Arts: Scratch a diva, and we all bleed

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Marky Mark has stewed in the limo for 30 minutes. I'm flying out of the door when the phone rings. I answer. There's no preamble: "That bitch! That cheap, wig-wearing, slipping at the box-office bitch!"

It's Celine Dion. Again.

"Hello," I mutter. Honey, this is becoming a habit. Calls at dawn, midnight, daybreak. How many more times must my answering machine record yet another drunken rendition of "All By Myself'?

Celine backtracks. "Darling, have I interrupted you in the middle of something important?" "Not something. Someone." Celine giggles. "Marky?" I get coy: "I'm not saying." She honks: ha ha, harrrrrrrr. I ask the obvious question. "CD - have you been at the mini-bar again? Hmm?" Usually Celine loves being called CD. It reminds her of platinum sales. Usually.

She's off. "Barbra Streisand. Cow! Who's the biggest gay Diva, John? It's me, isn't it? I'm the biggest gay Diva. The biggest since Judy."

Hell. Not the gay Diva thing.

Patience is a virtue: "CD, remember when Mariah Carey released `Without You'? What did I say?" I intone slowly. "John said: `there are no gay Divas anymore.' These days, it's a a remembrance of things past. Xena, Warrior Princess! Sharon Stone! The Spice rack! Kylie! Kylie's the last gasp if we're lucky, lucky, lucky. Or Dannii. Who cares which? We don't require Judy or Shirley or - well, even you - to express sub-text anymore." A thought: "In a queer way, Marky is more of a gay Diva..."

Celine pays this much attention. "Crap! Are you aware what I just did for you boys?" Us boys? No, mastah. "A dance remix of `My Heart Will Go On'!"

Now, I like Celine. I do. I just don't... worship her. She, however, won't sit still for anything except her own playbacks. Celine saw the movie, In and Out and heard the script's many mentions of Barbra, and believes her career longevity is down to the "boys" rather than sheer ruthlessness. I'm about to tell her, once more with feeling, that Gay Divas began to evaporate with Stonewall, Bronski Beat and Donna Summer's declaration that Aids was God's curse, but she's mid-hissy fit and beyond instruction. "Streisand! Miss BS! Miss Bull Shit!"

I bridle. Barbra is a cherished chum despite her sad attachment to Dragon Lady fingernails, polyester prints and the songs of Marilyn and Alan Bergman. I have to ask: "Then why the duet? Why `Tell Him'?" Celine rages: "Because I thought she would pass the crown, not put me in my place! It should be Judy, Ethel, Barbra, Bette, me, me, me!" I'm shocked. "And why would Barbra treat you mean?" Celine screams: "Because The Mirror Has Two Faces!" I object: "CD, in the promo video you're all over her like poison ivy..." Celine howls like a wind tunnel: "There isn't one air kiss that wasn't computer generated! Special-effects, dumb ass!"

Ooops. I guess if you can't sing like Judy, you end up sounding like Judy. One reason not to monitor the evolution from Garland's's self-self- self destructiveness to Mademoiselle Minogue's empty-headed boy-craziness. Petty progress.

I consult my watch. Marky will be beside himself.

"It's been fun catching up. Byee." I slam the phone down. It rings. Immediately. Right. "Celine, how about switching to de-caf..." "What? John?"

I recognise the voice. Who wouldn't? It has plenty to be guilty of. Those covers of Lennon's "Mother", Bowie's "Life On Mars". And Classical Barbra, "Butterfly", and "Higher Ground", the insulated LA variation on Madonna's cosmic "Ray of Light"; the sweet mystery of life as analysed three times a week in 50 minute sessions.

Damn. "Ray of Light". Madonna. Of course. Celine would say, "Madonna is a Gay Diva." I'd yawn: Gay Man Trapped in Woman's Body. Why else would we let Maddie rip off so much without credit?

"Darling!" BS isn't buying. "Dion called," I confess. Barbra snaps: "French- Canadian ant-eater." I could say something here, but I'd like to work in this town again.

Babs drawls: "She was discovered at a petting zoo... Imagine having that falling into you." I vamp: "Funny Girl." She chuckles. Then: "Who's the biggest gay Diva? Huh? Huh?"

Options: making it with Marky or backbiting with Barbra? Like it's a choice: "Her heart will go on, but what about her career?" Barbra warms to her task.

"And have you seen that gorgeous creature on the new album cover pretending to be Dion? "Let's Talk About Love?" Let's talk about airbrushing... Hold for a second, darling..." Barbra shouts into the distance: "Jason! Jason! Leave Mommy's dressing table alone. Make-up costs money." I dimly catch a surly transatlantic echo of Barbra's first and only born: "Companies send you this for free." Barbra bridles. "It's cost me in sweat, sacrifice and dedication to my craft! I'm an artist, you know!" Jason sounds even further away. "Your secret is safe with me," he replies.

Barbra is back: "See how I suffer?" She hums to herself. "Evergreen". Right on cue. "I wrote that. Won an Oscar. I suffered through that creation and delivery, too. That's why gay men identify with me. Suffering." I swallow my suggestion that her next move should be a cover version of "Let's Do The Time Warp Again". She's Streisand after all, and once upon a time she was indeed resonant - she meant something. But the parade has passed by and now she's Norma Desmond; we have demographics, not minorities; and the love that dared not speak its name can ride the scales with Elton John. George Michael, kd lang and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.

Suddenly Barbra screams: "Jason! Jason! Get out of that! It's Mommy's favourite St Laurent!" I shout down the line: "Look, angel, you sound busy:" Barbra is flustered. "Of course... Give my regards to Mark." I gasp. "How do you know about Marky?" "I know everything going on in your life." My flesh creeps. "Everything?" Barbra trills, perfectly on-key: "Yeah, everything. I'm your true voice. We're joined together forever, aren't we?"

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