“THE LADY IN QUESTION IS CHARLES BUSCH”–a documentary of merit

“The Lady in Question is Charles Busch”

A Documentary of Merit

Amos Lassen

Charles Busch is one of the most prolific, talented and outrageous New York artists of recent times. He is a playwright, an actor, a novelist, a drag performer and a leading lady “The Lady in Question is Charles Busch” is a stunning look at him. He came into the life of New York in 1984 as a new artist in East Greenwich Village with his cross dressing classic, “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” which even though it was filled with sex, became a theatre classic. It ran for five years and become listed as one of the longest running shows in off-Broadway history. His other forays into performance art. “Theatre-in-Limbo” were produced at the dirty but inspired Limbo Lounge and were made of fascinating groups of all kinds of people.

“The Lady in Question…” begins in 2000 at the opening night of Busch’s first hit on Broadway, “The Allergist’s Wife” with a stellar cast. From there we go backwards and through interviews and film clips, we get an inside view of Mr. Busch and learn of his traumatic childhood. It was his interest in Hollywood and his “Auntie Mame” like aunt that saved him from going astray. He became a writer and was willing to go anywhere and do anything.

His parodies of Hollywood films he showed the world his talent and began to appear ala Tracey Ullman. Directors John Catania and Charles Ignatio have given us a beautiful look at one of America’s most versatile performers.

Watching the movie is like opening a chest full of treasures as we sit and watch a thorough account of Charles Busch’s life. We are privy to his early successes with “Vampire Lesbians” and “Psycho Beach Party” as well as the play that gives the documentary its name, “The Lady in Question”. Busch also made the transition to film with the movie version of “Psycho Beach Party” and “Die, Mommy, Die!” We also learn that he almost died form a congenital heart condition.

Busch is living proof that all the great movie stars are not gone—they live in the impersonations of Busch. He is a one-man reincarnation of the great ladies of the stage and screen. The documentary is affectionate and beautifully edited. Busch is more than just the run-of-the-mill gender bender. He is a genius who in his heyday was the master of camp and pastiche who brought back historical pageants, anti-Nazi melodramas and beach movies of the ‘60s. This is a priceless look at a man who0 is able to do anything…and does.

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