BY ROB LESTER****Who is Taffy Longvue and why is she saying those audacious things? She has the cabaret world abuzz even before making her debut on February 27 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Her unfiltered comments on anything and everything and the reactions to her glib attitudes and self-revelations have ignited a debate with “freedom of speech/First Amendment” advocates staunchly defending her, albeit with raised eyebrows, and those who prefer discretion and modesty in old-school cabaret refinement on the other side. “I don’t know where she came from,” squealed a cabaret fan who is our source, “but boy oh boy, this is a gal who has found her inner fabulousness and run with it.” How quickly Miss Longvue (if that is her real name) can run in four-inch-high hot pink high heels is a matter of conjecture, as is her sudden commanding but elusive appearance.
Our unnamed source, speaking to NiteLife Exchange only on conditions of anonymity to protect his/her reputation and professional cabaret connections, is an insider who observed a rehearsal for the new show. Or maybe snuck into a rehearsal at the Beechman, pretending to be waiting for a job interview to be part of the wait staff. “Let’s just say I was there and can say this woman is outrageous and outrageously entertaining and enlightening. She’s a breath of fresh air in a polluted, smoke-filled 2017 sky.” Taffy, also spotted briefly by this reporter at a local eaterie (“Say eaterie if you publish this, not McDonald’s!” she hissed), was cursing a blue streak at a man whose umbrella grazed her leg. “Look! Now my stocking has a run, thanks to your metal umbrella point. The point is: they are ruined. Ruined! And I know about things being ruined. I could tell you…” But the man darted off, nonplussed plus un fussed, while Taffy massaged the hole in her black patterned lace stocking as if it were a war wound received in life-risking battle. “You can’t get these stockings just anywhere. I have a show to do and now I have a run.”
“Oh, will your show be having an extended run, then, Miss Longvue?” I asked, eager to meet her and break the ice (as she sipped an Iced Tea with the contents of seven sugar packages powdering its chunks of ice like magic crystals on a fairy take mountainside—or a picturesque hollow tree’s growing fungus). She looked at me as if I had strangled her miniature poodle or revealed her age in print.
“I meant the run in my stocking, Wise Guy, and what business is it of yours, unless you’re some kind of cabaret reporter?” she snapped, also snapping her gum and garter at the same time.
“As a matter of fact, I am a cabaret reporter,” I admitted.
“I don’t talk to no reporters ever since one wrote that I ain’t got good grammar and called me a slut. I am not a slut, but I am no angel Miss Goody Gumdrop Two-Shoes. I just want to help people find their inner fabulousness, the way that I did in a direct, sort of roundabout way. Is that so wrong?”
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After an awkward, seemingly endless moment, I cleared my throat and tried to say something to smooth things over. “You know, I know that you know that I know you are a real woman, I mean, well, a woman in any case, but I can’t help but thinking that ‘Taffy Longvue’ sounds like a great drag name,” With a flip of her hair and her blood red fingernails on the door, she was gone, flying into the New York night like an empty flimsy Duane Reade shopping bag whisked into the wind. Was it something I said?
It was at this point when I encountered our unnamed source who noticed me picking up a Taffy Longvue promotional postcard that had fallen out of her purse as she’d exited. “Oh, you’ve met the daffy Miss Taffy, too,” gasped my acquaintance with a bittersweet touch of suddenly-disillusioned cabaret fantasies combined with the flutter of tumescent excitement. “She’s a bitch and a real damn piece of work. Isn’t she fabulous?”
“She’s something else,” I acknowledged. “I wonder what she sings in her show.”
