BEN RIMALOWER: THE ESCAPE ARTIST

[ 0 ] March 27, 2013 |

by tim parks – 

It’s a given that as gay men we have all clung to our respective divas for a myriad of reasons, whether they possess something that we wish we embodied or are just fabulous in layman’s terms.

For Ben Rimalower, his discovery as a young man of Broadway legend Patti LuPone was akin to being thrown a life preserver. It would help to teach him a set of survivor skills at age 8 that helped him steer the course of his troubled relationship with his father—a man who left his family behind when he himself came out of the closet.

In the guise of the original Broadway cast double album of Evita, the aforementioned course guided him to the welcoming shores of lake LuPone. Faster than you can say “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” a love affair was born and would flourish throughout the years.

Unlike other things before, this love would not go unrequited. Rimalower had the opportunity to express his feelings for the star in person, when the opportunity came to help her run lines—at her apartment—for a production of Sweeney Todd in 2000. And once again, during an assignment transferring LuPone’s personal performance archives to DVD, including her 1980 cabaret, which he later recreated at Joe’s Pub in 2006.

This brings us to his latest love letter, Patti Issues, which he will be performing at Martinis Above Fourth on Thursday, March 28 at 8 p.m. It’s a show that details his rescue via musical the­ater, his father’s homosexuality and Rimalower’s own coming of age. The Rage Monthly caught up with him and he set the record straight about LuPone threatening legal action on his show and all things Patti—naturally.

What made you decide to stage this one-man show?

I wanted to talk about Patti LuPone. When I started writing about her, what came out was more about me and my father and yet, still about Patti too. I just kept writing, hoping I could tie it all together theatrically. Then I was excited to share it with an audience.

How difficult was it to come to terms with your being gay, given the circumstances with your father?

It wasn’t difficult in a lot of the ways it usually is for kids, in that I’d watched my entire extended family accept my father’s coming out and watched my uncle and cousins come out with similar support.

So I wasn’t afraid of anyone else’s reaction, but as I discuss in my show, I had an image of the man I wanted to become and the life I wanted to live and I felt strongly that those things had nothing to do with my father. So it took some years for me to separate the issues and be okay with myself.

What is it about Patti LuPone that drew you to her?

Patti is fierce and not just in the snap, snap, snap, work-bitch sense—but literally fierce, like she’ll hurt you. It pervades her performances and especially her singing. I’ve always found that enthralling and as a role model or sort of a superhero in the fantasy of musical theater; I found her empowering.

Is there a role that you would cite as a favorite?

Evita

What was it like when you first had the chance to meet her?

It was like my destiny was coming alive in front of me; my fantasy was becoming reality. She was every­thing I dreamed she’d be and more.

What are your thoughts on her threatening legal action on Patti Issues?

She did not threaten legal action. She has been very supportive of Patti Issues. She came to my opening night and posed for pictures and gave me glowing praise to use in press quotes and she appeared with me on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live.

What can audiences come away from viewing the show?

I think audiences can feel satisfied like they’ve laughed and been moved. And I think they can relate to different aspects of how I’ve grown up with a fam­ily that’s got its problems and how I’ve pursued my dreams…and what my passions have meant to me.

For tickets and more information on Ben Rimalower’s one-man show on Thursday, March 28 at Martinis Above Fourth, visit martinisabovefourth.com

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