AN ETHEL QUEEN AND A JUDY QUEEN
14 December 2002
The air in the car was electric. You could feel the excitement of the crowd, even though it was only a cassette tape. It was Ethel Merman's final performance on the stage in Gypsy. The crowd didn't even wait for the final notes of "Everything's Coming up Roses" before they burst into wild cheers. Jimmy's eyes glowed as he described the scene he had witnessed, and his body involuntarily moved along with the rhythm of the music. Mr. Show Business was in his element.
There is a line from The Big Voice which says "Everyone knows, you're either an Ethel queen or a Judy queen." (that would be Merman and Garland, for those who might not know.) Steve's husband Jimmy is an Ethel Queen (and I have been known for years as a gay man in drag--and that I'm really a Judy Queen).
I had flown to Burbank at mid-day and Steve picked me up at the airport...eventually...and we had gone back to their apartment. However, he takes a nap in the afteroon and Jim was going to run errands, so he invited me to come along. It turned out to be a delightful afternoon--in a weird sort of way. I got to see all the sights of West Hollywood--Bob's Print Shop, Staples, Ralph's Market--and all points between, including the restaurant near which Robert Blake (allegedly) murdered his wife.
But as we drove, I enjoyed listening to Jimmy reminisce about his memories of Ethel Merman (whom he knew) and his friendship with Lucille Ball (about whom he wrote a book). He talked about plays he's written and directed, TV shows he's worked on, and behind the scenes gossip. He also played a cassette tape of messages left on his answering machine by Lucy and other show biz luminaries. (We also discovered that we had lived on the same street in San Francisco, tho he hadn't moved there until 10 years after I left.)
We stopped at the recording studio where they recorded the sound track for The Big Voice and stopped to chat with Ronda and her daschund Moxie, whose birthday it was today. We also picked up the keyboard that Steve will play in the show tomorrow night.
We stopped to talk with the proprietor at the costume store next to the recording studio, where Jim proudly announced the Oscar Wilde award which The Big Voice had just won, and the nomination for the GLAAD media award.
When all the errands had been run, we returned to the apartment, otherwise known as "the museum of Broadway musical history," with its walls lined with autographed photos of show business legends, many of them in poses with Jimmy.
Steve was awake and showered and we settled down to watch TV while we waited for Michael to arrive. Michael works for Fox Studios and arrived with a box of videotapes. (If you have a particularly clear DVD of your favorite movie, Michael probably had a hand in producing it.)
Jim whipped up a batch of his famous spaghetti and we sat around eating it while watching old game shows which had been taped off of the Game Show Network the previous night. We took a break at one point to watch the current Hollywood Squares, because the squares were filled with old game show familiar faces, and they wanted to watch their friend Charles Nelson Reilly (who didn't get much chance to say anything on this night.)
We were all getting droopy, so Michael and I packed up and headed back here, to his house. Jimmy is a Ethel queen. Michael is a Judy queen, and back here, we sat in front of his huge screened TV and watched a marvelous documentary about Judy Garland...needless to say, I ate it up.
But my first day back in LaLa land has come to an end and it's time to get some sleep. It's always a good day when you get to spend time with such special people...and when you can throw Ethel Merman, Lucille Ball and Judy Garland into the mix...well...who could ask for anything more?