Billy Masters

"Come to think of it, I'm thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings these days." – George W. Bush makes a self-deprecating quip on "Deal or No Deal." He may not be my favorite person, but funny is funny! And, maybe he's finally stumbled into a job he can handle!

In 1964, "Hello Dolly" debuted on Broadway without the person it was written for. Jerry Herman wrote "Dolly" for Ethel Merman, who turned it down. She finally took over the role in 1970 and played it for the show's last nine months. I was reminded of this footnote in musical theater history when Jenifer Lewis joined the Broadway company of "Hairspray" this week in the role written for her – "Motormouth Mabel." Because Lewis was committed to the TV series "Strong Medicine," she was unable to play the part onstage. And while no one can denigrate the previous "Mabels," the moment Jenifer hit the stage there was no doubt the diva had returned. As one person connected with the show said, "Whenever I think of that role, I hear Jenifer in my head – the sass, brass, and heart are all there." Folks like "Hairspray" composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the Divine Bette Midler, Darlene Love (who played the part for the past three years), Lipsynka, and many others turned out to cheer Jenny on. We'll post our exclusive photos on

I should add that for a show that's about six years old, "Hairspray" is remarkably fresh. The Broadway production feels as alive and vibrant as ever. George Wendt makes a surprisingly effervescent "Edna," newcomer Marissa Perry is a delight as "Tracy," and Karen Mason brings an arch, laconic droll to "Velma." Temporary "Link" Aaron Tveit was almost sexy enough to make me forget originator Matt Morrison, but I look forward to the return of Ashley Parker Angel (he's out on some mysterious medical leave).

While in NYC, I caught up with Jim Caruso, who does an incredible job hosting "Cast Party" at Birdland each and every Monday night (when he's not touring with Liza, that is). This packed venue allows Broadway pros and talented civilians alike to entertain the masses, accompanied by the incredibly talented Billy Stritch (when he's not touring with Liza, that is). I walked in while Kate Luckinbill was singing – which meant Lucie Arnaz Jr. was in the house (Kate is Little Lu's daughter). And, the timeless Marilyn Maye gave a virtual master class in phrasing and breathing, to say nothing of that exquisite undiminished instrument. You can get more info about Jim's event at

When I read that a CNN anchor was arrested for loitering in Central Park and was found to be in possession of crystal meth, my first thought was "Anderson, Anderson, Anderson – what are you doing??" Happily, Coop was not the CNN personality in question. It was Richard Quest – the British guy with the big teeth who talks about the royals. I suppose the crystal meth was shocking to some, but more intriguing to me was that he had a rope tied around his neck that extended down to his penile area. He also had some kind of undetermined sex toy in his boot (or, perhaps it's a typo – maybe it was in his booty). Shades of George Michael all over again.

I suppose I should say something about the shocking break up of Star Jones and Al Reynolds, but really, what is there to say? I suppose I could mention that despite an allegedly iron-clad prenup, Al has retained a high-priced barracuda of a lawyer. Why, you may ask? I suppose it's worth a few million to keep someone from airing dirty laundry. Whatever the reason, we hear the couple has lived apart for most of the past year, with Al sequestered in a South Beach condo. How convenient.

Madonna is going the well-worn route of playing a supposedly secret NYC club date to promote her new CD. Our pals at Warner Brothers tell us that Madge will be at Roseland on April 30. I'd write something clever here, but I'd have to get excited to do so.

I don't have to feign interest in a show starring Cher and Tina Turner. Leave it to Oprah to bring these two divas together for a special show. Although "Oprah, Cher and Tina in Vegas" will have taped by the time this column runs, the show won't air until May 8 – two days after Cher opens in Vegas. I, on the other hand, open at the drop of a hat.

Paula Abdul is allegedly considering competing on "Dancing with the Stars" – which will likely never happen because: a) she was once a professional dancer, b) she continues to be a professional choreographer, and c) she could never stay awake long enough to get through a single dance. Imagine Paula, a woman who can't walk by her dogs without tripping, trying to negotiate the quick step!

In one of the silliest bits of theater news, we're told that some producer in the UK is interested in casting Britney Spears in a production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." Now, I ask you, how silly is that? Can you even picture her in a torn T-shirt, screaming "Stella"? I don't buy it for a second! But she is returning to "How I Met Your Mother" – much to Neil Patrick Harris' chagrin. That poor boy is dancing as fast as he can, backtracking comments he made regarding Brit's first appearance on the sitcom. First he kinda bashed her. Then he took it back and said he was bashing the idea of stunt casting. Then he said he had no say because he's just an actor. Then he had to say how excited he was that she's coming back. Girl, get an opinion and stick with it!

That leads directly into this week's "Ask Billy" question from George in Maine: "I haven't seen 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall," but hear the guy from 'How I Met Your Mother' does the full monty. True or false? Big or small? Pic or video?"

True, kinda big, pics and videos on our Web site. To fill in the blanks, the actor in question is Jason Segel who plays "Marshall" on "How I Met Your Mother." Interestingly enough, he not only acts in this film, he actually wrote it! And, he insisted on the nude scene when "Sarah" breaks up with him near the beginning of the film. But, allegedly, he was slightly "fluffed" – which would explain the fullness. I know you're all waiting for me to say something about him looking like a big, fat pig. Well, the joke's on you – he actually looks better than I expected (I did, indeed, expect a big, fat pig). He's got a real average guy's body – and what's wrong with that? For a straight guy, I mean. Head over to where we have the exclusive nude shots and video from the flick.

When I'm applauding someone for being out of shape, it's definitely time to end yet another column. I promised you a big announcement last week, and here it is – Billy Masters is returning to the stage. I will be trying out my new one-man-show, "Going Out On A Limb" at Chicago's Bailiwick Repertory in their cozy Studio. Space is very tight for this strictly limited run of three shows only – May 21, 23 and 25. Yes, it coincides with Grabby and IML Weekend (otherwise known as Memorial Day Weekend), so a good time will be had by all. You can buy tickets at our Web site – where you'll also find a plethora of penii (that's the plural of penis). You can always write to me at [email protected] and I promise to get back to you before Britney depends on the kindness of strangers (again)! Until next time, remember, one man's filth is another man's bible.


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