Interview with Charles Busch

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Playwright, actor, author, and singer Charles Busch appeared at the Rrazz Room. I had the opportunity to speak with him about his New Hope appearances, and his plans for the future. He was excited, friendly, and upbeat about many things as we chatted by telephone.

I had to ask the question which seems to be an obvious one. Charles Busch appears as a glamorous redhead onstage, who does not have a stage name. Why hasn’t he ever given his character a name? “I’m several people in one. I have no name as other performers do who dress up as a member of the opposite sex. I write characters, and I am that character. That’s how I see it, and how I perform. I think of myself as Arlene Dahl’s younger sister, ninety-five percent true; the rest, legend.”

To the question, “What will your New Hope show be like?” Charles Busch had this to say. “Tom Judson, my accompanist and musical director, and I have produced an act that we have been performing in Sag Harbor, and at 54 Below, both in New York. We’ve done three different shows at 54 Below, and this show at the Rrazz Room will be a “Best of … ” show from our previous performances. Tom and I will be performing a new arrangement of two of my favorite Michel Legrande songs. At first, it wasn’t coming together, but now, we are both really pleased to be sharing it with our New Hope audiences.” Continuing, he added, “My act pays homage to the great cabaret tradition. I’ll be singing standards by Arlen and Johnnie Mercer. I can’t say that I’m the best singer, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I can give these songs personal depth as a song stylist. I am at the point in my life where I enjoy being direct and unguarded, and the intimacy of a cabaret venue is ideal.”

He then said that he and Tom Judson are booked from July to October with their cabaret act. Their schedule is posted on Charles Busch’s website. Future appearances mentioned include Hudson, New York, Palm Springs, and Feinstein’s in San Francisco. I commented that it sounded so glamorous. Mr. Busch added, “Yes, it is, isn’t it! And who knew that this would take off as it has done. I was first approached a few years ago by a gay cruise line to appear in a cabaret act. I didn’t want to until they quoted what they were willing to pay me, so I said, of course! Naturally, I had only three weeks’ notice to find a music director and pianist who could work miracles. I’ve known Tom for 30 years, and knew he would be a fun guy to spend weeks at sea with performing our act. We’ve become closer friends in the last two years, and this is why we’re doing this act now for most of 2014.”

I asked what will happen after October. Charles Busch answered that he had an offer to appear in Paris in November, so maybe that would lead to a European winter tour, he said as he laughed.

For Charles Busch, that would be fine, as he stated that he had no intentions to write or appear in a play anytime soon. “I’ve written and/or performed in six plays in four years,” he said. “I have no plans to write another play anytime soon.” He continued that he has plans to write a book, which he says may contain “vignettes,” as he calls them, pieces he has written and published on his Facebook page. “It is amazing that I can write something and post it on Facebook, and four hundred people reply with something to say. It’s very encouraging and quite surprising to me.” “I also love to paint,” he continued. “So I might give that some of my time in the near future. We’ll see.”

For now, New Hope is the lucky recipient of Charles Busch’s talents and attention. He mentioned that the Buck’s County Playhouse recently presented his play, “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” to great acclaim. “It was a beautiful production,” he said. “They have worked a miracle renovating the new Playhouse. It’s absolutely beautiful.” This led me to ask if he might consider starring in a production there, such as his “The Divine Sister,” or “Die, Mommie, Die!” “Of course! I would be happy to, if they want me to,” he quickly replied.

I then asked him if he would be willing to write a new play, with roles for Marsha Mason and Marilu Henner. “They do appear to have found a home at the Bucks County Playhouse, haven’t they?” He laughed, “Anything’s possible!” I then asked our star if he would consider appearing in something classic, like “Hedda Gabler?” “I already have!” he exclaimed. “Years ago, my pal Julie Halston and I appeared in a scene from the play to benefit the Bay Street Theatre in San Francisco. I was Hedda, and Julie played Thea. We had a great time!” He continued that he also played the role years ago as a child. He once owned a book which he remembers as being called, “The World’s Great Plays in Miniature,” which had 30-minute versions of great plays, and “Hedda Gabler” was one of them.

Returning to his appearances, Charles Busch had this to say: “The 23rd is my birthday, and there is an old saying that you should do whatever it is that you wish to do in the coming year on your birthday. So, I’ll be performing on my birthday for the first time in years. I’m really looking forward to the experience.”

I asked him what is his favorite cocktail, so that his fans might buy him a drink. Charles Busch laughingly replied, “It’s taken me years, but I’ve found that I enjoy a Jack Daniels, on the rocks.”

I then said that he had better prepare for jewels, flowers, and gifts from his many admirers. “That would be very nice!”

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