Kinky City

Remembering La Klaw, Rivers’ rant, Dusty Limits

It was Fetish Wear Week in New York, with the openings of the films “The Notorious Bettie Page” and “Kinky Boots,” and Elton John’s Closet Sale, benefiting his AIDS charity, featuring leather, heels, chains, and rubber at bargain prices.

My first New York job was as a photo researcher at Movie Star News, the 14th Street archive run by Paula Klaw, who used to tie up Bettie Page for the bondage photos shot by her brother, Irving. Tiny Lili Taylor gave a terrific impersonation of Paula, now deceased, who towered at six feet and was the ultimate character. If Page’s legacy lives on today, it is because Paula secretly held on to the photos and films that had elicited the wrath of a Senate “anti-porn” witch-hunt.

Paula was the ultimate businesswoman and anything that made money worked for her. Everyone from famed photographer Helmut Newton to more typical, furtive businessmen came in to look in those files kept in the back of the store. At a tender age, I learned about the specialized appeal of spanking, fighting girls, see-through raincoats, and feet.

Paula was a total fag hag and adored her “boys.” My prized possession is Page’s garter belt, which she gave me to wear one Halloween. Paula’s favorite star was Hedy Lamarr, and she wore her hairstyle and hoop earrings in emulation, although she looked more like Patty, of the Andrews Sisters. Once, a model didn’t show up, so Paula leapt into the fray, donning a black domino mask to restrain Page in her first and last appearance as a pinup model.

Every morning, she’d drive her Cadillac in from Sheepshead Bay, drop her fox coat on the floor, and dash to the bathroom, exclaiming, “That coffee! It goes right through me!” Paula’s whole life was show business, and nothing would have thrilled her more than to see herself portrayed onscreen.

“I hate gay people!” shrieked Joan Rivers as she entered the Avery Fisher green room on April 8 to host the New York Gay Men’s Chorus movie-themed concert, “You Oughta Be in Pictures.” Once onstage, she announced, “Can you believe this? I haven’t made one fucking movie!” (Wrong—she wrote and directed the 1978 cult flick “Rabbit Test.”) Rivers gallantly substituted for an indisposed Kitty Carlisle Hart about whom she said, “This proves no matter who you are, crack is a terrible tragedy! They needed someone tonight and thought, ‘Who’s home alone on a Saturday night?’ Match.com is not working out! But God bless every gay man—you’re the first to spot talent, you stick with us, you’re our friend and confidante. And you put us together, the hair, the makeup! Why half of you here have married Liza!”

Olympia Dukakis was another no-show due to laryngitis, prompting substitute Anita Gillette to do some gentle ribbing. “In ‘Moonstruck,’ she ended up with the man, but I ended up with the chorus! Actually, I just did ‘70 Girls, 70’ with her, and, what with all that singing and asking, ‘Where are we now? Where do I come in?’ no wonder she lost her voice!”

Karen Ziemba was really in her glamorous element, singing a lovely “Time After Time,” and then beltingly evoking the great Dolores Grey, with her “Thanks a Lot But No Thanks” from my favorite Hollywood musical, “It’s Always Fair Weather.” Indeed, Ziemba sizzled so much that she split her sequined gown and had to make a very careful exit, to thunderous applause.

Amy Irving is giving a radiant performance in “Safe Harbor for Elizabeth Bishop.” At the opening party on March 30, she told me, “Although Bishop was a lesbian, I feel a total affinity for her. I live in Brazil where Marta Góes’ play was done in Portuguese and some friends sent me the script, which is how this all began. We did our first production at Bishop’s alma mater, Vassar, which was my idea. That’s the producer in me, and it went so well.” I had to ask Irving about “The Fury,” one of my favorite horror films, but she sniffed, “I didn’t really care for it. All those bodies spinning around and John Cassavetes’ head exploding? Kinda silly, but I really don’t like horror movies. Not my thing at all, but yeah, it was De Palma and Cassavetes, after all.”

With his rapier wit and really beautiful voice, Limits has a big following in London, much of it comprised of heterosexuals, who, as with Graham Norton and Julian Clary, have no problems with his sexuality—“It’s in a long British tradition of appreciating eccentricity, as long as you don’t push the sex in their face, which I do anyway.” A huge fan of Noel Coward, he did a ripping “Why Must the Show Go On” many Noel wannabes could have learned a thing or three from, but I really loved his “If We Could Talk to Republicans,” sung to the tune of that “Dr. Doolittle” ditty.

“If we could talk to Republicans, just imagine it…

All the things we’d rather do instead.

Instead of hearing them disparage

the whole notion of gay marriage

In the Southern states where people are inbred.

If we could talk to Republicans, oh just picture it,

We’d say the things that needed to be said.

I mean wouldn’t it be nice

To say to Condoleezza Rice

‘What the fuck yo’ thinkin,’ girl?’ and slap her head?

We could converse with Neocon economists,

Who think cutting welfare programs is divine,

We could even confer with fundamentalists,

Who are proof there’s no Intelligent Design.”

Contact David Noh at Inthenoh@aol.com.

Services

gaycitynews.com

More from Around NYC