(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reverend’s Interview: Eating Out with Mink Stole

Eating Out: All You Can Eat, opening in New York this Friday, Los Angeles on October 16 and expanding from there, is the third film in the gay comedy franchise originated by writer-director Q. Allan Brocka. It may begin with the funeral of a major character from the previous entry in the series, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the sequel is in any way a serious drama.

As soon as actress Mink Stole opens her mouth to eulogize the deceased, fans of Eating Out and Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds will find themselves back in hilariously tasteless territory. Reprising her role as Helen from Eating Out 2, Stole plays a woman who is arguably a little too accepting of first her son’s and then her nephew’s homosexuality.

“I was trying really hard to be a good gay mom in the second film,” the outspoken and delightful Stole told me in a recent phone interview. In the new sequel, Stole says her character “has embraced the gay lifestyle wholeheartedly; after all, they call me ‘the coolest mom in the world’ in the film!”

Stole (who was born Nancy Paine Stoll in 1947) is best known for her work in virtually all the movies made by her longtime friend, gay filmmaker John Waters. She is considered one of the “Dreamlanders,” the name given to Waters’ ensemble of regular cast and crewmembers.

“John and I first met through a mutual friend back in Provincetown in the 1960’s,” Stole explained. “Although we’re both from Baltimore, we lived in different neighborhoods and probably never would have met there.” Stole still lives in Baltimore, directly across the street from the house in which she was raised.

I asked Stole whether she has a favorite role or film out of her extensive body of work with Waters. She replied: “I have several: Taffy Davenport in Female Trouble; Pink Flamingos I love because it was such a shocker and made such a statement; and I loved working with Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom.”

Of her turn as prim and proper Dottie Hinkle in Waters’ cult fave Serial Mom, Stole says “It’s not every actor who gets to say to Kathleen Turner, ‘You’re a mother-fucking cocksucker’!” She still keeps in touch with Turner, and it is clear Stole thinks fondly of her former co-star.

I had to inquire as to what Stole thinks of the phenomenal success Waters’ Hairspray has had, first as a well-received movie, then as a splashy Broadway musical, and finally as a big-budget movie musical. Stole played Corny Collins’ assistant, Tammy, in the original 1988 film.

“I liked Hairspray a great deal and it’s so much fun, but I never thought it would have the life it has had. But then, I never thought any of the films we made would have the life they’ve had.”

Other GLBT-interest films Stole has appeared in that weren’t directed by Waters include But I’m a Cheerleader, Leather Jacket Love Story, Splendor and Out at the Wedding. “I’m thrilled to have so many gay fans,” Stole told me. “We act to do good work, but our fans make the opportunities possible.”

Expanding on the topic of homosexuality, Stole said, “I worry about young gay kids, so every time there is a message that it’s OK to be who you are, it’s a good thing.” It is this concern that led Stole to play the role of Helen in the Eating Out films. “I think it’s really important that the message be as loud and persistent as possible.”

Eating Out: All You Can Eat centers on the efforts of young, new-to-town Casey (played by Daniel Skelton), Helen’s nephew, to win over the volunteer manager of the local Larry Craig LGBT Center (the gorgeous Chris Salvatore). Of course, it wouldn’t be an Eating Out movie if outrageous complications didn’t ensue, many of them engineered by the returning Tiffani, once again portrayed by the very funny Rebekah Kochan. Leslie Jordan of Sordid Lives and Will & Grace fame is also featured.

“I had worked with Allan Brocka (who produced the new film) several years ago on a film called Roberta Loved,” Stole recalls of what led to her involvement in the Eating Out series. “I also liked the part (of Helen); it’s a fun part! Also, in a film full of beautiful gay men, I loved that they give the best parts to women.”

Stole, who has always been single “partly by choice and partly by fate” despite being engaged at one point, is a dedicated supporter of same-sex marriage. “I’m all for it!” she exclaimed. “Why not? If two people want to make a commitment, they should be able to.”

“I don’t understand why straight people seem to think the expansion of rights is a threat to themselves,” she continued. Stole likened the growing, national battle over the right for partners of the same sex to marry to the fight over women’s right to vote in 1920. “People said back then that the nation would go to hell if women were allowed to vote, and we’re still here.”

Stole is as busy now as she’s ever been. She has several other movies awaiting release, is hoping to film John Waters’ next anticipated project — a holiday-themed comedy called Fruitcake — and sings in her own band.

“I’m still doing new things,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to try new stuff. I love for people to take chances. Jumping off cliffs is good for the soul … although not literally!”

Eating Out: All You Can Eat will be released on DVD November 10. Click hereto pre-order from Click here to watch the trailer (NSFW).

Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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