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    Marc Huestis: An Impresario!

    By Jan Wahl–

    Marc Huestis has given me my favorite moments on the stage of the Castro Theatre. So many great memories come to mind, such as being up there interviewing MGM’s greatest tap dancer, Ann Miller (1923–2004). She described how director and choreographer Busby Berkeley used to make her feet bleed and actually risked her life with dangerous stunts. “He didn’t care, honey … as long as he got the shot.”

    Dazzling brunette Jane Russell (1921–2011) was a born-again Christian obsessed with “the Lord.” Our conversation was turning into a weird chat until I got the hang of it. “So, Jane, then the Lord took you to Bob Hope.” 

    Tony Curtis (1925–2010) told us he combined his mother and Grace Kelly for his Josephine character in Some Like it Hot. Tony beautifully imitated Mae West (my personal role model and spirit animal) by replaying his experience working with her on Sextette. She was easily confused by that time so she used a hearing aid to get her lines. Tony said the lines would sometimes get mixed up with police calls … he imitated it all perfectly.

    From A John Waters Xmas in 1996 to Ho Down Karen Black in 2000 to The Exorcist Linda Blair and Sparkle, Patty, Sparkle with Patty Duke in 2009, there were many sublime moments presented by Marc, who is one unusual guy. He is a passionate participant in the LBGTQ community, an avant-garde filmmaker, a producer of live events, and a true non-conformist in the best sense of the term. Marc marches to his own colorful, campy, profound, and edgy drummer, including us all in if we are willing to go there. I am so glad his story is now in a documentary directed by Lauretta Molitor: Impresario. The world premiere will take place at Frameline46 on June 21.

    The documentary goes deeper than the ebullient, extravagant Marc I have happily known for years. His background could only happen here. In the post Stonewall world, he moved to the Emerald City, joining a counter culture theatre collective. He was a driving force behind the first gay film festival in San Francisco, with that exciting festival eventually becoming Frameline. Marc’s films were unknown to me, but now I know that his talent and erotic sensibility were there in every frame. He experimented with Super-8 shorts in the 70s, eventually directing, writing, and producing one of the first films to address AIDS in the 1980s: Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age. Later he produced Sex Is … , which explores the meaning of sex and sexuality within the lives of gay men.

    As the documentary explains, the auteur changed careers. For over twenty years, Marc became the Impressario, putting together the wonderful evenings at the Castro Theatre. Not only did these shows bolster us up when we needed it, but they also were benefits for the community. They brought in straight allies who marveled at the brilliance of Matthew Martin’s performances, informative moments on stage, and the incredibly professional clip reels Marc produced himself to highlight the honoree’s work.  Tony Curtis had his played at his memorial, and also sent Marc a fine picture done by Tony. Those clip reels, using intense moments of careers, were on my mind when I began my recent conversation with Marc.

    Regarding Jane Russell, he said that she “was heavy with the Lord thing, a born again. But great to work with. She loved to sing and sang with our Castro organist. After rehearsing, she watched the clip reel with her granddaughter. Soon she was crying, bawling her eyes out. She was not one who watched herself in movies. Such a good moment, the kind that makes the job so worthwhile. Jane looked gorgeous in black and white, sometimes butch and also a strong, independent woman.”  

    He continued: “I loved the Troy Donahue/Sandra Dee evening (Summer Beach Party with Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue Live, 1998).  Sandra was fragile and drunk, Troy sober and protective. Sandra held it together for the crowd, though she was three sheets to the wind. She straightened up in hair and makeup for a bit, and came alive as many do in front of the audience. But I could see her low self-esteem. Troy wanted us to do an intervention, but it was not the time or place. When Sandra died, I cried, almost as much as when I lost one of my dearest friends, Carol Lynley.” (Carol did two fabulous events with Marc; what a joy she was.)

    “Ann Miller (Too Darn Hot with Ann Miller, 2002) got a bit tipsy in a restaurant and dropped one of her fabulous rings in the mashed potatoes,” he said. “She was so upfront that she even told us about being thrown down stairs and losing a baby. She was a Texas gal and used phrases like ‘bull pucky’ and ‘I’ll be damned.’ She sat in the lobby and greeted everyone after. What a doll.  This was her last public appearance.”

    He added, however, “They weren’t all so great. Christina Crawford was so difficult that I call her Daughter Dearest. Mitzi Gaynor was self-absorbed and narcissistic. I usually don’t mind that, but she wasn’t a giver, like the enthusiastic Debbie Reynolds.  Barbara Eden (I Dream of Barbara Eden, 2011) was boring because she was too nice. Ann-Margret was shy (Viva Ann-Margret, 2002) and hard to get answers from.”

    Concerning Impresario, Marc said, “This movie about me has been in the works a long time. Lauretta Molitor was a sound recorder for many of my films. I didn’t want to watch it at first. Why is she making a movie about me? But once I did, I liked that it creates a character. I could step outside of myself and see the humor, the unseemlier aspects of my personality. It was a three-dimensional portrait. I would have liked more events and their sell-outs, but it’s not my movie, it is hers. She did an amazing job. “ 

    Marc lives down in the desert now. He might be planning a tribute to Barbara Parkins, who was so unforgettable in Valley of the Dolls. When the Impresario will be back, working his magic, I will be so there.   

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at www.janwahl.com

    Published on June 9, 2022