Category Archives: Bruce Vilanch

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Photo: Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch walking through the Miami Airport – May 21, 1994

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Bette Midler: Bootleg Betty Exclusive: Bruce Vilanch, Unfiltered

Bette Midler: Bootleg Betty
Exclusive: Bruce Vilanch, Unfiltered
By Guest Writer: Todd Sussman
October 4, 2018

Bruce Vilanch
Bruce Vilanch

He’s naughty, bawdy, and brash.  I love it!  He was – and still is – the perfect match to write for Bette Midler.  Here, Mr. Vilanch shares the view from his front-row seat with Bette, going all the way back to the early days.   Bruce is always insightful and sometimes off-color…and it was my honor to interview him.

Todd:  When did you first meet Bette?

Bruce: It was during the Paleozoic period, shortly after the Big Bang. That would make it about 50 years ago – where’s my Xanax? – in Chicago at a club called Mister Kelly’s. She had been on Broadway as the eldest daughter in Fiddler on the Roof and was working on a nightclub act.  I was sent to review her. History is made at night! Read More

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TV Writer Bruce Vilanch Tells Us How He Slipped Sly Gay Jokes Past the Censors And Writing For Bette Midler

Unicorn Booty
TV Writer Bruce Vilanch Tells Us How He Slipped Sly Gay Jokes Past the Censors
May 7, 2017
By Matt Baume
Regular Contributor

Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch

Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch

Bruce Vilanch was toiling away in a perfectly adequate newspaper job in Chicago when Bette Midler came to town. She wasn’t quite famous at that point — an appearance on Broadway and some bathhouse concerts were her credits — but Bruce went to check out her show. Afterwards, he wrote a glowing review, and she called to thank him.

“You should talk more,” he told her.

“You got any good lines?” she asked. He did, and she hired him.

Forty years later, Bruce’s work has touched just about everyone in America. He’s written some of the most famous variety shows ever broadcast, crafted jokes for the Oscars and Emmys and Tonys for decades, and has appeared on everything from RuPaul’s Drag Race to Hollywood Squares to The Simpsons.

I interviewed Bruce Vilanch on my podcast The Sewers of Paris, where every week I talk to gay men about the entertainment that changed their lives. For Bruce, an important early influence were big movie and stage extravaganzas like The Greatest Show on Earth and a Carol Channing flop called The Vamp.

“I taught myself to read with the movie ads,” he recalled. He was obsessed with showbiz from an early age, though his parents tried to steer him toward more reliable work as a doctor or lawyer. They’d take him to films set in courtrooms and point out that attorneys get to perform; but he knew he needed a different kind of limelight.

“I used to have a routine in a hula skirt that was embarrassing to everyone,” he said. “I would have taken a job on the hood of your car, jiggling as you drove.”

An adventurous aunt told him stories of the world and accompanied him on trips into Manhattan. He attempted a career on stage, but discovered that his look and his skills were a little too idiosyncratic. So he went into journalism, and that’s where he had his big break when he wrote about Bette Midler.

“She found the beauty in trash,” he said of her at the time. She’d come out on stage looking a little disheveled and unpredictable, though “the talent was there.” Audiences loved it, particularly when she was on tour and told jokes about local landmarks and figures. The secret of those jokes was that Bruce would leverage his journalism connections to write them, calling colleagues at local papers to find out what the big scandals were before Bette arrived in town.bruce vilanch interview

Eventually, he made his way to Los Angeles, where he’d get his start writing variety shows for Cher, the Brady Bunch, and the Manhattan Transfer. When he could, he’d slip sly queer references into the shows, though they always had to be coded.

“Did you feel exasperated that you couldn’t say gay?” I asked him during our chat.

“It was challenging,” he replied. “It wasn’t frustrating because it hadn’t been done. … That was a couple years off.”

Nevertheless, he still delighted in the sly gay references he was able to place in shows like Hollywood Squares. “It was ‘inside,’ we called it,” he said. “The ones who get it will laugh and the ones who don’t will say ‘what was that?’”

