By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
I groveled my way back to La Nouvelle Justine, the Chelsea s/m theme eatery where the menu aptly says, "Give us your orders." But interestingly enough, all the customers that night were taking ordersand most of them were rather rugged-looking men who paid an extra 25 bucks to drop to their knees and do so. In between sips of special house martinis ranging from the Infantilist to the Urophiliac (relax, it's made with lemon juice), these game patrons leaped at the chance to be handcuffed in full view and have a dominatrix--sometimes a trannie one--smack and paddle the shit out of them. Gleefully dropping trow, the unselfconscious studs--senators and CEOs, for all I know--seemed to think their whooping was the most hilarious act of humiliation since getting a bad table, and even posed for half-smiling, half-grimacing souvenir pictures of the ritualized shaming to show to the folks back in Iowa!
One of the mustachioed masochists was a dead ringer for Sharon Stone's husband, prompting one to wonder: Doesn't the guy get enough of this at home? Another mope on a rope was walked by an in-house sadist out into the street, where the dogs were so convinced he was one of them that they lined up to sniff his butt! I can't believe that all the underground insanity I skanked around for years now comprises cute touristy entertainment for the whole family. I also can't believe I didn't cash in on it myself.
A few grovels later, s/m was packaged and served in bite sizes once again at the Lure's Fetish Fashion Show, where the crowd of guys in leather vests and dog collars--senators and CEOs, for all I know--intently watched models parade around in leather vests and dog collars. The Lure is the raw industrial space near the West Side Highway, where if you accidentally bump into someone, they'll either teach you a lesson or murmur, "Thank you very much, sir!" This is no theme joint--it's real, though the main difference to me is that Justine is filled with butch numbers acting fey, while this place has (among others, of course) femmes swaggering around trying to look like John Wayne. The leisurely paced show interrupted all the bondage bonding with some whips and chain stores, as scantily clad models postured, sneered, and wrestled in clothes by The Baroness, Tom of Finland, and other designers to die for. One fruity model finally dared to prance out into the fog of poppers and merrily flapped his arms about, but within seconds, three leather guys put Missy in a hood and a body bag and somberly carted him out. Symbolic.
In the s/m world of conflicted sitcom stars, someone needs to cart out Andy Dick--or at least paddle his ass and take pictures of it. On the premiere of Donny and Marie Osmond's talk show--which only real masochists watched, especially since it was on opposite the president's testimony--Marie asked the actor-comic why he's so over his NewsRadio persona. The big Dick responded by whining, "It's hard to play a character that gets more and more he borders on mental retardation. And he gets gayer every season!" Gee, thanks, Andy--so do you, despite your constant talk about all your women and children. Fortunately, Dick laid another egg on the same show when he seriously remarked that, after Phil Hartman's murder, the crew of NewsRadio moved on to Just Shoot Me!
I hope audiences are moving over to Will & Grace, where you don't get quite as many apologies for being you know. Despite it's annoying premise--which situates the gay guy with the straight-girl best friend, so he'll go down easier, as it were--the show makes a fairly strong attempt at snippy, pop culture-drenched humor, and the gay characters are already way beyond Hollywood's in that they actually talk about crushes, boyfriends, and tricks. Maybe we'll even see some of them sometime!
There are lots of love interests in the Nathan Lane sitcom, Encore! Encore!--a/k/a Mediocre! Mediocre!--and while I'm not exactly thrilled that they're of the opposite sex (the character begs to be queer), I think the media's complaints that Lane shouldn't portray a womanizer sound as homophobic as all that bull about whether Anne Heche could pull off a hetero romance, especially since he was the toast of the town in Guys and Dolls. These people are actors. They're supposed to pretend. It's like the Lure!
Over in really straight TV, that girl who plays Felicity is pretending too hard; she's the most mannered actress on the telly since the cirque de Soleil Moon Frye. She's the dramatic Dharma, the fat (90 pounds) Ally McBeal, the unspontaneous Nicole Kidman--and do you really trust anyone named Kelli anyway? Every word out of this creature comes equipped with three nostril flares, five smiles, six breaths, and a half-pout. They should have gotten Uta Hagen.
But the most sadistic TV viewing of all was the Miss America contest--positively filled with Kellis--in which half-pouts turned into full-blown pride as contestants blurted stuff, between tap dances, like, "My best friend was killed in a tragic car accident, and she'll be a guardian angel on my shoulder tonight!" Good try, honey--but naturally that winsome wannabe lost to the gal who gushed, "The best thing that ever happened to me was diabetes!" (Though, in my eyes, none of them held a candle to the one about whom the cohost enthused, "She picks cantaloupes, she turns pirouettes, and she gives patients mouth-to-mouth!" Alas, she won't be wearing tiaras.)