If I am to continue writing this column, I’m going to need to be put on medication. Clearly I am far too invested in the lives of people I barely know. This week, we all heard the news that Valerie Harper has brain cancer. That sounds bad enough, but it’s even worse. What she has is leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, which is a type of cancer that’s located in the fluid surrounding the brain. It’s not something that can be removed or operated on – it’s circulating. As a result, her doctors told her on January 15th that…
“He likes to get me on my back.” – Ewan McGregor talks about his photo shoot with Bruce Weber for the Oscars edition of “Vanity Fair”. Double entendre intended, I’m sure.
If I am to continue writing this column, I’m going to need to be put on medication. Clearly I am far too invested in the lives of people I barely know. This week, we all heard the news that Valerie Harper has brain cancer. That sounds bad enough, but it’s even worse. What she has is leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, which is a type of cancer that’s located in the fluid surrounding the brain. It’s not something that can be removed or operated on – it’s circulating. As a result, her doctors told her on January 15th that she could have as little as three months to live.
Ironically, that is the same day her autobiography, “I, Rhoda”, was released. She was also about to start a national tour of the play “Looped”, which earned her a Tony nomination (she’s also producing the show with her husband). So put yourself in Val’s position. She’s gotta get out there and hawk her autobiography by doing interviews and book signings. She’s in the middle of rehearsals for a tour that she’s got money in. And she finds out she has weeks to live. Needless to say, she can’t tour. But Val being Val handpicked Stefanie Powers to replace her (after tracking Powers down in Dubai where she was appearing in “Love Letters” with David Soul). As to her autobiography, Harper does a handful of interviews and an abbreviated book tour, acting as if she doesn’t have a care in the world. At a Los Angeles book signing, she spent five minutes showing a woman exactly how to tie a scarf on her head to get the “Rhoda” look – and this is a month after being told her prognosis (we’ll post the video on BillyMasters.com). She appears as her usual joyous self, even mentioning that her hair is getting so long that she needs to get it cut. As Val told “People” magazine, “I don’t think of dying. I think of being here now.” Harper will be making a flurry of TV appearances this week to discuss her condition and raise awareness for cancer research.
Back to “Looped”, which I saw when the tour kicked-off in Fort Lauderdale. Stefanie Powers playing the role of Tallulah Bankhead is rather fitting. The play revolves around the enormous difficulty Bankhead had during post-production of her last film, “Die, Die, My Darling” – and the “darling” in the film was Miss Powers! Stefanie had two weeks to learn the play and make it her own. From the moment she walks out on stage, her Tallulah is in complete command. She’s extraordinary. She holds her facial muscles in a way that gives her Bankhead’s hooded eyes, wide mouth and angular features. Her voice is a marvel, and she’s found the music and cadences that were so distinctively Tallulah. Thanks to Matthew Lombardo’s wonderful script and Rob Ruggiero’s expert direction, there are tons of laughs – I’d say the first 20 minutes would rival any sitcom. While Harper was brilliant, Powers has found a way to truly become Tallulah. Only when reliving Bankhead’s maiden attempt at “Streetcar Named Desire” does she let some vulnerability show – and it’s as authentic as every other emotion in this tour de force. If the play comes to a city near you, it’s something you shouldn’t miss. Check out more details at LoopedOnTour.com.
I have a very special connection with “The View”. The week I moved to Hollywood 16 years ago, the show debuted. I’ve also been very close to numerous past and present hosts. So I was sad (but not entirely surprised) when I heard that Joy Behar will be leaving when her contract is up in August. Behar is an ambitious woman who has always had side projects. Her own show on Current TV will end once the network is acquired by Al Jazeera (unless she invests in a wardrobe of burqas). That frees her up for a new gig and, as luck would have it, Behar has a fan in Jeff Zucker, the new president of CNN. After two recent meetings, it’s been rumored she could be returning there (the network also owns HLN, where she previously had a highly-rated show). For now, all Joy will say about these changes is, “It seemed like the right time. You reach a point when you say to yourself, ‘Do I want to keep doing this?’ There are other things on my plate I want to do – I’ve been writing a play, I’ve been neglecting my stand-up.” When asked about the meetings with Zucker, she said, “CNN would be a great place”.
Our “Ask Billy” question come from Javier in New York: “I love ‘Scandal’ and that hot-ass papi, Huck. What can you tell me about him? Any nude photos? I heard he was gay.”
I first saw Guillermo Diaz in “Just One Time”, a movie that hit the gay film festivals back in 1999. Actually, I really first saw him the previous year in the eight-minute short which helped raise money for the feature film (it was part of “Boys Life 3”, which also included Jason Gould’s “Inside Out”). You can be forgiven for not recognizing Diaz – the hunky man today bears little resemblance to the adorable but slight youth from 15 years ago. In the intervening years, he’s worked consistently in a variety of projects – from “Stonewall” and “Party Girl”, to “Chappelle’s Show” and “Weeds”. Yes, he is gay and very open about it…so open that he posed nude for “Pinups” magazine in 2010. When asked why he did the shoot (as it were), Guillermo said, “I love this photographer and it was a new and cool way to express myself.” How Madonna of him. You can enjoy the fruits of his labors on BillyMasters.com.
When posing nude is considered passé, it’s definitely time to end yet another column. Since we ran long this week, I just want to remind you to check out www.BillyMasters.com, the site that caters to its members. If you have something you’d like me to look into, send a note to Billy@BillyMasters.com“>Billy@BillyMasters.com and I promise to get back to you before I turn up on Al Jazeera TV! Until next time, remember, one man’s filth is another man’s bible.