Studio 54: Celebrity Watchers

DATELINE: Time Capsule to Disco World

 Roy Cohn with Schrager & Rubell

For less than three years, a couple of Brooklyn entrepreneurs managed to create and to put on a 1970s theatrical experience called a disco club. It was Studio 54, on the heels of downbeat Watergate. Dance and music was where and when diversity became a fad lifestyle of Manhattan life.

Now a documentary gives us a horror story wrapped in glitterati and cheap sequins.

Studio 54, as a documentary, is a fairy tale with a sledgehammer of social cautions and moral outrage.

Steve Rubell was the more recognizable name: and his partner in business was Ian Schrager. After researching gay, black, traditional nightclubs, they decided to make a dilapidated old CBS studio where Captain Kangarooonce romped, into the disco generation’s celebrity baptismal.

Studio 54 was the place where you found throngs and mobs of stunning beautiful young men: Cartloads more than you might ever suspect could be found in a swarm.

Glitz and chintz made a spot for beauty and money to become a lifestyle passport. In six-weeks they put on a show where a balcony gave patrons with lorgnettes a chance to ogle Warhol, Jagger, Paul Newman, Sinatra, Liz, Liza, Liberace, Cher, Cary, Bianca, Truman, Halston, Barishnikov, Michael Jackson, and every name of the era in one hopped-up setting.

You put the best-looking man out front as the doorman, and you watched a happening happen.

Director Matt Tyrnauer puts together a Zeitgeist film to capture spirit, energy, and history, as a spot where glamour had its last stand. Movie stars, musician superstars, and ordinary beauty, cavorted together with freaks to pulsating lights, music, and—gulp, drugs.

There were floor shows like Las Vegas fantasies with performers who transcended their roles with the patrons.

It was America’s Fall of the Roman Empire: the god-awful punishment awaited, pestilence and plague on all your houses: AIDS. Rubell was the epitome of the age, a gay man in massive denial about his identity and living out his suicidal excesses until the roof caved in. He went in the first wave of incurable and shunned AIDS victims of the late 1980s.

His partner’s father was one of Meyer Lansky’s mouthpieces, though Ian Schrager knew nothing about it.

As if a fall from grace was ever possible without some satanic majesty, one of the biggest frequenters and closet queens of the age, the evil Roy Cohn became the attorney for the club (and later for Donald Trump). It underscores the tale and takes it into the realm of hallucinogenic socio-political shock. No liquor license? Arrested? Schrager and Rubell called Cohn.

Downfalls are good for the soul and bad for the soulless.

 

 

 

Angels in America: “Messenger”

DATELINE: Ghost of Ethel Meets Ghoul of Cohn 

 Streep & Pacino

The third episode of the miniseries Angels in America takes us to the hallucinogenic, paranormal world where Louis (Ben Shenkman) insists in his liberal way that there are no angels in America.

On the other hand, the evil Roy Cohn is the devil in America, dying of AIDS like the saintly Prior whose survival seems preordained by some supernatural force. He is to “Prepare” for an event of monumental proportions:  this is foreshadowed when two ancestor ghosts show up in his bedroom to give him a Dickensian warning.

Emma Thompson is his down to earth nurse, but she speaks in tongues (only to the ears of Prior (Justin Kirk). He is also seeing Talmudic eruptions of Torah as he prepares for the descent (or is it an ascent?).

If you have held on to this point, you will be hooked by the mixed metaphors of paranormal and political messages in crossover.

The episode builds to one of the most astounding special effects dramas and ghost stories in American literature. And, however uncomfortable the sexual situations are, they are part of the political whirlwind of America. Roy Cohn was a hypocritical gay man who worked with Joe McCarthy, McCarthyism, associated with Edgar Hoover socially, and was responsible for the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg…

With Prior Walter ghosts from the Mayflower setting the stage, we are also about to see an Angel in America. Yet, for our money, the highlight of any film has to be a confrontation between Pacino’s Cohn and Streep’s Ethel Rosenberg. It is hilarious and horrifying—as ghost and her ghoul banter nastily. An extraordinary moment in movie history.

Idiot’s Delight: ImPeach Delight!

DEADLINE:  Traitor to his Country

We can only imagine that King Louis XIV had the same reaction to the sentence of beheading that Trump showed when confronted with impeachment this week.

He can’t believe it. It’s impossible. It cannot happen in a privileged world to a billionaire who usually throws a tantrum, fires a few people, and has his way confirmed.

We imagine Czar Nicholas reacted the same way when the Bolsheviks pulled out their guns to fire him and his family with the ultimate fire squad. How can this be happening to a sovereign leader?

You can count on the fact that, as he stayed hunkered down in his bunker at the end, that Adolph Hitler couldn’t believe how a man with the world at his disposal could end up hiding like a mole in a hole.

Donald Trump’s famous line, “You’re fired,” has taken on a personal connection as the House of Representatives now want to utter it with biting irony. They have taken a page out of the double-down book and thrown it at Trump.

A man who thinks he can use his office as a staging ground to hawk his luxury golfing hotels and enrich his bank accounts is a little slow on the up-take when it comes to violating an oath of office he took.

Stable geniuses are supposed to be above the law. At least that’s what his lawyers are paid to say: Rudi Giuliani is not an idiot, but he’s paid to act like one.

Trump never had trouble telling professionals, like doctors, to report he is in perfect health—or they faced ruination by tweet.

However, Trump cannot buy a legion of “socialists,” nor can he order Russian mob hit squads to take them all out. So, you now have the befuddled, fat old man in the White House mulling over what legislation he can throw at the Democrats to derail his impeachment. Want immigration reform? Want tax relief? Want environmental safeguards? You got it—just leave the president in his oval office, and, oh yeah, let him run for re-election.

