Brass Beds, Brass Monkeys, Brassy Dames! Big Gay Horror Fan will take the latter, thank you, especially if it is the grand, larger-than-life goddess of stage and screen, Marcia Lewis (1938-2010).
Lewis made her Broadway debut opposite such powerhouses as Phyllis Diller and Ethel Merman in a production of Hello, Dolly! Their combined magnificence obviously gave her a clue on which coat rack hook to hang her professional personality. Lewis became best known for belting out the goods as the comically evil Miss Hannigan in Annie (appearing with Jason Goes to Hell’s Allison Smith) in the 80’s and as a superior Big Mama Morton in the award winning 90’s revival of Chicago.
But, this saucy wonder also appeared in such science fiction efforts as the original Bionic Woman
(as an aggressive wrestler on the second season episode ‘In This Corner, Jaime Sommers’
) and 1984 goof-fest The Ice Pirates
(whose jaw dropping supporting cast included Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, John Carradine and Bruce Vilanch).
Terror and thriller enthusiasts were also glazed over with happiness when Lewis appeared in a couple of horror influenced offerings in the late 70’s, as well.
In 1977 television film The Night They Took Miss Beautiful, a handful of glamorous pageant contestants are kidnapped by a group of ruthless, politically charged outlaws. Suffering from roulette style degradation and aggression, these pretty ladies (including genre regular Rosanne Katon, Dallas’ Victoria Principal and Karen Lamm from Ants, AKA It Happened at Lakewood Manor, and The Unseen) soon find their worst enemy just happens to be Lewis’ drippingly sweet, completely savage Mrs. Barrett. As mother to Lamm’s sweet Cindy Lou, Lewis is a wicked wonder. Lewis’ Barrett is so determined that her daughter escape with youth intact, that she offers her up, willingly, as a sexual conquest, to one of the amorous vigilantes. When Lamm/Cindy Lou finally rejects her mother in the telefilm’s final moments, Lewis shows shocked vulnerability yet a steely determination to go on – it is a bravura performance (worthy of a Tennessee Williams’ subplot or two) in an enjoyable yet unsubstantial suspense offering.
In 1982’s Night Warning (AKA Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker among others), which was filmed in the late 70’s, Lewis brings an appropriate yet over-the-top charm to her nosey Margie. As best friend to Susan Tyrell’s increasingly unhinged lead, Cheryl, Lewis radiates with personality. She hits the nail on the head as the much seen housewife who truly wears the pants in the family. It’s a theatrical performance, but one grounded in reality. Concerned yet sneaky, Margie soon faces down the psychotic Tyrell with an emotional resourcefulness brined in great fear. Incidentally, Night Warning has become a deserved cult classic due to it modern take on the Gothic esthetics of hag horror, it’s even keeled treatment of gay characters and subtle looks at the venomous effects of racism.
Here is a fun clip of Lewis trying to manipulate the legendary Phil Silvers in The Night They Took Miss Beautiful:
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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!