So, Logo is showing “Cabaret” tonight as part of their new “Cocktails & Classics” series. This series started around the same time I launched this blog, and in that short time I have already gone on and on here and here how much I LO-oo-OOVE “Cabaret”, so I thought well, this might be an opportunity to take another quixotic step towards millenial modernity and do that thing called TV Recapping, or even more drastically and up to the minute, try to do it as Live-Blogging. After all, it’s “Cabaret”, on Logo (a mere channel 179 on my cable dial), the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, a TV event bound to attract massive audiences and a clamoring amongst my massive social media following of, like, dozon(s) to share this cultural touchstone together, right? Right?
(Can one hear crickets over the internet?)
Nonetheless. This looks like it’ll be fun. I don’t relish watching any movie with commercial interruptions, but “Cocktails and Classics” appears to be designed to watch a favorite movie we may already know very well with an extra twist, both in the drink and the company. It’s not just curated, it’s queerated! Here from the Logo website:
“We love us some classic cinema – the campier, the better! Join Logo for a crash course in film history and a closer look at the movies we love to quote over and over again. Each week, get the inside scoop from our host Michael Urie as he shares never-before-shared stories, casting hits and misses, tantalizing trivia and good-old-fashioned dish that make these movies so revered by cinephiles and camp enthusiasts alike.”
Michael Urie, by the way, is the lankily handsome comedic co-star of the hugely successful “Ugly Betty” and the short-lived “Partners” on TV. I was lucky to catch his solo performance in Johnathan Tolins’ big Off-Broadway barbra-liscious hit “Buyer and Cellar”, already the stuff of legend. He also proved he has fine dramatic chops in the very fine “The Temperamentals”, Jon Marans’ play about the Mattachine Society .
Anyway, the show starts 7pm EST. I will be “live-blogging” starting… NOW!
6:39pm – I just took Logo’s Fuck / Marry / Kill poll, Cabaret edition. My answers were with the minority throughout. Now personally I would want to fuck and marry Sally Bowles, Brian Roberts and Maximillian von Heune, and not kill anybody, but that’s not how the game is played. So, without giving it too much thought, I decided to fuck Sally, marry Max and kill Brian. I asked Ed, my husband, and he said “I don’t like this game.” Yes, yes, but gun to the head, he says the romantic in him would fuck Max, marry Brian and so long Sally. The practical man in him would fuck Brian, marry Max, and face it Sally, you never had a chance with this Kinsey Six.
6:52pm – Before we turn on the TV, here is a picture of Liza Minelli, Michael York and Joel Grey at the 40th anniversary screening of “Cabaret” at the Ziegfield Theater in New York, January 31, 2013. January 31st? That date rings a bell. That’s the date Hitler and the Nazis took power in 1933. The 40th anniversary screening of “Cabaret” was scheduled on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi takeover in Germany. Now, that couldn’t have been a coincidence!
7pm And we’re off! Hello, Michael Urie!
Michael’s guests are Michael Ausiello (journalist), Lea DeLaria (actress/comedian/singer) and Drew Droege (comedian) . Lea is looking forward to “Two Ladies” because that is the story of her life.
And the movie is screening. Logo doesn’t air in HDTV, it appears. Is it churlish of me to point out that the film looks much better when I play it on the blu-ray?
7:08 – “Willkommen”. It’s cool how Sally Bowles is presented as just one more act of the Kit Kat Club in the opening number. The staging and editing don’t highlight her presence, if anything she is almost an afterthought.
7:09 – She said it: “Divine Decadence”… sigh…
7:11 – and the first commercial interruption, with Drew imitating Liza’s “international woman of mystery” line before being body checked by Lea…
5 minutes of commercials. This is why I generally don’t watch movies on commercial television…
Now we see Michael and co drinking the infamous prairie oysters, and, surprise, they say they’re not bad. And we are back to the movie watching Sally mix the same for her and Brian.
“Peppermint prairie oyster?” “Oh! That’s the tooth paste glass!”
7:20 “Mein Herr”!
“I vant you for my wife.”
“What would your wife want with me?”
7:23 – The telephones at the tables. My parents told me of one restaurant in Berlin that still had those the 1960’s. An old-time version of Tinder.
