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Bruce Vilanch And The Cloggers – “I’m Tired”

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Bay Area Reporter
Bringing Out The Stars For Help Is On The Way
By Sister Dana Van Iquity
Published: August 7, 2008

Celebrity look-alikes in a crowd of celebrities

The Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation held its 14th major fundraiser, Help Is on the Way, on Aug. 3 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. The theme this time was “Blame It on the Movies.” It was a benefit for five AIDS service organizations – Aguilas, Larkin Street Youth Services, Meals of Marin, Positive Resource Center, and Vital Life Services.

At the VIP party before the show, to give a special movie ambiance, many volunteers dressed like movie stars or characters – both dead and alive – including Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, James Bond, Austin Powers, Dumbledore, Marlene Dietrich, and Jack Nicholson. After producers Ken Henderson and Joe Seiler and movie maven Jan Wahl gave welcoming remarks, the show began. Vicki Lewis and Jai Rodriguez sang “Just Go to the Movies” from Jerry Herman’s A Day in Hollywood/ A Night in the Ukraine (1980), acting like ushers for the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Joan Ryan had amazing breath control during “Follow Me” (Camelot) and the title song from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Paula West gave her usual special jazzy touch to “Isn’t It Romantic” from Rodgers & Hart’s Love Me Tonight. From Pal Joey, Marilu Henner sang hilarious rewritten contemporary lyrics to Rita Hayworth’s stripper song, “Zip.” For instantce, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Clay Aiken were targets as being closeted.

Ricki Lake sang while her son played guitar backup for Melissa Etheridge’s “You Can Sleep While I Drive” from Where the Day Takes You. Past American Idol finalists RJ Helton and Vonzell Solomon dueted on “Somewhere Out There” from the animated mouse movie, An American Tail. Kimberley Locke, second runner-up from American Idol – Season Two, gave a super sultry rendition of an old classic, “The Man That Got Away” from A Star Is Born with flawless phrasing. Choreographers/ dancers Cate Caplin and Gary Franco did a wild, wacky routine with “Why Don’t You Do Right” from the cartoon movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, where he was a nerd and she was the luscious Jessica Rabbit.

Maureen McGovern sang the song that put her on the movie map, “The Morning After” from the submarine disaster classic, The Poseidon Adventure. Her voice rang every bit as true as back when that Oscar-winning song hit the top of the charts. Vicki Lewis returned to go all Babs on us with “I’m the Greatest Star” from Funny Girl. Rita Moreno was a total hoot when she reprised her kooky Googie Gomez role from the bathhouse bonanza, The Ritz, purposely singing as badly and in as broken English as she did as the guest entertainer singing and dancing to “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Absolutely hilarious! Rent that movie if you can. And props go to our own drag star Garza in man-drag doing backup dancing.

Act two began with eight of the Barbary Coast Cloggers stomping and romping on the stage – cowboy style. After their clogging they carried out Bruce Vilanch, who dragged a twenty-foot red boa behind him to do a gender-bending Madeline Kahn version of her Marlene Dietrich impression in “I’m Tired” from Blazing Saddles. Vilanch camped it up (are we surprised??) as the laziest gal in town. Lauren Wood played keyboards and sang a beautiful “Fallen” from Pretty Woman. Caplin and Franco returned to do homage to Kim Novac and William Holden in the title music from Picnic, followed by “Moonglow.” Rita McKenzie, proud New Jerseyite, did a monologue about her growing up worshipping Ethel Merman, and then sang the title song from Alexander’s Ragtime Band – with that belt-out Merm bellowing. Jai Rodriguez returned to do a same-sex version of the love song from Dreamgirls, “Love You I Do” with that gorgeous Broadway tenor voice. Vonzell Solomon came back to do the gut-wrenching Whitney song, “I Have Nothing” from The Bodyguard. American Idol’s Constantine Maroulis reprised his famous version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the movie, Wayne’s World. Also from AI, large and in charge Frenchie Davis sang a riveting “I Am Changing” from Dreamgirls. Maureen McGovern did a second sensational song, the title song from The Way We Were, but first she did a moving monologue about how things used to be, and who we have lost to AIDS. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. McGovern then brought out the entire cast to sing together a rousing finale – the theme song of REAF, “Help Is on the Way, (so don’t give up your dreams).”

My only complaint regarding the show was there was no use of the big screen to show close-ups of the performers, as in former shows. While it was lovely to see the screen used to flash movie posters while the stars sang and danced, I would have preferred to see the performers only or maybe both.

At the after-party, several stars were kind enough to give me little interviews. Marilu Henner explained that she and her brother Lorin Henner found the necessity of updating the lyrics to “Zip,” saying, “Just two days ago we wrote it and choreographed it.” She added, “Lorin is a fabulous author, teacher, dancer, and choreographer.” She said she had a gay uncle and, “I’ve always loved gay men, and hopefully I have a gay following.” This was Kimberly Locke’s third REAF appearance. “I love to sing the songs of Judy Garland,” she bubbled. She said she is getting ready for the holidays with a new Christmas CD and is thrilled that her single, “Fall,” just went number one on the charts. Rita Moreno was anything but Googie after the show, saying very seriously, “I think all of us who are lucky enough to have our health and a comfortable life owe it to the rest of us – who don’t – to do whatever we can.”

She said she despised the show biz phrase, “giving back.” She snapped, “Giving back? What the hell did I take away?! I’m simply involving myself in something at a humanitarian event – which is a tiny tiny drop in the bucket. But when you get an enormous amount of performers who do the same thing, it becomes very important and very big.” Mz Moreno certainly said a mouthful!!!