She’s making it after all

by Ed Karvoski, Jr.
Thursday May 11, 2000


"Lea’s Book of Rules for the World,’ by Lea Delaria, with Maggie Cassella. Dell Trade,
209 pages, paper, $12.95.

You either love or hate Lea DeLaria as a stand-up comic. Many people think her in-your-face style is offensive-and she’ll be the first to tell you about it. In fact, that’s exactly what she does in the introduction of her book, "Lea’s Book of Rules for the World" (Dell Trade Paperback), with contributions by Maggie Cassella.

"People find me offensive," writes DeLaria. "Some people actually find me horribly offensive."

She goes on to tell about the time she performed at the Texas Lesbian Conference. After noticing that the audience comprised mostly large-sized women, she delivered her opening line: "Is it a law in Texas that you have to weigh three hundred ninety-five pounds to be a lesbian?" DeLaria says that the audience-or as she bluntly refers to them, "the herd"-remained silent. Not letting up, she continued, "I mean, I’m a proud fat woman and all, but I think there’s a slight problem when I’m the most svelte person in a room." The women booed. Why? According to DeLaria: "In this, the new millennium, an individual is no longer permitted the luxury of expressing a unique thought. One must couch all ideas within the accepted garbage verbiage that makes up Political Correctness."

With "Lea’s Book of Rules for the World," DeLaria catches up to several of her colleagues who have released humor books in recent years, such as the "kinder and gentler" comics, Bob Smith ("Openly Bob" and "Way to Go, Smith") and Kate Clinton ("Don’t Get Me Started"). But DeLaria has been busy, indeed. In recent years, she has carved a niche for herself on the stage—on and off-Broadway, as well as touring companies.

Most notably, she earned critical acclaim for her breakout performance in the Broadway revival of the musical "On the Town." In her most recent incarnation as a stage diva, she appeared in star-studded productions mounted at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. Additionally, her one-woman show, "It’s Delightful, It’s Delicious, It’s DeLaria," has played to sold-out houses across the country.

And all the while, DeLaria has been climbing the red-carpeted stairway toward stardom as an "out" lesbian.

It may seem odd that someone who has broken so many rules—while at the same time breaking ground—would write a guide about "Rules." Well, in reality, the "Rules"—10 in all—are interspersed throughout the book, but are hardly the highlight. (For example, Rule #4 states: "Never point at anything beige and call it cool.") The real gems can be found within some of the dozen or so humorous essays.

In the first essay, DeLaria—a self-described "nice Italian Catholic girl"—boldly updates the Ten Commandments. With a little help from the Mother of God, that is. "These thoughts occur to me after having just seen the Virgin Mary’s face appear in my morning coffee," says DeLaria. "I am fairly certain it was the Blessed Mother. But I take my coffee black. It could have been Nipsey Russell."

Other topics that receive a tongue-lashing from the lesbian loudmouth include the "Urban Trendy Poster Dyke," New York City’s Mayor Giuliani, and the Tony Award nomination committee. (Much to the surprise of many in the theater community, DeLaria’s work in "On the Town" was overlooked for a nomination.)

The stick-figure drawings of Lea scattered throughout the book are annoying at first. But the oversimplified illustrations actually grow on you, particularly when you realize that the figure is always seen nonchalantly clutching a vibrator. Not just any vibrator: a Hitachi Magic Wand, which DeLaria dubs "the Mercedes-Benz of vibrators."

Now residing in New York City, DeLaria says, "There isn’t enough power in my apartment to run my vibrator and I have to run a big orange extension cord out of my bedroom window to the generator at the Union Square subway stop. When I jerk off, the number 6 train doesn’t run."

DeLaria’s devotees will be delighted. To her credit, the comic manages to capture her onstage stand-up persona on the page—not always an easy task. Between the covers of "Lea’s Book of Rules for the World," the author presents her observations with her trademark edgy, brazen tone. (Interestingly, an occasional glimpse of a softer side is revealed with references to the "gentle reader.")

Whatever your opinion of DeLaria, chances are it will remain the same after reading her tome. You’ll either love her or hate her. The truly "funny" thing: that’s probably her goal.


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