I feel no shame. Hair opened last week in a colorful production at the 5th Avenue Theatre, and I'd like to publicly admit that, while a longtime fan of the show's cathartic music, youthful energy, and innocent passions, and appreciative of the original creators' free-spirited political intents, I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking, "When do I get to see a penis?"
Let's bring back the penis; it's time. I don't mean it in any macho, metaphorical way, as pronouncement of solidarity with smarmy TV pundit Bill Maher, who looks upon his tool as a sociopolitical, er, divining rod. This has nothing to do with returning unhappy straight white males to a pedestal they never left. I just mean I want us all to see some schlongs, and, dammit, I think it'd do us all some good.
For a few brief-less shining moments in the late '60s and early '70s, the penis reared its proud head in American culture (yes, I said "head"—now stop that). In addition to Hair's Act One reward and other Broadway controversies (remember Oh, Calcutta!, the limp but long-running nudie comedy?), we had cinema's Alan Bates and Oliver Reed wrestling in the nude in Women in Love, Helmut Berger busting out all over in any number of salacious Eurotrash skin romps, and Michael's York openly guiding his way.
Those unashamed johnsons made us better people. How could we keep hiding from each other in the battle for social equality when we were finally all exposed? And didn't it do wonders to publicly desire something that rarely even got talked about in private? Shouldn't we all be heralding Richard Gere's once omnipresent pelvic trophy as one of the sole heroes of Reagan's conservative '80s?
We've been moving ever backward, my friends. Even as late as this February, when local Patricia Ridenour's penis photos were controversially neutered by a move to the back room of the Benham Gallery, they've been trying to take the wang away from us. We cannot let this happen.
So bravo to the brave penises in Hair, even if Cheyenne Jackson, the slice of prime rib playing lead hippie Berger, is relegated to obscure upstage placement for the full-cast disrobing. He has a monologue early in the show trumpeting the supposed mammoth quality of his member. With a daunting setup like that, there probably is a time, Ridenour notwithstanding, when it's best to hang in the background.