Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Wigging out with Bruce Vilanch
MOVIES
by Jorjet Harper
2012-11-21

This article shared 3306 times since Wed Nov 21, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


The world contains quite a few people who seem to always be playing to an invisible camera. But Bruce Vilanch is one of those truly rare people who is always cracking jokes off the top of his head that are actually funny.

Vilanch is known for his work both behind and in front of the camera. The two-time Emmy winner has written material for many of America's top comedians, but is probably best known to the public for his time as a regular on Hollywood Squares. Vilanch has been head writer for the Academy Awards since 2000. In 1999, he was the subject of a feature-length documentary, Get Bruce!, about his life as Hollywood's most sought-after humor writer.

It's easy to see why Vilanch is such a valuable commodity in Hollywood. In person, he's endearingly clever in a down-to-earth way, loves playfully entertaining everyone around him, and seems unable to stop saying things that are genuinely hilarious.

Vilanch was in Chicago for the shooting of the new film Scrooge & Marley, a contemporary retelling of the classic Dicken's tale, A Christmas Carol, "with a gay twist," that will premiere during this year's holiday season. In a casting stroke of genius, Vilanch plays the comic/tragic character Fezziwig in the film.

Though he already had on his Fezziwig wig for our interview, the makeup department had not yet glued on his Fezzi-beard. He stroked the strawberry blonde locks of his wig lovingly, and told me, "My old hair—it's come back to visit. It's been living in a condo in Boca Raton, and now it's decided to come out of retirement." In fact, his real hair today, with its strawberry blonde color and shoulder-length Prince Valiant styling, looked rather similar to his Fezzi-wig—just a bit less bushy.

Not done hamming it up, Vilanch began to croon to his wig: "'Hello my old friend ... ' I feel like Sweeney Todd," he quipped. "'This is my burden ... .' Soon there will be a beard to complete the picture. I will look like a nightmare version of myself from the Seventies. I can't wait!"

In Dickens' original Christmas Carol, Fezziwig is young Scrooge and Marley's boss. He's a generous, ethical businessman who treats his employees like family, cares about their welfare, and throws lively holiday parties for all. Sadly, he is forced to sell his business to avaricious corporate interests who care nothing about worker morale. Scrooge and Marley, grown more callous over time, side with the heartless new owners.

"I play Fezziwig, who you'll remember from Dickens," Vilanch said. "But this is a different kind of Fezziwig. He's a guy who owns a disco in the Seventies and he's Auntie Mame—Rosalind Russell and Auntie Mame." Vilanch threw back his head, causing his wig to flounce. "He's all, 'Oh how droll, how vivid!' He's a pretty fabulous character, and he brings young Scrooge and Marley in [to his business] and of course they do him dirt—you know the story. And then we see his downfall. But then there's a resurrection. It's very biblical."

Though Scrooge & Marley is a modern, gay-themed retelling of A Christmas Carol, Vilanch's character follows the traditional Dickensian arc. "He's a jolly old soul who gets caught up in his vices and gets caught up in their chicanery. And eventually he's something they [the spirits] show Scrooge, to show what a bad guy Scrooge has been through the years. So Fezziwig's kind of a poster child for excess. But at the same time, he's brought down by the hand of somebody who is genuinely sinister. And he's not. And I like him."

Dickens' Fezziwig symbolized the end of an era he knew well, the Industrial Revolution. Dickens' saw it as a time when small businessmen and local industries like Fezziwig's were disappearing, swept away by more ruthlessly profiteering business practices and cutthroat corporations. The Fezziwig in Scrooge & Marley also symbolizes the end of an era: the pre-AIDS gay culture.

"Fezziwig is the end of that party that was going on in the gay community in the Seventies, that was ended by the AIDS epidemic," said Vilanch. "Suddenly everything got very serious and everything that we were told would happen because of what we were doing suddenly happened—and not because of what we were doing. It was totally coincidental. It was the end of some kind of a party that had been going on since I think Stonewall. There was a great deal of joy about liberation and getting a movement going and all that, and that came crashing down when people began dying. And ironically enough, that movement, because of the epidemic, became a real genuine political movement, which is as forceful today as it can be."

Vilanch was living in Chicago in 1970, working at the Chicago Tribune, when he met Bette Midler. Midler hired him to write jokes for her, marking the start of a successful collaboration that has lasted through the years. After moving to L.A., Vilanch began writing material for other famous comics as well, including Joan Rivers, Richard Pryor, and Lily Tomlin, and for television shows like ABC's original Donny and Marie Show and The Brady Bunch. Vilanch heard about the Scrooge & Marley project from his friend, the film's co-director and co-writer, Richard Knight.

"I had done his radio show when I was in Chicago doing Hairspray, and we've been friendly ever since. And he talked about making this strange gay take on A Christmas Carol. When you consider Christmas Carol's been done every other way—I mean, I'm waiting for the al-Qaeda version, that's all that has been missed—so I thought, how could I not be a part of it? It's so original, so unusual."

Vilanch also considered a gay version of A Christmas Carol in it's wider cultural context. "I think that the reason to do a gay version of anything is to show that we're all basically the same under the skin. That the humanity is the same. We just have wildly different cultural perspectives and ways of expressing ourselves. But it's the humanity of it all that's important," he observed.