7:25 “We’re not sleeping on each other.” Prepositions will always be a problem for Fritz. Not as big as his Jewish problem, but we don’t know that yet.
Remember the man who chases away the Brown Shirt. We will see him in dire circumstances later in the movie…
7:27 – Elke in the men’s room. This scene was my childhood introduction to drag queens / transsexuals…
7:28 – Back to the quartet, watching “Mein Herr”:
Ausiello: “A little trivia. This is exactly the moment the Gay Gene was born.”
7:34 – The quartet try to do Liza. Three of them do “old” Liza, Ausiello does “Sling Blade”.
7:36 – “Have you ever slept with a dwarf” – “Once, but it wasn’t a lasting relationship”. Brian has already learned how to parry Sally’s attempts at shocking him.
Now, the famous SCREAM under the S-Bahn bridge! Followed by that shock cut to—
We see the man who threw out the Brown Shirt being beaten to death by Nazi thugs, while in the Kit Kat Club they do a face-and-knee-slapping Bavarian dance. Bob Fosse is a genius.
And after Sally arranges for Brian to translate Herr Rudolf’s pornographic novel, we cut to commercial…
7:47 – Pillow talk with Joel Grey. Joel tells Michael he was ready to quit acting, he couldn’t
get a decent job. But then he got a call from a friend, Hal Prince: “I think I have a part you could be really good in”.
7:48 – Sally tries to seduce Brian. First the old “I’m freezing” ploy to get him to warm her up. Then a kiss. He barely responds. She walks out, through one door, and another, and returns lugging the Phonograph. The old-timey instrumental she plays is actually a song (the Pineapple Song) that didn’t quite make it from the stage version of Cabaret into the movie, well at least not as a sung song.
Sally’s seduction isn’t going well. “Maybe you don’t sleep with girls.”
Brian: “I’ve gone through the motions of sleeping with girls exactly three times. The word for my sex life is nil, or as you Americans would say, plenty of nuttin.”
They agree to be friends. But spoiler alert, that won’t last….
Of course Christopher Isherwood, the author of the books “Cabaret” is based on and the model for Brian, was a gay man who didn’t have sex with women. On stage, Brian was straight. In the movie he became bisexual.
7:59 – More pillow talk with Joel. Bob Fosse first wouldn’t see Joel about playing the MC in the movie. Joel speculates that Bob wanted to play the part himself, but the producers insisted on Joel. Joel Grey had a “complicated” relationship with Bob Fosse.
8:01 – the English Class scene is about to begin. One of the funniest screwball comedy scenes in cinema history, without being in an actual screwball comedy.
8:06 – And we learn the German word for “screwing”: “bummsen!”
“The one German word you would pronounce perfectly”, Brian says resignedly to Sally.
8:09 – commercials – and since it is Cocktails & Classics, Ed has made us cocktails: Tequila Sunrises. Rather strong Tequila Sunrises!
8:11 – Ausiello quotes: “The only thing to do with virgins is to make a ferocious pounce.” And (bam!) he is body checked again by Lea.
And then we hear Sally say the line. While Fritz is falling in love with the Jewish heiress Natalia.
8:13 – Sally name checks the famous Hotel Adlon. “That’s where a lot of murder mysteries take place” says my murder-mysteries-set-in-Berlin reading husband.
Brian tells Fritz about Natalia: “Sally says you oughta pounce.”
Fritz dismisses this notion… at first.
8:16 – And now we have Liza’s first big dramatic scene. About her father, who ditched her at the Adlon. She needs comforting, and Sally and Brian’s relationship crosses from the Friend Zone into Lovers Paradise. Cue the wonderful “Maybe This Time”.
Not quite. First a commercial break, just as they kiss, and before Sally notes Brian’s erection! Aargh!!! Talk about killing the moment!
8:26 – Now we get the song, but that really was an awful commercial interruption…
“Obviously those three girls were just the wrong three girls!”
Ed refers to this image as “the iconic hand shadow moment”.
“Maybe This Time” really should have won the Best Song Oscar, but evidently it wasn’t eligible because it was a “trunk song” Kander and Ebb had in reserve and was not originally written for the movie.
