Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fork On The Left, Knife In The Back, Michael Musto At Heart

For twenty-seven New York City years (127 elsewhere years), Michael Musto has delivered a reliably sparkling column called La Dolce Musto, the first thing most readers turn to when they open The Village Voice. Musto is fascinated by and in love with New York City, and NYC loves him back and embraces him completely as its Renaissance gay clown prince who knows all the good dirt. Simply, if Musto is preoccupied with someone or something, we should be too. In a city crawling with pouty Carrie Bradshaws, bless their hearts, Musto’s entrance at any event is a benediction and a raised baton signaling the overture to greater fun.

Most of us see him about town from a respectful distance—not that he is aloof—but I finally sat down with him at the East Village, Cooper Square offices of the paper to see if he was really the kind of man I suspected. On the day of the Casey Anthony verdict, a trial he had covered with relish, we watched the televised scene in the courtroom. When I asked him if he felt justice had been done, he said, “Oh yes. Absolutely.  No evidence of murder one.” The verdict was incidental to his titillation with the story. It is the human drama and people in all their colorful, quirky and tawdry glory that beguile him.

I asked how he became “Michael Musto”. Was it intentional?

 “Oh no. You can’t plan a thing like that and that has been the most wonderful aspect of my career. I never made a plan. When I got the column, I was just so happy to have it, and I kept saying to my editors ‘What do you want from me?’ but they just let me be me—I’ve been so spoiled. I was the replacement for Arthur Bell who passed on in 1984. He was a well known gay activist and writer whose column was called ‘Bell Tells’. I couldn’t just carry the torch for him, so I just invented myself as I went along.”

The closetless Musto is not shy about stating his opinions in the context of dish and, as an always openly gay gossip writer, he has thrown shade or read celebrity beads when he saw need. He feels that if a columnist has no enemies and offends no one, he is probably doing something wrong. Though all hatchets have been buried, Musto’s past reactors/detractors included Rosie O’Donnell who called him a “gay Nazi” and ex-Governor Jim McGreevey who was none too happy with Musto’s inspection of his Rorschachy laundry trucked in from New Jersey.

Musto’s latest book Fork On The Left Knife In The Back will be released in September. Not simply a “Best Of” collection, it includes a good amount of new material. I love the book’s title, and when I asked him about it, he said, “I got it from a butler on Fire Island who used to say ‘Fork on the left, Knife in the back, spoon up the nose and dish, dish, dish!” His new book proves that he is still effortlessly hip. I mentioned that I admired this, praising the fact that he wore what appeared to be a multicolored afghan while interviewing the glamorous transsexual Amanda Lepore. He waved away my question about how he keeps himself stylishly au courant. “Please, I’m from Brooklyn. I’ve never had good taste. I wear what appeals to me, so I can’t make a mistake or go out of style. Very liberating not to have to worry about that.”

As we discussed the Casey Anthony verdict, I wondered what she would do next. Broadway? Musto’s face lit up. “Of course! She could jump into Chicago! People with less talent have. She would be perfect as Roxy Hart! Can I use this?” I replied that of course he could use it, knowing full well that he did not need to ask for my permission because he was really the one who had thought of it. I added the word “gentleman” to the long list of what I admire about the charming Michael Musto.

(A version of this report is in this week's South Florida Gay News.)

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