On Friday, June 25, at 7:30 p.m., writer, actor, and comedian Bruce Vilanch—known for writing scripts, punch lines and even the occasional song for such gay icons as Bette Midler, Cher, and Eartha kitt—will appear at The Manor Complex on Wilton Drive. He promises anecdotes from a career that never ceases to amuse and amaze.
“I love Fort Lauderdale,” Vilanch said. “I have a mother in Boca, but I am not a prisoner of Boca. I like going to Fort Lauderdale, and Key West off-season because I can go around without it being crowded.”
Vilanch sat down with SFGN after a Pride event in Pittsburgh, before heading to another one in Milwaukee. Even his appearance on the drive comes while he is based in newyork City for what he describes as an “extended pride-ful stay.”
“June’s a busy month to be a gay icon. I don’t know how many Pride events I am a part of this year,” Vilanch said. “I’d have to ask my accountant.”
Of the event atThe Manor, “It’s a break from Pride. I am doing a one-night show telling stories, talking about my bizarre career. It’s a strange act. Is it stand up,” Vilanch says.“no, it’s sit down. I have a tremendous trove of tales I tell, from 21 years of writing the Oscars.”
Vilanch wrote his first Academy Awards show with famed producer, talent-maker and friend Allen Carr in 1989. That production of the Oscars was labeled the worst Academy Awards presentation ever, given Carr’s outlandish production that infamously involved Rob Lowe singing to what Disney later contested was an unauthorized use of Snow White. “At the time I had nothing to compare it to and I didn’t realize that every year there is a controversy with the Os- cars one way or another. Allen invited it on himself though, so they all ganged up on him, with Disney launching that ridiculous lawsuit. I thought, ‘yeah, that’s been trashed for me.’ I came back though. I managed to survive. It was Allen who took the big hit,” he said of his late collaborator.
However, the 1989 production of the Academy Awards was not as much a disaster, perhaps, as has been recorded.
“A lot of people liked it, it was one of things where a critic or writer decides it’s the worst thing in history, but ratings were higher than ever that year and there was a younger demographic watching.”
Vilanch credits the show’s “infamy” as being a byproduct of the subsequent fallout from Rob Lowe’s scandalous sex tape that came out a few weeks later.
“It became a notorious flop after the sex tape. At the time I felt it was controversial. Then, 20 years later, it’s the worst show of all time.Who knew? It was infamous but I have done 20 shows since.”
While he had written for the show before, this was the first one in which he received credit. “Twenty years ago, however, there were only two writers. now there are as many as 14 on the show.”
He has never allowed the success of his tenure with the Academy Awards to let him sit still. “A moving target is harder to hit, I continue on the move,” he laughed.“you’d think I’d be thinner.”
He describes his inability to sit still as coming from “delicious career opportunities” that “come up” and that he cannot turn down.
In addition to his numerous Pride ap- pearances, he hosted Showtime’s The Gay and Lesbian Comedy Slam, which will air throughout June on the network. Recently, he appeared in a yet-unreleased film called Walk A Mile in My Pradas.
A show Vilanch wrote in 1978 has been reworked and restaged in Manhattan this summer. The show is Platinum, about an aging starlet who attempts a comeback as a musician.The current incarnation is a laissez-faire project for him. “It seems like nothing you do in your youth goes away anymore. Everything comes back to bite you in your ass. In 1978 it didn’t work. My partner did a revival a few years after. So, now, a fan of the show has come along with a new attack on it. But I’m not really involved with the production, as of this writing.”
In addition to Vilanch’s career as a writer and comedian, he is well known for his appearances at charity events and functions, which take up a great deal of his time. When asked how he is able to balance his charitable and non-charitable appearances, his answer is simple and to the point.
“I don’t. The charity appearances get out of hand. I started 25 years ago for AIDS benefits. In those days, the only way to raise money for an AIDS event was the old Judy-and-Mickey-put-on-a-show-in-a-barn- tradition. In the beginning nobody would do these benefits,” he said.
According to Vilanch, in those days, he had to basically make arrangements wherein he would appear at your event, if you would appear at his.Vilanch is still proud to lend his name to numerous organizations.
“I like working with hand-to-mouth chari- ties because 90 percent on the dollar goes to the recipients. Charities that operate close to the ground.” keeping in step with his never-stop-moving-attitude, Vilanch is also working on a book.
“I am writing a book right now, which will talk about all those things everyone has already heard about it,” Vilanch added.
It goes without saying that when he re- counts the story, it takes on a life of its own.
Having such a great wit and writer on the phone, it was impossible not to ask him something to personalize the interview. Mr.Vilanch did advise, prior to the phone interview, that I have lubrication ready. So, something... slightly off-color was in order.
When asked, “What is your favorite pick-up line,” his response was quick.
“Excuse me, but you’re standing on my penis. It works every time. I recommend it for heterosexuals too. Lesbians are not really gonna get mileage on it, but maybe I don’t know. These modern lesbians are up to new tricks.”