Fluffing the Don
Before making the wholly charming Quinceañera (now playing at a theater near you), my friends Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland made an intriguing and rather less charming movie called The Fluffer. It's set in the world of gay porn, and the title character is an extra whose job is to ensure that the star is in a state of readiness before the cameras start rolling. The fluffer is gay, the star is straight (this much is evidently true to life), and in the film, the adoration that the former feels for the latter is complete and all-consuming.
Richard and Wash maintain that "the fluffer" is in fact an archetype — the one who loves with total, self-abnegating passion and with no hope of requital. Certainly the fluffer can be encountered regularly on the operatic stage. I once took Wash to the L.A. Opera to see Turandot for the first time, and he spotted Liù in a second.
This comes to mind in the wake of Festival Opera's interesting new production of Don Giovanni in Walnut Creek. It's an updated version, done mostly for laughs (Leporello's catalog, e.g., is a PDA). But Michael Morgan, who directs as well as conducts, introduces something new and telling: a gay Leporello who's in love with Don Giovanni. Instantly the relationship between them — the testiness, the interdependence — is presented in a different light. Particularly striking is Leporello's attitude toward the Don's womanizing, a weird mix of fascination and revulsion — with the latter now revealed not as moral scruples but as simple jealousy. This Leporello is not as pathetic and selfless as Liù (who could be?), but he is indeed our old friend the fluffer.