As the spring semester concludes, The Chair is eyeball deep in reading his student’s final screenplays and TV pilots. So in his temporary absence this week he suggests the coolest and gayest thing on the internet – Elton John and Olly Alexander (lead singer of the group, Years and Years) doing their remake of the classic Pet Shop Boys hit “It’s A Sin.”
Alexander starred this year in Russell Davies’ insightful HBO Max five episode limited series, “It’s A Sin,” set at the height of the AIDS epidemic. That story chronicled four friends in what the Chair still considers the worst decade of the twentieth century – the 1980s. (Check out the Chair’s take here).
But this performance takes that eighties tune to a whole new post modern level and raises it to an ironic anthem of defiance. Even better, all proceeds from this version will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
It’s campy, ferocious and most importantly faaaaaabulous.
More than once a day I think of myself in a celebrity box on The Hollywood Squares and I’m not even famous. Nor has The Hollywood Squares really been a thing since around the time I graduated college.
But ZOOM – here we magically all are, perhaps multiple times a week, in a virtual new reboot of a TV game show where we play to the camera, try to seem intelligent and attempt to crack jokes when all else fails.
I don’t even want to see what 50th day looks like #itsnotpretty
Except, of course, we don’t have writers. Certainly not judging by any of the countless Zoom chats I’ve been on. Instead, midway through 2020 we are all solo acts, responsible for creating our own material and literally living and dying by each choice we make both inside and outside the grid.
It’s enough to make you long for the glory days when everything you said in your square was rehearsed and scripted for maximum effect. Sure, you didn’t always get to be your absolute true self but at least you didn’t have to think about who and/or what that was 24 hours a day. Note: I’m including sleep time because, well, haven’t YOUR dreams been more than vivid lately?
This seems normal now
For those of you who don’t know, The Hollywood Squares was an addictive daytime and primetime game show in the sixties and seventies (and rebooted shortly in the late 90s) where celebrities each occupied a box in a glamorous life-size tic-tac-toe board and answered true or false questions on a myriad of topics of the day. It was then up to a contestant to agree or disagree with the celeb, thus earning them an X or O and eventually prize money.
If you can’t quite picture it in your mind give it a few months and I’m sure some enterprising souls will come up with a Zoom version app and make a mint charging you for your own intellectual property.
This is too much to process
But back to the real Squares. By far my personal fave was center celeb, Broadway, TV and movie actor Paul Lynde, who occupied that prime spot for almost a decade and a half. Mr. Lynde was the funniest and outwardly gayest performer in the entertainment world during those years, quite a feat since he was never out at all, at least in how we traditionally define it.
If you want a sense of how it was back then with Paul and those of us who loved him, it went something like this:
Moderator Question: Paul, you’re the world’s most popular fruit. What are you?
Paul’s Answer: Humble.
.. with his signature giggle #icanhearthispicture
Of course, I can’t recreate the sniggering, snide delivery (Note: Well, certainly not these days, if we can’t be face to face) but you get the picture.
This particular Paul question came courtesy of a short, snappy profile of him in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly. It’s officially called the PRIDE issue and in it the magazine devotes itself to pioneering LGBTQ entertainers and storytellers – past, present and future – and the many ways they have influenced culture, and in turn, our world.
Pour the champagne!
Lovely as it is to be noticed, by far the standout item in this week’s magazine is the bizarre cover, well, drawing, of noteworthy LGBTQ celebs of the last century in what could best be described as the gayest nighttime cocktail party you will never experience.
It’s a virtual queer dream team of a party with the likes of Queen’s Freddie Mercury beckoning Janelle Monae over to his side of the room; Marlene Dietrich grabbing Cynthia Nixon by the waist and pretty much ogling her; and Ellen DeGeneres with her arm so tightly wrapped below Rock Hudson’s elbow that he can only barely make eyes at the hot – well, I’m not quite sure who he’s making eyes at but rest assured from the expression on his face there must be a myriad of hotties he’s focused in on at some unseen corner.
As someone who’s been out since I first started almost 20 years ago, it is an honor to be on this cover oh wait I’m sorry that is a dead closeted person I’m so sorry https://t.co/cuqfYD8Mxz
And to top it all off there’s good ole RuPaul in a red gown and black satin gloves, flounced across a baby grand piano, making goo-goo eyes at – yes, you guessed it – Elton John.
If you didn’t know better you’d think the media was dominated by gay or gay sympathizing liberals who had nothing better to do than to gang up on straight America and subvert their traditions by showing them just how much fun you can have by not insulting the minority of your choice and, in fact, being inclusive.
Of course, the bigger message of the photo is, much like a fantasy sports league, it gets you to thinking of the dream teams of your choice in all kinds of areas and just how they might rescue you, or us, from the doldrums of Zoom chats and quarantine.
For instance, can you imagine if we could bring back Marie Curie and Jonas Salk to a medical cocktail party of choice with, say, Anthony Fauci, recently demoted vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright and well, let’s throw in Albert Einstein for the hell of it. What might they all come up with, aside from witty chatter and medical cures, or even talk about? If not a cure or a shot, at the very least I’d bet they’d have plenty to say.
You know he’d be good at parties
And how about a political confab with Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Golda Meir mixing it up with Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, okay I’ll say it, Donald J. Trump? Trump says Lincoln was his favorite Republican so he’d make it, right? Or would we have to invite Hitler Andrew Jackson?
Personally, I’d much prefer an afternoon run at a dog park I’d rent exclusively for Lassie, Lad-A-Dog and Nana because I’d get to bring my Jack Russell Rosie, my sister’s Havanese mutt Louie and several other friends’ pooches if they could make it down here in time. Not to mention, well, every other pooch I and any of my friends and family once owned and loved as part of our family in our pasts.
Sorry not sorry
Which is sort of the point of a dream team, isn’t it? Or even a tic-tac-toe board of celebrities on The Hollywood Squares. To bring out the best of us by coming up with exactly the right answers to all the top problems and/or questions of the day. And to make us feel a bit better in the process.
There was a time when a game show could do it with just a team of good writers and a handful of well-known performers. The U.S government generally accomplished this with a small Cabinet and a handful of clever appointees through every single Administration in the last century while also managing to avoid the most severe consequences of several severe global pandemics.
Don’t mind me as I weep
These days, um, we have Zoom chats, the Gang that Wont Shoot Straight Under Any Circumstances in the White House and Operation Warp Speed to do the deed.
I hate to say it but not even a cocktail party with every LGBTQ star in the history of the world, can take my mind off of that.