Leo Gallagher is standing on the patio of Gramps Bar in Wynwood and explaining his new pro-gay play to a group of disheveled hipsters. The prop comic grew up in South Tampa and became famous in 1980 for his first special, "An Uncensored Evening." Although in decades past, the now-67-year-old was known for smashing watermelons on stage, he's currently famous for being racist and homophobic. Gallagher's also sporting the same hairstyle from 20 years ago, except it's all turned grey and is kept hidden under a fedora.
The subject matter of his latest script doesn't seem like it could come from the same man who quipped on stage in 2010 that the French "ruin our language with their faggy words" and re-interpreted the meaning of the phrase "we are nothing but dust" as "What is butt dust? Is that what you get if your homosexual isn't properly lubricated?"
Which brings us to this brainbuster: Why is Gallagher going around Wynwood and showing everyone the new play he's finishing up? Well, it's because it's about gay ballroom dancers, and this is the arts district. Duh.
But, wait, isn't this the same Gallagher whose entire schtick in recent years involves being a right-wing demagogue?
The comedy legend explains it's all an act. Oh, OK, Gallagher. Enjoy your time at Gramps.
Anyway, Riptide pulled out an audio recorder once Gallagher started talking about his new play, The Next Step. (And yes, we later emailed with him to confirm it was in fact Leo Gallagher and not his lookalike brother Ron). Here's what happened:
So, Gallagher, what's your new play about?
It's about two guys in love, and they both are dance teachers, and one of them is from the Midwest, and he always dressed in drag because the men who wanna learn tango don't feel right dancing with a guy, and so they never knew it was a man dressed as a woman. So he goes to the East Village, and he meets another dancer, and they become a couple, and they wanna audition for a movie. But the one who's a girl most of the time doesn't want to be a girl the whole time. So this brings up my idea for switchable clothing. I wanna sell the clothes after the show!
So, wait, back up. Why are you doing this? Are we in an alternate dimension?
Why if the homosexuals are everywhere do they have to dance heterosexually? Why?
Big tall guys are sleeping with each other, so why don't they dance with each other? Why don't we get to see them dance? I think that they'd probably be good together. And girls, too. We could open up choreography to a whole new area instead of what they do now, which is have the guy present the girl like a pretty flower. I'm done. I'm done. I'm done. So "The Next Step" is same-sex dancing.
So it's a play with a message?
My idea is a play gives other people ideas that why not have these contests. instead of on TV where they dance and it's always a guy -- and most of the guys are gay -- so what?
You're conservative on stage now, so does this clash with your new persona or contradict your personal beliefs?
It's hard to tell. I'm an artist. I observe human behavior. I pretend like I'm a guy from another planet, and I come here to visit, and then I tell you what I see of your behavior, whether it's logical or consistent. If i became involved in human life, then I wouldn't be good as an artist, because I wouldn't be on the mountain of objectivity.
So where did you come up with the idea for the show?
I just say it's illogical for gays to dance with straight people. HELLO -- why am I coming up with the idea? I'm saying that the whole area of choreography should be open to all humans.
When two spirits combine it's win-win net-net/Start with either foot/there's no incorrect/the whole world moves forward/"The Next Step."
What else are you concocting? I think you mentioned selling merch?
I'm designing clothing that switches from male to female while dancing. I've talked to homosexuals and asked them "How much of a girl are you?" and they'll tell me "60/40," so I think "How can you dance a whole dance with the other guy leading, won't you wanna lead sometimes?" No, sometimes you wanna sweep across the floor, and sometimes you wanna be swept. Gay bars are the most fun. Why don't we have clothing for wearing on the dance floor there? I'm designing shoes that go from flats to high heels.
This is genius. Please just say more things.
So I'm also thinking why does everybody sit in their seats in the theater? So, then I'm thinking, these scenes at the gay bar are gonna be important scenes in the play, so everybody should dance. And so you don't sit down at this play. You dance all the songs.
Please, for the love of God, Gallagher, tell us you will star in this play.
Nah. The characters aren't me.
Gallagher will be at Magic City Casino on March 22. He's been working on this play for about a month, apparently. Ask him about it.
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Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti