Curve’s First Lesbro
Everyone from Jennifer Weiner (author of In Her Shoes) to People and Details magazines to, well, Curve itself, has given gay author, blogger and NPR commentator Marc Acito’s brilliant second novel, Attack of the Theater People, dazzling reviews since it came out last year. Set in 1986, the book follows 20-year-old Edward Zanni, who is thrown out of Juilliard over “creative differences.” He thought he could act—the school’s faculty did not. It’s in Acito’s debut novel, How I Paid for College, that we first meet Edward, then a feckless Ferris Bueller type, in 1983 New Jersey, who must find a way (think embezzlement, forgery and blackmail meets, horny teens and theater geeks) to pay for Juilliard after his remarried father refuses to do so. Much like his hero, Acito, too, dreamed of acting school, though he says he never resorted to crime to pay tuition. In high school he was “the guy who wore Capezio dance shoes and leg warmers to school.” Acito attended the music theater program at Carnegie-Mellon University. “I changed it to Juilliard in How I Paid for College because no one wants to read a book about a kid whose dream is to go to Pittsburgh,” he says.
Acito, too, was kicked out over similar artistic differences, which spawned the idea for Attack. Though he’s glib about his critical adoration (his bio quips: “For those who do not know me, I'm very famous.”), Acito’s work has garnered a number of accolades, has been optioned for film by Columbia Pictures, and has been translated into five languages, which, says Acito, “I can’t read. Though I can now say ‘cunnilingus’ in Norwegian.”
This, uh, unusual oral knowledge may be just one reason why Acito has a huge fan base—among lesbians. Others? He penned the essay, “Why I Heart Lesbians” for Curve (Vol. 19 #1), he tried something new every day for a year, which he chronicled in his blog (The Gospel According to Marc), and two of the most enduring main characters in his novels are lesbian couple Kelly and Ziba.
Though his books are a Rorschach test of sorts (young adult, memoir, queer literature, mainstream comedy, chick lit are all bandied about) his readers count a bevy of queer babes and very often this funny queer author—whose partner of 20 plus years is writer Floyd Sklaver—holds court with more women than men at his public appearances. For this, and the fact that, well, we adore him as well, we named Marc Acito (who happens to be Sandra Dee’s second cousin!) Curve’s first ever Lesbro (i.e. a queer dude that Curve loves enough to deem worthy of taking a fraction of space from women in our publication). Here’s his quick dish.
Attack of the Theater People features the same cast of characters, including the fabulous lesbian couple Kelly and Ziba. Very few gay men include lesbians in their works. Why did you?
I had an epiphany watching the touring company of RENT. Here's this show where kids lined up to get discount tickets and scream in the theater in a way I haven't heard since the high school musical, and there are three couples in it—one straight, one gay, and one lesbian—each presented equally without judgment. I wanted to reflect that spectrum of experience in my work. Plus girl-on-girl action is hot.
How do you keep Kelly and Ziba real? How do you nail (for lack of a better word) the lesbian elements?
Even though I'm a big attention hog, I'm actually quite observant. So I thought about all the various lesbians I know, creating the characters the way Dr. Frankenstein built his monster—out of spare body parts.
Your website got voted one of the top chick lit blogs. Did you think the honor was amusing?
It beats being called dick lit.
The best part of Attack was the Springsteen tribute band. If you had to do a lesbian tribute band what would it be?
Xena and the Sign Language Interpreters.
You've been called the gay Dave Berry. What does Dave think of that?
He looked me right in the eye and said, "Let's just get one thing clear. I’m the gay Dave Barry."
What girl would you go lesbian for?
You know that malnourished African baby that Selma Hayek breastfed? I totally envy that kid.
You and your partner Floyd have been together a long time, right? Tell me how long, how you met and how you know it’s love still.
We met working in a Broadway general manager’s office in 1986. He invited me on the gayest date ever—to watch the Liberace concert from the stage manager’s booth at Radio City—and I knew we were meant to be together. After 22 years, he still makes my heart sing. It's occasionally off-key, but it still sings.
What female authors do you read, look up to, feel challenged by?
Patricia Highsmith for suspense, Agatha Christie for mystery and Nora Ephron for laughs.
If you couldn't be an author, what would you be?
Did I mention the African baby Selma Hayek breastfed?