8:31 – Sally will now find out that Fritz “pounced”. And now Natalia is tearfully asking for her advice. “Is this love or a mere infatuation of the body? You with so much experience with screwings, please tell me truly.” (or words to that effect)
Sally is at a loss. “They have Jewish nuns?”
8:35 Break – Michel Urie surprises his guests with the tidbit that that isn’t Liza’s body on the movie poster. “We want Liza’s body! We want Liza’s body” the quartet chants.
8:40 – Enter Max! The debonair Helmut Griem, with whom I spent a summer in Sardinia.
8:44 – Sally and the MC do the crotch bump!
8:46 – Sally is totally taken with Max. Brian is insecure and jealous. Max is persistent… with both. Wakes them in their bed with champagne. Showers them with gifts, well, Sally is showered. Her new “Pelz”, her fur coat, will be an important player in a future plot twist. Meanwhile Brian refuses the gold cigarette case Max hands him.
8:50 – break – Urie informs us that Isherwood thought Liza Minnelli was too talented for Sally. Lea DeLaria points out that in the current Broadway revival of “Cabaret” they cast great actresses who are not great singers to better fulfill Isherwood’s version of Sally Bowles.
8:56 – Supposedly Liza said on the set that she was the only star because she was the only one there who shaved her arm pits. So before we return to the movie we are treated to a shot of Michael Urie squirting after shave on his arm pit, and saying breathlessly: “For Liza”.
And now, Lea’s favorite: Two Ladies!
“I sleep in the middle.” “I’m left” “Und I’m right”
“But there’s room on the bottom if you drop in some night!”
Before that number we hear Max suggest, as the threesome drives past a tableau of street violence, that Nazis are nothing but a bunch of thugs. But they will be good at getting rid of the Communists. When Brian asks who will get rid of the Nazis, Max just shrugs.
9:01 – Brian and Sally at Max’s baronial estate. Max loans Brian a blue sweater. As Brian unfolds it, he finds that gold cigarette case.
Sally puts on the charm at a dinner party full of the upper crust. There is a ghostly cut to the MC grinning and whispering “money”.
9:08 Max, Sally and Brian are partying a trois. Max and Sally dance while Brian gets more drunk than the others. He is pulled into the dance by Max. For a long time, while the phonograph music echoes more and more strangely, the three of them turn and turn in a close trio. The music stops. Three faces very close. First Sally steps back. Then Max. Then Brian walks to the couch, falters, and needs to be carried there by the others. Brian is passed out. Max looks at Sally significantly. Then he walks away. She follows him…
9:14 – Now Brian and Max are alone in a beer garden. Brian offers Max a cigarette from the gold cigarette case. Max appreciates the gesture…
9:16 – TOMORROW BELONGS TO ME.
Brian: “You still think you can control them?” Max shrugs.
Cut to the MC grinning like a death skull, and nodding.
9:18 – break. We see Michael, Lea and Drew recreating the Max/Sally/Brian drunken dance trio while the real thing is shown at the right bottom corner of the screen.
9:22 – Meanwhile Fritz jumps on Natalia’s car’s running board.
Natalia: ” I know you are an honest man who would never never lie to me” Fritz looks down… there is actually something he hasn’t been honest about with Natalia, or anyone…
Natalia: “Don’t you see what’s happening in Germany today? I’m a Jew. You are not. Good-bye Fritz.”
9:25. A very loaded final glance between Max and Brian before Max drives off, losing his temper with the chauffeur… what happened?
Brian and Sally have it out about Max.
Brian: “Handling Max. You’re behaving like some ludicrous underage femme fatale. You are about as fatale as an after dinner mint!”
Sally: “Well we all know about your experience with les femme, fatale or otherwise.”
Brian: “Ah then screw Maximillian!”
Sally: “I do”
Pause – Brian smiles just a bit.
Brian: “So do I”
Sally:” … …. … You two bastards!”
Brian: “Two? Two? Shouldn’t that be three?!”
He storms off.
Cut to break… and a shot of the quartet gasping, then holding their breath then exploding in exclamations while watching that same scene.
