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In the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, I determined to write and produce a political satire entitled "Ten Ways to ________ George W. Bush." I did not, in the end, pursue production on or even write this live musical comedy, in which various members of Bush’s cabinet hatch competing plots to do in the old man (full disclosure: I did not vote for George W. Bush). This was partly because friends and family warned that the title alone might earn me a one-way ticket to one of Dick Cheney’s waterboarding chambers. The other reason was that I figured, by the time this work saw the light of stage, it would be too stale for satire since many members of the Administration would be out of office due to scandal, litigation or sweet book deals like Scott McLellan’s. It turns out I was right about most of the main characters, except for Bush, Cheney, and Bush’s homicidal ex-lover, Condeleezza Rice.
As luck would have it, during the 2006 mid-term election, I discovered a far more spoof-worthy public figure. Though not a member of the Administration, she is such a panting admirer of the Chief Executive that she surely must regret never having served with him. Or, as the most famous news clip of her and the President shows, under him. As people who’ve read my columns for The Rake know, I have been endlessly entertained by 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, ever since first learning about her during her run for U.S. House in ‘06. Though she is an attractive woman who looks far younger than her 52 years, this obsession is not sexual (I think Jason Lewis, KTLK ‘s pathetic answer to Rush Limbaugh, has the hog’s share of those feelings). It, instead, derives from how shamelessly Mrs. Bachmann embodies every stereotype of the culturally illiterate, socially paranoid, antigay Christian conservative – the type who has been the bane of this country’s existence since Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell joined hands to ________ America.
Which leads to the political musical comedy that I will be launching after all these years. That production, "Catfight!", part of this year’s edition of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, does not, in the end, involve most of the story elements I had originally envisioned. In fact, it doesn’t even concern any actual figures from real political life, including the object of Jason Lewis’ darkest fantasies. However, one of the main characters happens to be an evangelical Republican who’s devoted her adult life to all the favorite hobbyhorses of the God squad: most importantly, the fictitious gay menace that threatens to destroy marriage and turn our children into leather-clad, pool-cue wielding Cruising extras.
This woman, Mindy Bishop, played Vagina Monologues veteran Kristen Strissel, also happens to be making her first run for Congress in the same part of the Minnesota tundra Michele currently melts or freezes hearts in. In another nod to real life – though it would be that of another prominent Republican now thankfully put to pasture – she is followed at every campaign stop by a pair of documentary filmmakers who work for her very liberal opponent, Stephanie Leary. Hoping to catch her in the type of "macaca" moment that made George Allen history, these brave young souls still manage to post embarrassing clips of Mindy on Leary’s website.
Which leads to the main reason I chose to make the conservative in my cat fight a fictional character. Mindy Bishop, unlike Michele Bachmann, actually allows the public and the media, friend and foe alike, to videotape her public appearances. Michele, as I found out from two of her goons at the 6th District nominating convention this spring, has somehow managed to prevent anyone – either freelance schlubs like myself or major media outlets like Minnesota Public Radio – to bring a camera into any public gathering where she plans to open her mouth. The reason for this is that the Congresswoman, like the fallen Virginia senator, has been the unwilling star of many classic YouTube clips – a particular favorite being one in which she gushes like a schoolgirl to the faithful at the Living Word Church that she is "hot for God!"
As the red, or rather, blue, hot Stephanie Leary, Marmy Nelson brings good, left-wing outrage to the proceedings – even if Marmy, herself, is a Christian conservative and lifelong Republican (don’t ask me whether or not she supports Michele)! In another nod to casting against type, I will portray right-wing radio blowhard Bill "Kill" Sargent. Not only will this acting turn offer me a chance to plunder the bilious depths of these losers’ souls, but to also utilize the "voice of God" I have been blessed and cursed with all my life. I will hasten to add that the bloviater I portray more closely resembles Limbaugh than Jason Lewis – while Rush has some finesse with the English language, Lewis possesses the oratorical skill (not to mention physique) of a ballpark drunk.
Similarly, "Catfight!" would not be complete without a representative of the televangelists and other stumpers for God who are an important part of the fundamentalist universe. A local influence on this character is the man who vies with Jason for Michele’s affections: Living Word Church Pastor Mac Hammond who, though he nearly lost his church’s tax exempt status – and his private jet – due to his endorsement of her during sermons, couldn’t vote for his star devotee because he didn’t live in her district!
Big Mac’s doppelganger, Dr. Augustus Fairchild (Dan Fuller, who possesses his own Godlike voice that could shake church walls) is not only a pastor of the Gift of Devotion church but a licensed therapist, as well. In this latter calling, he shares much with the religious right’s biggest icon, Dr. James Dobson, as well as Michele’s own husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, a counselor whose chief practice is making gay men and women as straight as John Wayne (or, at least, Rock Hudson). Hardhearted atheist that I am, I do tip my hat to true believers in one respect, in that all of "Catfight!" is overseen by one of God’s most beloved, cherished and swinging angels, played by the eminently swinging Michael Cooperman.
Unlike many of the characters who gave rise to my first production, most of the real-life folk who inspired "Catfight!" are still in office or otherwise on the radar screen. Unfortunately, one of them, former pastor Ted Haggard, has been conspicuously silent, ever since he pronounced himself "cured" of his addiction to hunky masseurs like his longtime male escort, Mike Jones. Luckily, one of Jones’ other clients, Idaho senator Larry Craig, is still sitting in Congress, if not in a certain rest room, and will soon be treating us to a book told from his side of the stall.
So, if you want to know what makes people like Larry and Ted and Michele tick – and need a break from watching Barack become the 44th President of the United States – come on down and check out "Catf
ight!" at the Ritz Theater (times and ticket info listed below). And if you think "Ten Ways to ________ George W. Bush" should, indeed, be displayed for the masses, I’m certainly open to any offers of financial backing. Just make sure you also have enough dough for legal protection against Dick Cheney’s waterboard.
"Catfight" will be presented at:
345 13th Avenue, NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Friday, August 1 – 7:00 pm
Monday, August 4 – 10:00 pm
Wednesday, August 6 – 5:30 pm
Thursday, August 7 – 7:00 pm
Saturday, August 9 – 8:30 pm
Tickets: $12.00 – Adult
$10.00 – Students (with ID)
$5.00 – Seniors (with ID)
Tickets available only at Uptown Tix