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25 Years Later, ‘The Birdcage’ Is Hollywood’s Most Monumental Gay Movie



The most famous moment from “The Birdcage” is probably the one where Robin Williams gives a bored young hunk a 15-second tutorial in the history of American dance. It’s one of the late actor’s signature scenes. In an uproarious gush of energy, Williams goes from coolheaded nightclub owner supervising a Sondheim number to erudite showman. He demonstrates Bob Fosse, Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, Michael Kidd and “Madonna, Madonna, Madonna” with the zeal of a gay man who knows a thing or five about art.

While reading a new biography about the director, Mike Nichols, I was amazed to learn that Williams improvised the whole thing during rehearsals. Equally telling is the fact that Williams, then one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, asked to play the more restrained of the two leads. His hyper-theatrical screen partner would spend the final 35 minutes of the film in drag, and Williams didn’t want to retread what he’d recently done in “Mrs. Doubtfire.” So Nichols offered that role to Nathan Lane, a Broadway luminary. It was for the best. Unlike Williams, Lane is gay and could easily grasp the complexities of this particular code-switching.

That’s what “The Birdcage” is about, after all ― gender performance, a topic far less commonly discussed when the movie debuted 25 years ago, on March 8, 1996. Adapted by Elaine May from the 1973 French play “La Cage aux Folles,” it became Hollywood’s first blockbuster to revolve around open, well-adjusted LGBTQ protagonists. Nichols’ film remained No. 1 at the box office for four consecutive weeks, earning $124 million and ranking as the year’s seventh-highest-grossing release. Even with Williams’ name on the marquee, no one expected such success, partly because queer visibility was still a struggle. Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell hadn’t come out yet, and needle-moving television like “Will & Grace,” “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “The L Word” hadn’t premiered.

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage.”

Today, “The Birdcage” holds a knotty place in the queer canon. Its plot, however witty, is dated. A happy couple going back into the closet to impress a bigoted politician (Gene Hackman) whose daughter Barbara (Calista Flockhart) is engaged to their unlikable son Val (Dan Futterman) doesn’t pass 2021’s progressivism test. Some activists, like the writer Bruce Bawer, who called the movie “cruel and heterosexist,” didn’t even think it passed 1996’s test. But it’s more thoughtful than Bawer gave it credit for. (GLAAD agreed, praising the film’s “depth and humanity.” Larry Kramer liked it, too.) Last year’s holiday comedy “Happiest Season,” which employed a similar concept, suggests that code-switching is still a reality, no matter how far LGBTQ equality has come.

The sharp observations in “The Birdcage” are classic Nichols and May, longtime collaborators who refused to over-emphasize themes the way lesser storytellers might have. Take, for example, Hackman’s Kevin Keeley, a Pat Buchanan type who co-founded an archetypal right-wing group called the Coalition for Moral Order. The heartbreak of Armand (Williams) reluctantly agreeing to strip his home decor, send Albert (Lane) away and play straight during Keeley’s visit is accentuated by what a ridiculous person Keeley is. Facing a very ’90s sex scandal, he behaves like a child: irascible, self-centered and addicted to candy.

Even though there’s humor in the scheme to fool Keeley, which also involves 20-year-old Val’s estranged birth mother (Christine Baranski) returning to the fold, the movie never exactly roots for it. Nor does it villainize anyone involved, instead trusting that the audience is intelligent enough to stay loyal to Armand and Albert.

Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest and Calista Flockhart in "The Birdcage."

Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest and Calista Flockhart in “The Birdcage.”

“Yes, I wear foundation,” Armand tells Val. “Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I’m a middle-aged fag. But I know who I am, Val. It took me 20 years to get here, and I’m not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that.” When he eventually relents, it’s because he loves his son and knows how relatively unprecedented Val’s life has been. Most Americans didn’t know any openly gay people at the time, much less understand what it was like to have gay relatives in the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” 

When Val’s mother gets stuck in traffic and Albert decides to fill the role himself, “The Birdcage” borrows one of the oldest, most reliable comedy tropes: mistaken identity. Seeing Albert arrive at dinner in a Barbara Bush-style wig surprises us as much as it does Armand and Val. One might deem it Shakespearean. But the farce extends beyond cross-dressing. Lane is caricaturing the sort of prim conservative whose vote Keeley would have courted. Keeley is so enamored with her that he’s convinced she’s a scorned housewife disgraced by a pretentious husband, not realizing he is describing his own marriage. “Aristotle Onassis was just like this,” he hisses to his wife (Dianne Wiest, a stealth MVP), referring to Armand.

