THE LEADING MEN
By Tom Nondorf
01 Oct 2008
In other news, the New York Musical Theatre Festival rolls on. Theatre fans still have a few days to catch The Fancy Boy Follies, featuring former Ted Knight foil, hilarious Hollywood Square, Jim J. Bullock as part of the five-man ensemble. The show, which bills itself as “A Vaudelesque!,” promises a dirty ol’ time of sex-themed songs and skits. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for four year olds,” says Bullock â€” probably a few years beyond that as well. Dave August, Howard Kaye, Jon Powell, and Tom Stuart make up the rest of the cast.
Question: For the uninitiated, please describe The Fancy Boy Follies.
Jim J. Bullock: It’s so hard to describe. It’s a cross between a burlesque and a vaudeville show â€” like a gay burlesque and vaudeville. It’s five guys, and it’s a lot of fun, a lot of music, a little dancing (I can’t do a lot of dancing). It’s just filthy fun.
Q: How filthy?
Bullock: Oh, it’s filthy. You have to have a sense of humor about sex. We talk a lot about taboo things in sex that people don’t talk a lot about. If you address it properly with humor, it makes it more palatable â€” sort of like “South Park.” I just watched a show today called “Little Britain.” Oh my God! It’s so taboo, but they do it in such a comical way that you can laugh at these things that are politically incorrect.
Q: You’ve played Wilbur Turnblad in Hairspray on Broadway and on tour…
Bullock: I was doing Hairspray this time last year. I love that show. I’ve been very fortunate to have a nice run with it. My first jaunt with it was in August of 2004. I came here and did three months, then I went back to L.A., came back and did six months, then I went on tour with it for a year, then I came back last fall and I got to play Wilbur for three months. Then I actually came back last spring and did another month run with it, so I guess they like me. They keep having me back [laughs]!
Q: Where are all your lady friends from “Too Close for Comfort” these days?
Bullock: As a matter of fact, I just saw them. I had a party, and I invited Deborah [Van Valkenburgh] and Lydia [Cornell] and Nancy [Dussault]. Nancy was busy doing some show, but Deborah and Lydia came, and it was so great to see them, and they both look fabulous. Deborah is doing a lot of theatre in California. Lydia is married and raising a family. She has a radio program. She’s the co-host of this politically-minded show. She is very smart, not at all the dumb blonde everybody thought she was.
Q: Monroe was such an indelible TV character. He’s not an albatross around your neck, is he?
Bullock: Not at all. You do something like that, and you do have to fight what people’s preconceived ideas are of you. It is interesting to go into an audition and people say, “Oh, he’s not right for the role.” It’s work, and it’s frustrating fighting that, but do I have any resentment whatsoever for it? None. Monroe was very good to me. “Too Close for Comfort” was six incredible years for me that I’ll never forget, and I’m so grateful I had. It gave me a career. I have nothing but fond, sweet memories of Ted and Nancy and Lydia, Deborah and Audrey [Meadows].
Q: Maybe I’m out of the loop on this, but didn’t you used to go by “Jm”?
Bullock: Oh my God. Okay, here’s what happened. Back when I moved to L.A., before I got into any of the unions or anything, I thought, “What can I do to catch someone’s attention?” And I had a friend who spelled his name “M-a-r-c” instead of “M-a-r-k.” I thought, that’s so cool and different. How can I do that with my name? So I took the “i” out, which makes no sense, whatsoever. It was “Jm,” but pronounced “Jim.” And so when I went to the Screen Actor’s Guild, the lady there said, “That doesn’t make any sense. There’s no vowel there.” I said, “I know.” Then I got “Too Close” and “Hollywood Squares,” and in the late eighties, I had a manager who suggested that I put the “i” back, and on his suggestion I did, and it has really been a pain in the ass ever since. Most people still know me as the guy with the bizarre spelling, but I did put the “i” back in 1990â€¦ I had a vowel movement.
[The Fancy Boy Follies, with book and lyrics by David Pevsner and additional material by Bruce Vilanch, is at the 45th Street Theatre until Oct. 5. For ticket info check out nymf.org.]