By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
After Garland left the theatre, several of the faithful decided to follow her limo back to her hotel. To his everlasting regret, De Alba decided not to join them; he later found out that Garland had invited those fans to join her for a late-night snack.
"That's how sweet Judy was," recalls De Alba. "All these people like Madonna, you cannot even get near them, let alone eat with them. Not Judy. She was the kind of star who would be hurt if people did not come up and talk to her."
Gazing wistfully into the air (picture Garland, her face framed by her hands, in the famous poster art from A Star Is Born), De Alba sighs. "There are others who can sing a pretty song, but none who can sing a song like Judy. She's the only one who can break my heart."
@body:"The nightlife in this town is devastating," De Alba says scornfully. "You see all the tourists walking up and down Scottsdale Road every night, but where do they go? Coco's and Denny's, that's where! This is their big night out! Scottsdale needs something like me."
But is Scottsdale's main drag really ready for a resident female-impersonator revue?
After investing thousands of dollars in Garlandesque getups and arrangements during his career, De Alba desperately hopes so.
Never mind that career opportunities for professional female impersonators are next to nonexistent outside of San Francisco, Las Vegas and New Orleans and a handful of other tourist meccas with slightly racy reps. Never mind that in today's female-impersonation scheme of things, caricatures of performers like Cher, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner are far more recognizable than impersonations of Garland, Mae West and Tallulah Bankhead, gay icons of another generation. And never mind that all the best-known female impersonators in recent memory (think Divine, RuPaul, Lypsinka and Dame Edna Everage) succeeded by creating their own over-the-top characters, not performing slavishly reverential homages to stars of the past. In spite of all this (and the fact that De Alba himself admits that younger members of his audience have trouble placing Liza Minnelli, let alone her mother), the Garlandizer can't wait to hit the stage again. "In the Sixties, who would dream that a man would go to the moon?" he says. "But it happened. Now we have liver transplants, again, because someone had an idea. All these things, they started with a dream. So why can't we get a club in Phoenix and bring in the tour buses to see me like they do in San Francisco?
"We had lots of tourists at Finocchio's, so I'm used to performing to conservative audiences, not just hep people like Robert Wagner. If they put me in a showroom in a nice resort--the Registry or the Phoenician would be nice--I think it can work here. But the only way it can work is if they bring in the Greyhound tour buses filled with customers like they did in San Francisco. That way you do not have to worry about where your business is coming from." And while he's waiting for his bus to come in, the self-described "male Judy Garland" also thinks it would be nice if he could mount a local production of his one-man play about Garland. A pastiche of song and monologue he first performed at an experimental theatre in San Francisco nearly ten years ago, the script is patched together from Garland's own words, dialogue De Alba culled from his massive collection of audio and visual tapes.
"Like my act, this is a very fancy presentation," he says. "I would only do the play in a theatrical setting. Someplace like the Herberger."
Don't even suggest that De Alba lower his sights to something a little more realistic, like a gay club, one of the few local venues that might be available to a specialized act such as his.
"The show I do is not a gay show," he snaps. "It's a very strait-laced performance. If I come out dressed as Judy Garland or Liza Minnelli, I represent that star in song and in costume. My show is not a tacky drag show that belongs in a cheap bar in the avenues."
Since De Alba moved to the Valley, his only Garland gig to date has been a less-than-spectacular engagement at Livia's, an intimate Italian restaurant located "in the avenues."
"I should have known that this place was not for me," fumes De Alba, who reels off a litany of creative differences with the woman who owned the restaurant at the time. (The restaurant has since been sold to new owners.)
"She told me, 'We have to keep the sound down so people can order.' I told her, 'No, no, no, no, no! My voice is more important than your damn Italian food!'" The final indignity, per De Alba, came when the owner introduced the act while wearing an apron. "I am introduced by a cook?!" De Alba shudders. "I think to myself, 'How low have I come in this town?'"
@body:Granted one wish, David De Alba undoubtedly wishes he could tap his high heels together three times, magically transporting himself out of the present-day Scottsdale and into a revisionist past filtered through sequins and chiffon.