Last night’s big New York premiere for Hairspray — one of many being held around the country — brought out movie stars, Broadway stars, musicians, and even a big queen. By which we mean Miss Latifah, of course, who plays Motormouth Maybelle in the movie — although, yes, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the show’s composer-lyricist couple were there, plus Lance Bass, who takes over the Corny Collins role on Broadway next month. On the red carpet, Bass told us he arrived in New York two days ago and has four agents from competing brokerages working on his apartment hunt. (Ah, to be a boy-band alum!) Wittman and Shaiman joked about what a loose woman John Travolta became the moment he put on Edna’s drag.
“Oh, he flirted shamelessly,” Wittman said. “And showed off his nether regions,” added Shaiman. “He would air out and let you know what was going on down there. We’ve been scarred for life.” Broadway legends like Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters mixed with 19-year-old Zac Efron, who plays Link Larkin in the movie and perhaps single-handedly turned a generation of preteens on to musicals with Disney’s High School Musical. Efron was followed by high-pitched screams wherever he went, while John Travolta flashed big grins and happily answered every question that came his way. “What’s that, honey?” he smiled, leaning in, when asked whether he planned to have a dance-off with anyone at the party. “I didn’t know there’d be one,” he gamely replied. “No disco. If it’s Kelly [Preston, his wife] and I, we’re doing the Lindy.”
Inside the screening, the crowd was loving it. John Waters’s introduction got a standing ovation, and each number — especially Latifah’s “I Know Where I’ve Been” — got a huge round of applause. But at the after-party at Roseland Ballroom, a disadvantage of the movie’s gigantic multi-city publicity blitz was soon apparent. The stars were exhausted. Latifah went home to get ready for today’s Newark premiere. Amanda Bynes walked two feet in the door, took photos with her onscreen love interest Elijah Kelley, and turned around — she had to rest up for the Baltimore premiere, on Wednesday, she told us. Ten minutes in, Christopher Walken — he plays Travolta’s husband — took off, surrounded by a phalanx of security guards. The Broadway folks were left: Legally Blonde’s Laura Bell Bundy and Xanadu’s Kerri Butler noshed on the fifties-era food — macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes — from cafeteria-style divided aluminum trays. Soon enough, John Travolta was the only big star left, still smiling and holding court on the balcony. He’s timeless to us. —Jada Yuan