By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Los Angeles is still the sickest, most vulgar, appalling place on earth, and I cant wait to go back. Two recent visits reminded me of all the garish, twisted, star-fucking behavior that I love more than idolatry itself. Even the simple act of leaving the hotel to go to the Pink Dot grocery store becomes something of a premiere because there are inevitably klieg lights flashing every 10 yards or so and stretch cars swerving all around you as you try to buy a doughnut. But the most telling sight in town is probably the gigantic billboard that blares, "Need a career? Be a star!" It's an ad promoting jobs as deputy sheriff!
Everyone's so busy chasing stardom of any kind that they're always late, either because they were having their hair done or there was some kind of "misunderstanding" about when you were meeting. When the ditzes finally get there, though, they truly do look incredible. Even the fucking limo drivers are drop-dead, since the place is a magnet for wannabe models and movie icons who end up parking cars, pumping gas, and taking action stars to their penile implant appointments. And no matter what their day jobs are, these people take their glamour addictions seriously. An Angeleno magazine party at Barneys brought out a fashiony crowd even more rivetingly intense and affected than our own. The victims seemed more victimy, the Jocelyne Wildenstein types more Wildensteiny, and the store quickly evolved into a magical blur of shades, wraps, collagen lips, and business cards.
The imposed fabulousness also pervades the still chichi Mondrian Hotel, where once past the conceptual videos of haunted eyes stalking you in the elevator, you check into a room overlooking a Queen Latifah party at the Sky Bar, prompting a fast, disconcerted move to a different room. You can even lower your New York ass onto a sumptuous dinner at Asia de Cuba right downstairs, for a sultry culinary mix of Havana, Hanoi, and Ho-Ho-Kus. My meal there was a prearranged press affair, so when the owner offered to buy us dessert, I panicked and screeched, "Wait-isn't the whole dinner supposed to be free?" (Put that on my tombstone, by the way.) It indeed turned out to be marvelously complimentary-and so was I when running into two friends who'd just won an Emmy for editing!
Mercifully, nightclub admissions beckoned without a fight-or a charge. Push past the crowds with some flair and you'll whoosh into their version of Beige, held in a skyscraper penthouse that offers a panoramic view of the city's agents, stylists, and rapists. Inside, there's an offbeat mix of sun bunnies and New York defectors, and they're all this close to being name-dropping nightmares, but that's what makes it frantically fun. Alas, irony is so lacking that when one guy told me, "You look nice," I kept searching around for hidden meanings until realizing he meant it!
Cherry-copromoter Bryan Rabin's retro-via- the-future club event-certainly looks nice, and in addition to valet parking, it boasts Cher's ex?bagel boy Rob Camilletti working the bar, Alexis Arquette go-go dancing around it, and Bill Maher using it. No matter how esoteric or removed, celebrity is still the greatest aphrodisiac of all. And having popped Cherry, it's de rigueur to nab some Numbers, a sterile-looking gentleman's hangout, which I entered while making that face Madonna served when Lauryn Hill won those MTV Awards. I lightened up after the manager provided an effusive greeting, but when I gurgled, "Does this mean complimentary cocktails?"-put that on my coffin-he declared, "No, we don't do that!" It figured that at a place catering to lubed ragamuffins and their potential Daddy Warbuckses, the financial transaction is god.
Among the bold-faced names whirring around town, A.J. Benza was finishing up his cautionary-tale memoir, RuPaul reminded me that The Wiz was a bad movie, and Lisa Edelstein-a/k/a former New York club celebutante Lisa E.-confided to a friend that she almost got Sex and the City,turned down Will and Grace,and is now on The West Wing. And with that, I winged back eastward and landed a part in the audience for the NYC 2000 Fashion Show, a Times Square to-do with lots of hoopla and hoop skirts, but no free dinner or even a doughnut from Pink Dot. The event was a calculated attempt to create the kind of glamour L.A. manages in its sleep, and it took a lot of effort to make it look that natural. To get in, you had to RSVP twice and pick up your credentials in advance, only to end up with the crashers in standing room! And before the couture parade even started, you were asked to applaud an opening act consisting of country star Trisha Yearwood's wan croonings. (When I think fashion, I think Trisha Yearwood, don't you?) Aware of her own improbability, the poor thing looked like she'd rather be performing at some amusement park or county fair, and so would I have; the well water in such places has E. coli, but at least it isn't encephalitic. Mayor Giuliani clearly wants to tie up our streets with these Branson-style revues-bring on the deputy sheriffs-but I must say the fashion show he finally came onstage to present was quick and glitzy enough.
Blandness is really insidious in The Minus Man, the making of which was like a sex act, as writer- director Hampton Fancher admitted at the premiere. (Typically, he refused to elaborate.) Some felt screwed by the flick's vagueness and slow pacing, but I enjoyedits eerie, culty quality. Fuck me, Minus Man!
Minus a man, the all-girl band Lunachicks played at Life, the lead singer Theo thrashing about the stage in a hospital gown and neck brace she never fully explained. I almost ended up in the same outfit thanks to the spastic gyrations of the wildcat next to me-these kids today!-and had to race for the exit, thereby missing the climactic moment when Theo threw up fake blood. Fuck you, mosher man! Meanwhile, crooner chick Brenda Bergman interviews Downtown performers on kewn.com and in the process volunteers her wacky takes on the L.A. personalities who make her toss. Says Brenda about Whoopi Goldberg, "What she really needs is to drop off the cliff, get really fucking poor, go back to the Public Theater, feel reality, and get back Whoopi instead of WHOOPI!" As for Whoopi's Comic Relief costar Robin Williams, Brenda refers to Jakob the Liar as Patch Goldstein and says, "Just the poster is torture. No, please, Robin, don't find wonder in the ashes coming out of the gas chambers! Please, don't!"
Finally, Bruce Vilanch, the L.A. gay blade and Hollywood Square who's written one-liners for Whoopi and Williams, was feted at Lips for his movie Unzipped-I mean Get Bruce!-and told me he's wildly looking forward to Jakob the Liar. Vilanch the schmoozer also divulged a line that almost made it into the recent Emmy Awards patter he wrote. "If Leelee Sobieski won for Joan of Arc," Vilanch related, "David Hyde Pierce was going to say, 'You go, girl! You're on fire!' But Helen Mirren won, and we had noAyn Rand material."
Neither do I, but I do have five words for that straight actor: West Village gym steam room.