REVIEW: Joan Rivers at the Winspear

AWJ Joan HLR

“It’s great to put a face to a voice,” Joan Rivers told me when I met her after her show last night at the Winspear (I’m pictured, from left, with her her and Voice contributor Howard Lewis Russell). “Phone interviews are hard, but you were a good one.”

Even if she hadn’t paid me a compliment, it would have been easy to say nice things about Joan’s 65-minute act, where she stays in constant motion and talks even faster. (After the set was over, Howard and I were exhausted from laughing; only then did we realize Joan never so much as took a sip of water the entire time.) At 79, she’s an unstoppable force, going to far as to do a sight gag involving climbing on top of a piano — what septuagenarians do you know that still do physical comedy?!?!

But that’s Rivers, who famously never slows down — not in her career, and not onstage. The jokes were more rapid-fire than a sub-machine gun: Some induced groans from audience members uncomfortable with jokes about pedophilia (read: Michael Jackson) and how Chaz Bono needed liposuction more than a new penis. But, as Joan says, if you don’t get some walkouts, you’re not doing your job right.

Of course, she embraced “my gays” — her shout-out to them (“Where are you?”) resulted in a roar and nearly the entire front two rows standing up and hollering. “I love my gays — my one great disappointment is my grandson is not gay,” she joked. “Who else is going to say to me, ‘Really, you knew Judy Garland?!’” Still, she said, gays don’t like two kinds of jokes: Those that poke fun at Princess Di and at Barbra Streisand. She did jokes about both.

And she was right: The gays were out in force. The line at the men’s room before the show looped around the lobby. “Why is the line here longer than at the ladies’ room?” wondered one man aloud. “Because,” I said, “Joan Rivers has turned the Winspear into Dallas’ largest floating gay bar.” “Oh, right,” he agreed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Auld lang sigh

A very sappy New Year’s Eve… but still fun

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There’s a long history of uniting big stars in a jam-packed ensemble cast. Sure, typically C-list celebrities met their fates in capsized ships and burning buildings, but there’s something about the combined star power of multiple marquee names that are irresistible draws.

In New Year’s Eve, the wattage is high: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron (pictured), Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer join more than a dozen of their Hollywood colleagues in this quasi-sequel to director Garry Marshall’s previous celebfest, Valentine’s Day. (By the time he gets to Cinco de Mayo, there’s gonna be nobody left but Charo, Justin Bieber and Cheech Marin.)

Like VD, NYE involves multiple story lines that converge in some way or another by the end of the movie — in this case, culminating around the stroke of midnight. Predictable themes of fresh starts and the letdown of holidays populate the various love stories and there are moments of genuine emotion and heartfelt humor.

There’s nothing blatantly gay about the film, but plenty of gay-by-association appeal thanks to LGBT faves Swank, Parker, Michele, Efron and too-hot-for-TV Josh Duhamel. Sofia Vergara, the buxom star of Modern Family, is a great foil to the increasingly unlikable Katherine Heigl, whose character never really clicks with the audience.

What’s great about New Year’s Eve is Marshall’s way of leveling the playing field among his regular stars and mega-stars. Everybody gets equal billing, equal screen time, and for the most part, equally fun roles. That any holiday film delivers cloyingly sweet dramedy should be anticipated from the moment you plop a twenty down at the ticket window, but it sure would be nice to be caught off-guard with just a single moment that is completely organic and unexpected.

Alas, most of the stories’ conclusions could be predicted by a 10-year-old, but there’s such an earnestness and joy in the actors’ performances paired with their gosh-darn eye twinkles and larger-than-life charisma that make this movie worth at least a Prosecco toast, if not a half-glass of real champagne.

— Steven Lindsey

Three and a half stars.
Now playing in wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Bill would protect gun-toting fetuses from prosecution in South Dakota

Rep. Phil Jensen

A bill to expand the definition of justifiable homicide was scheduled to be debated in the South Dakota House of Representatives today. The proposal is to allow murder if it happened while resisting an attempt to harm a fetus.

Supporters say the bill would prevent harm to the unborn, according to the Rapid City Journal. Unfortunately, harm will probably come to the born.

“This is a bill that will provide self-defense for the unborn child,” said Rep. Phil Jensen, the bill’s Republican sponsor.

Well, not really — not unless the fetus has a weapon or knows karate, since self-defense is when people protect themselves. Should a gun-toting fetus practice self-defense, chances are the mother would be severely injured, unless the fetus has learned to shoot directly out the vagina. Jensen didn’t say whether the bill includes finding new parents for the newly orphaned infant.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Chick-fil-A skewered; Lady Gaga v. Justin Bieber; Ind. marriage ban advances

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Signs like the one above — an apparent reference to Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay ties — have cropped up on telephone poles around the West Virginia University campus, which is home to one of the chain’s franchises. We happen to think the signs are brilliant, but apparently they might be a little too heady for West Virginia, where police say they could represent a hate crime.

2. Our new anthem — Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” — will be released two days early, on Friday, according to a tweet from Gaga on Monday. Smart move. No matter how good the song really is, it will undoubtedly seem utterly amazing compared to Friday’s other notable pop release — Justin Bieber’s 3D biopic Never Say Never.

3. An Indiana House panel voted 8-4 Monday to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Perhaps the lawmakers were swayed by the following testimony from Micah Clark of the American Family Association, who compared marriage to the Super Bowl: “If any two teams could place it would lose the significance. It wouldn’t be so super.” Does anyone else sense that these folks are getting really desperate?

—  John Wright

WATCH: Uncle says murdered teen wasn’t gay

Joshua Wilkerson’s uncle tells KHOU that the murdered 18-year-old from Pearland wasn’t gay. (The story doesn’t start until about halfway through the above video.)

Hermilo Vildo Moralez, 19, who is accused of beating Wilkerson to death with a wooden rod before burning his body, told authorities that Wilkerson made sexual advances toward him.

“Everything you hear, don’t judge a book by its cover,” said Wilkerson’s Uncle John Crochet. “This guy is not human, so don’t believe what he’s saying. …

“There had been some accusations by this animal that some sexual advances were made. We have no reason to believe that would have ever happened. The bottom line is whatever happened, he didn’t deserve to die,” said Crochet.

KHOU also reports that police believe Moralez may not have acted alone. Someone apparently set up a bogus Facebook page for Wilkerson while Moralez was already in custody saying Wilkerson was gay, hated negroes and was a fan of Justin Bieber.

—  John Wright

Adam Lambert announces acoustic album that would compete with Justin Bieber’s

Lambert at his Palladium show in Dallas.

Dylan Lewis of For Your Consideration out of Australia talked with Adam Lambert in this video below about all things music. In it, Lambert reveals a possible November/December release for an acoustic album which would put it head-to-head with Justin Bieber’s recent announcement. I wonder who would rein supreme acoustically as pop music’s current king.

Lambert also discusses his desire to work with Christina Aguilera and plans for his sophomore release sometime next spring or summer. Actually, he’s just theorizing it at this point. Clearly this acoustic thing is just a “project” and not his second album. He says this acoustic album will contain stripped-back renditions of previously released songs.

—  Rich Lopez