Say it ain’t so, darlin’! The sultry rocker chick who became a bona fide gay icon by playing a bisexual vamp in Showgirls and by butching out in Bound and Prey for Rock & Roll is now a children’s book author? Don’t worry: Cowritten with her brother Dann, the upcoming novel Camp Creepy Time — soon to be adapted for the screen by Richard LaGravenese and produced by DreamWorks and Nickelodeon Films — is just as smart and edgy as she is.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: Camp Creepy Time is loosely based on your own time at a summer camp. Considering the book’s tone, it must have been a traumatic experience.
Gina Gershon: It was traumatic. It felt like an episode of Survivor. I almost got sent home, actually. I think I stole someone’s care package because the food was so horrible there and I got sick of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all the time. And I took a canoe out when I wasn’t supposed to, and me and my friend almost drowned in the river. And we weren’t supposed to leave the campsite at nighttime, and of course I did and almost got attacked by bears. [Laughs] But it was all in good fun. You’re 10 or 11 years old; you’re prone to get into trouble — at least I was, anyway.
What’s the novel’s target demographic?
I swear, my friends have enjoyed it more than the kids who’ve read it. It’s like the Harry Potter [series] — what age group is that for? I get nervous with these publishers because they really try to pigeonhole it, and that’s so archaic because 11-year-olds today aren’t like 11-year-olds when we were 11-year-olds. But I want you to really read it so that you can say in The Advocate, “You have to go out and get this book. It’s good for gays and straights alike.” That’s my tagline.
As a busy multi-hyphenate celebrity, how much were you really involved in the writing process?
I thought when I started that I was just going to help out, but I became obsessed with it. I don’t think my agents were very pleased with me, because I didn’t answer the phone for days and days. People are surprised because they’re like, “Ooh, a celebrity writer and her brother.” But we worked our asses off on it, and we’re going to start the sequel in a few weeks. Some celebrities get ghostwriters and they don’t really do the writing. I find that offensive to writers. It’s like, If you’re going to do it, fucking sweat over it and do it. Now all of a sudden I’ve become this weird writer. It’s very strange, but I guess I’ve always done it. I’ve rewritten some of my parts.
Isn’t writing a children’s book the first sign of a celebrity mellowing out?
Mellowing out? What does that mean?
Adopting an African baby, basically.
[Laughs] Hmm, I don’t know. That’s not on my shopping list for today, but you never know.
Are you sick of talking about Showgirls?
[Laughs] I am. But the Showgirls questions have eased up. All of a sudden they were replaced by music questions, which I found refreshing. But we can go back to Showgirls because this is The Advocate. I know with The Advocate it’s all about Showgirls and Bound.
Now that you’re writing more, have you given more thought to the Showgirls musical you were considering creating?
It’s such an obvious idea. I mentioned it to Joe [Eszterhas], and he was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” But it’s really a version that only I can tell. I’m going to do it from my point of view, because some of the stuff that happened was just so beyond the film. So much through the [filming] I kept making up and singing songs in my head just to keep sane half the time. Truly, my brain would go there as a way of protection, survival, and endurance. But I kind of lost track of it. I should do it — it seems like such a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
Extras in the Showgirls VIP Edition, released in 2004, included Showgirls shot glasses and drinking games. Do you ever watch the film and play them with friends?
They didn’t send me one, so I don’t even have one. See how they treat the actors? This is why I’m going into writing. The only thing I’ve done is when Jason [Sellards] from Scissor Sisters insisted that we go to some show downtown [in New York City], Showgirls: The Best Movie Ever Made. Ever! We met at a party and became fast friends, and probably the fourth time we talked he said, “You have to come see this show with me.” It was so funny. I think they were all in shock that I was there, but I feel so weirdly removed from it at this point.
You also played the Jew’s harp on the Scissor Sisters album Ta-Dah.
I’m one of the only Jew’s harp players around that anyone knows, so I’m always on call.
What are your thoughts on Carmen Electra and your old pal Joan Jett?
I think they make a cute couple, but I don’t believe anything I read because I know half the shit that I read on me is never true.
That’s disappointing to hear.
Well, you don’t know what my real life is like. Maybe my real life is more exciting than the shit you read. I told someone from Page Six once when they were going to write something that actually was true, “You know, you guys write false statements all the time of who I’m seeing, and I don’t care, but this happens to be true, so I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t write it. Just write anything, as long as they’re lies.” He looked at me like I was crazy, but he didn’t put the story in.
A lot of great actresses went into the role of Sally Bowles in Broadway’s Cabaret. I challenge you to make an argument that your performance wasn’t the best.
I can’t argue with you — I think I was. [Laughs] In all fairness, I didn’t see every single person, but I was very pleased with what I did. A lot of people came up and told me that, which is nice. I just finished my album, In Search of Cleo, and now I’m writing a one-woman show around my music. I can’t just sit around and let someone try to write some genius part for me, because they give it to every other actress. I have to start writing my own.
What do you think Donatella Versace thought of Fabia, the fashionista you played on Ugly Betty?
It was inspired by her, but it’s also a couple of other people — like an Italian girlfriend of mine, and Cicciolina, the Italian porn star. I’m so much more of a character actress, and I love doing really crazy parts, so that and the part I did on Curb Your Enthusiasm are probably my favorite parts recently. I’d like to be in the movie [of Camp Creepy Time], because when we were writing it I wrote the character of Nurse Knockwurst for myself. It’s kind of all my favorite characters smooshed into one.
You’re so beloved by gay people. Do you ever feel guilty that you’re not gay?
I do have guilt over it sometimes. I was just talking about this last night to my friends. I always come up with different titles of books that I could write, and that was the title yesterday: I’m So Sorry I’m Not Really a Lesbian.
The Advocate, May 2007 issue.