The Original Gay Steps Into the Shoes of Paul Lynde in ‘Times Squares’ at The Laurie Beechman Theater
Famous celebrity journalist, TV and nightlife personality Michael Musto will be starring in a hysterical spoof on the game show “Hollywood Squares,” which will be called “Times Squares.” Seems as though he will become the new Paul Lynde as he will be enjoying the center square. The show will be presented at the Laurie Beechman Theater beginning Friday, April 12, at 10 p.m., and will continue to run every other Friday after that for six shows. Each week he will be joined by different guests, including Everett Quinton, Flotilla Debarge, Julian Fleisher and Ben Rimalower. The guests will perform in between the actual game, making it a night of comedy and cabaret.
Aside from that, Musto will also be helping in the promotion of Saks Fifth Avenue’s and Stonewall’s collaboration on sales for the LGBT charity. He as well as other queer personalities will be photographed for the publicity.
I spoke with Musto regarding both events, and as usual, it was a blast.
So, are you going to sit in levels as though it was the real “Hollywood Squares”?
Well, I think it’s only going to be three people, instead of nine people. So we don’t have to worry about different levels, and worry about it collapsing. It’s basically me as “center square,” and then two guest stars, which will be different every week. It could be Flotilla Debarge, Ben Rimalower and so on. Then in between the rounds of playing the actual game the two guest stars will get up and do their numbers. So you get a full variety show-type entertainment. It’s not just a game show. I always wanted to be center square; I wanted to be Paul Lynde. Only I’m out of the closet.
I think you are the reincarnation of Paul Lynde.
Paul Lynde was hilarious and very groundbreaking for his time, and he made a lot of innuendos. Even on “Hollywood Squares” he was making a lot of innuendos about being gay. For example, the one about, “Why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?” His answer was, “because chiffon wrinkles.” That’s a pretty gay answer. But he never came out on the record and said that he was gay. It was a different time; there really weren’t out celebrities. Still, he paved the way, and he was hilarious. Years later Whoopi Goldberg was a center square, Joan Rivers was a center square, and these are all my idols.
So that’s so cool for you.
So I’m stepping into those shoes… on a smaller scale, I would say. I always lived for that show. You always lived for seeing how those kooky celebrities are going to come up with a one-liner to answer the question, and then they had to give a serious answer. Then you would see if they had any actual knowledge, and usually they were pretty smart.
They have that TV channel where they just play those old game shows now.
Charles Nelson Reilly on the “Match Game” was pretty gay.
He was the flip side of Paul Lynde. He wore polyester and would flap his arms around—it was hilarious. Those were my gay role models growing up, even though they never said they were gay. Then you always have these fag-hag types like Brett Somers on “Match Game.” I loved her.
It’s the only channel I watch aside from weather.
I watch Carol Burnett. It’s like a new show. I call my friends to tell them who is on, and they ask me if I’m aware that it’s a rerun. I say, “Oh, it is?” I’m still living in the 60s. Well, we will see how witty I am on the spot. I hope I can pull it off.
So how did the idea originate?
This guy named Tim Cusack is the one who contacted me. He’s promoting the show. He’s promoted shows for Bionca Lee and Linda Simpson. He asked me if I’d want to be the center square, and I told him it was one of my dreams on my bucket list.
I actually thought it was gonna be a whole “Brady Bunch”-type situation with the nine people. Then it turned out it’s me and two guest stars.
Who are the contestants going to be?
The contestants are going to be from the audience. Tim Cusack is also the host.
Just for clarity, it’s going to take place at the Laurie Beechman Theater—when?
It’s every other Friday at 10 p.m. starting April 12. So there will be six of them, unless it gets held over. I’m going more for the feeling of the early “Hollywood Squares” with Peter Marshall. That’s when it was really fun. It wasn’t as fun with John Davidson. I’m scared for myself that I even know that John Davidson eventually took over. I shouldn’t know things like that. It will be called “Times Squares” instead of “Hollywood Squares.”
I love that you do, though.
You do too. At least I know whether these people were gay or not.
Well, I know now.
You just got the memo. Brace yourself, Eileen, Liberace was gay too.
Also, you are doing something regarding Stonewall that seems quite exciting.
Yes. It’s World Pride and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. Stonewall of course was the legendary revolt in 1969 when the queer community said, “We’re not going to take the oppression anymore,” and we fought back. That changed everything. It was the beginning of the modern Queer Movement where our community organized even more and fought back and became recognized and proud. We weren’t afraid to hold hands in the street anymore. So Saks Fifth Avenue is doing “Windows for Pride,” and they were also doing a line where different designers are contributing, like Marc Jacobs. They are designing clothing that they will sell and raise money for the Stonewall initiative. They have people like me and other queer personalities to be photographed, and they will use that to promote. They will have digital promotion of this sale and raise money for queer charities.
That is so cool.
Yeah, it took a while for retail to come on our side. Half a century.
I always say to artists, anyone that doesn’t strive to get the gay community on their side is crazy.
Yeah. There are going to be two parades this year, the regular one and an activist march. There is going to be the regular Heritage and Pride Parade, which is very corporate, and then this other thing called “Reclaim Pride.” That’s going to be a march at the same time. I’ll be running back-and-forth all day like a lunatic. Twenty-five years ago it was the same situation for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. There were two marches, but this year the alternate march is much more angry in a reaction to the main parade, because they think it’s too cooperate. They feel that only businesses get plugged because of the way it’s televised and promoted. It will be interesting. I’ll be covering both. June is going to be off the hook; I feel it in the air.
I’m sure you will be asked to get involved in everything.
I’ve earned the right… I’m the original “gay.” I’m the original club kid. My birth certificate is in hieroglyphics, and my Social Security number is 3.