* Westbeth Theatre Center, New York City * Written and performed by Bruce Vilanch * Directed by Scott Wittman

You’ve laughed at Bruce Vilanch’s jokes whether you know it or not. Besides being a columnist for this magazine, he’s head writer on *Hollywood Squares* and co-wrote the Oscars show for the last 12 years. Not only that, he turned Bette Midler on to Sophie Tucker! *Almost Famous* is a rare, almost anthropological opportunity to experience one of today’s busiest comic minds live onstage.

Although he spends two hours posed in front of a backdrop of tiny multicolored T-shirts (“Michael Jackson’s laundry”), Vilanch isn’t exactly a standup comic. What he performs is gay oral history, with one foot in the Catskills and the other in P-town. He describes the scanty attire of leather bears as “floor-length tefillin.” And he insists that the first Gay Men’s Chorus consisted of West Hollywood residents watching Raquel Welch on the Oscars and exclaiming in unison, “Oh my God, what has she done to her hair?” Along with anecdotes about Bette and Whoopi and Billy, he drops names like Paul Lynde and Tallulah Bankhead that may send the MP3 generation to their search engines for further explication. Naughty and sweet at the same time, Vilanch locates the political message in his own autobiography: come out to everyone you know, he says. “That way they’ll know you’re a human being like themselves, only with a heightened fashion sense.”

The Advocate, June 20, 2000

| music | arts | men and sex