Broadway

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Hopelessly Devoted To: Gretchen Wyler

Published November 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

A year after Shirley MacLaine rocketeered to stardom, due to replacing an ailing Carol Haney in the original Broadway production of Pajama Game, the vibrant Gretchen Wyler (1932 – 2007) accomplished almost exactly the same thing with Cole Porter’s Silk Stockings. Wyler attacked the role of movie star Janice Clayton with such virtuoso power that she was promoted from second understudy to lead, almost overnight.

Nicely, this led this leggy wonder into to a distinguished career, full of stage and television efforts, including multiple stints on a variety of soap operas and situation comedies. Interestingly, for someone who often used her sex appeal as a vibrant component of her performing arsenal, one of her significant nighttime credits was as a guest star on Haunted Angels, a third season episode of the classic detective show that brought about the creation of the term “jiggle TV,” Charlie’s Angels.

Perhaps the most accomplished of several Angels’ plotlines that included horror genre elements, this venture found Wyler’s well-to-do Clare Rossmore requesting assistance from America’s favorite femme investigators due to the seeming ghostly reappearance of her long dead nephew. Adding to the gothic allure, Rossmore’s philanthropic countenance manifests itself in the form of a psychic research institute, an appropriate setting for a supernaturally charged murder to occur.

Of course, all is not as it seems, and as truths are revealed, Agatha Christie style, Wyler nestles nicely into an agreeable chemistry with David Doyle’s ever faithful Bosley. While this story features a rare, fun pairing between Kate Jackson’s Sabrina and Cheryl Ladd’s Kris, it is Doyle, a musical stage veteran himself, and Wyler who truly charm with a rare ease and joy.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Horror Mash-Up: West Side Waltz

Published October 5, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

I’ve always considered this site to be an homage to the interests of the gay men who came up in the generations before me. By doing this, my work here also almost functions as an apology of sorts. I can’t tell you the number of times that I rolled my eyes, during my rebellious college years, while some martini sipping elder gushed to me about the wonders of Connie Francis’ phrasing or the dynamic flare in Joan Crawford’s eyes while playing one of the many ambitious, conflicted women that she excelled in bringing to celluloid reality. Clutching my Patti Smith t-shirts to me like rosary beads, I vowed I would never be that kind of a gay man. But as the decades swirled past, I found myself drawn to the moody gothic antics of Bette Davis and Linda Darnell in films like Deception and This is My Love – often more so than with any of the contemporary, gut spewing epics that burst across the film festival screens at events that I attended with like-minded friends. Thus, one of the main focuses of this blog was to highlight the oddly spooky credits of those established queens of cinema. Now, I find, even when watching something a bit more mundane, I am, internally, cataloging the terror credits of the participants. (You might even find this game could come in handy whenever your significant other forces you to sit through another rom-com or slow moving domestic drama.)

Therefore, I was surprisingly delighted this past Sunday afternoon. After throwing in a dollar copy of the 1995 television film The West Side Waltz, the cinematic treatment of a popular play about two middle-aged spinster types finding renewed life due to their involvement with a hearty homeless woman and a young Bronx vamp, I realized that all the headlining divas (Kathy Bates, Jennifer Grey, Shirley MacLaine and Liza Minnelli) had some connection to the worlds of horror. Grandest of them all, perhaps, is Bates, who won the Academy Award for her enthusiastic performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery. Meanwhile, fellow Oscar winner MacLaine starred in 1972’s authentically effective The Possession of Joel Delaney, a film that might have cost her the lead in The Exorcist due to the similarity of the two projects. Less distinguished than those projects, perhaps, was Grey’s leading turn in Ritual, a still fun film that mixes the steamy, old school jungle melodrama of I Walked with a Zombie with another mighty performance from the legendary Tim Curry. Minnelli’s connections to the field, meanwhile, are more musically related. Famously, she sang back-up for shock rock legend Alice Cooper on his Muscle of Love effort while offering up a totally recognizable solo on the track Mama from My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade – proof of the power of her own Oscar winning status.

