hair to produce one.

Edwards-Stout: So, Michael, are you going with Rhoda?

Vaccaro: So many possibilities… I might choose Stockard Channing’s stewardess in The Big Bus, so I could ride a nuclear-powered bus from New York City to Denver.

Edwards-Stout: I loved that movie!

Vaccaro: But my ultimate choice would have to be Esther Hoffman Howard, so I could fall in love and have sex with John Norman Howard. I mean, was there ever a sexier guy than Kris Kristofferson in A Star Is Born?

* * * * *
For more information about Child of the ‘70s, please visit the Indiegogo page.

This piece originally appeared on and The Bilerico Project.

Out Front Colorado Interviews Bruce Vilanch

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Out Front Colorado
Flamboyant and funny Bruce Vilanch
By Matt Kailey

Even if you haven’t seen Bruce Vilanch on stage, read his past columns in The Advocate or caught him on Hollywood Squares, if you watch the Academy Awards, you are familiar with his work. Vilanch has been writing for the annual extravaganza for the past 21 years, garnering Emmys along the way, as well as writing for a variety of other awards shows, television series and specials, and various stage and screen comedians and entertainers.

For the last few decades, Vilanch has been one of the most sought-after comedy writers in television. But this versatile talent is also a popular actor, most recently known for his Broadway and touring performance as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, as well as a recognized HIV/AIDS activist.

Now Vilanch brings his special brand of humor to Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret in Denver for two shows only, on May 15 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

“It’s my one-man extravaganza,” says Vilanch from Boca Raton, Fla., where he is visiting his “sainted mother” prior to his “informal” tour. “I call it sit-down, because I tell stories and talk about my hysterical, ill-gotten career.”

The last time Vilanch was in Denver, he was appearing in the touring production of Hairspray.

“I had a great time when I was there and the town was fun,” he says. “And I’ve never held so many notes quite so long because of the altitude. And once you get used to it and once you stop collapsing on stage, you get tremendous wind.”

Other than that, he has only been through for “the ritual changing of planes at the teepee out in the prairie [DIA]. ... It’s pretty funny. When you come from a distance, you think, ‘Oh, my god, the circus is in town! ... But there’s something very theatrical about it. I have to give them high marks for attempting something very flamboyant.”

Flamboyance is something with which Vilanch is very familiar. His trademark look – a cascade of bushy blonde hair, wild glasses and screen-printed T-shirts – makes him instantly recognizable wherever he goes. How did he get his look?

“It snuck up on me gradually,” he says. “I was in deep rebellion because I had a very fussy mother … who always wanted me to look just so. But I was fat and ungainly and I could never look just so, so I decided if I could never look like something out of a magazine, I was going to look distinctive. And more than that, I was going to be comfortable. Because when you’re a fat kid, nothing fits. ... I have all my own hair and a lot of it. And people are desperately jealous. So I decided that was a feature I had, so I was going to use it. And I had to wear glasses, and I thought if I’m gonna wear glasses, I’m gonna wear glasses that are fun, because I’m fun, damn it! And T-shirts were the most comfortable thing. ... It became a look.”

And Vilanch became a character in his own right – just like the Oscar-presenting stars that he writes lines for. But the various stars’ ability to portray characters is often what makes it difficult to write for them.

“Most of these people work in front of the camera most of the time,” says Vilanch, “so they’re not used to being in front of a live audience, and a live television audience of 190 billion people or whatever they claim, so that’s the first thing – you kind of have to find a personality for them. Unless they’re stand-up comics or performers, they don’t have a stage persona of their own, so you have to come up with one for them – because they’re used to playing characters. You have to find the character for them to play, even to do this little thing.”

But then there are the other stars he writes for – the ones who do have stage personas, like Bette Midler.

“I started with her, and it’s been a fabulous ride,” he says. “I’ve been working with her for 40 years, which is difficult, because she’s only 32.”

He also, of course, writes for himself – which is what you’ll enjoy when you catch him at Lannie’s. If you don’t, you’ll wish you had. And Vilanch has his own wishes for his brief stay in the Mile High City.

“I could use the company of a Bronco or two,” he says. “I’ve met quite a bunch of Colorado guys, and they all could really hold their breath. And we know how important that is.”
Bruce on Bruce

Is there a dishy inside-Hollywood story you can tell?
I’m saving it for my book. Isn’t everybody saving it for their book? Aren’t you saving it for your book?

What are you most proud of?
Oh, probably having sex with ‘N Sync. ... What I’m actually proud of is that, starting 25 years ago, when nobody would fund AIDS research or services for people with AIDS, we rallied the show-business community, and we started doing fundraisers and brought the disease to the public’s attention and filled in where government wouldn’t and organized ourselves into a kind of community, which now became the basis of the entire gay civil rights movement.

Do you have a partner?
No. I’m auditioning all the time. I’m holding open calls everywhere.

What are you looking for?
At this point, somebody with their own income.

Thoughts on Hairspray?
I can’t wait until it’s released to high schools, because every high school has got a fat girl who can really sing and dance and some fat queen who wants to do drag.
Get tickets and more information at

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