Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dinner at Mary's, Christmas at Joan's

I am grateful for my friend Ronnie for a myriad of reasons, but one big reason is that not long after I had moved to KC, he enlightened me to the wicked wonder of writer-director-actor-wunderkind Ron Megee and his Late Night Theatre. The Late Night Theatre troupe performed ribald and riotous send-ups of famous flicks, largely in drag. The film connection was the early hook for me. The first production we would see would be a spoof of the so-bad-its-good The Bad Seed. The show was titled the Bad Seedling and it starred Ron in the Patty McCormack role: all dolled up in pigtails and ruffles and roller skates. Ron could slay you with a look. I still remember the first gut-busting guffaw I would experience with this show....Ron losing his footing on said skates and crawling backward across the stage; never failing to glower at us in the audience with his withering glare. Ron and his merry band of performers also looked as if they were always having the time of their lives. I was instantly smitten with the whole lot of them and bought my season tickets with Ronnie for the next year.

At the same time, Ron's theatrical partner-in-crime Missy Koonce was opening her soon-to-be-smashing cabaret lounge Bar Natasha. Through connections, I was lucky to get hired as a writer for Verge magazine at this time and their launch party was held at the newly opened Bar Natasha. Keith and I met Ron and Missy at this delightful soiree, featuring a delicious brunch and a live performance by Ron. Ronnie and I would soon start out our Late Night Theatre evenings with drinks and appetizers at Bar Natasha. It was a beautiful space with local artwork and a performance stage in the center of the room. The service staff also frequently served as the evening's entertainment along with the divinely talented Missy herself. It was a kick to have our server drop off our drinks right before she hit the stage to belt out a show tune. We certainly enjoyed our Bar Natasha food faves: the excellent artisanal cheese plate, the wonderful hummus and their most marvelous Martinis.

A night that combined these two was often considered by Ronnie and I as an absolutely perfect evening. Fueled by the martinis, the laughter we would experience at Late Night Theatre was downright therapeutic. The Birds, 9 to 5, Rocky Horror, Purple Rain, Valley of The Dolls. Every one of them featured moments of hilarity that were practically transcendent...whatever might have stressed me out that week would eventually evaporate during that evening of endless laughter. I'm thinking now of the conclusion of The Birds when Ronnie, Elise and I sang When Doves Cry at the top of our lungs with the audience and cast (and no, I don't have my shows crossed....this production of The Birds really did end with When Doves Cry).

Alas, that wondrous season of Late Night would tragically be their last. Late Night's final show would be A Very Scarrie Christmas, featuring a holiday-themed takeoff on Carrie. The opening shower scene alone was one of the funniest stage moments I have ever experienced. The Theater closed and soon, thereafter, so did Bar Natasha. Ronnie and I were fairly inconsolable over both and were damn near in mourning over the loss of Late Night. Ron and Missy, however, did move on and have achieved even greater success in various productions around Kansas City. They have probably enjoyed a new level of creative freedom without the constraints of running a theater or cabaret lounge. We have since seen an Urban Culture Project production of The Rose that was directed by Ron (and starred the amazing Spencer Brown) as well as a Unicorn Theatre production of La Cage Aux Folles starring Ron. Last night, K and I would rejoin Ronnie and Jeff to experience Ron headlining his latest show at the Unicorn: A Joan Crawford Christmas.