Meanwhile, true crime aficionados may find a connection with this particular title, as well. Co-star Robert Pastorelli, who brings the same kind of goofy energy here as he did with his popular long term role on the original Murphy Brown, was highlighted as a prime suspect in the suspicious (real life) gunshot death of his girlfriend in 1999. The reopening of the case in 2002 is rumored to be a possible reason why Pastorelli was found dead of a morphine overdose that year. Hmm…you just never know what you might find within the confines of a filmic adaptation of a Broadway play, right?!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE. Big Gay Horror Fan

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Patsy Kelly

Published July 4, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Her teaming with the stunningly tragic Thelma Todd in a series of comedy shorts in the ’30s brought the zaftig Patsy Kelly fame and critical renown for her clowning abilities. But by the ’40s, her career had dried up. Hollywood was not ready to accept Kelly’s refusal to hide her lesbianism or to even downplay her preferences to the masses.

Unfortunately, this proud, unwavering stance forced her to live through some lean years. A friendship with the iconic Tallulah Bankhead (Die, Die, My Darling) carried her through the ’50s and ’60s. (Kelly worked both as a real life and on stage companion to that mercurial talent.) Thankfully, by the early ’70s (with many of the Tinsel Town executives who shunned her either forgotten or dead), Kelly found latter day success in a number of Broadway vehicles. These turns eventually found her gainful employment – of all places – in two Disney flicks, including Freaky Friday (with future notable Sapphic, Jodie Foster).

Thankfully, in 1968, this unforgettable performer (who also provided ample buffoonery to 1939’s The Gorilla with Bela Lugosi), also made a pit stop in Classic Terror Town with her affably odd performance of Laura-Louise in Rosemary’s Baby. Playing a character who is overly devoted to Rosemary’s demonic offspring, Kelly resonates most in her final moments of the film. But any time she is onscreen here, particularly when she is sharing space with fellow golden oldie Ruth Gordon, is a fine one – making this often overlooked entertainer, a true unsung heroine of horror!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Dolores Gray

Published June 13, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

The sultry Dolores Gray (1922-2002) had a unique career. She will probably go down in history as the only actress to win a Tony Award for a show that lasted only 6 performances (1954’s Carnival in Flanders). She also lit up the MGM Studios in the mid-fifties with her personal brand of glossy sophistication, but, ultimately, only had major roles in four films.

Thankfully, those celluloid adventures offered her the chance to often play game seductresses and extremely glamourous, catty rivals to her (generally more innocent and trustworthy) female co-stars.

She, perhaps, made her most significant performing mark as the vindictive, backstabbing Sylvia Fowler in 1956’S The Opposite Sex, a remake of Clare Booth Luce’s zing worthy The Women. This project found her going arched eyebrow to arched eyebrow (with some exuberant fisticuffs thrown in for good measure) with such cinematic notables as June Allyson, Ann Sheridan and Ann Miller.

Her most popular public offering, though, was perhaps 1957’s Designing Woman, directed by the diva loving Vincente Minnelli. Here, as theater starlet Lori Shannon, Gray provided competition for Lauren Bacall’s sensitive fashionista Marilla. While her character is more of a victim of circumstance here than in the previous effort, Gray still puts in a good show as a majorly distracting influence upon the whirlwind romance and marriage of Bacall’s fashion queen and Gregory Peck’s beleaguered sports writer, Mike Hagen.