Keeley’s cluelessness gives Albert the upper hand. Ranting about school prayer and gay military service, he doesn’t clock that Albert is mocking him to his face. Invoking Alexander the Great’s rumored sexuality, Albert exclaims, “Talk about gays in the military!”

The dinner-party ruse lets “The Birdcage” smuggle in some pretty effective ideas about the queer experience. Armand struggling to teach Albert to “pass” for butch is a gleeful indictment of the idea itself; it makes the grunting mannerisms of heterosexual men look absurd. For any gay man who has deepened his voice or thrust his hands into his pockets so they wouldn’t give him away, those absurdities are all too familiar. Plus, Lane is a brilliant comedian capable of embedding both social commentary and interpersonal conflict in his broad physicality.

Nathan Lane in "The Birdcage."

Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage.”

In the end, the tables are flipped on Keeley, rendering Albert the hero. Keeley has to wear drag and slip out of the nightclub in secret to avoid tabloid photographers feasting on his scandal. Lo and behold, while bobbing his glittery shoulders to “We Are Family,” he finds himself smiling. Losing yourself to decadence, the movie confirms, is not some abhorrence. When Val and Barbara wed during the closing credits, Armand and Albert come as they are: proud, affectionate, prosperous and incredibly gay.

If “The Birdcage” were made today, its refusal to let Albert be as peacockish as he pleases wouldn’t sit well. Ditto the hilarious Hank Azaria playing a swishy Guatemalan houseboy. But even if its ideas weren’t all radical, its cultural footprint was. Queerness had thrived in indie filmmaking thanks to directors like Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant and Cheryl Dunye, but rarely had it made such a dent in mainstream multiplexes — and almost never with a happy conclusion. The following year, “In & Out,” starring Kevin Kline, would be a modest box-office hit. Three years later, “Will & Grace” won the Emmys’ top comedy prize. Shortly thereafter, “Queer as Folk,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Transamerica” helped the country grasp more of the nuances of queer life. Along the way, marriage equality and anti-discrimination initiatives started to become realities.

It’s hard to say with certainty that one thing wouldn’t exist without something else preceding it, but “The Birdcage” marked a turning point in Hollywood. Armand and Albert showed what’s possible when queer narratives don’t center trauma or disease, and the actors who portrayed them did so with a convincing interiority that pushed past stereotypes. They’re still worth our jazz hands.



Joe Rogan Admits He’s A ‘F**king Moron’ After Offering Selfish COVID-19 Vaccine Advice



Wildly popular podcast host Joe Rogan admitted he’s a “f**king moron” and “not a respected source of information, even for me” when he addressed his selfish comments about young, healthy people not needing to get vaccinated from COVID-19.

Rogan, whose audience is in the hundreds of millions, drew backlash — and a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert — when he said on an episode of his “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast released on Spotify last week that “if you’re a healthy person and you’re exercising all the time and you’re young and you’re eating well, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”

On Thursday, Rogan clarified in a video shared on YouTube that he was “not an anti-vaxx person.” “In fact, I said I believe they’re safe and I encourage many people to take them. My parents were vaccinated,” he explained. “I just said, ‘I don’t think that if you’re a young, healthy person that you need it.’ Their argument was, you need it for other people.”

“So you don’t transmit the other virus,” said his cohost.

“That makes more sense,” agreed Rogan. “But that’s a different argument. That’s a different conversation.”

Rogan, whose show was snapped up by Spotify in a $100 million deal last year, later attempted to explain away the comments by saying how he doesn’t plan what he says on air.

He’s often high or drinking alcohol during the shows, he said, before accusing “clickbaity” journalists of blowing his comments out of proportion.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m a fucking moron and I’m a cage fighting commentator who’s a dirty standup comedian who just told you I’m drunk most of the time and I do testosterone and I smoke a lot of weed but I’m not a respected source of information, even for me,” he said.

“If I say things, I’m always going ‘check on that Jamie, I don’t know if that’s true,’” Rogan added. “But I at least try to be honest about what I’m saying.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus


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Gabrielle Union Talks Baby Kaavia’s Free Spirit: ‘Shade Is Her Super Power’



Gabrielle Union recently talked about her daughter, Kaavia James, and her funny “shady” moments, characterizing those times as her 2-year-old’s “super power.”

