My friend Ned Stresen-Reuter and I were approached by Trojan comdoms to make another film for them, this time about a new condom called, wait for it, Ecstacy! In the meeting we had about it, I mentioned that the shape of the condom was somewhat curious, and Dan from the adverising agency said 'Yes, it's shaped like a baseball bat!'. That was the beginning of a germ of an idea...
I thought something as ecstatic needed a theme with pizzazz so we wrote a 50s style musical. Lance Horne helped us write the music and the lovely Ricki Lake came along and played with me. We shot it at the Box in NYC and we all had a hoot.
I was commissioned to write a piece for Newsweek magazine, inspired by the HBO remake of Grey Gardens. You can read it here.
I was invited to perform I Bought a Blue Car Today at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Mardi Gras Festival. I had previously played at the Opera House twenty years before with Victor and Barry!
I really enjoyed the shows here. I felt more relaxed and whereas the performances at the Lincoln Center in NYC were my concert debut, these were very definitley cabaret. The material was the same, but the atmosphere was different. I started to enjoy the interaction with the audiences and got more confident.
Whilst I was in Australia i went down to Melbourne to appear on Rove.
I Bought A Blue Car Today was my concert debut. I had been asked by the Lincoln Center to come up with a show for their American Songbook series, and although (or maybe because) I had a irrational but overwhelming fear of singing in public as just plain old me, I decided to say yes.
And I am really glad I did. It's amazing to imagine hwo something wil go and then it not only goes that way and then some, but in the doing of it you overcome big fears. And you also sort of get a new career!
I had toyed with the idea of doing a one man show where I would sing and tell stories for a long time, but because of the fear I mention above I had always found an excuse to avoid it whenever it nearly became a possibilty. But I always really enjoyed the connection i got with an audience when I did sing at a gala or benefit, and was always curious if I could sustain that through a whole show.
All the songs in I Bought A Blue Car Today were songs I could act. each one was a new character, a new little play almost, and I threw myself deep into each song, but partly because of the format of telling a funny story one minute and then immediatley going to another place emotionally the next as soon as the music started, I felt that the audience came with me in a way that really excited me and I found actually really addictive. It is very exposing. You have to make yourself incredibly vulnerable. Before the first performance in NYC I was more nervous than I think I have ever been in my life, and could cheerfully have killed my manager Dannielle, whose had persuaded me to do the show. Nut it was worth it. I have found a new form of performing that I really enjoy and find incredibly fulfilling and best of all a way of connecting with people that I never thought I would have be able to achieve or have the balls to attempt. I actually can't wait until I do it again.
Lance Horne was the musical director/arranger/composer/therapist and I couldn't have done it without him.
I Bought A Blue Car Today had its premiere at the Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on February 7th.
Click here to listen to a podcast about the show
and here's a pirate video of my encore...
I flew up to Glasgow one weekend towards the end of the run of Bent to shoot this segment for a BBC show Comedy Map of Britain which took people back to the places where they had derived their comedy material from. Forbes Masson and I revisited the lovely Prestwick Airport, where we'd shot scenes from The High Life.
Here's the intoduction I did for this book of nude self-portraits by various photographers, edited by Reed Massengill......
I think everyone secretly wants to take nude self-portraits. To be able to see ourselves as others see us - either passive or in the throws of passion – is always illuminating, but isn’t it also erotic just to have in our possession an image that captured a moment in our lives when we were at our barest?
Baring it all has many connotations, of course. Sometimes the look in an eye is more revealing than an entire naked body. And sometimes a close-up of an erection speaks volumes about the subject, and what he wants us to think and/or think of him.
I have taken my clothes off for many photographers over the years, several times for some of those you will see in these pages. But I have never allowed (or indeed been asked) for a nude self-portrait to be published before.
Actors are asked to reveal a lot about ourselves all the time (if, like me, you believe letting parts of yourself be revealed through a character is what acting is all about). But when I am asked to pose nude for a photo I realize that I am allowing myself to be revealed in a more titillating way: here is Alan Cumming, that actor, with his arse out; here he is again, oops, we can nearly see his cock etc. In a way, the more I show in a photograph, the more I am throwing you off the scent.
These photographers are all choosing to see what it feels like being on the other side. The hunters are becoming the hunted - or at least pretending to be willing to be hunted. What I find fascinating is trying to guess how much they too are really revealing, or how much they – intentionally - are trying to throw us off the scent. It’s harder, of course, because we don’t know them, we haven’t seen their films or heard them on talk shows. We do not know the mask they are dropping. We only have these images to glean a very complex series of attributes, desires and foibles.
Unlike the nudes of me that have been published, my self-portraits are not beautifully lit, there is no powder brushed across my buttocks, and I am certainly showing a lot more than I would ever feel comfortable showing in a studio with a whole slew of crew present.
If I weren’t famous I think I would have shown you an altogether different picture. I initially cursed the internet and the gossip industry for denying me artistic freedom and complete inhibition. But then I looked through the artists’ work again and realized that what this book is really about is intimacy – and just like baring it all, intimacy can come in many forms.
This is a very intimate self-portrait, and I hope the route it took me to decide upon it will serve as a good prism for your enjoyment of the rest of this collection.
Sundance Channel asked me to take over as host of their film series Midnight Snack. The scenario was that I was at home talking about a film I was about to watch, with a midnight snack I was about to eat. So I suggested that, for reasons of accuracy, I should co-host with my dog, Honey
A star is born.....