While Gray was quoted, by certain sources, as wishing that she had a more extensive filmography, one cannot deny the quality of the cool charm that she provided in the credits that she did have.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted To: James Mitchell

Published March 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


Not only did the handsomely eclectic James Mitchell enact one of soap opera’s most hiss worthy villains for decades, but this lucky performer was also one of the cast of thousands, as that film’s tag line so boldly highlighted, to appear in the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera


Granted, in Phantom, the always attention stealing Mitchell appears for mere moments as a reporter logging the details of the catastrophes that have haunted a local music hall. Thankfully, his turn as the diabolical Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children was a bit more substantial. There, his character continually made life hell for his often revolving spouses and judiciously tender offspring – all storyline subtext that Mitchell fully embraced, resulting in 7 Emmy nominations for the dedicated actor. 

Mitchell, who seemingly never hid his devotion to costume designer Albert Wolksy, his romantic partner for 39 years, also held dear his substantial pedigree as a theatrical artist. Humbly describing himself as an actor with strong movement skills, he actually was one of the Broadway stage’s most powerfully athletic dancers. Those who saw him perform never forgot it and his close collaborators included such mavericks as Agnes DeMille, Jerome Robbins and Gower Champion.

With DeMille, he famously essayed Dream Curly in the ballet sequence of 1955’s Oklahoma, where one of his partners was the beefy, animated character actor Rod Steiger. 

Thankfully, just like in that particular scenario, Mitchell always seemed to come off as unique and individualistic. So, while his one Gothic credit might only encompass a couple of minutes of screen time, the breadth of his career definitely speaks to the multiple achievements that one of our queer brothers could make – justifiably earning him a place in every gay horror lover’s heart forever. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and PINK Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Betty Hutton

Published March 7, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

While definitely played for comic effect, the effervescent Betty Hutton gamely enacted out some prime soap opera villainy against herself in 1942’s Here Come the Waves.

Here, playing twin sisters, Rosemary and Susan, Hutton is given ample opportunity to perform her rubbery, vaudeville loving heart out. In the interest of celluloid intrigue, the two characters she portrays are, naturally, radically different. The (12 minutes) older Rosemary presents as a stern and uncompromising force of practicality. Meanwhile, the (slightly) younger Susan is the loudly scattered, romantically ambitious one.  While Susan’s outlandish crush on pop singer Johnny Cabot (Bing Crosby) drives the majority of the plot here, her manic overtures, ultimately, repel him. The initially uninterested Rosemary, though, quickly steals his heart.

Catching onto the duo’s attraction to each other, the devious Susan decides to take matters into her own hands. Dressing up exactly like her look-a-like sibling, Susan arranges for Bing’s shocked Cabot to catch her in another’s embrace – momentarily derailing his relationship with Rosemary.

But by the closing frames, order has been restored with the chastened Susan realizing that Cabot is actually perfect brother-in-law material and that her own yearnings have found their unsurprising outlet with Sonny Tufts’ Windy, Cabot’s rascally friend and her co-conspirator in crimes of the heart.

Meanwhile, more information about Hutton and her extraordinary life and career s available at https://www.bettyhuttonestate.com/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Linda Purl

Published February 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

One perk of being a freelance entertainment writer is being able to spend a moment or two with performers who have meant something to you over the years. Illustrating this concept, I grew up watching actress Linda Purl on various movies of the week and television shows. As with many of the artists that I followed in my small-town youth, she personified hope. She was living proof that creative worlds existed far outside the seemingly narrow confines of my very sheltered, seemingly unworldly circumstances. Nicely, during my stint as the Midwest online theater editor for Sheridan Road Magazine, I was able to briefly interview Purl.

Of course, one of the negatives of journalism is that, over the years, certain online pieces are archived or erased completely from existence. This was the case with my mini-chat with Purl. But with another birthday approaching and the isolation of COVID still maintaining a strangle hold on most socialization efforts, my nostalgia has, unsurprisingly, been in full bloom. Thus, I have decided to revive that long ago conversation here.

