"You look like somebody," Miss Sammy of the Singhauses purses cracks into her lipstick. "Hmmm, somebody famous. Is it Monica Lewinsky?"
"Teri," I scrape at my love spots and feign an aneurysm. "Teri Garr."
If it's to be a night of artifice, then it ought to be a night of humble artifice (with added affliction), so I've matched black shirt to black pants to head out solo for the opening of Michael Wanzie's heartburn resuscitation of his historied 1986 opus, Monorail: Inferno, at, ahem, the Parliament House Footlight Theater. There are feet. There are lights. And given the preponderance of Disney staff uniforms percolating through the packed melee (and mouse ears!), I'm fairly certain there will be some manifestation of Disney-fag dead horse—kicking to boot. Humble artifice, indeed.
"I've been writing a monologue on the '80s for the Fringe," my friend John Sullivan plucks at my lowbrow.
"Really?" I arch.
"Yes! It's about my version of the '80s. Do you remember when Cyndi played the Lakeland Civic Center in 1986? Well, that was the day my parents went on their yearly visit to Jim and Tammy Faye's Heritage U.S.A., and I stayed home. And it was the last year they went, because that was right when the whole Jessica Hahn thing blew up. Anyway, I wasn't allowed to go to the Cyndi show …"
"So you're playing Jessica Hahn against Cyndi, then," I cut to something resembling a chase.
"And this, then, is where you get a drink?" I grope at something resembling the bar.
It is at precisely this point in '86, dear reader — just after unlikely Jessica Hahn/Tammy Faye Bakker/Cyndi Lauper anecdotes, and just before a flaming go at a musical monorail — that one can be forgiven for blowing the blow from the glass coffee table and running with needles in the direction of the big Nevermind nirvana. Or at least running to one's seat.
"The monorail will disembark in three minutes!" perks Drew of the Magical crew. "Have a magical day!"
Drew's mistakenly informed me that my reserved seat will be at a table shared with the mother of the show's star, Doug Ba'aser, so seeing as I've been ditched into singularity for the evening, I work up my substandard curtsy, the one that comes along with talking to people that I have no real interest in talking to.
"So, which one of you is responsible for the wonder that is Doug?" I clumsily crawl over two chairs, three people and two lovely bouquets of opening-night flowers like I imagine Teri Garr might.
"None of us," a blonde smirks. "We know Keith."
And seeing as I don't even know Keith (somebody who is actually quite hilarious in the play intro, I'll soon find out), I quickly crunch my curtsy back into my colostomy bag with an "ah!" and a humbly artificial head turn.
"But you know who that is right next to you?" She's still smirking. "Jim Philips!"
What? All Wanzie logrolling aside — Wanzie and Doug have been known to exist as the two big gay testicles in Philips' gay-friendly radio scrotum — Philips remains one of the few among the local media glitterati for whom my balls toll. (Hi, Maxwell. Call me?) In addition to the gravelly non-barring of holds in his daily armchair quarterbacking, Jim's stout salt & pepper take on masculine perfection is almost enough to make me wish he was my drunk father, in that "Why won't you sleep with me, Dad!" kind of way. He's the bee's ankles and the cat's litter. If I could actually get pregnant, he would in fact be my Mr. Mom.
"Hi, Jim," I squirt words out of my gagless throat. "How are you?"
"Mr. Manes," the skies part, along with my legs. "How are things at the Weekly?"
Where? Anyway, we pleasantry our way through obligatory mediaspeak long enough for him to look sheepish about everything, including his limited-to-one-minute-and-phiphteen-second televised rants on WESH-TV. Which, I might add, are better than Australian porn. Woo! I need a rephill.
"I enjoy seeing you on television," my foot hits my mouth by way of my crotch. And although I may suffer tweed burns from his own artificially humble head-and-shoulder turn, it won't stop me from imagining that my legs are touching his (because we're totally married) throughout the duration of the play.
Oh, the play? Well, like most Wanzie endeavors, Monorail supersedes all reasonable expectations, mostly because it isn't really funny. It's not supposed to be. For every spit-take and pratfall, there are at least two giant rhetorical tears resting on my lower brow in the face of this pregnant teenager or that suicidal drag tour guide. It's a bit like a treacherously suspended take on The Breakfast Club, and I love it. I attempt on numerous occasions to catch a spotlight beam in the reflecting sphere of each vodka tear, hoping that one, just one, will swell so big that it tumbles down past my heart and onto Jim Philips' lap. Unfortunately, though, my lowbrow doubles as a sentimental bucket. Phart!
And just as the play is coming to its incendiary conclusion, Jim's big-boy voice comes over the PA for a surprise radio-commentary cameo, causing everybody in attendance to turn around and stare just past me. Bravo!
"Oh, you!" (or something) falls out of my mouth as I grab his shoulder. And it's over.
But not really. Afterward, something of a cast party is brewing when I bump into my lesbian friends Margaret and her operatic girlfriend Marcy at the vat of chicken wings.
"I never knew I liked chicken," Margaret chews, avoiding any potentially columnar eye contact. "Until I met her."
Ew. Humble artifice has given way to the humiliatingly real smell of lesbians eating chicken in a bar. I turn to make a quick exit by way of a tequila shot, and there's Doug with his mother, right in my face.
"This is my mom," he breezes by.
Hello, then. I'm Teri Garr.[email protected]