It’s a vastly different world now, of course. But the freedom that gay writers and comedians now have on television is only possible because of pioneers like Bruce.

Listen to the full interview with Bruce below or at SewersOfParis.com.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Petula Clark Musical From Bruce Vilanch Could Be Headed to Broadway

New Petula Clark Musical From Bruce Vilanch Could Be Headed to Broadway
02/02/2017 03:56 am ET | Updated 6 days ago
By Pollo Del Mar

Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch

Bette Midler and Bruce Vilanch

From penning witty zingers for the Tony Awards to hosting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraisers, Bruce Vilanch is no stranger to the New York theatre community. In 2005, Vilanch even starred as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. When the Hollywood funnyman returns to Broadway, though, he hopes it’s as writer of the next great jukebox musical.

“Think Mamma Mia!” said Vilanch when describing his new musical Sign of the Times. “In fact, please think Mamma Mia! — because Mamma Mia! ran only 12 years, so please think of that!”

WEGOTBRUCE.COM
Bruce Vilanch has penned a new musical! The hysterical out comic says Sign of the Times, featuring the music of Grammy-winner Petula Clark, could be Broadway-bound soon.

Like other “jukebox musicals” — productions such as Jersey Boys and Beautiful – The Carole King Musical — Sign of the Times utilizes hit pop songs rather than an original score. In this case, the music of Grammy Award-winning, ‘60s British pop icon Petula Clark “and other hit-makers of the day” takes center stage.

“When I was in college, and I was hearing Petula’s music, every time I would hear one of her songs, I’d say, ‘What show is that from?’” the comedian shared during an interview on Party Foul Radio with Pollo & Pearl. “They all sounded so theatrical, because they had big orchestras behind them.”

Vilanch recalled a similar feeling when listening to ABBA years later, he told Podomatic’s No. 1-ranked LGBT podcast. Therefore it was not surprising, he said, when the quartet’s catalogue later became the foundation for the wildly successful Broadway hit Mamma Mia!

“They had these big, Broadway pop arrangements behind everything,” said Vilanch of ABBA, noting that, like the Swedish super-group, Clark’s music also “lends itself very well to a Broadway show.” He said: “It always had that feel from the beginning.”

WEGOTBRUCE.COM
Having penned three of her stage shows, Bruce Vilanch has worked with legendary Bette Midler for 47 years. “Which is difficult, because she’s only 32,” the comedian quips, “i’m contractually obligated to say that.”

A six-time Emmy Award-winner, Vilanch has supplied jokes to a veritable Hollywood who’s who, was the quirky center square for four seasons of Hollywood Squares, a long-time reporter and columnist for The Advocate and even cowrote Eartha Kitt’s campy 1980s hit “I Need a Man.” A featured writer on almost every major televised awards broadcast, he’s served as head writer for the annual Academy Awards since 2010.

The hilarious blond – equally known for his inimitable appearance – is far more than champion of the one-liner though. He’s written successful stage productions stretching back more than four decades.

Vilanch cowrote Bette Midler’s 1974 Broadway show Clams on a Half Shell and later inked her 1980 epic Divine Madness. The Divine Miss M again teamed with The Divine Miss V for The Showgirl Must Go On, Midler’s 2008 residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Vilanch forged a similarly long-standing relationship with Diana Ross. After befriending the MoTown legend on the set of Mahogany, in which he had a bit part, he wrote An Evening with Diana Ross. The show played Vegas, Broadway and was later turned into a television special.

BROADWAYWORLD.COM
In 2005, Bruce Vilanch starred as “Edna Turnblad” in the Broadway production of Hairspray.

When approached by Richard Robins — “a big real estate guy in Chicago,” who purchased Clark’s musical catalogue — to work on Sign of the Times, Vilanch was “immediately interested.” What emerged is the tale of Cindy, a young woman who moves to New York City in 1965 and (according to production notes) discovers “unexpected friends, lovers, careers, and conflicts are all a subway ride away.”