“Shade is her super power because when Kaavia gives you a look, it’s either you’re not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn’t like,” the actor told People in an interview published Wednesday.

Union and her retired NBA star husband, Dwyane Wade, welcomed Kaavia in November 2018.

The couple has since poked fun at the toddler’s occasional adorably shady facial expressions — and hilarious side-eyes — like when a photo of Kaavia seated on a couch looking pensive and slightly unbothered became a meme last year.

Or when the little one looked less than pleased with the outcome of her face paint design at her second birthday party:

Inspired by Kaavia’s witty personality, Wade and Union created an Instagram account for the little girl, often using the hashtag ”#Shadybaby” in the posts’ captions. The couple also collaborated to write a Kaavia-influenced children’s book titled “Shady Baby” due for release next month.

Union explained in Wednesday’s People interview that she celebrates Kaavia’s freedom to be her authentic self amid a long history of harmful ways Black women and girls have been treated in society.

“The main takeaway is that she’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women,” she added.

In addition to Kaavia, Wade is father to Zaya, Zaire and Xavier. Union and Wade also parent his nephew Dahveon Morris.

Wade told People that he and Union make a point to encourage their children to be their true selves.

“If we allow our kids to be their true selves we don’t have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we push our kids to be their authentic selves?”

Last month, Kaavia took a side-eyeing break to enjoy a sweet play date with 2-year-old Cairo, the daughter of actors Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict.

After some hugs, Kaavia generously took Cairo for a spin in her toddler-sized electric car:


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Anne Heche Says Ellen DeGeneres Didn’t Want Her To ‘Dress Sexy’



Anne Heche took an unexpected swipe at former girlfriend Ellen DeGeneres this week during an online fashion retrospective.

In a short TikTok video Tuesday, Heche looked back at some of her favorite looks from years past, including the 1998 VH1 Fashion Awards and a memorable “Dancing with the Stars” routine from last fall.

The actor’s enthusiasm for nostalgia, however, notably dipped when she came upon a photo of her and DeGeneres from the 1998 Golden Globe Awards. The pair appear to have color-coordinated their outfits, with DeGeneres in a navy suit and Heche in a blue velvet gown and matching coat.

“Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy,” Heche, who has starred in films like “Donnie Brasco” and “Six Days, Seven Nights,” declared. After giving the look a zero out of 10 and a thumbs down, she added, “Bye, no!”

Heche and DeGeneres dated from 1997 to 2000. During their time together, the women were among Hollywood’s most-buzzed-about same-sex couples.

The former couple has remained mostly tight-lipped about the specifics of their relationship in the media. Heche, however, touched on her ex in a number of interviews timed to her appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” last year.

Chatting with Mr. Warburton magazine last year, she recalled angering Hollywood executives when she brought DeGeneres as her date to the premiere of 1997’s “Volcano.”

“I was told by Fox Studio executives that if I brought Ellen to the premiere, my contract would be terminated,” she told the publication. “I brought Ellen despite those threats, and we were escorted out of the theater before the lights came on by security and not allowed to attend the premiere party because they did not want any photos of us together.”

Ellen DeGeneres (left) and Anne Heche at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.

“I was a part of a revolution that created social change,” she added, “and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.”

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight last October, Heche noted that she hadn’t spoken to DeGeneres “in years,” but would be open to a reunion under the right circumstances.

“With relationships, I think many of us have [been there], you come to a fork in the road, ‘What do you want and what do I want?’” she said. “Those goals, that intent in life, is determined by the individual. Her intent and my intent were different and that’s why we separated.”


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Elliot Page Emotionally Shares What’s Given Him The Most Joy Since Coming Out As Trans



Elliot Page is sharing the moment that has brought him the most joy since he announced he was a transgender man in December 2020.

In a peek at an interview with Oprah Winfrey slated for release on her Apple TV+ series “The Oprah Conversation” on Friday, the 34-year-old said that he’s found “the most joy.”

“Getting out of the shower and the towel’s around your waist and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and you’re just like, ‘There I am.’ And I’m not having the moment where I’m panicked,” he said, before breaking down in tears. “It’s being able to touch my chest and feel comfortable in my body for the — probably the first time.”

