Friday, March 10, 2000

“When Pigs Fly” Soars

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #125, March 10, 2000)

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PHOTO CAPTION: In a scene from When Pigs Fly, Ursus Torrente (with Richard Tscholl) asks the musical question “Why do they say I’m not all man?”


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PHOTO CAPTION: Ralph Schmidt, in a number from The Black Guard’s production of When Pigs Fly, shows why “Bigger is Better.”


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PHOTO CAPTION: Some outrageous costumes from the When Pigs Fly finale: center, Carl Gscheidmeier wears a costume made of giftwrap; left, Bruce Gohr wears a gown made of black plastic trash bags; just behind Carl you can see part of the costume made of plastic soda bottles and disposable picnicware.


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PHOTO CAPTION: The closing tableau from The Black Guard’s production of When Pigs Fly.


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PHOTO CAPTION: The “Wear Your Vanity With Pride” number from When Pigs Fly. Left to right: Mike Delorme, Carl Gscheidmeier, Richard Tscholl.


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PHOTO CAPTION: From The Black Guard production of When Pigs Fly: Four playing cards sing “If You Want To Win At Love, You’ve Got To Stay In The Game.” Left to right: Mike Delorme, Colin Spriestersbach, Ursus Torrente, Bruce Gohr.


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PHOTO CAPTION: Howard Crabtree (George Jones) listens to Miss Roundhole (Richard Tscholl) explain why he should forget the theater and take up “watch repair, plumbing, garden supplies or chicken farming” instead.


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PHOTO CAPTION: Carl Gscheidmeier, left, and George Jones in a patriotic moment from The Black Guard’s production of When Pigs Fly.


Howard Crabtree, one of the most flamboyant and outrageous theatrical costume designers ever, was brought back to spectacular life in the person of George Jones during The Black Guard’s recent production of When Pigs Fly. The high point of this year’s Black Frost run, the show was a good-natured, campy, over-the-top romp that was a triumphant follow-up to last year’s Black Frost Wizard of Oz show. Crabtree succumbed to AIDS complications shortly before When Pigs Fly opened in New York several years ago, but I’m sure he was right there with the rest of us on Feb. 19 at the Mall of America’s Camp Snoopy Playhouse enjoying The Black Guard’s production of his show.

The Black Guard actually presented a melding of two shows by Howard Crabtree, When Pigs Fly and Whoop-Dee-Doo. Since Crabtree was first and foremost a costume designer, the most distinctive feature of his shows is the huge number of truly amazing costumes. Unfortunately, there aren’t many theater companies that will tackle one of Crabtree’s shows for that very reason—they don’t have the resources to create all those costumes. For this production, The Black Guard tracked down and borrowed some of Crabtree’s original costumes that haven’t been seen on stage since the New York productions; they also obtained costumes from Normandale Community College and The Guthrie Theater. Many costumes were made by Black Guard members themselves, working from drawings or photographs of the New York productions, and some of the costumes were made in Florida.

The costumes were amazing enough that they could have carried the show, but fortunately they didn’t have to. I saw When Pigs Fly in New York, so I already knew the script and songs were good. (The show was conceived by Crabtree and Mark Waldrop; sketches and lyrics are by Waldrop with music by Dick Gallagher.) Costumes, script, songs, choreography, and great performances by every cast member combined to make a very entertaining evening.

The Black Guard spent six months creating this production, and it was obvious as I was watching it that a lot of time and love had gone into it. (The production was dedicated to the memories of both Crabtree and Scott Darst.) Even though most of the songs were lip-synched, cast members still had to learn the songs to be able to lip-synch them; they also had to learn the dialogue, choreography (from the original shows via videotape), and the sheer backstage logistics of entrances, exits and costume changes.

The show’s basic premise is that Howard (played by George Jones) is trying to put on a show and meets obstacle after obstacle—a temperamental star (played by co-director Carl Gscheidmeier), props not working, bills not paid, and the ever-present spectre of his high-school teacher Miss Roundhole (Richard Tscholl) telling him that show business is not a suitable career and that he should instead take up “a) watch repair, b) plumbing, c) selling garden supplies or d) chicken farming.”

In spite of these threatened setbacks, Howard and the rest of the company managed to present over 25 witty song-and-dance numbers touching on gay issues relating from relationships to politics. “(If You Want To Win At Love) You’ve Got To Stay In The Game” features four chorusboys dressed as playing cards, while “Stuck On You” has three chorusboys dressed as bees buzzing around a giant No-Pest Strip. “Wear Your Vanity With Pride” contrasts the eighteenth-century European ideal of beauty, and the torments of powdered wigs and arsenic-whitened skin, with today’s gym-body ideal of gay male beauty (which includes its own torments). Politics were the subject of “You Can’t Take The Color Out of Colorado” and tongue-in-cheek torch song tributes by Colin Spriestersbach to Newt Gingrich, Strom Thurmond and Rush Limbaugh.

“You Are My Idol” paid homage to show-biz divas, starting with Mike Delorme playing a jungle savage impersonating Carol Channing, and continuing with Steve Burroughs as Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (shades of last year’s show!); producer and co-director Steve Katz as Barbra Streisand; George Jones as Mae West; Steve Bame as Bette Davis; special guest star Ava Monet as Marilyn Monroe; and finally with Gscheidmeier as an older Judy Garland singing “The Magic of Me.”

Rounding out the high-energy cast were Ursus Torrente, Ralph Schmidt and Bruce Gohr. According to co-director Gscheidmeier, “None of us are professional actors—it’s all for fun.” And what fun it was! True, there were a few rough edges present, such as the occasional forgotten line or late entrance, but they were handled with such grace and good humor that they only made the production more endearing.

Take a bow, everyone, and see you next year.

College Students Flock to “Radical Sex” Seminar

Also on Feb. 19, your humble columnist was one of four panelists presenting a “Coming to Terms with Radical Sex” seminar at the Midwestern Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender College Conference 2000. College students from throughout the midwest came to the campus of St. Cloud State College in St. Cloud, Minnesota, for a weekend of workshops, discussions, and keynote speakers dealing with GLBT movement activism on campus and how it relates to other social-justice movements.

The “Radical Sex” seminar dealt with leather/SM and also with polyamory. The other panelists were Ms. Minnesota Leather Mario, transsexual-polyamorous activity Aaron Lichtov, and Dennis, a St. Cloud-area leatherman. (The seminar’s moderator was Jeff Ringer.) I am proud to say that this was the best-attended break-out seminar of its time period, and maybe of the whole conference—the room was packed to capacity. Each panel member spoke for five to ten minutes, and then it was question-and-answer time. When it was over, a lot of good information had been exchanged, and hopefully many young minds had been opened to some interesting possibilities. If this is a representative sampling of the interest in “radical sex” among the younger generation, the future is looking very bright indeed.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Saturday, March 11

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Location and time to be determined
Call the Atons HotLine for more information and to make reservations. Information is also available at the club’s website:

Friday, March 17

Atons Club Colors Wearing of the Green Party
7:30-10:30 PM, The Minneapolis Eagle

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