Participating in a recent forum on how to effectively market at-home HIV testing, I got a $200 gift card. Not wanting to spend it on a hustler, I instead gave $150 of that to The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead's Planned Parenthood, I Am Here for You fundraiser that happened here in NYC last night—and it was not only a good investment but also a good investment.
I showed up at 6:30PM at the Gramercy for the VIP reception to find a handful of non-famous women spiked with the evening's famous females—Winstead, Salon editor Joan Walsh, Sandra Bernhard and Lisa Lampanelli. I was the only dude for the longest time in a room filled with women and several womyn.
Talking to a few attendees about the art of the photo op, I figured out we were supposed to meet and greet the stars on our own—there was no formal line happening. This makes it a bit awkward because you don't really want to shoehorn yourself between Winstead and Bernhard when they're engrossed in a conversation about their bodies/their selves. Especially when you're announcing that you blog at something called Boy Culture.
But it was totally fine and the women were absolutely gracious and eager to pose for photos and chat. Winstead is the ultimate feminist to me—unswerving on principle, unbothered by political correctness, utterly hilarious. She was in boots and a dress that looked macramaed from a distance. She reminds me of Laurie Metcalf and Barrie Longfellow.
I posed with her, Bernhard and Walsh and was struck by how warm they all were. Walsh is Sigourney Weaver meets Meredith Vieira in person.
I reminded Bernhard that we'd met at her interview with Belinda Carlisle for the latter's book-signing and she was supernice, reassuring me that a site devoted to boys was no insult.
Then I spotted iconic Y.A. author Judy Blume so had to introduce myself. She was lovely! I didn't have much to say beyond how much I admired her and her work. Like me, she likes to control a photo op. She waved off the first one as "too close!" and I told the photographer, "Not too far away!" Between her facial concerns (she looks great, though) and my body concerns (no comment), we wound up with two nice shots. She was radiant and was treated like royalty by the famous females, who grabbed photos with her. "This is for Twitter!" Lampanelli kept saying, even though during her act later on she complained Twitter would be the death of her.
Lampanelli didn't come with her nice hubby, "Jimmy Big Balls"—I guess like all men he left the reproductive-choice stuff to his woman. But she had a nice gay (or just guy) doing her bidding and was, as always, extremely down to earth and sweet. She remembered me from Michael Musto's recent party so I had to reassure her I wasn't stalking her.
Having met the show's line-up and having had a great conversation with three really fun fellow VIPs, it was time to head up for our front-row seats.
The set-up was dizzying—I was superclose to the stage in a folding chair, and there were these severe backlights that made the figures before me look like the Second Coming. It was exactly like watching an old, stylish movie with a scene taking place at a political debate, where all you see is the candidate, a lot of black and a couple of blinding spotlights to suggest a huge space filled with people. Making it even more politically theatrical/theatrically political, Christine Quinn opened the show with a sassy speech on Planned Parenthood's importance.
I've seen her speak before, but she really has polished her act immensely. In spite of some missteps that have soured me on her a bit, she had me in her corner. She reminds me of Patty Duke and has a very effective comedic air about her. She looked svelte and completely ready to be New York's first female mayor, which she almost certainly will be when King Bloomberg abdicates.
Winstead's routine was hilarious. She's got such a biting wit and is, obviously, well informed on everything happening politically and in the news. She relied on notes, but it didn't detract from her show.
Of the Republican prez contenders (of whom "the two smartest ones believe their underwear is magical") she said, "'Government doesn't create jobs!' Really? Except for the one you've got and the one you want!" She razzed Michele Bachmann's "totally not gay" husband, who wants to cure gays but "couldn't cure a fuckin' ham." If Rick Perry becomes someone's running mate he'd be the HPV VP. On Newt Gingrich: "His entire staff walked out on him. At least they had the decency to do it when he wasn't in the hospital." Sarah Palin's ghost-written Twitter: "When you don't have any character, 140 of them can be daunting." If Obama were in The Lord of the Rings, it would have been over in a page—"You don't compromise with orcs!"
Her brief Q&A with Walsh was funny and rousing, with Walsh recounting her bloody verbal battle with Bill O'Reilly, who called her a baby killer after she'd had the gall to suggest that the right might want to ratchet their rhetoric down a few notches in the wake of Dr. George Tiller's public execution.
Next came Bernhard, who was as funny as ever. Actually, I think I liked her better here than on her Without You I'm Nothing redo. She was completely at ease and riffing against conservative Judaism and Israel, not to mention Kabbalah—to hear her tell it, her WASP wife utterly rejected the crazy "thieves" running the joint, and Bernhard herself called for an end to all religion, threatening to blow the place up. It was dangerously funny and she knew it.
She brought up Madonna once. While praising Lady Gaga for trying to do the right thing, she said she worried for her based on her tireless schedule. "Jesus, she's starting to make Madonna look laconic," she observed. But Bernhard's 13-year-old said, "No, Mommy, she took three months off last year—she has to get back to work!" showing how everything has sped up in our culture, and that children know the score.
Lampanelli was unhinged! Imagine her thoughts about preparing some stand-up for a group of ultra-liberal feminists when every second word out of her mouth is "cunt?" But the crowd ate up her full frontal assault on decorum and racial sensitivity and howled with delight as she insulted just about everyone she could see from the stage. (I was wearing my reading glasses so was dubbed "Harry Potter's retarded brother"—I'll take it! I can take anything but fat!!!)
Her reenactment of hosting some porn awards and having to let some of the actresses have jokes ("I don't suck dicks for a living, they don't tell jokes," had been her initial rebuff) had 'em rolling in the aisles.
The best was when she noticed a 12-year-old kid and branded his mother an "unfit cunt" for bringing him to such a racy show. She had him lifted onstage and quizzed him about stereotypes, asking him which people are the laziest (he unexpectedly went with "Republicans!" after some prodding), which are the smelliest (answering "socks" got him labeled "retarded") and who takes it up the ass. Lampanelli had control over the situation and my guess was she could read in his semi-mortified mother's eyes that she had permission enough. It was classic.
After this, a singer with whom I was unfamiliar—Ambrosia Parsley—did a few timeless-sounding numbers and a very funny parody song based on recent events in the news before Winstead returned to read an essay from her forthcoming book.
Her essay was a remembrance of what it was like for her as a popular 16-year-old cheerleader to get pregnant the very first time she had sex and then find herself in one of those religion-based "clinics," where she was told she had two choices, "You can be a mother, or you can be a murderer." It was powerful and funny at the same time, a perfect end to a perfectly fun night.
Consider donating to Planned Parenthood here, even if there is no way in hell you ever accidentally knocked up any chicks. It's an invaluable service, one that—Winstead joked about this and then called for it to happen—should be in every mall in the land.