The show is, of course, Avenue Q. And in its very early scenes, as its characters are introduced and defined through tales of their abject suffering, we meet the most pathetic, fragile creature of the entire dramatis personae: Gary Coleman
Yes, that Gary Coleman, whose first couplets are so full of pathos and heartbreak it almost pains me to quote them here for you. But I will anyway:
I’m Gary ColemanIn the show, Gary Coleman is played by an actor who is obviously not the actual Gary Coleman. Probably because the Avenue Q creators knew the actual Gary Coleman would eventually die and actors are easier to replace than Gary Coleman.
From TV’s Diff’rent Strokes.
I made a lotta money
That got stolen by my folks.
Now I’m broke and I’m the butt
Of everyone’s jokes.
Anyway, when the domestic partner and I started dating and we’d spend our days listening to Broadway cast albums together—as all gay couples do, so do not judge—the domestic partner eventually turned to me and asked me if Gary Coleman received royalties for being portrayed every night so realistically in a Tony-award-winning musical of love, betrayal, understanding and redemption told against a backdrop of poverty and despair in a New York tenement.
And I, the keeper of all empirical truth, was for once unable to answer his question. For once.
But suddenly the Gary Coleman question became our shorthand for all things unanswerable. Like How do you throw away a garbage can? Or Why is Rush Limbaugh allowed to marry four times while we’re not allowed to marry even once? Or Why is Sarah Palin allowed to live?
So when we bought our Two Bedroomed Two Bathroomed One Fireplaced Barbie® Dream Condo and started painting and repairing and upgrading it before we moved in, I posted a picture of Gary Coleman in our so-palatial-it-has-its-own-ZIP-code master bedroom closet after I finished painting it just to give the domestic partner a giggle the first time he saw my finished handiwork.
And it worked!
But eventually we installed elfa shelving and stuffed the closet with the billions of dollars’ worth of designer clothing our celebrity designer friends give us when they use our TBTBOFBDC for their couture photo shoots, and Gary Coleman got moved to the mirror over the sink in our ultra-plush, members-only-spa-like master bathroom. Where we quickly stopped even noticing he was there as he started to wither and curl from years of exposure to shower steam and high-end hair product. Which is kind of like a sad metaphor for his career, but we were too busy trying on couture to really care.
But then Gary Coleman actually died.
And now that we’ve started re-noticing the picture on our mirror, it seems cavalier bordering on cruel to take it down and throw it away. Though we probably eventually will, just as soon as we finally turn the paint chips you see in the background of this picture into actual paint that we actually put on the walls:
In the mean time, I leave you with a charming pastiche number from Act 1 of Avenue Q that’s not sung by the Gary Coleman character, but most of his songs are pretty lame and unquotable so who cares? Enjoy:
I’m not wearing underwear today.
No I’m not wearing underwear today.
Not that you probably care
Much about my underwear.
Still nonetheless I gotta say
That I’m not wearing underwear today.