Red Scare on Reel 13

staff | October 31, 2008

Inside Thirteen Blogger: Elisa Lichtenbaum, Writer-Editor, Marketing Department

A close friend of mine, a celebrity publicist, told me that when Charles Busch’s hilarious Hollywood thriller Die, Mommie, Die! opened at New World Stages last year, she asked her client Joan Rivers what she thought of the production. Rivers quipped: “It’s Charles Busch. What’s not to love?”

Charles Busch as ultra-glam
police chief Captain Monica Stark

My sentiments exactly. What’s not to love about the celebrated actor, playwright, and drag legend who has written and starred in such high-camp comedies as The Lady in Question and Red Scare on Sunset? This Off-Broadway baby has legions of fans, a cult following, devotees galore. So when I learned that Psycho Beach Party – Busch’s uproarious spoof of surfer movies and slasher films – was going to be part of Reel 13’s Halloween weekend line-up, I knew the PR and Marketing folks here at Thirteen had to do something special to get the word out.

We contacted Charles, who graciously agreed to do a phone interview from California, where he was starring in his new play, The Third Story. I was giddy with delight. Then I became terrified. Even though I’ve interviewed many Broadway stars I admire over the years, I’ve never interviewed someone I idolize. So the prospect of talking to Charles, while immensely exciting, was a little daunting. What if I said something dippy (“I’m such a huge fan!”) or acted like Kathy Bates in Misery?

How did the phone interview go? Dial F for Fabulous! Charles was charming, funny, down-to-earth, and spoke passionately about classic films, his life in drag, and his work in Psycho Beach Party. He also said some wonderful things about public television and did a Judy Garland imitation that had me in stitches. And thankfully, I only made one dippy remark during our conversation. (“I’m such a huge fan!”)

One of the high points of the interview was the revelation that Charles and I wear the same red lipstick: M.A.C.’s Russian Red. Of course, the main difference is that Charles wears it when he’s onstage – and in drag – while I wear it in my everyday life. Most women, upon learning they wear the same lipstick as a celebrated drag diva, would consider a more subtle shade – at least for daytime wear. But not moi. I embrace my crimson karma and wear Russian Red with a renewed sense of pride.

Lest you think my interview with this theater giant was all lipstick and girl talk, let me point out that there were moments of great profundity. For example, I learned that Charles has never missed an episode of Survivor. I learned that his exercise regime involves salsa music and choreography usually associated with Gypsy Rose Lee.

Finally, I learned about Charles’ kitchen sink comedies – YouTube videos in which he and longtime friend and co-star Julie Halston sit in his kitchen and dish about the slings and arrows of outrageous showbiz fortune. “Julie thinks of them as Bergmanesque,” he observed wryly. “I guess they’re Bergmanesque in that I always look depressed.”

Go to to read the complete interview with Charles Busch. And don’t miss Psycho Beach Party Saturday, November 1st at 10:45 p.m. on Reel 13. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Halloween.

Besides, it’s Charles Busch. What’s not to love?