July 1320, 2000
Though a singular entity, there are, in reality, several Frank DeCaros. One is the Frank DeCaro who plays a boisterously gay film critic on Comedy Centrals much-loved The Daily Show; DeCaros "Out At The Movies" segment is a swishy bitch session directed at masculine/feminine iconography. The other DeCaro, 38, is a quietly serious writer, a journalism student at Northwestern who went on to become New York Newsdays fashion editor. From there he went on to write for The New York Times, TV Guide, Vogue, US and Martha Stewart Living all of which led up to his first full-fledged book, A Boy Named Phyllis (Viking). The 1996 book is a lovely recounting of an only child the son of an Italian propeller-factory worker and a beautician growing up absurd, chubby and gay in suburbia. This week, at the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, hell appear on screen and off for Absolut Best, a clip retrospective of gay audiences twenty favorite films.
Do you feel like Phyllis sufficiently purged your system of the ghosts of homophobic New Jersey?
I think I made my peace with it, yeah. I was there over July Fourth weekend at 1 a.m., shopping at the A&P and there was a drag queen behind me in line. So things have definitely changed. The town may have been on its way. But I think I hurried it along.
Your writing style is funny, revealing and tart but never bitter or maudlin. Who were your models for wit?
Erma Bombeck. She captured suburbia so perfectly and was so down-to-earth about it. Actually, I wanted to be Elton John writing Erma Bombecks column. I think I succeeded. My sense of being amused and my sense of being horrified run so close together. The things that embarrass me are the things I embrace the most, like mall culture. I love that New Jersey is chic now. I hope Phyllis had something to do with it, though I dare say Tony Sopranos more the reason.
I know in high school you did the Paul Lynde role in Bye Bye Birdie. Your Daily Show persona has a similar edge. Why is Lynde so iconic?
One, he was devastatingly funny. Two is that hes a cautionary tale. Its fun to play a Paul Lyndesque character on The Daily Show but Id never want to be that bitter a queen. I think my persona on The Daily Shows a little more complex. I find it amusing to play, to the outside world, a character who may look like a 250-pound bald man pushing forty but in his own mind thinks hes Cindy Crawford. Completely self-involved and obsessed. Treats all good-looking men as stupid. In reality, Im much quieter. Really, no one could be that gay all the time. I would hurt myself.
I understand youre working on a book called Love Handles To Die For.
Its going to be another memoir talking about how we become sexualized. I always said I was gay before I actually became homosexual. So its about becoming sexual, about how I went from being single for years to becoming a guy just about to celebrate his fourth anniversary with a boyfriend, a dog and in-laws. My boyfriend read my book and stalked me. He came to a reading. I thought he was cute so I gave him my screen address. So then he stalked me online. It was either get a restraining order or marry him. Its nice to have a happy stalking story.
Lets talk about Absolut Bests twenty films. Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is number one. Why do Australians love ABBA?
Everyone does. I voted ABBA Gold my favorite album of all time on The List.
Why are there no films before 1975 on the list?
Everyone was twelve who voted on it. The films were explicitly gay and lesbian. Thats why Wizard Of Oz isnt on the list. No Parting Glances, no Boys in the Band. I got hissed in San Francisco for showing disdain that Cant Stop the Music wasnt on the list. Anything directed by Rhodas mother .
Frank DeCaro will appear as presenter of Absolut Best, Sat., July 15, 7:30 p.m., the Wilma Theater, Broad & Spruce Streets. Tickets can be purchased in person or by phone from TLA, 1520 Locust St., 215-735-7877.