Oh my God, you guys, it’s happening. It’s actually happening. After all the thinking and sweating and cursing and crying and turning and reaching and waking and dying (Has anyone yet literally died on this show? Has anyone seen beloved Dev recently? Was Tom’s nightmarish vision of Naked Ellis actually an apparition from the spirit world, like that time I had that dream about my grandma leaning out and waving from one of the windows in the Joke Wall on Laugh-In and then when I woke up in the morning my parents called and told me she was dead?) Bombshell is finally — FINALLY! — opening on Broadway. Can you believe it? I almost can’t!
And neither can dear friend and Second Life avatar Ivy Lynn, who is spending the final hours before she ascends into Broadway legend suffering a major crise de confidence. The curtain falls on the last preview, and she’s feeling okay, but don’t worry, Bernadette Peters can take care of that! Yes, good old Mama Leigh grabs her Hollywood Blonde hard and gives her one of those amazingly passive-aggressive pep talks where she assiduously avoids giving her daughter any hint of a genuine compliment, preferring instead to offer statements of absolute fact like, “look how far you’ve come” and “you’re playing Marilyn Monroe on Broadway.” (This is also the first, but far from the last time this episode that I burst into tears. I’ve been on the Bombshell journey a long time too, and I’m a little emotional. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)
Never one to let an opportunity to undermine slip through his fingers — after all, one should never pass up an opportunity to have sex, appear on television or destroy someone else’s sense of self-worth — Gore Vidal chimes in: “Yes, but who was Marilyn Monroe really? Just a transsexual prostitute Joe Kennedy brought over from Cuba sometime during Prohibition as an educational plaything for his libidinous brood. Everything else you’ve heard is merely a Jewish studio fiction.”
So Ivy goes outside to stare at her childhood dream of her name on the glowing marquee, only to overhear effete restaurant critic and Frasier Crane nemesis Gil Chesterton sniffing about her “years knocking around in the chorus” to Donna McKechnie (!!!) who has been hired for the evening to play his imaginary wife Deb, who owns an auto body shop. Donna McKechnie doesn’t even have a line! What hope can there be for Ivy? Certainly none that Derek can foresee, answering her post-coital morning questions about whether or not she is good with something like: “Oh God, there’s no right way to answer that, is there? But since you asked, yes, you are fatter than Karen. That’s not a derogatory statement, just a fact. You also have bigger boobies than her, and I like them. Are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?” Um, no, we are not, Derek, until you, like all men, understand that there actually is a right answer to every question of female insecurity and it is this: “Rachel, (and obviously, you can fill in whatever name you find relevant here), no woman in history has ever been smarter, more talented, prettier, thinner or younger than you are at this moment, and no one ever will.” Dorothy Zbornak figured it out — why can’t you? Also, do you like how I listed “smart” first? Feminism!
So what are Tom and Cousin Debbie doing while their leading lady repeatedly stabs herself in the forearm with the pointy end of the geometry compass that has mysteriously followed her from apartment to apartment since the tenth grade? Why, they’re playing my favorite parlor/sex game: What Source Material Makes the Most Hilariously Inappropriate Broadway Musical? The winner will be their next project! Naturally, Cousin Debbie is full of excellent suggestions, all of which Tom hates. “The Tibetan Book of the Dead?” Snoozer! “Mengele … the Musical!” Right. Call me when you’ve cracked the gangrenous artificially conjoined twins number. “The Basement by Kate Millet?” Please, Debbie, hasn’t the Jekyll and Hyde revival basically obviated the notion of torture-killing? “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again,” says Cousin Debbie, in one of the only instances since the advent of the Smashcaps that I will actually quote directly from the show itself, “a musical can be built around the poetry of Ezra Pound.” And Tom and I make exactly the same strangulated tone of utter disbelief. Ezra Pound? He’s not even close to the top of the list of my fifty favorite anti-Semites. He isn’t even on the list. (Gore Vidal, on the other hand, could be a wonderful late-career role for Len Cariou. And we already know who can play in him in his salad days.)
Besides, Tom doesn’t really want to write musicals at all anymore, not when — Bombshell review dependent — he’s just been informally offered the directorship of a planned large-scale revival of City of Angels, due to his brilliant pitch that a show specifically structured as both a comedy and a drama could in fact, be treated, as a comedy and a drama. Next he’s going to suggest a revival of Oliver!, but, wait for it … all the children will actually be played by children, or at the least, very short adults! Tom is a genius!
