30 More Humiliating Moments From My Life! Prepare To Squirm: Again!

A fellow scribe mortifyingly implied that Musto isn’t qualified to be a theater critic, but he’s been one for years—as well as a cohost of Theater Talk (pictured above). | Photo courtesy of Theater Talk

BY MICHAEL MUSTO | My list of my most 50 most humiliating moments of all time was a big hit, as sadists from around the globe crawled out of their sewers to applaud my honesty while enjoying my shame. So here’s some more—and believe me, these aren’t much less humiliating than the last batch. In fact, I could easily do a million of these.

*In high school, I knew I was gay, so when I would regularly chat on the phone with a female student I’d befriended, I hoped she wouldn’t think we could date. Sure enough, halfway through one of our convos, she blurted, “MICHAEL, ASK ME OUT!!!” I responded with gay radio silence. Awkward.

*I won Best Actor in the High School “Sing” competition, in which I played both a bedraggled husband and an Arabian merchant. Proudly holding my trophy, I strutted into the gym, which was the dressing room for the evening, and was more than ready to take in all the kudos. But not one person congratulated me!!!! And I still haven’t figured out why. I wasn’t THAT bad.

*Two relatives were having coffee and gabbing while I sat at the end of the kitchen table. One of them only half-whisperingly complained to the other about the gifts I always gave her, saying “I pretend to like them, but…” [And then she made a vomity face]. I couldn’t believe she not only would let out such a dis with me sitting right there, but also obviously thought I could somehow get her the Hope Diamond on a five-dollar weekly allowance.

*While in high school, I was assigned to teach a one-hour “course” about comedy feature writing at some student convention. I wasn’t very verbal at the time—I could never do a lecture—and prepared what turned out to be about 10 minutes of material, figuring I would drum up a lot of interaction with the crowd and we’d have a grand old time conversing and immersing. But my strained efforts to do so were greeted with stony-faced silence—until one person did raise their hand, and I was so grateful. “Do you know where the bathroom is?” he asked.

*Heading alone toward the trendy new wave club the Mudd Club (1978-’83), I noticed two young ladies in front of me on the street, going there too. I thought I was being so noble by calling out to them, “Hey! Do you girls want to get in free to Mudd? I’m press and I can get us all in.” Rather than simply say, “No, thanks,” they exploded in a spree of indignation, screaming “How fucking dare you! Do you think we need YOU to get us in free to the Mudd Club? Hey, doorman, can you believe this asshole thinks we need him to get in?” I somehow thought I’d been doing a nice gesture, but these two dingdongs saw it as an affront to their fabulousness.

*In the ‘80s, there was clearly something wrong with my apartment because all my clothes smelled even worse than usual, lol. I told the landlord about the problem, but he swore nothing was wrong. Months later, however, the cluck called to say he had done a little more investigation and there actually had been a gas leak that he would finally get fixed. So, all those months, I not only smelled like a dumpster fire, but I was breathing in toxic fumes? Charming.

*I dressed in drag and went to meet a friend to go to a downtown club. I had made a big deal about the drag I was putting together, getting a kick out of the DIY novelty of the whole thing. I knew I wasn’t going to be Sophia Loren, but I was hoping for at least a drunken Anna Magnani. But my friend’s response when he saw me was: “BWAHAHAHAHA! THE UGLIEST DRAG QUEEN I’VE EVER SEEN! BWAHAHAHAHA!” Oh, well. Back to the drawing board.

*Pulp novelist Jackie Collins allegedly adored me and handpicked me to interview her onstage at a bookstore event. Her books were pretty racy, so I thought nothing of blurting the phrase “fucking and sucking” into the conversation onstage. But it turns out that wasn’t quite the right tone for that time and place, plus Jackie was a little more prudish than I thought. She didn’t talk to me after that day.

*I met a guy in a club and he was SO into me, gushing endlessly about how fabulous I am and how he absolutely worshiped me. A few days later, we went on a date and I prepared to soak in all the idolatry. Wrong. All night, he talked about nothing but himself, detailing every second of his life from day one till now. And he never once asked about my work, my experiences, my anything. Beware of “groupies.” They need groupie therapy.

*I went with friends to a Hamptons hotel for a glamorous weekend that had been set up by a publicist. When we got there, the hotel owner said he hadn’t gotten the fax—and it was a total dump anyway! A disastrous weekend.

