The Fleet's In by Paul Cadmus"Well, it is certainly mature," my boy's teacher said, her brows raised in silent communiqué as if miming the location of the next safe house for handmaids, when I brought up the Judy Blume book that he and I'd been reading. She and I were both thinking of the wet-dream talk that comes—thank you!—after all of four pages.
I'd known Judy Blume was a godless whore—why do you think I liked her?—but four pages isn't much of a buffer when you start reading about sperm with your 10-year-old baby. "Do you know what a wet dream is?" I asked him, and he didn't, and now he does.
But my boy's teacher continued. "It's really up to parents to decide if their child is mature enough for her books. Judy," she twinkled, and with that small intimacy signaled her approval, although you might need a member of the Resistance to interpret the original encoded French, "has always been controversial."
And that's the happy state of life in one of the few OC classrooms that isn't yet handing out Communion or teaching in tongues: the encouragement to read something other than Left Behind: The Executin'or that book the National Park Service sells at the Grand Canyon gift shop that says the gorge was carved by Noah's flood may have to come in code, but come it does. But don't worry, fundie friends! They're singing lots of songs about Jesus, Our Savior and King, at this week's "holiday" program. Don't let the bastards grind you down.
My father, who is a Jew, and thus usually an informed person, had not the faintest inkling that a Bette Midler show would be full of the gays. "Gay guys?" he asked, with the same faux-shock with which you'd say, "There's traffic on the 5?" except that shocked he actually was when I explained the reason the Pondwas packed (on a Tuesday!) was that all the gay guys had come down from LA, where Midler wasn't playing a date. "Nobody's coming down from LA," he pooh-poohed. "You came down from LA," I reminded him. He had no idea the woman whose album The Divine Miss M he'd proclaimed the Album of the '70s had started her career as Bathhouse Betty. He didn't even realize that everybody to whom I'd mentioned my father's Bette Midler fandom had asked whether my father was one of the boys in the band.
"No," I kept explaining, "he's a hippie and a Jew."
But walking through the Pond, my father actually began to point atthe queers. "There's one!" he said. Pointing. "Oh, there's another! But of course you knew that, with your history of faghaggery."
He almost made it sound as though my days of faghaggery were done and gone.
And for those of you who pooh-pooh the Divine Miss Midler, which is pretty much any straight under 60, you must realize that before she emoted "Wind Beneath My Wings," she was a completely inspirational, foul-mouthed freak who mostly sang boogie and big band.
Behind a huge screen painted with the veryTom of FinlandThe Fleet's In by Paul Cadmus(the original, a beautiful mess of sailor booty, showed at OCMA a few years back) were Midler's band and her tutu-ed backup girls, and Midler arrived in satin sailor suit and Shirley Templecurls flying in on a giant carousel horse. Gay? But oui! And my dad and I and every Jew and old lady in the place loved every second. Not to mention the queers.
So she's hilarious, and she talks like a trucker, and for God's sake, she's 59 and was tap-dancing for an hour—while she was singing—and my dad loved nothing better than the ancientCatskills jokes she was doing (which were older than the Raiders offensive line), but she updated lots, too, for the young men in the house, with lots of jokes about Britney and Christina and watching the particular trash that is Ms. Aguilera strutting around in pasties and a g-string—pasties and a g-string!—and does Ms. M get even one word of thanks?
The second half of the show was mostly retreads—the famous mermaid-in-a-wheelchair routine goes on for an awfully long time, with lots of different fish puns, and the Catskills and the Bush jokes, and the jitterbugging, and the full raw mouth—but at the end of the show, Pink showed up to sit in on "The Rose." And if you've ever wondered if the maybe-Sapphic-but-hanging-with-Tommy Leerock songstress Pink knows the words to "The Rose"? Yes. Despite that somewhat beefy appearance, she does. Toward the end of the show (after, I think, "Wind Beneath My Wings"—and no, cool kittens, I don't like it either, but I suppose it has to be done—and right before a scorching "Do You Wanna Dance?"), there was a particularly touching homage to Mr. Rogers. With him singing on a screen (I'm not at all appalled by it like I was with ghoulish Natalie Colepositively eating her dead dad), Midler delivered a lovely counterpoint during a very poignant "I Like to Be Told." They like to be told if it'll hurt or it won't, and they like to be told when you're coming home. It's such a simple plea for honesty; they can handle it, if you'll tell them, but they really want to know.
Of course, I'm pretty sure I cured my son of that once and for all.