Theatre: Glamour, Glory and Gold: by Jackie Curtis
NEW YORK • La MaMa E.T.C. (The Club) • Ongoing
|In 1972, Jackie Curtis was immortalized in Lou Reed's tragi-techno ballad, "Walk on the Wild Side" ("Jackie is just speeding away / thought she was James Dean for a day"). A prominent member of the Andy Warhol set and an originator of avant-garde pop theater, he died from an accidental heroin overdose on May 15, 1985. La MaMa E.T.C., where Curtis made his stage debut in Tom Eyen's Miss Neferititi Regrets opposite Bette Midler, is reviving his, Glamour, Glory and Gold--The Life and Legend of Nola Noonan, Goddess and Star,, directed by Jackie's cousin and stage manager, Joe Preston. |
Glamour, Glory and Gold was first performed in 1967 at Bastiano's Playwrights Workshop, when author Jackie Curtis was only 19. Ron Link directed, Melba La Rose starred as Nola, and a young Robert De Niro made his very first stage appearance as Johnny Apollo. The play was successful in its first run, but truly shined seven years later at The Fortune Theater, when Jackie Curtis confidently took to the stage in the starring role of Nola Noonan. Howard Thompson (The New York Times) wrote "Jackie Curtis can write. The star can also act, bruising friend and foe with tense credibility." After Dark called the play "dishy delight and freewheeling hilarity, a penetrating analysis of what it's really like to live a dream, 24 hours a day."
"I have a face that'll be my fortune […] I am emotionally insecure. I need love," declares Nola Noonan at the beginning of "Glamour, Glory and Gold." She is a stylish young thing from the wrong side of the tracks who has the intelligence and ruthless ambition to make something of herself in the world, and who soon realizes that using sex is her only means to make her way "to Hollywood, while there still is an Hollywood." The play tells the story of Nola's life and degeneration from her start out in show business as a stripper to her success as a movie star/goddess, before she spirals into alcoholism and insanity.
Jackie Curtis embodied both genial craziness and creativity of the golden age of the New York Underground. Actor, playwright, director, singer and poet, he also became the visual prototype for ambisexual pop heroes of the stature of David Bowie and Boy George. He grew up as John Holder in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where his grandmother and predominant matriarchal role model, Slugger Ann, ran a celebrated saloon. He first appeared on stage at the age of 17 at La MaMa E.T.C., where he played Ptolomy in Tom Eyen's Miss Nefertiti Regrets. He began dressing in drag and met Andy Warhol and film director Paul Morrissey, who cast him (as a female) in the films Flesh and Women in Revolt. His plays included Glamour, Glory and Gold,(1968), Americka Cleopatra(1972--in which co-star Harvey Fierstein played Jackie's mother), Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit (1970, produced by John Vaccaro's Play-House of the Ridiculous) and Vain Victory The Vicissitudes of the Damned (1971). The latter two were both huge hits. The New York Times, Newsweek and The Village Voice all described his avant-garde plays as "ridiculous," "outrageous," "bizarre" and "disorienting," but they sold out for months.
Preston, a native New Yorker, still lives on the same block of East 11th Street where he was born and raised. He also was a grandson of Slugger Ann. He started working with Curtis in the late 1970s and continued until Jackie's death in 1985. Laying the foundation of a show business career, he worked as a stage manager, business manager, and advisor to Curtis. Craig Highberger, a long time friend who documented Jackie's work on film and video, recently completed a feature-length documentary about Jackie, Superstar in a Housedress. A video trailer of the film, with testimonials and images of Curtis, is online at . Working with Highberger on the film revived Joe Preston's buried interest in theater, and he resolved to bring "Glamour, Glory and Gold back to the New York stage. Preston appeara briefly in the production in the role of Flo Ziegfeld.
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