For the 40th anniversary of the Cathedral of Hope, wacky comedienne
Judy Tenuta will perform a human sacrifice. Hey! It could happen
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
COH 40TH ANNIVERSARY
Infomart, 1950 Stemmons
Freeway. July 24 at 7 p.m.
Earlier this month, Judy Tenuta judged a celebrity chef challenge at the Giant Orange Festival in California. The comedian likely had some A-list nibbles that day, but that won’t compare to what she expects to put her mouth on when she comes to Dallas. Tenuta, in fact, has some big expectations:
“I’m coming out there to punish you pigs and I want to strap a saddle around a beefy burrito of manhood!”
A clearer picture couldn’t be painted. The accordion-playing comedian/actress isn’t heading this way for a night at the Improv. No, she and her love slaves will partake in the Cathedral of Hope’s 40th anniversary celebration — which clearly notes this isn’t your mother’s church event. And despite her sexually charged act, Tenuta might be right at home playing for the church crowd.
“I’m the Love Goddess,” she proclaims. “I bless my gay men and women. Oh, and this isn’t gonna be boring like church, it’s gonna be a sassy, fun sermon.”
Tenuta may seem a product of the ’80s, where you expect her to pop on any VH1 special about the decade or as an answer in Trivial Pursuit’s Totally ’80s edition. But the funny lady famous for her bevy of musclestuds and her signature slogan “It could happen!” hasn’t disappeared. Instead, she’s figuring out her place in today’s entertainment world dominated by the likes of her comic successors like Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin.
“Celebrity is about scandal,” she says. “You have to be on TV shows. I need to get on America’s Most Wanted, but I’m not like Charlie Sheen — I’m a law-abiding citizen. Who are these housewives of so-and-so getting these shows? If you throw tables at each other and start fights, you get a show. I was supposed to be on Dancing with the Stars but it seems like a beating. But if Clitoris Leachman can do it…”
Tenuta is still in the game even without a reality show. She’s been on the road with her Full Frontal Tenudity tour and played a nun in the indie film Sister Mary last year with gay pal Bruce Villanch. (She calls the movie “campy fun for the gays.”) If the comic career path doesn’t work out for her though, she does have a fall-back perfect for her Dallas gig: Tenuta is an ordained minister.
“In my religion, Judyism, gays have the right to be married,” she says. “I’m an ordained minister and the Goddess performs same-sex marriages. I wanna know why the gays are only allowed to be married in the most rustic places like Vermont. What’s there other than syrup and moose? Or Iowa? That’s nice if you need sheep.”
She was shocked that California, the most liberal state — and her home — passed Prop 8. With that, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and other headlines, she wanted to return the favor to her gay fans that stood by her through even the lean years.
“I want to stand up for them for their rights and give them joy and fun,” she says. “They do the same for me. There is this great sense of fun and love in the community. It’s so much larger than life — like me!”
She hasn’t made plans to preside over nuptials in Dallas, but she is on the hunt. She’ll be recruiting her beefy burritos from the audience at the Saturday celebration. After collecting her hunky entourage, she’ll take on the likes of BP, Lindsay Lohan and border patrol.
“We’ve been talking for years about keeping out illegals — they should send those bitches back to England! That oil is so nasty,” she says. “What’s the point of that ankle SCRAM on Lohan? She just uses it to hold her liquor. Do not let her out in the open.”
Tenuta will be happy to know that Lohan is behind bars. But two celebrities she’s curious about are Dallas residents. When she found out the Bushes lived in Big D, she was fascinated.
You could almost hear the jokes working themselves out. Tenuta took particular interest in the Facebook page campaigning for Laura Bush to be part of this year’s Pride parade after she came out in support of same-sex marriage.
“No kidding! I have to give her a lot of credit,” she says. “Laura Bush, the ex-First Lady. I’d hope she’d stop by, but she strikes me more as going to a Julie Andrews concert. She should do the parade but she’d certainly do it without George Bush. We hate that pig.”
Hmm — that can’t be Judyo orthodoxy.
“Well, the religion is mostly there to forget about your problems by thinking about mine for a change.”
Sounds like religion we could get behind.
COH Celebration continues with Sam Harris
Don’t underestimate the church’s ability to throw a party. While Judy Tenuta headlines Cathedral of Hope’s Saturday celebration, the festivities don’t end there. The night will also include dancing, live music, cocktails and food.
Sunday worship service won’t be anything to balk at, either. Accompanying the Rev. Jo Hudson’s sermon will be members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, Resounding Harmony, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas and special guest Sam Harris, pictured.
Yes, that Sam Harris. Winning the first Star Search in 1983 during the show’s first season, Harris has grown from reality show celeb to a major player in music, television and stage. (Think of him as the Adam Lambert of the ’80s.) His signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is a favorite, but Harris has continued recording — his last album came was released in 2008. He’s also developing both a television show and a play about Al Jolson that’s not The Jazz Singer.
“This is so near and dear to my heart, but this is a psychological investigation of this incredibly powerful entertainer,” Harris says. “He was this megalomaniac, but also incredibly giving.”
Harris relates to that last virtue, mostly because he’s now a family man. He married his partner Danny Jacobsen in November 2008, months after adopting their son Cooper Atticus Harris-Jacobson, now 2. The family life hasn’t necessarily slowed Harris down, but it is a juggling act.
“When you have a kid, the day starts out at 100 miles per hour,” he says. “It is a bit of juggling but it’s such a huge blessing and my family is the core of my reason.”
Harris will be performing two songs at both worship services at the Meyerson, but he’ll also sit in during each as a guest. The church’s philosophies coincide with his own and he hopes he’s a good fit for the congregation.
“It’s a place of action and calls us to be our best selves,” he says. “Those are elements I try to make of my life. I recognize when I’m most fulfilled is that when I’m of service. The whole point is human connection; that’s why were here — to connect to find similarities and leave it better than when we found it.”
He should feel reassured he’s the perfect fit for the celebration.
Cathedral of Hope 40th Anniversary Worship at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 9 and 11 a.m. Free. CathedralofHope.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.