Okay, so I guess we’d better check in with Karen, sad-little-half-empty-bag-of-dried-out-baby-carrots-that-are-technically-still-edible-and-there’s-no-other-food-in-the-fridge Karen, who is not quite sure she can face the terrible emotional tribulation of attending the opening night of a show that she quit, and I repeat, was not fired from, but quit, entirely of her own free will, and which is now being pitched by the Arts and Leisure as in direct — and unfavorable — competition with your own. For the millionth, billionth, perhaps trillionth time, fuck off, Karen. You don’t get to be the queen of everything; only Elizabeth II does. (BTW, happy birthday, Your Madge! Do you ever think about how you’re only one away from Hitler?) Thankfully, though, everybody seems to be getting hip to Karen’s endless sense of entitled victimhood, and Jimmy takes advantage of her increasing alienation by saying, Hey, why don’t we go to opening night together, and I’m on your side, and being generally sweet and charming in a way that frankly, alarms me. Grooming, I think they call it.
Except it’s not going to work! Because Lothar of the Village People, newly appointed Stage Door Johnny to the increasingly empowered Midriff, has arrived to reveal that Jimmy is his … duh duh DUH! ... brother! Secret brothers! And their father is Adam Chandler and their mother is Erica Kane, and they only found out they were related when they ran off together to elope but Dmitri and Adam and Erica and also Victor Newman and Katherine Chancellor because why the hell not stopped them at the Mexican border just in the nick of time, and other dark secrets, which he is going to tell Midriff and not us right this moment! And then Mimi from Rent shows up again, and tells Anjelica Huston that she better tell the guy from the New York Times that she isn’t wearing any underwear. Perplexed, Anjelica savors, as is her custom, the cooling whirl of the wind vortex that surrounds what humans, confoundingly, term their “privates” and thinks, “But how can she See? Has she also the Gift? Who has sent Her, and have they done so to destroy Me?”
And then Holy Angela Lansbury, Batman, it’s Carpet! Oh, Carpet, with his tassels trimmed to regulation military length! He’s home on leave from the Kilim Wars in Far Middle Earth, where he’s been flying with the Deep Pile Bombers in the Kilim Wars against the fearsome General Shagg! But don’t worry, Cousin Debbie, he’s perfectly safe, and he’s making friends with all sorts of other nice floor treatments, like Area Rug and Pine Plank and HRH Prince Harry. And also, remember back in the day, when you wanted to adapt The Great Gatsby into a musical? Well, the performance rights are now available, because just as we are living in a world where Bernadette Peters and Daniel Sunjata do not exist in their current forms, neither do Baz Luhrmann or Elevator Repair Service. (I am more than alright with the former, deeply aggrieved by the latter.) So that should be their next project, and obviously the best time to tell Tom this is on the limo en route to opening night, when he’s so nervous he’s taken the precaution of catheterizing himself under his tuxedo.
So here we are!!! Opening night! Oh, the stardust! Oh, the glamor! Oh, the opportunity for witty cameos! For look, here are Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, looking dapper and handsome as always! And here is Anjelica Huston greeting them charmingly, in a brief scene I wish would go on forever, right before she tells Richard “Henry” Francis to go fuck himself, since his puny hominid appendage won’t be getting anywhere near her infinite wind tunnel of ecstasy any time in the forseeable future, which, of course, for Anjelica Huston, is from now until the Earth is at last consumed by the Sun. I think we are meant to believe this is the cause of any further negative coverage of Bombshell from the Times? We all tell ourselves things, don’t we? And then here’s Karen, conveniently dressed up as Daisy Buchanan, the thought of which may be the only silver lining to the likelihood that Smash will not see a third season (although I will say she looks, as always, very pretty, even if the black lipstick is a little much) and then Midriff, who has … duh duh DUH … brought Brother Lothar of the Village People as her date! Her date!
So, Jimmy, Karen would like you to drag up all your darkest and most painful memories right here in the lobby in front of all these fancy people, please. We can probably get Barbara Walters over here to listen; she’s usually at these things. Jeremy Jordan unhinges his jaw and lets out a primal blast of sound: Do you want one more tale of a Vietnam girl? Want to hear how my family was blasted away? How I ran from the rice fields and saw them in flames!
