They Like the Nightlife

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The scene at last year's Nightlife Awards. Photo: Patrick McMullan


At Monday night's Nightlife Awards, honoring cabaret, jazz, and comedy, performers dished about life on the boards. And about gift bags.

Swag bags, pro or con?
"I never take them. Every gift bag I've ever gotten has gotten three kinds of hand cream, a CD of Aida, and a copy of In Style magazine. Give me free Botox or free hair transplants, or a $2,000 gift certificate to Armani for some underwear. Although nowadays, a flu shot would be good too, and harder to come by than Botox." —Charles Busch, playwright and drag queen

What's in your fantasy swag bag?
"A kazoo, a can of SpaghettiOs, and a forty of Colt 45." —Daniel Reichard, Jersey Boys actor

What's your most traumatic memory of flubbing onstage?
"I did a summer-stock tour a couple years ago of Auntie Mame, a very complicated show with something like sixteen costume changes, all run by these teenage apprentices. On opening night, we never got through it. None of the scenery was in the right place; at one point I got trapped behind a staircase and couldn't get out. When I was finally sprung, the apprentices didn't bring any of the props onstage. The whole end of the play revolved around me serving these flaming cocktails; not only were there no flames, there were no cocktails. Finally I just had to stop the show and describe the end to the audience." —Charles Busch

"The worst thing you can do onstage as a man is to go onstage without your zipper up. That happened to me, one of my very first performances at the Grand Ole Opry. It was too late then. The very last thing I do now before I go onstage is holler 'Zipper check!'" —Larry Gatlin, country-music legend

"You know something? Whatever happens onstage happens. Things have happened to me. My dress has fallen off. But you make it work. When you're onstage, there's no looking forward or thinking back." —Liza Minnelli

"One time I was on Saturday Night Live, singing a song on live television. It was me and Joe Piscopo, it was winter, and we're playing rich people in fur coats. Plastic snow was coming down. I took in a breath to sing my next lyric, and the plastic snow went into my mouth and hit me in the back of the throat. So I was choking on live television." —Christine Ebersole

Justin Ravitz