Murray Hill breaks a sweat this New Year’s Eve at Mo Pitkins.
New Year’s Eve with the king of the hill
By Will McKinley
Murray Hill hopes that 2006 will be remembered as his breakthrough year. After a decade of dues-paying, the comedian, emcee and self-annointed “hardest working middle-aged man in showbiz” wowed the crowds in London, appeared in the controversy-drenched film “Shortbus” and made his national television debut hosting Logo TV’s “Queer Year in Showbiz.” And on Sunday night, he will usher in the New Year in his own inimitable style with two big and boozy shows at Mo Pitkins.
Of course, Murray Hill is not really a man, nor is he middle-aged. He is hard-working, though. And audiences gay, straight, and everyone in between love his gender-bending, old school trouper schtick. In the midst of rehearsals for his New Year’s Eve show, Mr. Hill squeezed in an email interview with The Villager about Downtown life, liberty and the pursuit of a good cheeseburger.
Who are your comedic influences, inspirations or idols?
I’ve got tons of ‘em, kid. Dean Martin, Totie Fields, Frances Faye, John Ritter (I’ve watched every episode of “Three’s Company”), Justin Bond, Sammy Davis, Bette Midler, Belle Barth lots of the showbiz types.
Where do you get those handsome 100% Polyester suits that you wear with such style and panache?
Most of those poly gems that I wear are from the ’50s and ’70s and I’ve had them that long. I recently got my holiday show jacket at Fabulous Fanny’s on 9th Street. The pattern is enough to give you vertigo. I also hit up Cheap Jack’s uptown too.
You’re known as a real carnivore. Where can you get a good cheeseburger in this city?
Cheeseburgers are one of my main food groups, you can ask my belt too! When I’m on the West Side, I hit up Florent the best burgers and wait staff in town! And when I’m in the East Village, my favorite hamburger joint is Great Jones Cafe. I’ve been going there for 10 years. Both of those places, knock on wood, haven’t been wrecked by gentrification.
You recently performed on London’s West End. How did British audiences respond to your uniquely American brand of showmanship?
I was in the West End last year, and then again last month doing a big burlesque show at Bloomsbury Ballroom, which drew over 2000 people! The Brits really get it over there. You can turn on the TV in the UK and see people like Dirty and Julie (alternative performers Dirty Martini and Julie Atlas Muz) and myself on daytime TV! In that sense, they are more ahead of the game. Lots of the gals came up to me after the show and said I reminded them of Benny Hill, so that says something!
In the wake of the Michael Richards scandal, what is the Murray Hill Method for dealing with unruly audience members
I’ve been doing this for a long time, and have seen it all. There’s always a fun-loving vibe at my shows and I just stick with that even when we’ve got a real nut job in the house. When the kids get unruly, I just talk to them, make a few cracks, make them part of the show. I’ve never had to 86 anyone from my shows yet! We came close once. I was singing “Love on the Rocks” and this woman was screaming “Phylicia Rashad!!!” I never quite understood that one.
You appeared in John Cameron Mitchell’s film “Shortbus,” which featured porn stars and explicit scenes of sexuality. Did you participate in any of those scenes? Is there a Murray Hill sex tape floating around the internet?
I’ve heard such a tape exists! Just kidding! Keep it clean kids! I’ve heard rumors from my agent that I’m going to be one of the leads in “Shortbus 2” the sequel, so I’m hoping to get in some juicy scenes with the ladies! But seriously kids, I was so honored to be swinging in that film. It’s a groundbreaking movie, and I’m proud of all the Downtowners who were part of it.
How did you celebrate Christmas this year?
Believe it or not, I take Christmas Day off from showbiz. I eat a turkey with some lady friends, play a little poker, then bust out the Dean Martin Roasts DVDs. Whatta night! That’s the holiday spirit!
What can audiences expect to see at the Murray Hill New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Mo Pitkins?
Blondes, Booze, Burlesque, Borscht and comedy! We’ve got the best line-up in town. These girls are the best in the biz, complete knock-outs, living legends. Bridgett Everett is a singer who will raise the roof off any joint, get the kids laughing, crying, and screaming for more. We are pulling out all the stops this year! We don’t have a ball drop at midnight, but a boob drop.
What is Murray Hill’s New Year’s resolution?
To get “The Murray Hill Show” on TV, to eat more cheeseburgers and world peace.
See the “Murray Hill New Year, Baby” on Sunday, December 31 at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m at Mo Pitkins, 34 Avenue A, 212-777-5660, www.mopitkins.com.