Every day is opening night.

“On My Own”

The new Hair “tribe” takes its first bow.


Ladies and Gents,

I want to start off by saying this week’s column has been made possible by the generous support of Timmy Blupe. I had a deep tissue rubdown this morning by a particularly aggressive young Israeli gentleman, and now I can’t move my neck. Timmy is typing this, while I dictate.

An Ill-fitting Tribute

Before delving into another glam week, I must take a moment to recognize that much-discussed, grave error made by the producers of the Academy Awards. Farrah Fawcett was more than just a great star, she was a great lady. This notion that she wasn’t a true film actress is maddeningly untrue. (Extremities, anyone?! Or how about her brilliant turn is The Apostle?!) Farrah faced every challenge in life with grace and strength, and I know she would have taken this snub in stride. I recall how excited she was to star on Broadway in the ill-fated Bobbi Boland, and how disappointed she was when it didn’t open. She had purchased a special gown for the opening night, which she finally found the perfect chance to debut when she reunited with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith on the Emmy Awards in 2006. Also left off the Oscars’ memoriam was my friend Zelda Rubinstein, whose diminutive stature belied her enormous gifts. She was an iconic film star who risked everything to speak passionately about HIV/AIDS long before it was part of the national dialogue. If the Academy can’t make time to honor great ladies like Farrah and Zelda, why do a memoriam at all?

Sixty Bottles of Champagne

Tuesday night left me double-booked yet again! Why did the new Hair tribe have to debut the same night Lea Salonga opened at the Cafe Carlyle? Well, I had promised the new cast that I’d be there for the opening, and a Verbena never breaks his/her word. And boy was I thrilled to be there! It was electric! The new cast is so young and they infuse the show with such exuberance. The crowd went absolutely wild, including the great Andy Garcia (who has never looked better). I joined in a lovely champagne toast afterward, and I innocently asked a Hirschfeld Theatre barkeep, “Between the original cast’s final show on Sunday and the new cast’s first show tonight, how many cases of bubbly have you gone through?” Five cases! That’s 60 bottles if you’re counting!

The only thing more delicious than the champagne was leading man Ace Young. For those of you who know Ace from the stir he caused as “American Idol’s” resident hunk a couple years back, you will most certainly get a different, er, view of him in this show. Donning the same loin cloth that Will Swenson made famous (well, not the exact same one), he teases and pleases the audience in ways I can’t begin to describe.

As thrilled as I was to be at Hair, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had missed at Lea Salonga’s opening across town. Luckily I had some well-placed tipsters in the room keeping me abreast. I was told that hearing her sing “On My Own” in a venue as intimate as the Café Carlyle is worth the price of admission. I was told that time hasn’t diminished her beauty nor charm a bit. I was told that maturity has served to make her voice even more angelic. And, finally, I was told that Managing Director Erich Steinbock played host to a legendary list of leading ladies, including the likes of Leslie Uggams, Andrea McArdle, Sandy Duncan, Rebecca Luker, and Lynn Cohen, as well as fellow Filipinos Paolo Montalban and Jose Llana. It sounds like the occasion I missed was not-to-be-missed!

Don’t Get Mad, Get GLAAD

The GLAAD Media Awards pay tribute to those who represent the gay community in fair and accurate ways in the media. It has been a very gay season in the theater, with such acclaimed, gay-themed plays busting up the boards as The Pride, Yank! and The Temperamentals. GLAAD, however, gave a special recognition to Hair—a show that wears its progressive politics on its sleeve both onstage and off. Gavin Creel and the original “tribe” closed out the show with “Let the Sun Shine In.” Next thing I knew, the entire room was holding hands and singing along. Everyone but me, that is! I had a drink in either hand, and no place to put them down, so while everyone else shared in the communal experience, I was left to enjoy the moment on my own. But it didn’t matter one iota– I hadn’t witnessed a crowd unified in that way since Diana Ross played Caesar’s Palace! Earlier in the show Meredith Viera shared a Britney/Madonna-style liplock with honoree Joy Behar, proving you’re never too old to try something new! The list of participants and honorees also included Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Sarah Paulson, Sandra Bernhard, and host Alan Cumming.

Liza, Liza, Liza

The magnificent Ms. Minnelli celebrated her birthday last night at Jim Caruso’s weekly Broadway star-fest “Cast Party” at Birdland. She couldn’t have looked more ebullient, dressed head to toe in her signature sequins. As Liza used to tell me, “if you have to get dressed up, you may as well sparkle!”

Rufus, Rufus, Rufus

Also last night, I attended a private concert given by the divine Rufus Wainwright at Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar. Debuting songs off his upcoming album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, he had the entire room in tears right off the bat when he dedicated his opening song to his lover and his second song to his sister. He is not merely a songwriter; he is a composer! Stationed near the main entrance, I witnessed a latter-day Charlie’s Angels reunion, when Drew Barrymore arrived with Lucy Liu in tow (along with an angel of a different variety: Broadway diva du jour Scarlett Johansson). Nearby, Michael Kors was giving a warm greeting to “Project Runway” winner Christian Siriano. I drank so much prosecco that I tripped over a low table on the way to greet Susan Sarandon – who was sitting ringside, looking radiant – and I never made it over (I just waved from a distance while I iced my shin). I did get a chance to chat up Natasha Lyonne, who is knocking them dead nightly in Love, Loss, and What I Wore, and says every performance feels like a sorority party. Also among the hundred-or-so attendees were Zachary Quinto, Alan Cumming, Penn Badgley, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn.

Tidbits from Around Town

Spied Cindy Adams’ adorable pampered pups, Jazzy Junior and Juicy, out for a stroll down Park Avenue.

Witnessed the notoriously hard-as-nails Arthur Laurents wiping away a tear at Yank!

Ran into Joel Grey at Locanda Verde— and he let me try a bite of his lemon ricotta pancakes. Yum!

Overheard Disney VP Steve Fickinger in front of Orso promising Carol Channing he would lend his support to the Facebook campaign to get her a well-deserved Kennedy Center Honor.

As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!