There’s a reason why, decades after Donna Summer’s eternal hit Last Dance won an Oscar for one of the worst movies ever made, people are still declaring, “Thank God It’s Friday!” Whether or not you thank God (or you thank Cher…) that it’s the start of the weekend, one thing was made clear on Friday, October 14th: Award Winning Comedian Ike Avelli’s adult variety show 50 Shades of Gay and the iconic nightclub Copacabana made for the most absolutely fabulous pairing since Patsy Stone first met Edina Monsoon. Originally conceived in 2015 and constantly evolving 50 Shades of Gay more than lives up to its description as both an “adult” and a “variety” show. The show can indeed be naughty at times, with its humor often more in the style of Joan Rivers than Shari Lewis and Lambchop– especially when the jokes are coming from the loose lips of Mr. Avelli! And as for variety, there is indeed plenty of that as well. 50 Shades of Gay is a mix of music, comedy, drag, video sketches, and audience participation. Avelli’s crush on former Menudo chirper Ricky Martin has seemingly lasted longer than most Hollywood marriages… so, appropriately, 50 Shades of Gay kicked off with our poor Ike being stood up by Mr. Martin on their L-O-N-G awaited fantasy wedding day. It doesn’t go well after that… Starting the performance with a costume that must be seen to be believed (courtesy of Avelli’s friend, designer Suze Stutzman), the vignette is every bit as outrageously over the top as it sounds. It would be the first of many wild costume changes, naughty song parodies, and seemingly infinite references to transgenerational LGBTQ pop culture icons (Too many to count…). Avelli always utilizes audience participation in his shows, and this Friday night at the Copa was no exception. The comedian may not be the first funny man to pull attendees up from the audience, but Avelli takes it to a new level. What other performer would supply pom poms to a pair of handsome guys for a deliciously dirty parody of Toni Basil’s Mickey, or break out an assortment of wigs for a wild lip-synch battle called “Wig-a-thon”? (Avelli has said that this is always his favorite part of the show.) Of course, there were prizes: Usually, it was… Uberlube! (Uberlube has been a dedicated sponsor of “50 Shades of Gay’ for quite some time now, as is E. Martin Davidoff, Attorney At Law.)
Avelli’s Special Guests for the night were singer/actor Tym Moss, his friend and frequent collaborator; and popular drag star/recording artist Jacqueline Dupree. Moss first appeared on stage dressed in a bathrobe, with a walker (!) as an accessory. He launched into a parody of Welcome to the 60’s, which audiences may remember from the musical Hairspray. Tym’s version was reworked to celebrate the, uhm… “joys” of middle age. (Tym Moss actually celebrated his 60th birthday in New York City in April 2022 with– what else? A variety show!). Keeping with the outrageous spirit of the evening launched by Ike, it was delightfully over the top. Later on in the show, Moss reminded the audience what the Copacabana was most famous for when he offered a zesty version of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody. If partners in crime Ike and Tym are specialists in flashy flamboyance, Jacqueline Dupree offered her own brand of cool elegance to the mix, complete with her deliberately mannered vocal style. This makes the diva well-suited for numbers like When You’re Good to Mama from Chicago, in which she changed the titular lyrics to “When you’re good to JACKIE…!” She delivered similarly fine results with Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, prompting the night’s Hostess Wendy Stuart to respond, without missing a beat, “She said ‘Diamonds’! I said, ‘How big?!”
So, more about Wendy Stuart…! As Hostess for the night, the performer/author/entrepreneur/full-time socialite had the responsibility of wrangling the performers as well as recruiting the MANY volunteers who were pulled on stage to play such supporting roles as Ike’s, ahem… “altar boys” (!) However, Wendy is also a popular performer in her own right, with one of her specialties being parodies of popular songs– with perhaps just an itty-bitty political edge! Stuart’s selection for this show was hilarious song about Facebook Jail, set to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s ageless hit The Sound of Silence. It was a crowd-pleaser which most assuredly would get Mark Zuckerberg’s BVD’s into a knot– and get Wendy a life sentence in Facebook Jail!
As mentioned earlier, Ike Avelli and the Copa made a fine combination. Avelli even honored the legendary performance venue with a “tribute” which, prophetically, he has possibly been performing since Mario Lopez’ voice first broke. The Copa returned the love, even featuring specially made cocktails just for the evening. They included the “Oops I Did it Again” (spiced rum, mango puree, and vanilla garnished with a lime) and the ultimate tribute to the show itself: the “50 Shades of Gay” cocktail. (Before you ask: It is tequila, fresh lemonade, and violet liqueur… garnished with a motherly dose of rosemary.) Of course, there was a finale. I won’t give away what it was, except to say that Tym Moss knows how to end a show with a bang (Even if the recipient of the bang is NOT Ricky Martin…) The show was followed an after-party, featuring a continuing live performance by Jackie Dupree and an infinite playlist of crowd-pleasing dance tracks by DJ Sergio Afonso. Attendees that night included many of Avelli’s peers in the New York City nightlife, including Robert Sosa, Edwin Vazquez, Albert Crocus Pena, Nick Lion, Cecile Williams, Lady Clover Honey, Jack Phelan, Bethany Birkett, Coby Koehl, Dorothy Bishop, Joe Mode, Anu Singh, Fran Sisco, Kelly Sisco, Joseph Aiello, Jeffrey Friedman, Casey Fowler-Steiman, Michael Luisi, and many others
Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I can undoubtedly say that I counted more than just 50 colors Ike Avelli’s phenomenal show. And, indeed, they were all vibrant hues!
See more at www.IkeAvelli.net.