Circus and carnival people scare me. Always have. And if you imply that they might be moist, well, it makes me tense. I suppose that’s why I haven’t yet made it to Moisture Fest, even though I’m fully aware that there are any number of acts that would interest me. Someone recently told me, in fact, that there’s a fella who makes a bologna sandwich on stage with his feet and doesn’t call it performance art. My kind of guy. In any case, I do love aerialists, of which there are plenty hanging around out there, so I’m finally heading to Fremont during the last week of offerings.
SIFF Cinema shows writer-director Preston Sturges’s classic Sullivan’s Travels in a new 35mm print beginning Friday. The movie’s from 1941 and is about 20,000 times smarter than any comedy made today. Joel McCrea, an underrated actor who had a breezy knack for not taking himself too seriously, plays a Hollywood hack named Sullivan who decides to take himself seriously. He’s researching a new film he’d like to make about the “true canvas of the suffering of humanity” (he wants to call it O Brother, Where Art Thou? and, yes, that’s where the Coen brothers got the title for their film). Sullivan heads out to connect with the homelessness (the beautiful, peek-a-boo-banged Veronica Lake comes with him) and Sturges proceeds to knock the stuffing out of Tinseltown pretense and still touch you with the true canvas of the suffering of humanity. I’m dragging a friend who doesn’t know how fresh 1941 film can feel in the right hands.
Sometimes when I tell people I like drag shows they look at me as though I’ve just suggested we go see Al Jolson sing “Swanee” in blackface (and if you have to Google either Al Jolson or “Swanee” don’t tell me because it’ll make me depressed).
Yet good drag is neither insulting nor degrading and often gives you a little glimmer of the soul of the person beneath the makeup—which was, come to think of it, the liberating quality about blackface for performers like Jolson (but I’m not coming anywhere near that discussion). I don’t know if Le Faux, the female impersonation extravaganza that’s in its third year at Julia’s on Capitol Hill, will rise to the occasion but the place always seems packed and happy and I have heard that star Sean Paul does a fab Madonna and, well, you can’t dangle that in front of me for long without me biting. (Oh, you’re going to start in on Madonna now? I’ll cut you. That woman gives and gives.)
And speaking of gender twists, the marvelous Justin Bond sings and tells stories at the Triple Door on Sunday. Bond’s type of queer cabaret, like that of Joni Mitchell doppelganger John Kelly, is a challenge to describe because it’s both straight-faced (forgive the pun) and funny. Anyway, he’s also Kiki from Kiki and Herb and just this week talked to me for an interview in which he discusses Kiki, this new Kiki-less show, and how Seattle played a role in his queer defiance. You don’t have to be queer to enjoy Bond but, as he reveals during our talk, you may be queer in ways that stretch your definition of the word.
I’ve just told you I’m going to watch an old movie, a drag show, Justin Bond and, hopefully, a guy who makes sandwiches with his feet so you’ll excuse me if I think I’ve got “queer” covered.