*I bought sheets of stamps to do a mailer for my band, but they went blowing in the wind as I walked home from the post office. Two guys were literally crawling under cars to get the stamps, and I thought they were being so kind and helpful—until they scooped them all up and ran away with them! I love New York.

*At a club, a friend of a friend insisted on taking my bag for safekeeping. I generally never let go of my bag, but he was so aggressive about it that I finally relented and handed it to him. Horrifyingly enough, when I got the bag back later, I realized he had removed the cash. He is still a friend of a friend, and it’s the unspoken topic every time we’re in the same room.

*A friend always caused trouble when I took her out—she’d yell at the waiter, complain about the free food, or hit people up for jobs—but I always felt sorry for her and stayed friendly out of charity. Once, I was feeling depressed and asked her to go somewhere with me to cheer me up. Her reply? “Sorry, I can’t be around depression.”

*The same sensitive dame once had the nerve to tell me, “I just don’t trust people with thin lips.” Pause. “No offense.”

*A nightlife pal took me out to dinner and I thought that was such a lovely thing to do. No reason was given—we simply had a long, relaxed meal, filled with fun small talk. And then: “Can I borrow $3000?”

*I somehow landed an audition at the Public Theater for a new musical and sang a David Bowie song for my tryout, though the accompanist played it as if he had never heard of rock music before. While I sang, the casting duo sitting in the house started completely ignoring me and loudly talking to each other about god knows what. I doubt they were saying how great I was.

*A former teen heartthrob and his wife desperately wanted a quote from me for a very small movie they had done, the kind of film that would not get major press. I did them the favor. I dutifully watched the movie. I gave them the quote. I felt very noble and knew they’d be eternally grateful. But instead, they used a quote from a better-known writer.

*I performed with a zany cabaret revue in Hong Kong and hoped to bring them a taste of downtown New York. Alas, the audience was completely silent and dumbfounded during my act—a wacky pop medley that I lip synced—except for a fleeting couple of seconds where I impersonated Boy George. They applauded wildly for that bit, but then, after that moment passed, they went right back to the dazed look. I couldn’t wait to crawl back to the airport.

*I got a huge ovation while modeling in a London nightclub fashion show in the ‘80s and thought, “Gee, I wonder how they know me here,” only to realize they were actually cheering for the person right behind me.

*When I was in my 50s, I told my doctor I thought I was having a midlife crisis. He bust a gut, laughing that I thought I was still “midlife.”

Michael Musto and singer Joey Arias got wild at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Well, Musto did anyway, despite his own admonitions not to. Humiliating! | Photo courtesy of Michael Musto

*In 2013, I was booked to play a disco night at 54 Below and had gotten the fab and often racy singer Joey Arias to be a guest star. I warned Joey that this was a fancy supper club and naughty talk onstage should be curbed. But the devil must have possessed me because, during our duet of Don’t Leave Me This Way, I started vamping and ad-libbing about things like licking semen off the floor!!! (Hey, it rhymes with “54.”) Maybe Jackie Collins had a point.

*A famed playwright’s husband yelled at me when I told him I thought the then-upcoming Pippin would beat Cinderella for the Best Musical Revival Tony. As the veins in his neck bulged and smoke practically billowed out of his nose, I couldn’t understand why anyone would get so agitated over a casual conversation, one where we were simply exchanging opinions about something less than earthshaking. The truth was that Cinderella was pretty well-received, but I was hearing that Pippin was dazzling. Well, bully for me; I was right.

*At a screening organized by a since-disgraced publicist, the flack looked right at the guy next to me and loudly asked if he wanted a better seat. She said nothing whatsoever to me, having no problem underlining the fact that relatively speaking, I was garbage to her, even though at the time, I had a job and the guy she was upgrading didn’t. I bit my tongue and waited for karma to call.

*An editor from Time took me out to a fancy lunch and was all into me, making it seem like I could become a big-time writer for them. But during the lunch, he acted like I would no doubt have ready connections to all the big stars and could get people like Brad Pitt on the phone in two seconds. I told him the truth. And I didn‘t become a big writer for Time.

*A producer wanted to meet me to discuss TV possibilities, claiming he was a big fan. He turned out to be hopelessly drunk and babbled on about how I’d be great for a Girls Gone Wild type of show. That didn’t reflect a whole lot of understanding about who I am and what I represent. In fact, it was completely clueless–and he was exaggerating about his credentials too. Later, dude.

