I have a new hero! I have often spotted Michael Musto at Cherry Grove, always in awe of him but too intimidated by his illustriousness to approach him. Finally last summer, after consuming a multitude of cocktails, I obtained the courage to ask for a picture with him. I was elated when without hesitation he said Yes. Then last year at the Get Out! Awards I was again privileged to have a photo with him once again.
To my surprise, Mike Todd, Get Out!’s awesome publisher, informed me that Musto would be receiving this year’s “Legendary Icon Award,” and that there would be an interview to accompany the award. I immediately jumped at the chance to have a conversation with Musto, feeling both honored and terrified at the same time. Five minutes before the interview, I was still praying to the powers above that I would remember how to speak once
he answered the phone. Known to the entire world for his 29 years as a columnist for the “Village Voice” (he was let go last year, to the shock and dismay of many), Musto now writes for Out.com. Named one of the “Out” 100 most influential personalities of the LGBT community, Michael Musto is a man of quality and greatness!
Having more credits to his name than I have room to list, he has appeared on A&E, “The Real Housewives of New York,” “The Smurfs Movie,” “Smash” and a vast array of documentaries, including “Divine.” He has also made appearances on public television, is a published author and, in my opinion, is a prophet. I’ve always found him to be quiet, almost shy on Fire Island, so I was amazed by his liveliness and his sensibility during the interview. Besides being more charming, candid and truthful, I found his humor staggering. He made me laugh the entire time we spoke.
First, I want to congratulate you on your Legendary Icon Award.
Thank you. It’s the high point of my life so far. It must be that I’m terminally ill or something. They must know something I don’t know.
I hope that’s not the case. Now I’m sure almost everyone in the world knows, especially your fans, but for those who may not, how did you begin your career?
Well, I went to Columbia University here in New York City. In fact, I’ve never left New York my entire life. I practiced in journalism with the daily papers there, as well as writing for outside publications. Then the second I got out, I was immersed immediately in the nightlife, the gay world, the cultural scene, and it made sense, since I had my finger in every pot, to write about all that, which I did. I eventually, in 1984, got a column at the “Village Voice,” and that became my home for many years, which is over now, but I have a weekly column at Out.com called “Musto! The Musical,” and I’m writing for all kinds of other publications. So my iconic side is still glowing.
I’ve read that you were in a Cyndi Lauper video in drag. True?
Yes. She did a remake of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” sort of like a reggae version of it. Cyndi directed it, and the entire cast was made up of like New York drag queens basically. I’m not a conventional drag queen, so when I showed up on the set, Jerry Mitchell, who was the choreographer, looked like he wanted to die when he saw my look. I had like a house dress, a dirty house dress and a wig. They had to totally redo me, so when you see me in the video, you see me in this gorgeous blue, sparkly gown with nice hair, nice drop earrings. My closet is a mess.
I can just imagine. So, have you ever written anything that you wish you hadn’t?
I can’t really say that, because I’m proud of what I’ve written. I’m proud of places I’ve gone to, big people that I’ve fought against and the small people that I’ve celebrated. I’m big on regrets, but I try not to regret things I’ve written, because they put me where I am, which is a celebrated place.
Have you ever had to write about someone or something that you really hated?
Yeah, but part of my writings are saying that I hate something. I have no problem saying what’s wrong with New York culture, and also what’s good about it. So that’s never a problem. And I’m nervy. I’ll show up to a party, and I’ll see the people that I’ve written trash about, and I don’t back down.
Are you inspired by anyone?
Yes, I was inspired growing up by all the great novelists, like Charles Dickens. Then in the ‘70s I caught wind of what was called “The New Journalism,” people like Tom Wolfe, and I was totally intoxicated by that. I’m mainly inspired by drag queens. That’s why I’m glad we do the “Get Out! Awards,” because I like anyone who has the bravery to tap inside themselves and find their fabulous diva and play that down role for the world. We need laughter more than ever, and drag queens provide that.
In my next life I’m going to be a drag queen.
Me too! Me too! I gotta learn how to tuck and shave and wax, because in that Cyndi Lauper video I looked hairy!
So you’re currently working on a film called “Glory Daze”?
“Glory Daze,” what the fuck is that?
The Life and Times of Michael Alig.
Oh, Michael Alig. They’ve been filming that for years. I mean I have to look in IMDB sometimes just to see what’s happening in my career. The director was waiting for Michael to get out of jail, which he did. Now I think he’s probably following him around to get footage that would complete the film. I’m in so many documentaries. I’m in one about “Divine,” and then they turn up on Netflix. These documentaries really develop a life of their own.
What’s your most memorable film or documentary?
That I was in?
I was in the last episode of that show “Smash” on TV. It was on NBC, and it was the show about the makings of the Broadway hit. I played myself, which I’m very good at doing. The only problem was, it was the very last episode, and they aired it opposite “Behind the Candelabra,” the Liberace thing with Michael Douglas. A lot of people only watched the Liberace thing. That hurt me, but… I had a bit of a part in the “Smurf” movie, which is bizarre. I’m like, “What am I doing here?” Somebody did not do a background check on me for a family PG film.
That had to be so much fun.
It was a hoot. It was me, Joan Rivers and Sofia Vergara and all these fun people.
Which smurf were you?
No, I played myself. I didn’t play a smurf.
I think you would have made a cute smurf.
“The Legendary Icon Smurf.”
If you could be anyone for a week, who would you choose?
I would definitely be Meryl Streep.
Because I would love to feel that enchanted by talent and just to know that every decision you make is the right decision. There is no way she sits around with regrets. Every movie she makes is magical; every performance she gives is superlative. To have that touch of enchantment about you must feel so magical. I would love to be her even for five minutes, just to go to the bathroom. Anything. She probably goes to the bathroom in an amazing, brilliant way.
If you were a porn star, what would your name be?
If I were a porn star? That’s a good one. Rock Hard, I guess.
We had “Rock Hudson,” now we have Rock Hard.
Interesting. No one ever admitted to beige.
Close next: cream.
If you were a superhero, what would your powers be?
To make all homophobes disappear. I would fight all the homophobes and make them drop.
Good choice. Is there anything in your life that you haven’t yet accomplished but would like to?
Dying. That’s the only thing I haven’t done yet really. I’ve done everything literally that you could do while you’re alive. The only thing I have to look forward to is my utter extinction. But I hope it’s not anytime soon by me getting this award.
I hope not.
This award feels very much like a lifetime achievement or something. I don’t care, I’ll take it.
Well, it’s yours.
I’ll take it. It’s got my name on it.
How does it feel to be one of the “Out” 100 most influential people in the LGBT community?
It feels great, because I’ve always felt that I was one of the out gay people before it was cool. To be chosen at a time when there are so many out gay people – producers, actors, etc. – that was a great honor. I work for “Out,” so they don’t usually put their own employees on the list, so that was a personal honor.
Anything else you would like to promote?
My book just came out on e-book. It’s “A Fork on the Left, A Knife in the Back,” and it’s a collection of some of my best columns.