happened last October when I was in Fredericks, a Great Neck landmark, on
Bond Street. I was waiting for Bennie to make my bagel and a schmear to
go (I always ask for Bennie, because he knows that I like the diet poppy
seed bagel slightly browned, not fully toasted, with fat-free whipped cream
cheese, a bottle of water and a double latte on the side), when I turned
to the magazine rack and began perusing the titles. I opened the most recent
copy of Premiere magazine and started flipping through the pages until I
came upon Libby Gelman-Waxner’s film review of Almost Famous. Oh My
God! Finally an article that I could relate to; finally an article that
didn’t only talk about the intricacies of Cameron Crowe’s biopic.
I mean, who is that guy anyway? He speaks as though he’s the only one
who experienced the ‘70s. I experienced the ’70s. I remember putting
on "Bennie and the Jets" and getting high in Aaron Schwartzman’s
house from the marijuana that he was growing in his mother’s garden.
(She thought it was oregano, if you know what I mean.)
This article reviewed the movie in a lovely and thorough way, but it also spoke about something far more important than just how great Frances McDormand was. It outlined Libby’s devastation at the fact that, the very day she went to see the movie, she found out that (dare I mention her name) Barbra would never sing in public again. Yes! It was all about how Miss B. was saying farewell forever.
The depression that Libby felt, knowing that B. would never sing in public again, I also felt, and immediately rented The Way We Were, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Owl and The Pussycat and For Pete’s Sake, saying out loud, over and over, "Your girl, Hubble, she’s swell."
Libby’s other reviews were also fab-u-lous. I mean she hit the nail right on the head with regard to Castaway when she wrote that her husband said, "Tom’s tragedy isn’t that he’s alone; it’s that he’s alone without ESPN." My husband would absolutely agree. God forbid anything like that would ever happen to him, knock wood.
Regarding X-Men, the movie made from the comic book about different characters with special powers, Libby wrote, "My ultimate question is this: If genetic mutation can produce Wolverine and Mystique, why can’t there be an X-woman who can automatically tell if a man is married, or a mutant named Sleek who can lose five to ten pounds at will, before any friend’s wedding? Why can’t there be an X-guy with the freakish power to pay child support on time, or maybe there could be the first male creature ever to actually look attractive in Khakis, Reeboks, a fanny pack, a visor, and a polyester polo shirt with an embroidered ‘Deputy Dawg’ logo." Oh-myGod, I totally knew what she meant.
And then Libby mentioned that she’s a housewife from Great Neck, married to a guy named Josh with two kids of her own. Oh—my—God. Immediately I’m thinking that I must know her. Where does she live? Saddle Rock? No, too upscale. Great Neck Estates? Possibly. Could she be a member of Temple Beth-El? Or Temple Emanuel? I would know her either way, because Rabbi Davidson is a close family friend.
I began reading the magazine on a monthly basis looking for clues to where Libby might live and if I might know her. I remember telling Chana, my best friend and Pilates buddy, that she had to go and read Libby’s column. Chana loved it, too. And then, oh-my-God, I read in The New York Times, or maybe it was somewhere else, that Libby Gelman-Waxner is not Libby Gelman-Waxner at all. My darling Libby Gelman-Waxner is in fact a man, a gay man, a screenwriter named Paul Rudnick. Oh—my—God. You could have knocked me over, like one of those big elm trees they cut down when they widened Northern Boulevard in front of the old Sears store. Then I realized that he’s the guy who wrote In & Out! I loved that movie.
And then imagine my feelings of betrayal when I found out that Mr. Rudnick actually grew up in, dare I say it, New Jersey. In fact, he never, ever lived in Great Neck, not for one second. As it turns out, Mr. Rudnick, who is 43, was raised in Piscataway, N.J., a member of one of only a handful of Jewish families in that area. He attended Yale University and moved to Greenwich Village after his graduation. He had to be gay? A Yale-educated screenwriter with a monthly column — couldn’t he have been available for one of my
Well, as the story goes, during the ’80s, Mr. Rudnick wrote two satirical novels, Social Disease and I’ll Take It. And he became well known for his highly successful off-Broadway play Jeffrey that highlighted the way in which members of the gay community dealt with the constant threat of death and dying due to the AIDS epidemic. It’s a comedy.
And then I started thinking, oh-my-God, why was I so taken with Libby and her reviews? It’s because even though other critics like David Denby, David Rainer and Peter Travers are all able, credentialed reviewers and married, no doubt (swines), if you know what I mean, none of them know what it is to write about film from my perspective. The perspective of a Great Neck housewife who often finds herself standing in line at the Squire Theater on Middle Neck Road on a Saturday night with two whining pre-pubescent boys deciding whether to see Mission Impossible or X-Men. To think it took a gay man from New Jersey, of all places, pretending to be a simple uncomplicated princess like me to do that.