*A friend and I were named the honorary Grand Marshalls of the Providence Pride parade. We were thrilled, but got there to find there was no float, no car, no scepters, no crown, no press, and it was raining. Poor Debbie Gibson was performing in a nearby schoolyard, but at least she got paid.

*I hosted a Q&A with Joan Rivers and her director after a festival screening of her documentary. Joan was uncharacteristically concise that night, perhaps not being in a talkative mood, but I tried my best to make the discussion work. Well, I saw someone I knew in the audience, so the next day, I messaged him, asking if he had a good time. “I enjoyed the movie,” he responded, pointedly.

*Before a live show, a producer got onstage to announce that there was a press person in the audience who meant so much to him. I patted my hair, licked my lips, and prepared to stand up and take a bow. But he went on to say that the person in question was some local radio host! Oh, well. At least I won Best Actor for my Senior Sing.

Musto gave his beloved aunt, Sister Rosaria, Snoopy gifts that she loved. But he gave one of her fellow nuns a piece of his mind. Awkward! | Photo by Michael Musto

*At my aunt’s convent, a feisty nun told me, “Nancy Pelosi should just shut up!” Ugh, a MAGA nun. A Fox News watcher in a habit. And this after Trump had been called “not Christian” by the Pope himself. I started arguing with her, then realized, “You’re yelling at a nun, Michael.” I plugged it up and said 20 “Hail Marys.”

A critic named David Cote messaged me earlier this year, asking whom he should contact about doing theater reviews for the revived Village Voice. I was nice enough to respond, telling him that I was, in fact, set to write those reviews. Rather than say, “Congrats,” he replied, “Everyone’s a critic now!” Everyone? Huh? I was hardly plucked at random off the street. I’ve covered theater since the 1970s, when I was the drama critic for the Columbia Daily Spectator. I wrote about theater in my Voice column since 1984, was the online Voice theater critic for years, and then did theater reviews for Out and NewNowNext for yet more years, in addition to being a commentator on Theater Talk since the beginning of time. God, I felt humiliated—but happy to be the one who has the job!

Here’s a bonus humiliating item:

*In 1999, I was sent to San Francisco to interview Patty McCormack (the little girl from the play and movie The Bad Seed, all grown up) at the Castro Theater, where they would also show the movie for a campy crowd. The frustrations started when Patty and I hit the stage, and our mics didn’t work. When the sound finally kicked in, the organizer threw another wrench into the evening by adding a surprise feature—he had Patti’s friend Carol Lynley on the phone at her dentist’s office and Carol wanted to say a few words! I had to hold the now-sort-of-working mic up to the phone and try to talk to Carol (with no preparation), but no sound was coming from her end, so it was another fiasco. By now, me and everyone else there wanted to die, but I soldiered on and rolled with the punches, desperately hoping things would improve.

Nope! I mentioned that Patty had good parenting as a child, unlike poor JonBenét Ramsey, a topical subject that Patty and I had discussed the previous night over dinner and Patty had said I could bring up onstage. The audience started jeering me for bringing up something so allegedly tasteless and sensational—though they were all dressed up (many in drag) to celebrate a movie about a child murderess who gets killed at the end. The hypocrisy of p.c. knows no bounds. At another point, I asked Patty a dishy question and she replied, “I’m not telling YOU.” Shockingly, the audience applauded her restraint. So they had paid to hear the woman tell some truths—and she had been doing so—but they were now thrilled that she was going to go tight lipped to spite me, for some reason? This was all so bizarre.

Adding one last insult to injury, the organizer now decided that I had to introduce a short film that Patty was in. Again, this had not been mentioned in any of the preparation—it was a new development. He told me the filmmakers’ names, but with all the mishaps and sudden additions, I was jangled and bungled the names when I introduced the short. A review of the event blamed me for that and for virtually everything else, so I wanted to chime in with my own take on how humiliation is born. Not that I hold a grudge, lol.


Michael Musto is a columnist, pop cultural and political pundit, NYC nightlife chronicler, author, and the go-to gossip responsible for the long-running (1984-2013) Village Voice column, “La Dolce Musto.” His work regularly appears on this website as well as Queerty.com and thedailybeast.com, and he is writing for the new Village Voice, a quarterly which made its debut in April. Follow Musto on Instagram, via musto184.


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