Traditionally, these nights begin with grub and drinks and this time we kicked off the evening at the recently-opened Hamburger Mary's locale in downtown KC. Keith and I have visited HM locations in Vegas and D.C. before, so we were already big fans and this was our first visit to the KC site. Hamburger Mary's originally opened in the Castro district in San Francisco in 1972. It has since branched out across the country. Mary's calls itself "an open-air bar and grille for open-minded people" and markets itself to the LGBT community. This locale, in the heart of the Crossroads Art District, features a great people-watching deck and their signature garage doors. I've come to find out that neither the DC or Vegas sites exist anymore but I'm glad they are in KC and HM was duly busy when we dined there last night. The decor was appropriately eccentric, including the silhouette of the Wicked Witch over the back bar and the vintage hair dryer lights over the front bar. Our cocktails were a flamboyant kick-off to the evening..dubbed the Martha Stewart, they were described as tasting like pineapple rum cakes and indeed they did. They were also similar to Ronnie's own pineapple upside down cake drinks but far less lethal. We started the munching with the yummy deep-fried green beans with herbed mayo. Our burgers were all flavorful and juicy. I, of course, went with the hottest patty available: the Fireball, complete with spicy Mojo hot sauce, jalapenos, jack cheese and blackened seasoning. Keith enjoyed the Queen Mary with grilled onions and cheese, Ronnie dug the Honolulu with teriyaki sauce and grilled pineapple and Jeff had the Rockstar...stuffed with Gouda cheese, chives and roasted garlic and finished off with caramelized onions, another slice of Gouda, herb mayo and Dijon mustard. After the meal, our check would arrive in a silver stiletto. Ronnie gave our laugh muscles a good warm-up with a tale of his latest endeavor. Ronnie, a fellow Buffy fan, has finally joined up with his very own Scooby Gang to take part in paranormal investigations around the city. Thursday night they investigated the Hotel Savoy and while silently looking into a pitch-dark area a loud voice was suddenly picked up by their recording instruments. The voice was screaming...."WE NEED MORE JAGERMEISTER!!!" Sadly, this wasn't a spirit demanding more spirits; the recorders had apparently picked up a cocktail server's earpiece transmission from the bar next door.

Unicorn Theatre was hosting the perfect pre-party for A Joan Crawford Christmas. Happy hour brought drink specials and Joan made sure there were signature drinks. Joan's favorite Vodka and Pepsi was available (she DID serve on the board of directors for Pepsi) and Keith and I shared a Hush, Hush, Sweet Chocolate...a warming blend of peppermint schnapps, hot chocolate and Bailey's Irish Cream. Like a liquid Thin Mint....oh, yeah. The bar offerings had come a long way from LNT's PBRs and popcorn. The Unicorn also offered Christina's Craft Room where folks could make their own Christmas ornaments out of....what else?...wire hangers. Several local artists also offered wire-hanger themed creations, including burlesque performer Annie Cherry's shellacked slip. All of these unique artworks would be auctioned off for a local AIDS charity.

Finally, it was time for the main event. The stage was kitsch central and a perfect setting for celebrating all things Joan Crawford. The supporting players included Jessica Dressler, who pulled off the dual role of put-upon German maid Mamacita and a perfectly over-the-top Bette Davis as well as Jeff Smith portraying hunky doorman Carl. Kudos also to Ron's own puppy Dorian Gray who did a paws-up job of playing Joan's dog Princess Lotus Blossom. The star of the show was most certainly Ron....gleefully chewing up the scenery as Joan, constantly changing outfits, downing her Pepsi and vodkas and offering her helpful hints on everything from brushing her ample brows to the must-have meat at every meal: bacon. Bacon features in every dish Joan suggests....her cole slaw recipe (mayonnaise, the juice of six lemons and..bacon), a "light lunch" of salad and a steak wrapped in bacon and the greatest hors d'ouevres of all...Bacon Balls.

There were many tips of the chapeau to Late Night Theatre during this show and we loved every one of them. Ron's brilliance is ever-present. It's always a joy to watch his grimaces and amazing physical comedy. Fittingly, we noticed Missy in the audience as well. It was, as always, a great night out and we wish for many more years of Ron doing his unique thing on and around KC stages.
For now, though, and for the love of live theater, please check out the holiday goodness of Ron Megee in A Very Joan Crawford Christmas at the Unicorn Theatre. Forget the cult showings of Mommie Dearest. It's way more fun to hear "NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!" from Joan live and on stage. You can purchase tickets at


Kristy said...

Forget raindrops on rooftops and whiskers on kittens. Drag queens, silver stilettos and bacon...these are a few of my favorite things. If I were there I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven. P.S. "WE NEED MORE JAEGERMEISTER!!!" Classic.

Confounded Cook said...

Indeed. I thought about you several times....the stiletto and the bacon...Kristy would be in heaven. Oh,and I would've turned you loose in Christina's Craft would've made the blingiest wire hanger ornament, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for post. I miss Greg and Missy, but we see them in local productions all the time. Last night took me back in a good way. "Are there any spirits who would like to speak to us tonight?" *Crackle, snap, screeeetch* "WE NEED MORE JAGERMEISTER!" "Ok. Not that kind of spirits. Or did we contact a portal to a hell deminsion. That's the only place they would need more jager."

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