Interview: Bruce Vilanch To Be Grand Marshal at KDK Mardi Gras Fundraiser

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San francisco Bay Times
Bruce Vilanch
To Be Grand Marshal at KDK Mardi Gras Fundraiser
By Sister Dana Van Iquity
Published: March 3, 2011

Beaming Klieg lights and a rainbow runway will lead guests to Trigger nightclub for Krewe de Kinque’s 8th Annual Mardi Gras masked ball benefit, “Studio 69 – A Night of Decadence & Dance,” on Sat., March 5 to benefit The Richmond-Ermet AIDS Foundation. Reigning King VII John-John and Queen VII Sister Dana will step down to reveal new monarchs.

The action starts with a VIP reception with Grand Marshal Bruce Vilanch from 6-7 p.m. where guests will enjoy a hosted Stoli bar, delectable hors d’oeuvres, music by the Dixieland Dykes + 3 jazz band, loaded gift bags, and a VIP lounge ($50). At 7 p.m. the doors open to the public ($20 advance/$25 door) where DJ Steve Fabus will spin a time-traveling music mix from the Studio 54 era to current house and dance. Peppered seamlessly throughout the night will be performers on the mezzanine, aerialist ropes, the bar top cage, and full stage.

The hilarious Bruce Vilanch took time out from his busy schedule to give Sister Dana a delightful interview.

(Bay Times) Bruce, you are a six-time Emmy Award-winner for your amazing writing talent. Do you ever get tired of writing, or get writer’s block?

(Bruce Vilanch) Not as weary as I get when doing nude photo shoots. Some part of my body casts a shadow on another part, and we have to do all these tiresome retakes. Fortunately, every time I get writer’s block, my accountant points out how much money I owe certain persons who must remain nameless, and that said people have the addresses of several of my loved ones – that gets me back in the saddle.

What is your favorite assignment, and why?

Ensuring world domination by 2012. That’s the real gay agenda, you know. Oops. Over-sharing. My two favorite writing jobs have been the Oscar show and any Bette Midler show. Maybe next year she’ll host.

Your least favorite writing, and why?

Trying to make people who aren’t funny do funny things. It’s actively painful, like ice cream brain freeze; but when it goes away, there’s no relief.

You have written for so many stars, making them all sound so funny. Was Bette Midler your favorite, or someone else?

I’ve been working with Bette for 40 years, which is difficult, as she’s only 32. She is my original cast album. But I’m particularly fond of a lot of people, all of whom are in my will; none of whom need to be, they’re so goddam rich.

What was it like writing for TV’s “Hollywood Squares”? And how was it being in one of the squares yourself?

It was the most fabulous gig in the history of show business. Crazy money, and we only shot 36 days a year – and all of it on weekends. The downside was trying to make serious actors funny and fighting the censors who are always a step behind the public in understanding what has become acceptable in most of society, if not in their own corporate suites. But I was well-paid for the endeavor. And serious actors are great sex partners. Oddly enough, that’s when they turn out to be funny.

You starred brilliantly as Edna Turnblad in Broadway’s Hairspray. Was this your first time in drag?

Oh, I knew my way around a corset. But there wasn’t too much call for a bearded lady, and I was hirsute for 32 years. I shaved it for Edna. I HAD done one sensational drag character, a gossip columnist called Louella Fella, for a series I wrote in 1988 for Cheech Marin. We had two airings; a writers strike happened; we shut the show down; and NBC kicked us off the lot. My costumes went back to The Forgotten Woman, a very trendy plus-size boutique in Beverly Hills. Other than that, my drag career was spotty.

And why didn’t you get the role for the movie version instead of that Travolta character? You got any dirt on that?

Hairspray was two years of pure joy, and I even got into the 8-a-week schedule in an OCD way that I never knew I had. As for the movie, it was New Line’s plan to discover a new girl for Tracy, as John Waters had the first time, and to stunt cast Edna with a big star. Otherwise, I’m sure Harvey Fierstein would have recreated his Broadway role. As it was, for the first 45 minutes of the movie, I thought John Travolta was Kirstie Alley.

Our Krewe de Kinque fundraiser is for the Richmond-Ermet AIDS Foundation, a very worthy AIDS cause for which you have appeared in many a fabulous fundraising show. Why do you keep coming back for REAF?

They keep offering me cute production assistants named Zack and Chad. I love REAF because it is a clearing house for a lot of charities that can’t afford to pull together fundraisers. These organizations work close to the bone – more than 90 cents of your donor dollar goes to the people who need it, not the overhead of the administration.

The Krewe de Kinque Bal Masque is so thrilled to have you as our Grand Marshal. Have you ever been to Mardi Gras? Did you have to show your dick to get beads?

I usually have to show beads to get dick. I have been to Mardi Gras a couple of times, and I couldn’t tell which was more fun: going early when everybody’s still into it, or going late, when they’re all fed up and chronically bombed. If you’ve ever felt like you wanted to barf in the street but were afraid, Mardi Gras is the place where you can do it with no judgment.

You have the world’s most unique tee shirt collection. Have you picked out your special tee shirt for our event?

Still searching, searching, searching… If either Dolce or Gabbana would simply return my call…

Did your “show business career” really start as a chubby child model for Lane Bryant?

Hey, it’s not “Uncle Jocko’s Revue” in Seattle; but it’s close.

Any last comments you care to make, before we get to see you IN THE FLESH?

I’m auditioning for a life partner. Applicants should walk over on all three of their legs and say hi.

That’s the kind of wacky, naughty, fun stuff you can expect at Krewe de Kinque’s Mardi Gras Bal Masque on March 5, 2344 Market @ Castro. Tix & info at, (415) 867-5004. Come let the good times roll!