By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Here's a hot flash: The new face of menopause is...no, not the Olsen twins, but Valerie Harper! The estimable Harperyou know, Mary Richards's better half on Nick at Nitejust unveiled a Times Square billboard for Healthy Woman, a soy medical supplement from the company that's brought you Monistat and K-Y jelly. Well, I've certainly enjoyed at least oneof those products, so I showed up, all slippery-smooth and willingand Harper didn't disappoint. "Menopause is an exciting new beginning," she told the rapidly aging crowd. "We are out of the closet. Love it, embrace it! Healthy Woman helps relieve hot flashes!" Hallelujah! If there was ever an effective cheerleader for "the change," it was Valerie Harper. She may in fact be the first person who ever wantedsuch a position, and she was approaching it as stirringly as she played Rhoda and, more recently, Pearl Buck (onstage). In fact, she was making me wish Iwas a middle-aged woman with mounting biological problems.
The billboard, it turned out, features Harper along with other menopausal celebs, like Suzy Chaffee and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Funny, I knowMary Wilson, and she's never once told me she's had hot flashesbut I was certainly glad to hear she's found relief for them. In her trailer after the ceremony, Harper continued her rah-rah menstruation-cessation routine. She took one look at me and said, "We've borrowed the vernacular of the gay and lesbian community'coming out of the closet.' It's about not hiding who you are." Well, to seize some more gay lingo: Is Healthy Woman like a female Viagra, girleen? "No," she said excitedly. "It's about relieving discomfort." To appease mine, Harper informed me that women in Asia supposedly have fewer hot flashes because they eat so much soy. (Imelda Marcos must have been the exception.) Armed with this knowledge, American gals who were formerly faced with an impossible choicesuffer those darned flashes or eat buckets full of tofucan now suck down Healthy Woman and avert both treacherous fates.
"But what exactly does a hot flash feel like?" I asked, not having had one in ages. "My whole body would break into a sweat," Harper admitted. "I have a friend who called it her 'private summer,' and other women call it a 'power surge."' I call it "No, thank you, ma'am." But whatever you label it, I couldn't believe I had finally gotten to meet Valerie Harper and it was in the context of an ideological symposium about burning pains!
I expected all sorts of menopausal types at the nextbig celebration of female aging"Maddyfest," a Madonnabirthday tribute in the Southgate Tower Hotel's ballroombut the smallish crowd verged on jailbait, proving that the woman still knows how to curry (and kebab) new favor. The casual, all-day event featured vendors hawking Madonna memorabilia, as well as performances by semi-sound-alikes and sort-of-look-alikes, all in a sweetly ramshackle setup that prompted one guest to murmur, "Doesn't this have a Waiting for Guffmanfeel to it?" Guffman never came, but Queerdonnathe 400-plus-pound drag Madonna impersonator also known as Greg Taniandid, and with updated material, including capacious new gowns. (I'm not saying that mockingly, mind youQueerdonna's currently suing United Airlines for $400 million for fat discrimination. That's a million a pound.)
At first, Queerdonna lurked behind a temporary wall divider adorned with the words "For Queerdonna and dancers only!" (She's certainly learned from her idol.) The spare but loving audience then heard the makeshift diva chant, "I'm home. Shanti...I fucked up." Trying harder to summon her lines, the Queer one emerged in stretch pants, a vaguely Madonna-ish wig, and brilliantly inappropriate eyeglasses and lip-synched "Beautiful Stranger" with a sincerity that was both hilarious and touching. By sheer determination, Queerdonna proves that anyone can be Madonna and, conversely, that Madonna is in everyone. Brava!
Between numbers, someone in the crowd asked meand this is a direct quote"How come you never gossip about pop icon Kim Wilde? She opened for Michael Jackson in Europe, and they had an affair." I sincerely doubt thatbut I wouldlike to gossip about how fascinating that recently surfaced picture of Jacko's pallid son was. Not that I'm quoting "Billie Jean" or anythingyou know, "The kid is not my son"but this adorable little Jack-off looks precious little like Daddy, though maybe he's alreadyhad his pigment scrubbed!
Leaving behind menopause in order to pause for some men, I learned that Darren Aronofsky () just directed a movie based on Hubert Selby Jr.'s Requiem for a Dream, so I phoned that cutie Selby in L.A. to ask if it'll be any good. "Who knows?" said Selby (best known for Last Exit to Brooklyn). "I suspect so. Ellen Burstyn is so incredible. I was there [on the set] five minutes and she had me in tears." What part does she play? "Sarah Goldfarb," he said simply, but didn't elaborate. The guy is certainly a refreshing departure from all those overly rehearsed sound-bite spewers of media-savvy Hollywood. And who are the other cast members, pray tell? "Jared Leto, something like that," he said. "And one of the Winans brothersDamon maybe, but you'd better check that. I'm dreadful with names." I thought perhaps he intended to say Damon Wayans, but research reveals he actually meant Marlon Wayans. Heck, even if the movie stars Marlon Jackson, I'll go see it.