NY Mirror

The fashionista-drenched party for designer Bob Mackie's retrospective at F.I.T. brought out every drag queen in town, plus Liza Minnelli. I worship Mackie, the legendary purveyor of glitzy, ditzy glam, even if his costumes for Cher's recent concert tour were a little too mixed - metaphor - laden, especially her trippin' Pippin look and that Cap'n Crunch - cum - Napoleon - via - the - Pirates of the Caribbean number.

In concert, Cher calls that first one "Braveheart meets Bozo," but Mackie told me, "I call it . . . I forget what I call it. It's Gothic and Moorish combined." As we spoke, a video monitor showed Diana Ross in her jail scene from Lady Sings the Blues—Gothic and Motown combined, not to mention a creepy comment on the absent diva's interrogation in England. When a slightly more festive number—that stripper tune from Gypsy—came on, Liza became so excited, she practically jumped at the screen. "That outfit's on strings, right?" she asked Mackie, veritably jonesing with interest. Hey, no "high-strung" jokes here. We're rooting for Liza, and so is mama!

The New York Film Festival's opening night was all about Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother,which is all about drag queens, mamas, the high- strung, and the strung out. "The festival is one of the few habits I have left," admitted Pedro, "since I quit smoking and I quit many things." Well, his diffuse but deeply compassionate flick—a Ross-Hunter-via-Telemundo-style campy soap opera—is so hyperreal, you probably won't need "many things" to get a rush from it. The mouthy Mother serves up a pregnant nun with AIDS, a battered trannie, a lesbian junkie, and the ex-actress who bonds them all with dialogue like "That woman is his father!" Cecilia Roth, who plays the central life force, told me, "I've seen the movie seven times. I'm getting tired of crying!" At the postparty, I was getting tired of looking for Antonia San Juan, who so scene-stealingly plays the tart-tongued transsexual, but was suddenly harder to track down than Christine Lategano. "Make sure you call her she," said the publicist, who couldn't find her anyway, and then Pedro complicated things by saying, "He's over there, but she doesn't speak a word of English." Alas, Antonia had actually left, boyfriend in tow. Get her.

We got a whole new defiant diva with the festival's screening of Princess Mononoke, which has its glories, but basically doesn't translate (though I think the title translates as Princess Monotonous). The Japanese cartoon's after-party was at a Spanish restaurant, where talk centered on that British Virgin Mary that had met a bunch of American shit hitting the fan. Author John Berendt told me of the attempted censorship situation, "Giuliani wouldn't be Giuliani if he didn't do that. It's sad that a mayor of New York can get exercised by something like this. You think he'd be a little more sophisticated." Well, Rudy probably would have banned Mona Lisa for looking at him that way (though on the bright side, it's refreshing to see him suddenly act so protective of an African icon).

With a religious fervor, I soaked the festival for one more free meal — a Gabriel's lunch to honor all the French talent—and sat with director Claire Denis, who noticed my tres unappetizing tomato soup and said, "It looks like brain." Already we'd strayed miles away from Giuliani land. Over the more appealing entree, Dave Kehr, who's been mentioned as a possible replacement for Janet Maslin at the Times, told me Maslin really did quit and "has guts" to do so. Denis looked bewildered, so I shifted the conversation, asking her what American actors and movies she likes. "All of them," she responded, diplomatically. Hey, she should be the new Maslin.

There's no way not to love Siegfried & Roy: The Magic Box in 3-D, even if that sounds like the most redundant concept since Mickey Rooney was colorized. The movie—dedicated to "our three mothers" — is a high-camp masterpiece, but it's not all about their mothers; it's filled with jutting scepters, wildlife, and cheekbones, all narrated by Anthony Hopkins as S&R swirl around in Bob Mackie-ish gold capes. At the Sony Imax premiere, the svelte, glistening Roy — I could see myself in him—told the crowd, "May we all have the courage of living our dream. I thank one person who gave me courage to do this." No, not his surgeon, but Siegfried, whom he tried to smooch, upon which Siggy lowered his noggin, the kiss magically landing on the guy's wrinkle-free forehead!

The movie begins with the illusory duo — who met on a cruise ship — accosting two wandering boys and saying, "What are you doing? Looking for something?" After Roy tongue-kisses a lion and mounts a tiger, which rides into Siggy's open arms, the boys join the twosome for a final tableau of mystical maleness. At the Rainbow Room afterwards, Roy was Frenching a baby tiger — I swear — and since Siggy didn't look jealous at all, I cornered him to ask why the movie didn't have a single close-up of them. "Oh, no! That's scary," he said, laughing. "I'm afraid you'd count the hair under my nasal [sic]." I was delighted to see that the guy has a self-mocking sense of humor—and also zero hairs under his nasal.

Want your nose hairs to stand up as if in 3-D? On a Metro Guide show about modeling, Wilhelmina agent Fran Palumbo said the falsest assumption about male models is "that they're gay—and they're not! ...They're normal guys that you went to high school with." Gee, thanks for that sweeping cover-up, not to mention the "normal" vs. gay contrast and the revisionist view of the high school experience. Want to be even more titillated? I hear the director of Fight Club told people on the set, "This is gonna be the biggest homo movie of all time!" Bigger than Mommie Dearest? I doubt it, honey.

Billed as "Broadway's most gigantic comedy," Epic Proportions is actually smallish, with a flimsy plot ultimately sinking the very good shtick. Kristin Chenoweth is adorable, as usual, and she also charms in ABC's upcoming version of Annie, which I — the ultimate Annie queen — leapt like a lizard to see a rough cut of. It turns out they've snipped my favorite moment — Annie> getting pinched on demand (self - inflicted child abuse?)—but otherwise, this more naturalistic version is utterly lovable, with a surprisingly strong-voiced Kathy Bates and a title moppet so cute she'll undoubtedly grace the cover of Maxim very soon.

And that lands us at the party for Wasteland — that TV compendium of twentysomething neuroses—where no one would pinch me, though my attempts to nasal out opinions on that Sabrina girl's witch-without-a-stitch poses proved so fruitful I pinched myself. "She has the right to do any kind of photo she wants to do," fumed big-hearted Rebecca Gayheart, a Wasteland star. "Fuck 'em. I shouldn't say that—excuse me. But I just did the cover of Details with my hair covering my breast, and if someone told me I shouldn't do that because of a TV role I play, I'd say too bad." I like this woman—and even gave her chutzpah points for her take on Action's mild ratings. "It has so many inside jokes," she said, "that maybe people get it in New York and L.A., but not in Middle America. Then again, who really cares?" Good answer! Next time I'll even ask her about Wasteland.

musto@villagevoice.com

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