The actor added his tears were “tears of joy.”

Earlier this year, Page talked to Time magazine about his decision to get top surgery and described the experience as something that allowed for him to recognize himself. Page recalled puberty as “total hell” and told the publication that the surgery “has completely transformed my life.”

He also told the publication that he spent much of his energy being uncomfortable with his body and the surgery has helped bring that energy back.

Page notably came out to fans last year with a heartfelt Instagram post, sharing that he would be using the pronouns “he” and “they” and said: “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.”

He went on to say: “I love that I am trans,” Page wrote. “And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive.”  


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‘Bachelor’ Matt James Is Seeing Final Rose Recipient With Racist Past



It isn’t over.

Matt James, who became the first Black lead of the dating reality series “The Bachelor,” told People on Wednesday that he’s been seeing Rachael Kirkconnell, the woman he chose but then rejected after her past racially insensitive social media posts were unearthed.

“I’ve seen Rachael a handful of times,” James said. “I’m not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it.”

Kirkconnell received James’ final rose on ABC’s reality series. After the season was in the can, pictures emerged on social media showing Georgia native Kirkconnell attending a slavery-era plantation-themed party and liking photos containing Confederate flags.

Kirkconnell apologized and said she “will continue to learn how to be anti-racist.” James said in the “After the Final Rose” episode last month that they broke up and that Kirkconnell had work to do on her own.

As for her progress, James told People “that’s something you could talk to her about.”

A report last week said the two were not speaking to each other, but that does not appear to be the case.

Stay tuned.


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Halle Berry Reacts To A Joke About Her Blunt Bob Debut At The Oscars



Halle Berry joined the fun on Twitter after she debuted her new bob hairstyle at the 2021 Oscars on Sunday night.

The Oscar winner responded to a Twitter user who linked her new ’do to a popular lighthearted video from rapper Saucy Santana, who channels Nicki Minaj from the B.o.B. song “Out of My Mind” while rocking a bob.

“Halle Berry tonight,” the user tweeted on Sunday alongside the video. Berry retweeted the post on Tuesday and playfully responded with two emojis, including a laughing-face one:

Berry stunned on the Oscars red carpet in a pink-toned Dolce & Gabbana gown that featured a prominent bow. She showed off her new bob with bangs after she teased the hairstyle on Twitter earlier in the evening with a photo that only showed her hair chopped off.

Her hairstyle sparked a lot chatter on Twitter, with people sharing memes and all sorts of opinions of the ’do.

The legendary actor and style icon, who made history becoming the first (and still only) Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in 2002, apparently wasn’t phased by the blunt-bob-detractors.

Berry arrived at the ceremony with her Grammy-winning musician boyfriend Van Hunt.

Hunt posted photos on Instagram Monday of him and Berry getting ready to attend the ceremony. His caption said it was the couple’s first date night. The two publicly confirmed their relationship on Instagram in September last year.


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Kate Middleton, Prince William Mark 10th Anniversary With New Portraits



Kate Middleton and Prince William are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with brand-new photos.

Kensington Palace released two portraits on behalf of the couple on Wednesday, one day before their anniversary. The new pictures were snapped earlier this week at the palace by photographer Chris Floyd.

The two appear to have recreated the official photo William and Kate released for their engagement, which was taken by Mario Testino:

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who have been together nearly 20 years, officially tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. Millions lined the wedding procession route, while an estimated 2 billion tuned in from around the world.

Celebrities including Elton John, Guy Ritchie and David and Victoria Beckham made up some of the 1,900 guests invited to the ceremony. Ellie Goulding performed at the couple’s evening reception, an honor she called quite “scary.”

“I did their first dance and like, talk about scary,” the singer told Vanity Fair in 2016. “I was so nervous, my hands were shaking.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.

Ten years since their wedding day, the duke and duchess now have three children: Prince George, 7; Princess Charlotte, 5; and Prince Louis, 3.

William and Kate celebrated Louis’ birthday last week by releasing a brand-new photo of their little one taken before his first day at nursery school.

Louis’ birthday is just two days after his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s big day.

The queen turned 95 on April 21 and released a statement thanking people for the tributes to her late husband, Prince Philip.

“My family and I would like to thank you for all the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said. “We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life.”


Kate Middleton’s Most Memorable Looks Of 2019


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