The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, July 19, 2002, Columns

A FESTIVE FOURTH The weekend of the Fourth of July was a round of fun events, but it was so long ago, I'll just give a brief recap. We began the relatively fashion-free holiday at the party thrown by Lonny Stern and his sweetheart, the legal badass Daniel Bradford. Guests included that handsome and stylish team of realtors Jeff Mikeska & Doug Jacobs (they're celebrating their anniversary after meeting through a Chronicle personals ad 10 years ago!), and their friend Jim Windmiller, visiting royalty from Galveston. Also present were Rebecca Weaver-Gill of KOOP Radio, Danielle Seabold, Gynomite editrix Liz Belile, Jo Bunny, my editor Kate Messer, and my ever-faithful personal secretary, Neil Diaz. That night, Neil and I went to see Chris Isaak at the Backyard. Chris entirely understands the theory that one wants to look his best onstage ... and, bay-bee, did he look fine. Wearing a fab sky-blue suit with dazzling crystal embroidery of stars, clouds, and planes, he sparkled under the lights like a celestial being. He ended the show wearing an incredible black suit completely tiled in rectangular mirrors. His between-song chit-chat was disappointingly inane ("We're all here to hook up, right?" Wrong.), and he seemed gratuitously hetero -- perhaps on a little crusade to quash the swirling rumors that he's gay. At any rate, the music was great, not the most powerhouse performance I've seen Chris give, but fabulous nonetheless. Friday brought the King & Queen Fashion Show at Elysium -- a transgender extravaganza for a very good cause. As a benefit for Out Youth (after they had failed to send me any info on the show, I began to refer to them as "Out-to-Lunch Youth"), they put on quite a fun little show ... as long as you weren't expecting serious fashion. The models would have benefited from having the help of professional hair and make-up -- there's always some salon that will do it if you ask. But I always have a good time at Elysium. Gracious owners John and his wife, the beauteous Sara, anticipated our every need, including supplying the only reserved seating in the house (at the end of the runway, naturally) for me, my editor (the lovely but sartorially challenged) Kate, and Neil (who now borrows only my clothes when we go out so I can't criticize what he wears). Saturday, my friend Dale and I went to the theatre to see my dear friend Barbara Chisholm in The Pavilion at Zach Scott. Though the show has since closed, Barbara was spectacular, and I eagerly await her next appearance onstage.

THE REST IS SILENCE Back in 1968, my dad went to New York and saw Hair on Broadway, bringing home programs, posters, and soundtracks for us kids. We were immediately riveted by it, and it became part of our lives, making an indelible impression on our already feverish little minds. Over the next few years, I saw productions of it in every city I lived in, watching as it evolved from an indictment of the Johnson administration to an indictment of the Nixon administration. As the more proletarian pursuits of the Seventies took over (like disco), the show became more of an anachronism, and lost its ability to polarize the audience, relegated to the position of a production whose usefulness, like the anti-war movement itself, had come and gone. But the wonderful music lived on, unforgettably seared into our collective consciousness, few things could conjure up the glory of the hippie movement like hearing the words, "When the moon is in the seventh house ..." You could just hear the finger-cymbals and smell the incense through the acrid pot smoke; it didn't matter whether it was 1979 or 1999, they were the songs that were a part of our souls. So, it was with this load of heavy baggage that I attended the production of Hair at Zach Scott. I'm very much a purist about these things, and I wanted this to be treated like the reverential museum-piece that it is. I knew I'd be especially critical about the costumes -- that era of clothing, like all the eras of clothing I've lived through, is sacred to me, and I wanted them to be absolutely correct. I remarked that there would be a lot of wigs, since it would be hard to find that many long-haired actors. My equally critical sister Margaret replied, "And I don't want to see any dreadlocks, either." Right off the bat, what did we see? Dreadlocks and mullet wigs. So not-Sixties. My heart sank, but I settled in for the long haul, afraid this was going to be disastrous. Then, Q. Smith began to belt out "Aquarius," and my jaw dropped. The power of her voice is magnificent, and she sustained herself beautifully throughout. (Q., darling! You and I knew each other briefly in Manhattan, somewhere around 1995. You were living with a friend whom I occasionally sewed for. E-mail me, and let me take you out for a drink!) Director Dave Steakley is extraordinarily creative, and his concept to somewhat update the show involved introducing elements from decades that have followed since Hair was originally produced. We see art influences of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and distinctly modern touches in choreography, hair, make-up and costumes ... some ideas worked better than others did. Among the modern elements was a reference to September 11 during the "Frank Mills" number with the cast carrying the "Missing" posters that plastered New York after the tragedy. It was an absolutely stunning move, taking a really sweet number and turning it into a deeply emotional tour de force. The infamous nude scene seems a bit anachronistic now, failing to shock the way it did almost 35 years ago, but it is one of those integral elements in the show that continues to make it an endearing period piece. The cast was uniformly excellent, but my only problem was with the character Jeanie's early-Eighties Madonna-deluxe costume. While most of the other Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, and more recent elements were well blended into the Sixties look, her outfit was jarring and distracting in that it was too retro-Eighties and didn't blend at all. However, the "Hare Krishna," "Walking in Space," and "Let the Sunshine In" numbers were nothing short of fabulous, sounding like a hundred voices and filling the stage with music, motion, and poetry. Did I like it? I'd like to see it again and again.

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