Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Dance Party: When Glue Was Pasted Instead of Sniffed

This week's Dance Party began its life on the Broadway stage, as a comic number in the second act of I Love My Wife. Never heard of it? You're not alone. The show was a Cy Coleman charmer which was most definitely tied to its time period, the 1970s. In fact, it is so tied to that sexually provocative era that, for about 30 years or more, you would be hard pressed to find a production of it anywhere. Though the show may seem a natural for reviving, as it has a peppy score and a very small cast for a musical (four principles and a four-man band, which appears onstage and interacts with the stars), the subject matter (wife-swapping) went out of style with the conservative Reagans and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic.

The show is seeing a bit of a renaissance lately, as we are now far enough away from the swinging 70s to treat the show as a period piece. I enjoyed the show very much when I saw its original production (I wrote about that here), and am glad to see it start to pop up again here and there.

The show came to my mind when I ran across this clip. It's from a variety special of the period, and is being delivered by the great Bea Arthur, and the not-so-great Rock Hudson. Rock was certainly never known as a musical talent, though his celebrity lead him to be cast as the lead in the National Tour of On the Twentieth Century. His vocal prowess was limited, to say the least, and in fact, the producers cut the big 11:00 number from that show ("The Legacy," preserved brilliantly by original star John Collum on the Broadway Cast Album); Hudson simply could not sing it.

Here, he acquits himself fine, with the strength of Bea Arthur to shore him up. The number is rarely heard today, for obvious reasons: we don't consider recreational drug use to be particularly charming anymore. Both our stars have left us, of course (I wrote about Bea Arthur's death here), with Hudson's death being particularly infamous. He was really the first big star to die of AIDS, which, in his final days, he acknowledged he had contracted. But I am not one who believes Rock to be courageous, as he continued to insist he had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion. Well, maybe he did, but it's doubtful, as we now know all about his promiscuous lifestyle. He would truly have been a hero if he had, during those last months of his life, acknowledged his homosexuality to the public. He died 25 years ago this week.