By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The old Limelight had sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The soon-to-be-reopened one has Windex, hugs, and a coffee bar with rolls. The joint's owner, Peter Gatien--fresh from his acquittal on drug racketeering charges--is bending over backward not to offend the community, so much so that (according to press materials) the club will include an art gallery, a cosmetics counter, and ''a special playground for the Flatiron community,'' all available by day. You can get culture, mascara, and a run around the mulberry bush in one inspiring visit--and then come back that night and boogie down!
Gatien's always been keenly aware that clubgoers' short attention spans demand eye-grabbing new features every few months. But now the spicing up apparently involves some toning down. I just toured the club--which is in midconstruction for what they swear is an imminent opening--and the manager emphasized that ''the focus will be on art, fashion, and lots of corporate events.'' The stained-glass windows look cleaner than before (Jesus looms more visibly now), there'll be lit-up displays filled with more of that there art, and the various rooms will house tons of benefits, all aiming to save the world and the Limelight's ass. Perhaps the only scary element is that the upstairs VIP room will be dotted with bizarre pieces via Alien's designer H.R. Giger--oh, and the fact that you might not get in.
''Will there be a plaque noting where club kid Michael Alig met his murder victim?'' I sardonically asked the publicist, to prompt some response about past hideousness. ''Who?'' he cracked, savvily. That's not in the limelight anymore, folks. This Limelight is a multimedia community center, the courtyard of which may actually play host to some puppet shows. Puppet shows? Gee, my misty mind seems to remember Slimelight entertainment like a girl making love to an amputee's stump, a guy drinking his own pee, and a salacious box with holes you were welcome to put your dick into. Actually, those were the days--and while I'm glad that some limits have been imposed, even if just for legal reasons, I hope someone clever dares to fuck with them sometime.
While I'm in a club daze, kindly let me note that dance music seems to have hit rock (or dance) bottom, at least at the events I've been on the list for. It's gone beyond house, techno, trip hop, tribal, and even herbal, and now just consists of components of songs minus the songs themselves. There'll be five minutes of simply an agitated beat, after which they'll throw in an occasional siren, and then, much later, maybe a voice yelling something indecipherable to match the one already in your head. Vocals are out, pure alienation is in, and the DJs are apparently thrilled to see rooms full of unenthused people (at the Roxy and Twilo) dancing only because they went out to do so. It's like a very sad puppet show! Maybe you've got to be on drugs to enjoy this stuff, but a friend assures me that artificial stimulation actually makes it worse because there's no loveliness to latch on to, only that throb that bores into you like a wayward dental drill (and, I swear, really young people agree with me). I'm sure this is just the calm before the next storm of great dance music. So start storming, folks.
If I can change my tune to yet another droning rant, I'm annoyed that Warner Brothers canceled their screen version of that danceable classic Dreamgirls because their other retro musical, Why Do Fools Fall In Love, bombed big time. I could just scream something indecipherable! It was the marketing of Fools that seemed botched to me. For example, maybe if the soundtrack had included one note from Lymon instead of having current groups sing music ''inspired by'' the movie, people wouldn't have been so damned confused about the project. And have you seen October Films' trailer for A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries? It makes that snoozy, meandering (but well-made) personal odyssey look like a raucous Boogie Nights- cum-That'70s Show romp. Honey, disappointed word of mouth never dies.
At least the hype around the Lifetime TV movie Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story didn't deceive; it's a pretty fun biopic about the famed dynamo-social piranha, and the hair, makeup, and Babe Paley impersonator are perfect. At a party for Party at the Museum of Television and Radio, I overheard Peter Duchin (who's represented in the film) tell a friend, ''The pool scene could have gone on for a half an hour, as far as I was concerned!'' That was the scene where Harriman had a stroke and died.
The currently filming Martin Scorsese flick Bringing Out the Dead is a psychodrama about Manhattan ambulance drivers, but it's giving life to at least one screen career. Theo Kogan, who fronts the Lunachicks, just shot a role as a street prostie taunting Nicolas Cage, and tells me that Scorsese was ''open, fun, and real,'' and as for her character--Hooker #1--''I'm not wearing much!''
If I can bring out the dread and talk about whores who are not caring much (yep, it's another rant), how hideous is it that the media--who generally find any discussion of celebs' gay sexuality disgusting and off-limits--have gathered around that Ally McBeal woman like buzzards to gleefully dissect what they've decided is an eating disorder? What a double standard--these people consider definite gayness less reportable than hypothetical illness, and what's more, some of them have helped create this illness. One of the tabloids that tsk-tsked about Ally's presumed vomiting featured an article on the very next page about how The Nanny's butt has gotten too big!
Anyway--calm down, Michael, or you'll get your pool scene--I dragged my perky rump to a Soho gallery last week to pay homage to Brigid Berlin, who's slimmed down but is still a woman of substance. The Warhol star read random stories from her life to a stellar old-guard crowd--including Monique Van Vooren, who came late, got everyone's attention, then left early--and it had a pretty good beat to it, the sirens being subliminal. Berlin began by announcing that her dog Whoopi had just been killed in a tragic accident and ''she was the love of my life!'' That established a rather disturbed tone, but then Berlin charmingly re-created autobiographical highlights involving everything from prescribed amphetamines to orally applied Clearasil (It must have been the amphetamines). Most harrowing of all, she told us she'd only provided Diet Coke and water for us so we wouldn't get up during her appearance. We didn't.
But perky rumps eventually raised themselves one more time to see Swan Lake, and--though it's a shame that when a gay love story hits Broadway, it has to be an interspecies one--I was entranced by the kinda now, kinda wow, more for tourists than purists, touching and ultimately subversive interpretation. We cheered it for days, then went to the opening-night party at Supper Club to goose the cast and sing ''Swanee, how I love ya, how I love ya.'' My mouth filled with swan cakes, I asked the show's director-choreographer Matthew Bourne why the prince never actually kisses the downy creature of his dreams. ''Because he's repressed to a point where he can accept love, but not sex,'' he said. ''I'm the opposite,'' I informed him. ''I can accept sex, but not love.'' ''But you're from New York!'' Bourne replied. That's true--ooh baby, now hand me that puppet show.