Based on an original story by Robins, and written by Vilanch, Sign of the Times features Clark’s biggest hits including No. 1 single “Downtown,” “I Know a Place” and, of course, the song from which the production draws its name. Also included are smashes from contemporaries Leslie Gore (“You Don’t Own Me”), Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made for Walking”), Dusty Springfield (“I Only Want to Be With You”) and more.

After debuting last summer with a successful five-week run at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, Vilanch says it could be only a matter of time before New York calls. To gain perspective on the process, he turned to modern musical theatre genius and Tony-winning Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda (who Vilanch calls “Mr. Hamilton”).

“He said Hamilton took seven years; everything takes seven years,” shared Vilanch, noting Sign of the Times is now in its third year.

“Legitimate theatre, on the Broadway end, is like movies these days,” Vilanch concluded, “Things happen years down the pipeline. Hopefully the next year or so, it’ll end up on Broadway. We’re working our way there!”

LISTEN: Bruce Vilanch talks Sign of the Times, Personal Stories About Diana Ross, Bette Midler & More

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bruce Vilanch Comes To Bette Midler’s Defense On Her Caitlyn Jenner Joke

Instinct Magazine
Is It Okay To Make Fun Of Caitlyn Jenner?
Instinct Staff | September 6, 2016

Boy Culture interviewed legendary comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, who had his own opinions on the joke and the response to it:

BC: Bette Midler recently took it on the chin when she was perceived as mocking Caitlyn Jenner for being trans.

BV: Personally, I thought that was insane. She wasn’t making a joke about transgenders, she was making a joke about the monetizing of transgenderism, which is being done by Caitlyn Jenner.

BC: I guess the waters are muddied because people want to mock Caitlyn, and she’s so famous for being trans.

BV: Exactly. Anybody who would make that leap is out of their mind. It’s not a joke about transgenders, it’s a joke about this person who will do anything to remain in the public eye—and who is not our friend, by the way. She’s more to be pitied than censured. There’s no accounting for the taste of some. You find generally in communities like in the gay community that activists have no sense of humor. They areso sensitive about everything. And to jump on Bette Midler is kind of like, “Excuse me? Where’ve you been for the last 50 years?” Well, you know, probably in Trinidad, Colorado, deciding what you wanted to look like, I don’t know.

That alone would get me in jail. That remark. You know, you’re not allowed to say anything! Read More

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy 67th Birthday, Bruce Vilanch!!!

7-31-2011-5-51-27-AM

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Friday, September 4, 2015

BetteBack August 16, 1991: Bruce Vilanch Goes It Alone

Daily Herald Suburban Chicago
August 16, 1991 Read More

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bruce Vilanch Fans! – Child of the 70s Free Event!

Bruce Vilanch Fans in Los Angeles!!! Were having a FREE event, Tuesday, April 28th at The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. 1615 Vine St. Screening of season 3 of the hit web series, Child of the 70s, starring Bruce Vilanch as the lascivious Larry Lawrence, talent agent to the stars! Also starring Judy Tenuta’s Offical Fan Page, Ted Lange and TV’s Susan Olsen!
Red Carpet from 7 – 8PM, screening at 8PM, then after-party immediately following in the theatre lobby. No tickets necessary. Just show up. ~ Michael Vaccaro

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Reminder: Bruce Vilanch Six Time Emmy Award Winner to Appear at 54 Below

Examiner
Bruce Vilanch Six Time Emmy Award Winner to Appear at 54 Below
PERFORMING ARTSJUNE 6, 2013BY: SANDI DURELL

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Bruce Vilanch is ready to rumble at Broadway’s Nightclub 54 Below on June 13 and 14 as (in his own words) he “is currently celebrating his fifteenth year as Lindsay Lohan‘s sobriety coach.”

Vilanch is surely old enough to remember when . . . and is set to make with the funnies and sing a little this and a little that.

A veteran of Broadway’s “Hairspray” and TV‘s “Hollywood Squares,” Bruce has a lot to say about a lot of things!

Come laugh along on June 13 and 14 at 54 Below, 254 West 54 Street (Cellar), NYC

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

BetteBack April 23, 1978: Bruce Vilanch

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