This feels especially appropriate as Purl has given strong performances in two of my favored terror efforts. The clipped strength she provides as Nurse Sheila Monroe in the 1982 slasher effort Visiting Hours nicely balances out the misogynistically violent actions of Michael Ironside’s villain with a powerful feministic glow. Interestingly, she, herself, provided a sense of delicious glee, ten years later, in a role that completely reversed the more honorable characteristics of Monroe. As Norma in Body Language, she archly presents that character’s over-the-top psychotic energy, seducing and bludgeoning her victims with succinct forthrightness.

As a lover of the arts, I probably admire this fine performer’s dedication to traditional thespianism the most, though. Therefore, I am glad to present this exploration of her show business roots from the fall of 2012, here, in its (short but sweet) entirety.

From Sheridan Road Magazine – 10/2012.

“Meanwhile, the news of the Goodman Theatre’s (www.goodmantheatre.org) upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Diane Lane, is proving to be one of Chicago’s hottest tickets of the fall theatre season. Williams, best known for uncovering the emotional ravages of the heart, dealt with class issues in his prime works, as well. Sheridan Road was lucky enough to catch up with deservedly popular actress Linda Purl at the Hollywood Show (www.hollywoodshow.com) in Rosemont, this past weekend. The amazingly eclectic Purl, currently enjoying success with her versatile roles on The Office and True Blood, revealed she is a theater artist, at heart, in our brief conversation. The generous singer-actress also, mentions a very personal connection with Williams, one of history’s greatest playwrights.

Sheridan Road: It’s very apparent from your detailed, layered work on camera that the theater is very close to your heart.

Linda Purl: True. I grew up in Japan and my parents and I attended a lot of theatre. We would perform summer stock in the living room together – that was our family glue.

SR: That’s an amazing memory. Is there a particular play that you’ve done that stands out as a favorite?

LP: I have two. (Thinking a moment. Then, happily -) No. Three! There’s a beautiful play called the Baby Dance. We performed it in LA at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. We, eventually, got it to Off-Broadway.  Then there’s The Road to Mecca – with Julie Harris! – Which speaks for itself. Then – playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

SR: Tennessee Williams’ master work!

LP: I knew him. Tennessee Williams had lived with us, briefly, when I was a child. – It’s a perfect play, as close to doing opera as you can get with a drama.

SR: Were the emotional places that Blanche descends into challenging for you as an actress?

LP: The play supports you fully on your journey. But, it’s daunting – you have to dig down deep.

SR: How long did you perform the role?

LP: Three months…I wasn’t ready for it to close.

SR: That’s understandable. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness your perfect, tender take on the ballad “This Time Tomorrow” from Tom Sawyer on Broadway knows you are a cabaret artist of note. I understand that you have a new show opening this fall.

LP: Yes, Midnight Caravans…Travels Through the Great New York Nightclubs will open at Feinstein’s in New York City on September 30th. We have Tedd Firth, a brilliant young musical director, and Desi Arnaz, Jr, is flying into do percussion. He is just so talented, so gifted and I am so grateful that he willing to be a part of this project with me. The first night, a portion of the proceeds will go the Actors Fund, a charity that is very close to my heart, as well.

SR: A perfect example of how art can entertain and benefit society, as well. You have such a vast body of work – from mini-series to comedies to drama – and every person probably has their personal favorite. Is there a television or film project that is close your heart?

LP; I loved doing Like Normal People.

SR: The television film with Shaun Cassidy! You’re amazing in that. It’s, also, a project about the social injustice of the handicapped that everyone should check it out, if they haven’t!”

Fortunately, while it is too late to attend that version of Midnight Caravans, Purl does offer up a recorded tribute to that show at Linda Purl – An American Actress & Singer. You can sign up there to receive notifications of all her future projects, as well.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Carol Douglas

Published February 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

With her take on Doctor’s Orders, the well-rounded Carol Douglas found herself swimming through the upper echelons of disco ballrooms, worldwide. The popularity of that song earned her a special mention in the background of Saturday Night Fever, but her preceding stints on television shows like The Patty Duke Show and several appearances in off-Broadway productions already proved she was a talent to be reckoned with.

