Sex in the City Meets Marriage in This Country
It’s enough to make Rick Santorum faint. A photo of three men and one woman actually equals two married couples (in certain states).
From whence comes this photo of Broadway and Hollywood luminaries (and gay marriage supporters) Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick with Rehoboth’s own Howard Menaker and Patrick Gossett, you ask? You could say it’s all because of Barbara Cook, the love of our Broadway lives, and one of the 2011 Kennedy Center honorees.
For years, Howard, Patrick, and I have volunteered to escort talent who are here for the Honors. When our heroine, Ms. Cook, was finally bestowed the honor, we were atwitter with anticipation. Who would be assigned to whom? The lineup of divas draped in gold frocks was a veritable parade of Broadway royalty: Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Glenn Close, and Sutton Foster. And here to introduce the Cook tribute: Matthew and Sarah Jessica. Patrick Gossett had the privilege of escorting the couple, spending the day attending to their every need.
Turns out the courtship of this modern-day Mr. and Ms. Manhattan is a quintessential New York love story. On their first date, Matthew took Sarah Jessica to the Carlyle to see Ms. Cook perform. Ms. Parker was ever so impressed by his choice of venue. A visit backstage après performance clinched the deal and you know the rest: Ferris Bueller took more than a day off and married Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw.
So, last December at Kennedy Center, during a ride on the backstage elevator, Patrick introduced the New York couple to his husband, Howard, who was escorting the show’s producer. There, Howard let the couple in on a happy little coincidence: 32 years ago, on one of their first trips to the Big Apple, Howard and Patrick went to see Ms. Cook at the Carlyle, too. Her performance worked the same magic in 1980 that it would later for Sarah Jessica and Matthew, whose trip to the altar did not face the same legal obstacles as our local couple would face. Howard and Patrick had to face “a whole lot of ugly from a parade of stupid” to finally jump the broom. But finally, Sex and the City met marriage in this country.
Happily, the talent I was escorting for the big event—and I do mean talent with a capital T—was the fabulous Audra McDonald, another true friend of our community. Having collected three Tony awards before she was 30, the inimitable Audra was as lovely and classy as could be. The tribute was unsurpassed, with each singer feeding off the last’s energy until Audra brought down the house with Ms. Cook’s signature song, “Till There Was You,” from the Music Man.
There was love all around. And we all heard it singing. So, leave it to Ms. Bradshaw as the curtain fell to exclaim, “That was the soprano smack down!”
Backstage, the theme seemed to be marriage equality. When gay marriage became law last year in New York, Audra was the first to tweet about it. She had proudly walked the halls of the New York capitol on our behalf. Audra was joined by her boyfriend, now fiancé, Will Swenson, who stars on Broadway as Mitzie in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Hats off to a wonderful and warm gay-acting straight man! Will continually sneaked glances at football on his iPhone, prompting me to opine that if I could bring the straight star of Priscilla to D.C.’s legendary gay sports bar, Nellie’s, I’d be the homo town hero for sure! Alas, he was game, but time ran short, and the black tie dinner is a must.
The red carpet scene is otherworldly. And during an election year, politicians make the scene, trolling for votes and photo ops. Enter Newt Gingrich and Mrs. G #3. The loudest Speaker of all times stands head and shoulders above—metaphorically, anyway—his gay-bashing brethren. Because no matter how low they each go, Newt stands lower, having a lesbian half-sister and a whole lot of explaining to do about his three wives.
And that’s where politics hits home. I’ve watched my dear friends Howard and Patrick for more than a decade of their 30+ years together. They have built a wonderful life, engaged in their community, and filled their homes with love, laughter, and some fabulous pieces! Along the way, they’ve buried all four of their parents, until finally, finally, on their 32nd anniversary, they were allowed to marry. Their love is here to stay. Sorry, Newt.
Mrs. Cook’s friend and idol, Stephen Sondheim, wrote these lyrics that Howard and Patrick had performed at their wedding:
And if they tell us it’s a thing we’ll outgrow;
They’re jealous as they can be;
That with so many people in the world;
You love me.
And it’s perfectly adaptable to Newt. Just change the last line to “you love three.”
Brent Mundt makes a living in DC and a life in Rehoboth.