And also, he sold drugs or something, which, given how fraught this is for him and that basically everybody I know has sold at least pot at least semi-professionally at one time or another (hmmm, perhaps this is something to discuss in therapy), I can only imagine that “dealing drugs” is some kind of euphemism for “hustling.” Yes, Lothar of the Village People sold Jimmy at an early age to a child brothel, and Kyle Goblinweed, who was working there as a char, grooming the boys and emptying semen-encrusted toilet paper from the wastebaskets and spraying down the cubicles with watermelon scented nonoxynol, fell in love with him during a particularly vigorous waxing session and helped him escape. It’s all very tearful and tortured and Dov Landau. (“They used me … like they used … the girls.) Congratulations, Jimmy, says Karen, you are now a member of the Irgun. Except Jimmy fucks it all up by punching Lothar in the face at the party, and then Karen dumps him, because while his cruel, uncontrolled, and inappropriate aggression towards his cast, crew, and creative partners is totally fine, making a scene in public because of the unwanted presence of the one person who actually deserves his rage is just too, too much for a delicate little snow globe like Karen. She is just the worst flavor of Girl Scout cookie, isn’t she? She’s such a Savannah Smile.
But perhaps we shouldn’t judge her too harshly, because look, Ivy was amazing. She was amazing. Megan Hilty was incredible. We got to hear her sing an entire, glorious rendition of “Don’t Forget Me” and it was an incredible, glorious, star-making moment. I’m just going to quote my garbled notes here, so you can see how I was feeling. (Also, I was sobbing, which makes it hard to write: “Oh my God. She’s gorgeous. There’s Arthur Miller, you can tell it’s him because he’s holding a book ... Kyle and I give the exact same sign of queeny ecstasy … I feel like I just opened on Broadway.”) God, I love this episode. I love this episode, and I love this show, and I’m so sad that it could be ending just when it’s becoming what I always wanted it to be, when it finally seems to understand and refuse to apologize for the immediacy and magic of the Broadway musical, which I will argue to the death is the most important and complex art form yet devised by mankind. There. I said it. Are you happy?
So Ivy is a star, and she’s getting everything she ever wanted, even if her dress, is frankly, a little mother-of-the-bride. (KEEP THE NECKLINES OPEN ON HILTY, PEOPLE.) A huge standing ovation, as people lose their collective shit. Karen is hideously jealous of her, and does her the kindness of actually admitting it to her face, after which Ivy magnanimously invites her to lip synch for her “That’s Life” after which she can sashay, away, yet again. Bernadette Peters — who honestly, looks so amazing I can only think she’s got an enormous can of flesh-toned spray paint tucked away in purse, because that’s what happens when you go and see Liesl — is making Ivy her very own memory book. She gets to sexually reject Derek, who responds by revenge-fucking that dancer who was suing him for sexual harassment, and talking SJOENE into moving Hit List straight to Broadway. (Has it occurred to anyone else that Derek is by far the most insecure character on this show? Perhaps we’ll discuss this in more depth next time.)
And then there is the matter of the Times review, which Mimi and her SWAT team of terrified interns (all of whom have been strictly warned to stay away from the canapés, they’re for company) are desperately waiting for in the War Room. So what does Ben Brantley, the most influential person never to have been included in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People (although he could still make Barbara Walters’s list, quick let’s ask her, she’s over there by the sweet table with Cindy Adams, trying to fit an entire cheesecake into her purse), have to say? He loved it! He loved the book, he loved the music, he loved Ivy, he loved everything except Tom’s direction, which he found “overblown.” Which is somehow, according to Mimi, not a rave? A review that used the word “Triumphant---The New York Times” is not a rave? “Screw Richard and screw the Times!” Academy-Award winner Anjelica Huston declaims, magnificently. “I’ll call the Schuberts and the Nederlanders! Double down, Mimi! Bombshell will run until the ocean submerges land and we are but sea beasts once again!
But Tom, Poor Tom, Brantley Hung You in the Closet and Now Bombshell’s A Bomb is feeling sad. Cousin Debbie will not have him back, since Rosie O’Donnell spilled the beans about City of Angels. She feels betrayed, SJOENE said she can — get this — do a play version of The Great Gatsby at his downtown Manhattan New York Public Theater Workshop Club, and now she’s making out with him in the back of a limo, which is how most young playwrights sign contracts these days.
Who will Tom kiss? Who wants kiss Tom? What’s that scuttling around the leg of the cocktail table, whimpering quietly as it fondles the edge of his dress sock as delicate and tender as the feel of a sun-warmed dandelion puff against one’s bare summer skin?
Why, it’s Kyle. Kyle Goblinweed. With a violet for a bow tie and clover for a hat, and a red, glowing heart where his penis should be. Kyle Goblinweed, come to carry him home.