Nicely, one of her more interesting assignments during her ‘70s heyday was providing the dance tune for the truly eclectic soundtrack of Haunted, a dusty look at the revenge that a ghost of a Civil War witch takes on the ancestors of those who murdered her.

Like the film itself, which mixed such Hollywood notables as Virginia Mayo co-starring with such newcomers as Playboy model Ann Michelle, the music here features dramatic story songs like Billy Vera’s Indian Woman, Freya Cayne’s gooey love ballad A Distant Time and Douglas’ exuberant vocalizing on the club ready You Make Me Feel the Music.

Thankfully, for all fans of that Summers’ Era of Boogying, Douglas is still making those bright lights shine positively at Carol Douglas | Facebook.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Larry Kert

Published February 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

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The irreplaceably talented Larry Kert definitely knew the glaring disparities involved with a career in show business. Exploding into the pubic consciousness as Tony in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, he ultimately found that role would be the one that he was best known for despite decades of fine portrayals and other significant career highs.

Truly eclectic, he counterbalanced the glaring romanticism of his most famous work as the heavy drinking, casually seductive acrobat George in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an enjoyable 1962 horror outing from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Written by terror wunderkind Robert Bloch and featuring a notorious shock ending, this outing has a lot in common with such carnival themed shockers as Circus of Horrors and Berserk.

Paired with the voluptuous Diana Dors, who also played a similar role in the previously mentioned Berserk, Kert radiates with a subtle cockiness and bravado here. But as he discovers that Dors’ schemes contain an inherently murderous malice, this musically toned pro shows his character’s true humanity and concern, creating a complex portrait of a tortured soul.

While winning further acclaim for his work in such theater projects as Cabaret and Company, replacing both male leads in their initial runs to great renown, Kert was also spoken about highly by colleagues who admired his courage in being openly gay in a period of time when that was considered unacceptable. Although, it has been noted that he was called out by some closeted gay creatives for being too carefree and obvious about his orientation, a double-edged sword that he seemingly rode with great finesse and steely resolve.

Sadly, this strong willed and courageous performer lost his life to AIDS at the age of 60 in 1991. His memory, though, lives on through all the proud gay horror fans who appreciate his small contribution to the art of fear and the even bigger ones he made to our visibility in the fields of creativity and beyond.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Thelma Carpenter

Published January 29, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Broadway. Hollywood. The Apollo. Radio. From the recording studio to smoky night clubs, the diminutive, nearly indestructible Thelma Carpenter made her mark with sophisticated ease. Of special note, her 1963 album Thinking of You Tonight not only appealed to discerning jazz and sophisticated pop aficionados, but to directors like Bob Fosse and Sidney Lumet. These mavericks cast her in shows like Pippin and films like The Wiz, where her appearance as Miss One earned her a true-blue regent of fans.

Euro dynamo Jeannot Szwarz (Jaws 2, Supergirl, Night Gallery) also recognized her uniqueness by utilizing her talents as one of the mysterious Poole Sisters in 1973’s Rosemary’s Baby inspired The Devil’s Daughter. Paired with the equally interesting Lucille Benson (Private Parts, Halloween 2), Carpenter brings a unique and calming menace to her role as a friendly spinster who seems just a little too interested in the origins of Diane Show, an innocent career woman played by Belinda J. Montgomery.

Acting much like the clan of witches that terrorized Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse in the Polanski classic, Carpenter and Benson are joined here by such show biz notables as Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotten, Dark Shadows‘ eternal Jonathan Frid and Abe Vigoda in making sure that Montgomery submits to her reluctant character’s predetermined satanic fate. Nicely acting off each other’s unique energy, this duo also invests their interactions with a quirky sense of humor, as well.

Indeed, Carpenter’s quiet weirdness ultimately causes Show/Montgomery to claim, as she herself so authoritatively did in the golden age of television, that You’re Driving Me Crazy!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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