One of the highlights of Stargayzing’s four-week “blogcation” came in early August when, at the recommendation of my friend James Gavin, he and I hightailed it down to New York’s Metropolitan Room to catch the inimitable Pia Zadora in her new club act “Pia Reloaded.” Knowing Ms. Zadora only from her sporadic film work and classic 1980s music videos like “When the Rain Begins to Fall” (with Jermaine Jackson)—that’s the one with the unforgettable line, “Is there a bar in this scum bucket town?”— “Let’s Dance Tonight” (both from her 1984 film Voyage of the Rock Aliens), and “Little Bit of Heaven” (1985), which, in addition to being a big hit in Germany, had the distinction of using the exact same keyboard sound as Laura Branigan’s “Solitaire.” I freely admit to zadoring her frothy brand of dance pop hits; Pia was playing to her gay audience long before it was cool.
But Pia transitioned to pre-rock era pop standards sometime after that and I guess I sort of lost track of her. I was initially a bit incredulous until James insisted that it was simply impossible to dislike Pia. “It’s like an old-fashioned club act,” he advised; and so it was.
Pia still looks fantastic and appears to have aged rather naturally. Highlights of her show, which gave us big night time glamour despite being in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, included getting pulled into a conga line, her stunning Bob Mackie ensembles, and taking a few photos with the star after the show. We were encouraged to take pictures, so I obliged, using my placement near enough to the stage to essentially be a part of the show to get some really unique shots, including what I think is a very rare close-up of Pia’s foot. When I showed it to Elisa she perceptively commented, “It looks exactly like what you’d expect Pia Zadora’s foot to look like.”
Pia’s song choices were a bit obvious though, like everything else about “Pia Reloaded,” calculated to please. Highlights included: “C’est Si Bon”; “Sweet Nothings,” a rock song, ostensibly; “City Lights,” the 11 o’clock number from Kander and Ebb’s The Act; and, my personal favorite, Jerry Herman’s “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles. The show was high on razzle-dazzle and low on subtlety, but who cares when you’re having so much fun? Pia’s patter was great; filled with laughs and fun anecdotes about her long and storied career. I had forgotten, for instance, that she was a child actor and original Broadway cast member of Fiddler on the Roof.
The very best thing about Pia Zadora’s rebooted act, other than her boundless desire to please her audience and complete lack of affectation, was her wonderfully ingratiating ability to laugh at herself. This is not a small attribute nowadays where stars take their celebrity and anything having to do with “their brands” as seriously as fatal illness, (sometimes they even combine the two, like the recent proliferation of horrible ALS ice-bucket challenge videos which, you’ll be glad to know, Ms. Zadora had the good sense to refrain from). On stage, Pia projects great warmth and sincerity and struck me as someone you’d enjoy hanging out with. Since a club act is essentially hanging out with a performer in an intimate space, I think Pia is really on to something.
Here is a really weird, too-close-up video I took of Pia singing Michel LeGrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “How Do You Keep the Music Playing.”