Cocaine & Ethel Merman: The New Homo Guide

It started off as a chance encounter with a drug-addicted female impersonator and turned into a personal anthem about being gay. Playwright and actor L. Robert Westeen’s one-man show Cocaine & Ethel Merman: The New Homo Guide, performed here for the first time ever, is highly autobiographical. The genesis of the show was an experience Westeen calls “too strange for fiction.” One night, Westeen met a female impersonator who insisted on showing him his Ethel Merman routine. He dragged Westeen back to his place, where he had a mini-cabaret theater set up in his basement, and launched into his show. ''This was no-holds-barred,'' Westeen tells us. ''He was just going to town, and if I laughed, I laughed. If I didn’t, he just tried harder.''

Westeen walked out of the makeshift theater/basement just before dawn the next day, never to see the Ethel Merman impersonator again. ''It was all incredibly surreal. And at the same time, it was such a precious, honest moment.''

Openly gay, Westeen says the experience became a metaphor for his approach to life. ''Looking back on things, I had these really great moments, moments that I lived fully and completely, and I need to continue to do that. The joy of this show for me is that I get to share some of those experiences. I have a young friend who is coming to terms with being gay. This show lets me say, 'Hey, life isn’t so bad. There’ll be bumpy parts, but there’ll be good parts, too.' That’s important for people to hear.'' 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak. For information, call 832-889-7837 or visit
Fri., June 22; Sat., June 23, 2012


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