All I Need to Know I Learned from Tommy Tune's Book

Broadway star Tommy Tune -- a Houston native and a regular in Maxine Mesinger's society column -- recently published a memoir, Footnotes (Simon & Schuster, $24). In that summation of his 57 years, the dancer/director/choreographer ponders the intellectual depths of his friend Carol Channing, reprints a couple of his own good reviews and maps the vast cultural divide between the U.S. and Japan (their prostitutes are no fun at all). He also muses on the great issues of our day: racism, sexuality and tap dancing.

A few sample life lessons:

1. Leave town.
"It was St. Patrick's Day nineteen-sixtysomething when I arrived in Manhattan, driven up from Texas by the guy who probably loves me and show business more than any guy I've ever known: Phillip Oesterman. Phillip said, 'In Houston if you dance, are talented, and extremely unusual they call you a sissy or a weirdo. In New York they call you a star.' "

2. Have sex with women.
"Wow. Fireworks. Mushi-wushi. Yum yum. Safe and warm and hot and dangerous. I thought, 'Be quiet, Tommy, don't make noise, her husband's in the next room. Uh-oh. This smells really hot.' Pow. Eruptions.... To this day I remember she had the smoothest inner thighs I've ever experienced."

3. Have sex with men.
"[H]e leaned over me at just the right angle, formed those cushioned lips around me in a tight circle and slowly wet-slid down the shaft.... 'This is the sexiest encounter of my life,' I thought. Red to purple to spires of acid green -- then to white, no, what's whiter than white? Light. That's it. White light. I felt my life pouring out of me, convulsing, gushing, but in complete stillness. Circles within circles. Coming and coming....

"His sexy grin widened to a smile. He was toothless, and I never saw him again."

4. Know yourself.
"I feel I just might rise off the surface of the earth and just keep going. Is this what they mean by 'light in the loafers'? Do real people feel this way, too? I was told by a psychic reader once that I am an alien, that I am not from this planet and that I did the best I could in adapting my physicality into something that could pass but that it hasn't quite worked."

5. Stay beautiful.
"Andy Warhol and I used to do 'cum' facials, using our own, of course, not each other's. He'd heard Mae West used to do it, too. Of course, she couldn't use her own. She used what the musclemen in her club produced for her. I wonder if it works better if it's somebody else's?"

6. Take words of genius to heart.
"[In the movie version of Hello, Dolly] Gene Kelly was our director, and he gave me the best direction I've ever been given. He simply came up to me between takes and said, 'Tommy, dance better.' "

7. Use a good disinfecting cleanser.
"Then there's the controversial issue of peeing in the shower, which I really enjoy -- water to water."

8. Enjoy being a boy.
"I don't think a day has passed in the last 15 years that I haven't contemplated suicide. Have I been in a state of severe depression for the last decade and a half? I don't think so. I believe I'm picking up on a male zeitgeist that is of epidemic proportion just now. Life has become a lot harder for guys than for gals -- of late or maybe for always. We do know that women live longer. Is it because they don't have the burden of rising to the occasion each time sex beckons?"

9. Play nice with everybody.
"Take away the Jews and there's no show business; take away the blacks, the homosexuals, the lesbians -- likewise I'm sure. Show business is just a microcosm of the world. Let's mix and celebrate."

10. Use a really good disinfecting cleanser.
"Ophie [a Yorkshire terrier] really became our child, and for a short moment I thought that he would be the salvation of our relationship. Not so. David's addictions caused him to send out a lot of mixed signals to Ophie, then an impressionable youngster, so his house training is, shall we say, at best, impressionistic! There're a lot of blurred areas in the discipline department and a lot of carpet stains. I care, but not that much. Ophie has taught me a huge lesson in unconditional love."

-- Lisa Gray


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