Sunday, May 1, 2011

Behind the Easter Bonnet: Backstage with the Cast of the Lion King

There are upsides and downsides when one of your best friends is an A-List gay celebrity. Actually, the upsides far outweigh the downsides...let's be real. The only real downside when your bestie is Bebe Zahara Benet is that on occasion, I get lost in the shuffle when we are out together (which is to be expected) and that folks tend to believe that I can make Bebe magically appear when and where I want her to be.

The upsides are that I have an amazing and sweet friend who is supportive and loving. I also get to go to some fantastic shit.

Last week, the 25th Annual Easter Bonnet Competition took place at theater that is home to the Lion King. For those of you that aren't familiar (I sure as hell wasn't), the Easter Bonnet Competition was started in 1987 as a benefit to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

, which is the foundation of the Equity Actors' Union. Since 1987, the foundation has raised and awarded $46 million to organizations that provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS. Each year, the Easter Bonnet competition raises $3 million to support the foundation.

Basically, a good portion of the shows on Broadway produce some fairly hilarious and amazing skits that they perform to a sold out audience over two days. A List celebrities often make surprise appearances in each of the skits, and the event, this year, was hosted by Robin Williams and Judith Light (she is TINY as Hell).

This year, the cast of the Lion King decided to do a skit of RuPaul's Drag Race, particularly since the season finale of the reality show took place during the Easter Bonnet Competition. As a surprise guest star, they brought Bebe Zahara Benet into the cast for the Tuesday afternoon performance. It was hilarious to be in the audience when Bebe took the stage with the other cast members cum drag folks were like..."Is that the real Bebe? It sure looks like Bebe. I think that is Bebe. Naw that's not the real Bebe." I almost pissed myself laughing. A little trickle may have escaped. I can neither confirm nor deny that urinary fact.

The skit lasted all of four minutes, but I had spent the previous four hours backstage in the dressing room with the marvelous cast members that were taking part in the skit. Organized by Alvin and Jean Michelle (both Lion King cast members), I had a hoot of a time getting to know some of the folks that make the magic of the Lion King. From the wig master who, on about an hours notice, merged two ratty ass wigs that looked like rejects from a Judd's concert into a high hair Southern girl spectacular to the "pit crew," members that stripped down to bedazzled square cut shorts, oiled up and started doing a work out in the dressing room (in a room full of mirrors, it was impossible not to oogle...and LORD HAVE MERCY was I trying to be respectful and not have a spontaneous orgasm when they started doing push ups)...the prep for the show was more fun than I've had in forever.

And the best part was when the straight pit crew hunk of chocolatey loveliness walked out into the hallway outside of the dressing room in his shorts and ran right into Robin Williams who looked at him and said, "What the fuck!"

Oh yes....there are most definitely benefits to having a gay celebrity as a best friend.

I want to thank the cast of the Lion King for their amazing love and support of Bebe, and I want to send my personal love and thanks to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. They provide support to Camp Heartland (largest camp for children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS...I am a former staff member of the parent organization of the camp: One Heartland). Thank you for an amazing afternoon and for welcoming us into the Lion King family!

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