Where’s Roy Cohn indeed?

 

  Angels in America: “In Vitro”

DATELINE:  American Supernatural Powers 

 Pacino’s Satanic Roy Cohn!

The second episode of the mini-series Angels in America again uses some clever cross-cutting from director Mike Nichols to counter-point the two young relationships on the rocks: the gay couple (Jewish boy & Mayflower Prior) and the heterosexual Mormons (calling each other inexplicably ‘buddy’).

The connections between Louis and Joe as lawyers puts them together on occasion. Joe’s pill-popping wife refuses to come to grips with her husband’s latent sexual interests. All in all, the two couples seem ready to do battle in what may be a ridiculous waste of energy.

If Louis has a friend (in the person of a flamboyant black nurse—Jeffrey Wright), then Joe (Patrick Wilson) relies on the back-rubbing seduction of Roy Cohn (in the person of Al Pacino).

Pacino has one satanic scene in this episode, but he is so dominant and frightful that he is unforgettable, even citing Mafia words like “familiglia” as his favorite. And, Meryl Streep makes her first of two role appearances at the mother of Mormon Joe. The best is yet to come.

Again, it is the political element from a drama twenty years old that resonates today: Cohn wants protection from being disbarred. He will place cute Joe into the Reagan Administration to give him an insider cover.

The talk is putting crypto-Nazi political plans of Cohn into place to last generations. It is sentient almost to a terrifying degree—as it predates Cohn’s protégé Donald Trump putting these plans into fruition.

So, the predictive nature of this LGQBT play-unto-movie from 2003 may be the most-telling soothsaying bit of political spin out of the 20thcentury. The story is set in 1985 when AIDS was the virulent killer with no cure in sight. Cohn is laying groundwork to control the presidency and Supreme Court with his kind of American well into the 21st century–and far beyond the grave.

Angels in America: Part One

DATELINE: Where’s My Roy Cohn?

  We’re No Angels!

Can it be that 15 years after the Mike Nichols-HBO depiction of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that it has new life?

Give credit to Donald Trump or damn him to hell for resurrecting his mentor, long-dead Roy Cohn.

The main character in Angels in Americais Cohn, as played by Al Pacino, in a fire-brand, brilliant performance while still in his salad days. In the first chapter he has only two scenes: one to start the episode, and one to finish. But he is what hooks you to begin the mini-series of an award-winning play—and his extraordinary scene with James Cromwell at the end will bring you back.

What’s in between is somewhat pedestrian gay:  a Mormon couple (Mary-Louise Parker and Patrick Wilson) are in discord because he may well be a closet case gay man in 1985. Counter this with a Jewish law clerk Louis (Ben Shenckman) and his HIV positive boyfriend Prior (Justin Kirk). They are cute and tortured by their inner gay demons.

We give Nichols credit for playing this up with references to Wizard of Oz and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. It’s pure gay counter-culture.

The actors are transcendent with characters who are not. Yet, the openness of the sexual lives is bracing, even today. To combine two hallucinations of characters who don’t know each other is nothing short of brilliant, cross-pollinating the subplots.

Yet, we are drawn to the foul-mouthed Cohn, nasty and demagogic, and though we see no Trump, we see what feeds the monster. His final exchange with his doctor, indicating he has liver cancer, not AIDS, and that he is not homosexual, but only fools around with men.

It is the massive unapologetic denial, lies upon lies, to feed self-delusion and feed media attention with distortion and misdirection. Episode One sets up a compelling situation for the remainder of the series.

 

 

 

Enough of Moral Lepers (Antonio Brown)

DATELINE: Gone Not Soon Enough!

  Devils You Know!

 

Let us rant: we are tired of defending the indefensible. Walking out of a press conference as did Bill Belichick is not a legitimate response. Throwing Antonio Brown overboard the S.S. Patriots was legitimate.

Antonio Brown has now crossed a line even we have lost the heart and stomach to defend. Yes, he is a talented player who could guarantee a Super Bowl for Tom Brady and Patriots, but enough is enough. Robert Kraft chose to end the symbiosis before it became thrombosis.

Brown has now sent out tweets (reminiscent of another serial criminal escapee) that threatens a woman who said he was sexually lewd and offensive to her. What is worse he impugned her motives as wanting money—when she has asked for none.

Then, he tweeted out photos of her children. Yes, his accuser’s innocent underage children. What has caused this society to spawn creatures of such darkness that to pillage, to rape, and to shoot anything that so moves them?

We are weary of defending moral cripples and serial predators. We are tired of letting mentally-challenged slime-balls pass by the balls they catch because they might help a professional sports team win. There are no balls big enough to support such disgusting fiends.

By next day, he tweeted he was fired by the Patriots.

We are sick and tired of behavior that may be as twisted as ethics of modern money can buy. Yes, these people use money as a power bludgeon. We no longer want to support with our business and attention the works of people like Antonio Brown, or Jeffrey Epstein, or Donald Trump, or Roy Cohn. Yes, we lump them all together as moral lepers.

Invitations are not open-ended, and tolerance of bad behavior is even shorter.

If you don’t see a difference here, you may be an evangelical hypocrite, or a simple-minded sports drunkard who roots for the home team when it is the home-wrecker team.

Family values may not be our thing, but decent human behavior is. It’s time to put us out of misery: put Antonio Brown on the NFL “enemies list.”  He has now thrown away millions of dollars, his career, and any hope of sympathy.