"And gay community, and gay culture, for want of a better word, is just so much fun. It's so festive and everything-is-in-quotes and over-the-top exaggerated, because it's a culture that had to live under the thumb of a straight culture for years, so its take on things comes from being oppressed. And that's always funny," said Vilanch. "I mean, I'm Jewish, too, and we have that in common: we were oppressed for five thousand years and that's why so many funny people are Jews. When you're at the bottom, you kind of have to look up and laugh, because you don't see the sun a lot." Vilanch paused, then added warmly, "And eventually, you do."


This article shared 3306 times since Wed Nov 21, 2012
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

MOVIES 'Bolshoi Ballet' series to start locally Nov. 7 2021-10-21
- The "2021-2022 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema" series is set to begin Sunday, Nov. 7 with Bolshoi Ballet: Spartacus—LIVE. Spartacus is considered a ballet tour de force, set to Aram Khachaturian's score. Bolshoi Ballet: Spartacus—LIVE is set t ...


Gay News

Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Fest names winners 2021-10-21
--From a press release - CHICAGO, Illinois — The 39th Reeling: Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival today announced the winning films from its 2021 program, which included 33 feature films and 54 short films curated in nine programs. This year's submissions ...


Gay News

'Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets' LGBTQ+ Representation in the Media' panel Nov. 4 2021-10-21
--From a press release - In recent years LGBTQ+ people have increasingly seen representations of themselves, celebrations of their lives and stories, and coverage of LGBTQ+ issues across media channels. This has led to a worldwide rise in understanding, cultural acceptance, ...


Gay News

Black Alphabet returns to host annual film festival in November 2021-10-20
By Cris Villalonga-Vivoni - The Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) is returning to Chicago after the pandemic forced the organization to cancel last year's event. On Nov. 5-7, BAFF will showcase 21 films and shorts about the Black queer experience ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Superman, TheWrap, Oscar Wilde, Billy Porter, Cher, 'Dragula' 2021-10-17
- The ongoing comic Superman: Son of Kal-El, by writer Tom Taylor and artist John Timms, launched in July and saw Jon Kent officially take up the mantle of the Man of Steel now that his father, ...


Gay News

Wizard World Comic Con returns to Chicago 2021-10-17
- After being canceled last year because of the COVID pandemic, Wizard World Comic Con Chicago returned to Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on Oct. 15-17—and thousands of people attended. People ranging from attendees to vendors ...


Gay News

Jury selection in Smollett trial starts Nov. 29 2021-10-15
- The Jussie Smollett saga continues. Almost three years since out actor Jussie Smollett (TV's Empire; the film Alien: Covenant) was allegedly attacked in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood, Cook County Judge James ...


Gay News

CIFF, featuring LGBTQ+ films, running through Oct. 24 2021-10-15
- North America's longest-running competitive film festival, this year's event expands throughout Chicago with presentations at venues across the city, including at AMC River East 21; the Music Box Theatre; the Gene Siskel Film Center; special drive ...


Gay News

MOVIES Holiday comedy short centers on Muslim family and BIPOC queer relationship 2021-10-13
- The short film The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night follows Noor, a Muslim queer woman, and her experience with bringing her Puerto Rican partner home to meet her family for the first time. When Noor's ...


Gay News

THEATER 'A Rocky Horror Picture Party' at The Den on Oct. 30-31 2021-10-12
- Haven is presenting Science Fiction / Double Feature: A Rocky Horror Picture Party—an immersive Halloween experience that brings to life in vivid technicolor the world of the cult-classic film—directed by ...


Gay News

PBS to air queer documentary 'Things We Dare Not Do' Oct. 25 2021-10-12
- American Documentary | POV announced the national broadcast premiere of Things We Dare Not Do (Cosas que no hacemos), the second feature film from Mexican director and cinematographer Bruno Santamaría, as part of POV's 34th season. ...


Gay News

Madonna's latest concert film, Madame X, now out 2021-10-09
- The concept film to Madonna's acclaimed Madame X Tour has debuted in the United States Latin America, Australia, the Nordics and Canada exclusively on Paramount+, the streaming service from ViacomCBS. Fans outside these markets can watch ...


Gay News

MOVIES Colman Domingo to star in Bayard Rustin biopic 2021-10-09
- LGBTQ+ actor Colman Domingo—who has been in movies such as Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Candyman, and TV shows ranging from Fear the Walking Dead to The Big Gay Sketch Show—has landed the lead role the ...


Gay News

Filmmakers Bennett Singer, Patrick Sammon talk new documentary Cured 2021-10-07
- Producer-directors Bennett Singer and Patrick Sammon have created a new LGBTQ documentary: Cured. The film tells the story of the LGBTQ activists, allies and events surrounding the American Psychiatric Association's ...


Gay News

Sisters in Cinema, DocuClub providing consulting opportunities to filmmakers 2021-10-07
- Sisters in Cinema—a Chicago-based 501(C)3 that aims to center and celebrate Black girls, women and gender non-conforming media makers—and DocuClub, a work-in-progress screening series, have entered into a strategic partnership ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.