My companion looked skyward, absent-mindedly humming a classic Jerry Herman song. “I can’t get it out of my head. It’s the song she and her musical director, the brilliantly talented Andrew David Sotomayor, were fighting about when I snooped on them.” Unable to imagine that classic show tune in the persona of the sharp-tongued woman I’d just (almost) met, my friend whipped out a SmartPhone, showing the evidence: the rehearsal, recorded without permission. My jaw dropped. This was over the top, wildly inappropriate, and yet deliciously daring and brought a whole new dimension to the song, may its writers rest in peace rather than turn over in their graves. I became more intrigued. But I had suspected that there must be a compelling reason that one of cabaret’s most in-demand and decorated directors, the estimable Eric Michael Gillett, wanted to direct The Adventures of Taffy Longvue. (She was overheard in the ladies’ room at a recent cabaret open mic, wailing: “Andrew David Sotomayor! Eric Michael Gillett! Raissa Katona Bennett! Joshua Lance Dixon! Mary Foster Conklin! Why am I the only one who doesn’t have three names?!”)
My font of information gushed, “I was mesmerized by what I saw and have made reservations for both February 27 and March 9. The pianist was sipping coffee from a Dunkin Donuts cup. Taffy cracked, ‘Don’t do that on stage, Andrew, hon. It wouldn’t be chic. Then–get this—she laughed, kissed him on the nose–and cried, ‘What did I just say? Dunkin Donuts? Chic? Yes! Let’s add a number by Duncan Sheik. Do you know this one?’ And she whipped out her iPod and began to nod and my God, they were instantly in the groove. I saw them rehearse for 20 minutes—well, maybe 15, if you don’t count her messing with mascara and fussing with fake fur on her shapely shoulders.”
“Nice alliteration,” I commented as we walked hand-in-hand along West 42nd Street.
“The point is, she’s one-of-a-kind. She has an ego the size of that venue over there—BB King’s, where they’re having the MAC Awards on the 28th of March. Taffy will probably make a stink that she isn’t getting the Lifetime Achievement Award instead of Michele Lee. Of course, she hasn’t made her official cabaret debut and isn’t even a MAC member. But she’d probably say those our technicalities because she’s had a loaded Lifetime of talent and tumult.”
“Nice alliteration,” I replied. Then I decided to broach the elephant in the room. A reporter hears things. “Have you heard the rumor that the sassy songstress Taffy Longvue is really Robin Westle?”
My source laughed. “Robin Westle? That sweet, smiling gracious lady that sings in cabaret and hosts Robin’s Nest fundraiser variety shows for the Help Us Adopt program? They couldn’t be more different, unless Robin has really dug deep for a drag-like alter-ego. Or has an evil twin! I saw that written and debated on Facebook, but sometimes I think maybe you can’t believe everything you read on Facebook. That’s fake news. Or, to coin a phrase, ‘alternative facts.’ I mean, it’s not like it was on a blog.”
Hypnotized, we watched the pirated recording of the Longvue rehearsal three times in a row, stunned to silence. I was a agog with admiration and my fellow fervent fan’s face (nice alliteration) was awash with tears. “She’s so honest. She’s so funny. She’s so heartbreaking. I think she’s filling the world with love because she just loves herself so very much. When she sang the Lady Gaga piece, I just went to pieces. She is the cabaret Lady Gaga. She could be the love child of Edith Piaf and Jerry Lewis.”
I held the postcard to my face. It had the whiff of cheap perfume. I read the words over and over. There was a coarse beauty in the font. The plastic lamination had an odd duality—feeling like both expensive satin and the thick plastic that covered the furniture in my Aunt Ida’s Long Island living room. Who is this Taffy Longvue? The night air was filled with more questions than answers. I walked 50 blocks to my home, exhausted, exhilarated, only realizing an hour later than I had walked in a punishing snowstorm and was only wearing one shoe. The wind seemed to cry, “Taffy! Taffy! Taffy!”
Then I realized it was just my neighborhood sidewalk vendor, whose fruit had been ruined in the storm, and was selling some wrapped candy instead. Ironic? Mysterious? There are no coincidences.
The Adventures of Taffy Longvue comes to the Laurie Beechman Theatre below West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42 St. on February 27 and March 9 for a life-changing experience, a fabulousness and excitement maximum with a food and beverage minimum, plus a cover charge and cover songs.
Reserve by phone 212- 352 – 3101. or online http://www.westbankcafe.com/laurie-beechman-theatre