LIZ SMITH: Just Wait For the Opera! ...

"Brokeback Mountain," the opera, coming to Madrid's Teatro Real.
"Brokeback Mountain" — If You Thought The Movie Was Depressing, Just Wait For the Opera! ... THE FBI Still Loves J. Edgar Hoover: Call Him a Blackmailer, Call Him a Bully, Call Him Power-Mad. Just Don't Call Him a Cross-Dresser! ... Faye Dunaway in The New Q Magazine.
Monday, September 16, 2013
by Liz Smith

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in "Brokeback Mountain."
Elizabeth Taylor as Catherine Holly and Sebastian in "Suddenly Last Summer."
"I WISH I knew how to quit you."

That is the famous line from Ang Lee's 2005 movie, "Brokeback Mountain."

This was a movie I was not especially fond of. In fact, I disliked it. And I suffered the slings and arrows of press reps and members of the gay community because I didn't agree that it was a "breakthrough" film — a Romeo and Juliet thing.

When I initially reviewed it, I gave full measure to most of the performances. (But I thought the late Heath Ledger mumbled and almost needed subtitles!) I didn't see what had been advanced. It was a throwback to the bad old days when the gays always had to die. Sebastian Venable in "Suddenly Last Summer" had a better time of it than the "gay cowboys" of "BM." And they weren't really cowboys. They were mostly shepherds.

It was all misery. In the end, everybody was dead or alone and shattered. The screening I attended was awash in tears.

After my review appeared, the press rep called to say, "Well! If that's the way you feel ..." I hadn't bashed it nor slavishly adored it. As if my opinion mattered. The movie took three Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee. It was a big box-office success.
NOW COMES word that "Brokeback Mountain" is to be re-invented as an opera! It will debut in Madrid on January 28th. Bless all involved, including creator Charles Wuorinen, director Ivo Van Hove, and Annie Proulx, who wrote the libretto. Her short story was the basis of the movie, and now this. Ditto also to the stars, Daniel Okulitch, Tom Randle, Heather Buck and Hannah Esther Minutillo. It is commissioned by Gerard Mortier.

Annie Proulx and Charles Wuorinen in Madrid's Teatro Real.
Unless the opera version leaves everybody happy and alive, I can't imagine not wanting to slit one's wrists as the curtain falls. But opera is seldom happy. (Or, as Cher said in "Moonstruck," after her character attends a performance of "La Boheme": "I can't believe she died. I mean, I knew she was sick ...") In any case, it's modern opera, which is something, at least.

However, one opera savvy pal of mine is not impressed: "Gerard Mortier is the impresario who was slated to take control of the New York City Opera a few years ago when the company decided it needed an avant-garde shot in the arm. He subsequently backed out once he realized he would actually have to stay within budget and that New York was not ready — or actually too sensible — for his radical nonsense. The whole fiasco contributed to the near collapse of the City Opera. This, apparently, is the sort of brilliance we are missing."

Ouch!
AS FOR gays onscreen, the great major studio gay film has yet to be made. It can't be about AIDS or drag-queens, or elderly men coming out as they die, or people pulled comically out of the closet. It will have to deal with gay people as they are — real people, with real issues that are not very — if at all — different from the heterosexual world.

But it seems many are lulled into believing "RuPaul's Drag Race" on TV, constitutes advancement.
P.S. to all that. I mentioned the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington the other day and remarked that I am surprised the F.B.I. still wants to venerate the detested, defrocked J. Edgar as a hero worthy to have a famous important building named for him.

A very innocent-looking J. Edgar, and a more seasoned version.
This is a man who blackmailed — or tried to blackmail — every U.S. President from FDR through Nixon. He insisted all through the '40s and '50s and on, that there was no Mafia. But his FBI searched and ruined hundreds of lives of those who were termed "reds" or Communists. He denied fruitlessly, but successfully, in a manner of speaking, that he was gay. (This suited the prejudiced times and I'm not criticizing him for that!)

It is to laugh, however, to hear that current FBI-ers still love J. Edgar and are not concerned with his despotic ways but with accusations that he was a cross-dresser. They should know Hoover's late friend, the sometimes delightful but under-handed attorney Roy Cohn, was the source of all those delicious tales about Hoover in smart frocks. He told these tales while Hoover was alive and after he died in 1972, during the fall of Richard Nixon.

I knew Roy only too well; he was a fabulous source of inside info, gossip and gross exaggeration. He insisted he wasn't gay but J. Edgar was. I didn't really care but didn't approve of Hoover's unchecked power.

And right there in this month's Vanity Fair, on page 214, is a 1993 Risko portrait of J. Edgar, dressed in a sleek black gown which reveals burgeoning chest hair, and a glamorous black fur throw around his shoulders.

The F.B.I. is proud that Hoover put them on the map but they will probably never forgive Roy Cohn for his remarks and they surely don't like the character Leo DiCaprio gave us as Hoover in the recent film "J. Edgar."
IF YOU are able to lay your hot little hands on the Q magazine put out by Elizabeth and Christopher Meigher of Quest Media, then don't miss this month's Liz by-line on the one and only legend Faye Dunaway. (You can buy this magazine or subscribe at 420 Madison Ave., NYC 10017. It is listed for $5.)

With immense help and input from the movie maven Denis Ferrara, I was able to write what I consider to be the best movie star profile I've ever managed — about Faye the woman and star, her downs, her ups. And I have written about almost all the legends of the silver screen for Q, so I don't know why they haven't collected them into a book for cinema history.

Just bragging.

Contact Liz Smith here.

Click here
for NYSD contents.