Vogue Magazine


SEPTEMBER,  2000


People are Talking about crossover act

By
HAL HINSON

The writer Paul Rudnick said it best: “One does not become a Charles Busch fan, one is enslaved.”

Since the mid-eighties, Busch has held sole possession of the title of the New York theater world’s best-kept secret.  As the creator, star, and high-camp diva at the spiritual center of the legendary Off-Broadway classic Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and a host of other blissfully deranged, movie-inspired epics including Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium; Red Scare on Sunset; and Die! Mommy! Die!, he has reigned as the flamboyant object of adoration of a die-hard cult that makes up in passion and intensity for what it lacks in size.  To be sure, a drag Queen.

Now Busch appears to be in imminent danger of losing his secret status, accomplishing the show-biz equivalent of a trifecta, with a new movie, a Broadway play, and a featured role on television.  If he’s not careful, he may just become a household name.

With last month’s Psycho Beach Party, Busch made his long-awaited breakthrough onto the screen.  Based on his 1987 play, the movie is about a gang of Malibu surf bums who are terrorized by a serial killer.  Perhaps best described as a cross between Beach Blanket Bingo and The Three Faces of Eve, the film is a farcical blast from the past with an impressive cast of up-and-coming young stars, featuring Thomas Gibson Greg from Dharma & Greg) and Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and led by the playwright himself as Captain Monica Stark of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

Onstage, Busch makes his Broadway debut as the author of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, a play about the meltdown of a middle-aged Upper West Side couple that in an earlier incarnation last February won the Outer Critics Circle Award, and reopens next month in a deluxe production starring Linda Lavin and Tony Roberts.  And on the television, for the new season of the HBO prison drama OZ, Busch’s character claims center stage as a death-row inmate dying of AIDS.

Busch readily acknowledges that his career has come to a major turning point.  In fact, the response to The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife has outstripped even his wildest expectations.  New York Times critic Ben Brantley called the play a “window-rattling comedy of mid-life malaise,” and Stephen Sondheim let it drop that “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife may be the funniest evening I’ve ever had in the theater.”

On the other hand, to be invited to the party after all these years leave as Busch feeling slightly at a loss.  “It’s odd,” he observes, “For so long, I’ve worked outside the mainstream.  Now to be seen as an insider is a little disorienting.”  Still, no matter how much success he has as a playwright, Busch says that he will never give up performing – and that includes performing in drag.  “Drag liberated me.  I was a much better actor playing a woman than I had ever been playing a man.  Plus, it give me a lot of pleasure and seems to give other people a lot of pleasure, too.  So why deny myself and deny my fans, all out of some misbegotten notion of legitimacy!”

Interviews and Articles

The Dramatist

New York Times

Encore Magazine

Enid Nemy, NY Times

Table of Contents