I spoke with Bruce Vilanch, a producer and one of the performers, about the album and current PC Culture last Saturday (06/19) on Suzanne Westenhoefer’s internet talk show.
The only one of the cast that I had been unable to confirm their present situation was Tammy Long – of course the voice behind The Fashion Show, discussed below. With Steve’s help I was just able to confirm with Bruce Vilanch that Tammy was indeed “Tamara Long Otterman, actress, director and founder of the musical theater program at the University of Central Oklahoma.” That description is from this May 11, 2002 obituary.
“Out Of The Closet” was an actual vinyl album, recorded in Hollywood CA on September 24, 1977. It was produced by Booker/Foster Productions Inc and released by Ariola Records. It included 13 tracks, of which the most well-known is “The Fashion Show” – a staple for lip-synching drag performers for decades. See also the entry (1/2 way down the page) at JD Doyle’s QMH site. In fact, that bit is the reason I finally got around to blogging about this classic piece of gay comedy history.
Derek Hartley, of Derek And Romaine 2.0 (another occasional subject of my blog) mentioned that bit, as part of a story about recently meeting a drag performer from a bar he used to visit back in his youth. He described the routine, but was unfamiliar with the name or the source. I of course called in with that information; following up with a few tweets of cover art and on-line references to the album.
Being the anal, detail-oriented type, I decided to do further research on the album and the Players. I have a cassette tape taken off the vinyl of the roommate of an ex- of mine; I don’t feel bad about having a bootleg, since the album was very difficult to find. This was back in the days of independent record stores and no online ordering. Be that as it may, I do not have the original album nor the liner notes. I have been able to find a photograph of the album cover on-line (Intertubes to the rescue) which lists the cast, the recording date, and other great information.
Also found on-line, is the following blurb from a 1978 issue of Billboard Magazine:
1978: An Album Comes Out of the Closet
Bob Booker and George Foster, producers of the hit comedy albums “The First Family” and “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish,” have teamed with Bruce Vilanch to helm the first “above ground” gay comedy album, “Out of the Closet,” released on Ariola. “Nobody had ever really looked at the gay community before in this fashion and we felt it was time to do it,” Booker told Billboard. “The gay community is a minority community but is culturally rich and has its own special brand of humor.”
To make sure the album would be “tasteful,” Foster says the producers made a pact with the writers – if any one writer objected to a joke, it was out. Billboard reports the album is receiving some radio airplay and that sales are strong in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago and Boston. One in-store marketing tool from the label: album covers displayed on coat hangers.
[Billboard, Jan. 28, 1978, page 20]
The album lists the following cast members. I have attached links to an IMDB profile or website only of those I’m sure or pretty sure are the same person. Corrections or additions are welcome, and I have reached out to a few folks where I have, or may have, a connection. Updates to follow.
(Click on the image to see full-size version)
Bruce Vilanch, and Booker/Foster Productions Inc (Bob Booker, George Foster).
**I was able to connect with Steve; in addition to verifying some of the IMDB links, he sent me the following remembrance of that recording session:
“not only was I on the album but I have a copy of it in my collection and remember that night like it was yesterday. When the Fashion show was recorded that night it was an instant smash…everyone knew it was going to be something that would last forever.“