Michael: “Did you know when ABC first showed the movie they cut the scene that had the revelation that Brian had slept with another man?”
Lea tells about watching that scene with her father and him walking out of the room during the homosexual revelation. Lea remembers thinking: “Well that’s it. I won’t be coming out to him anytime soon…”
9:35 – Sally and Brian get their kiss off letter and 300 Marks from Max.
Sally “On an hour to hour basis that puts us about on par with Fraulein Kost” (the prostitute who lives in their building). “Some gold diggers we are”.
Brian and Sally make up.
9:37 – Another of the great cross-cutting scenes. Where a silly militaristic march in the Kit Kat Club is cross cut with Natalia’s dog being killed by Nazi youths. Did I mention Bob Fosse is a genius?
Break: Michael Urie informs us that Cabaret was filmed on the same soundstage that was recently vacated by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. “So the Chocolate Factory became the Kit Kat Club? Oh God.” Slam! Michael is body checked by Lea…
9:44 – In a library. Sally announces loudly to Brian: “God Dammit. I’m going to have a baby!” She is shushed by Marion the Librarian. Well no…
Sally doesn’t know who the father is. She will sell her fur to “get rid of it”.
Later Brian walks across the hall to her door. “I would like to marry you”.
Candles galore. Making plans for living together in Cambridge. In the background we hear the song “Heirat”, a Kander and Ebb tune “Marriage” translated into German. Ed and I danced to this recording at our wedding 17 years ago…
Our marriage will have more of a future than Sally and Brian’s…
9:50pm – Brian argues politics with his apartment mates who are clearly taken in by Nazi propaganda.
Fritz confesses to Brian that he is secretly Jewish. Which should solve his problem with Natalia, except that “she has turned me into an honest man.” He fears her rejection when he confesses, and the further consequences when his background his widely known. “I’m such a coward.”
This is normally the cue for “If You Could See Her Through My Eyes”, but….
Break – the quartet play Fuck/Marry/Kill. Drew agrees with my choices. Brian is killed by three of them.
Lea: “I’m fascinated that not a single gay man (here) would marry Liza, since obviously you wouldn’t be the first.”
9:58 – The Cocktails Quartet discusses Cabaret’s unique Academy Awards record.
10:00 – IF THEY COULD SEE HER THROUGH MY EYES
Fritz walks up to Natalia’s villa. It is early morning. He knocks repeatedly. The door is opened.
Fritz: I’m a Jew.
Cut to a synagog. Fritz and Natalia are getting married. That is the last we’ll see of them. As a kid I asked my father what would become of them once the Nazis took power. My father figured with Natalia’s family’s wealth they would probably manage to get out of Germany in time.
My parents’ tax accountant is the kid of major Berlin store owners, like Natalia’s family, Jews who lost their store to the Nazis and had to flee to America. Of course it was easier for the wealthy and connected to emigrate. But with every year into the Third Reich it became harder and harder for everyone to get out…
10:05 – Ennui sets in between Sally and Brian. Brian grows distant. Sally makes a choice…
10:07 – Good bye, fur coat. Hello red hued screaming Can Can scene symbolizing Sally’s abortion.
Cut to break, Lea deLaria sings a few bars of “Cabaret” piano bar style, and … commercials.
10:12 – Lea’s concluding measures of “Cabaret”, and then Sally returns home, without the fur. She was gone all night. Brian guesses what happened.
They have what may be their first honest, certainly their most honest conversation in the movie.
They both now recognize that their relationship could only have had a disastrous future.
The second scene where Sally is crying on the bed. In the first it leads to her and Brian becoming lovers. This time it signals the end of their romantic relationship.
Commercials. Mood and momentum killers…
10:22 – “I just want to see how they turned a Truman Capote book into a heterosexual love story” – Advertising next week’s Cocktails and Classics: Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
And now Sally sees Brian off at the train station.
And Liza sings Cabaret!
“Auf Wiedersehen, A bientot…..”
The camera pans slowly across the fun house mirror before holding on the image of a swastika on an armband.
The Cocktail Quartet applauds. “Such a great movie!” And quickly wraps it up.
And so shall I. Hope you all enjoyed the live blogging recapping!
– crickets –