NY Mirror

This crazy restaurant scene today is so fueled by big-budget PR campaigns, you'd think they were launching Reform Party candidates instead of just dives where you can get a slab of meat with some sauce. But as long as the flacks are panting, I'm chowing down, honey-and perhaps it's this very abundance of free food that makes me wonder if these places are so bad after all. Among the taster's choices: Oriont's private parties never seem to deliver the celebs they promise-Where's Gwyneth? Where's the slutty girl from Wasteland?-but the trappings look sleek, the help is attentive, and you might still be able to find a trannie hooker outside afterward. Pop looks bright and, well, poppy, though the microwaved soup burned my mouth and the owner talks about baseball. The Russian Tea Room is once again the best place to nab Truffled Quail Kiev, even if the decor gets so much fabulously sicker as you go up the stairs that you always feel like you should be one flight higher. And Maxim's still appeals to my taste for flamboyantly designed boîtes and meals, not to mention the chance to run into Tuesday Weld.

Alas, the opening night of Chaos's new incarnation on East Houston was from hunger, and not just because free food was not on the guest list. I smelled trouble on RSVP-ing, when they gleefully repeated my name as Michael Mesto. Come showtime, it didn't matter if my name was Heidi Klum; the club had been so overly invaded by trendies that no one else was being admitted, and as new throngs of trendies pushed angrily toward the entrance, the bouncers were yelling, "You can't stand here! I need this sidewalk!" So you couldn't go in and you couldn't wait outside? But you could taxi to the nearest computer and type in a nasty column mention.

You were admitted and even fed at the Tumbleweeds premiere party at Osteria del Circo, but everyone was gushing so much over Janet McTeer's performance as a magnet for abusive boyfriends that I might as well have been Michael Mesto. McTeer turned out to be refreshingly humble, admitting that she landed the Farrah Fawcett?y part not because of her powerhouse performance in Broadway's A Doll's House,but as a result of a tough-talking appearance on fuckin' Charlie Rose. "Where would I be if I hadn't done Charlie Rose?" McTeer intoned to me, grandly. "I'd be playing a tune in Central Park or begging on the corner of 57th Street!" No, you can't stand there, sweetie! I need that sidewalk!

Osteria trotted out yet one more comp dinner when it feted Liberty Heights, Barry Levinson's Wonder Years?like peek back at pre?John Waters Baltimore. In between gorging, I asked Sam Champion about Dame Edna Everage's mention of him in her Broadway show. (To audience squeals, Edna says that her très gay son Kenny went wild when he first spotted Champion on the air). Champion told me that Barry Humphries, who plays Edna, had informed him in advance of the reference, to which the weatherman said, "I'm flattered ...I guess." By the way, I was flattered, I guess, when Humphries's charming real-life son Oscar Humphries-who's stringing for the Observer-asked me for advice on how to work the room at the Tumbleweeds party!

My massive wisdom was called upon once again as a judge for the House of Xavier's Glam Slam at the Nuyorican Poets Café-one of the few real-deal places left amidst the chichi bistros of Alphabetland (none of which have invited me for free food). The event brought out bilious blabbers and compulsive talkers who tongue-lashed it out in categories like Best Slam Performance in Sickening High-Heel Stilettos and Best Verbal Vogue in Glamorous Evening Wear. They were the bomb, unleashing torrents of invective against racial and sexual stereotyping in ways that were extremely cute, even when they verged on the heavy-handed. (You know, "Don't judge me!") The talent was heads above the previous poets I'd been exposed to-Jewel, Suzanne Somers, and Mr. Hallmark-though fits of straight-bashing were weirdly dotted throughout the impassioned cries for tolerance. The raspy-voiced MC, Diva Xavier, kept decrying heteros as crude and completely out of it (if, of course, sexually desirable). But other than that, Diva was on fire, giving us, in the course of his pert patter, a myriad of sexual definitions ("Bottom loves it, top gives it") and on-the-spot translations ("Tasty-meaning very of the moment, going with the flow, feeling very that").

The tastiest entrants came with the erotic category, for which hordes lined up to recite perverse verse in their Calvins and Victorias. The guy who rhymed Hershey highway with "bi way" lost to the even saucier young lady who declared, "Lick my cunt right now/Light my blunt right now." Best of all was guest performer Aileen Cho, who-in a confessional about guys who treat her genitals like takeout chow mein-railed, "Pussy too big/Dick too small/Calls me Yoko/Wants it all!" At the peak moment, house father Emanuel Xavier gave birth to his new book-pussy too big-which was pulled out of a swelling under his shirt by his boyfriend. The stunt was not only tasty and the bomb, it was downright poetic and very that.

In other literary news, insiders are wondering why Dominick Dunne's new memoir doesn't delve into his special relationship with Frederick Combs (though there is a photo of Dunne with the guy, who acted in The Boys in the Band, along with the admission that they were "tripping on acid"). As for more telling tell-alls, I just unearthed my copy of Eddie Fisher's last memoir and realized that the singer's inscription to me could easily sum up his whole life: "I don't know you-but I think I love you!" I love you, too, Eddie-and Debbie and Liz and Connie and whoever.

I also love Serena-the too-chic club downstairs from the Chelsea-and worship Meryl Streep, who rocksMusic of the Heart, a shameless manipulathon that has you feeling completely used, worked, and abused, until you find yourself sobbing as if interrogated by Barbara Walters. At that premiere, director Wes Craven gave a long, unintelligibly mumbly speech that had the entire balcony-including several Oscar-nominated actresses-tittering nervously. Scream, Wes, scream! As per usual, Meryl will get her own nomination for this, and if you Oscar voters need any more prompting: Hilary Swank, the woman who plays a woman who lives as a man in Boys Don't Cry,and Antonia San Juan, the transsexual who plays a transsexual in All About My Mother,are both eligible for Best Actress. Got it?

Next year, I hear, Deborah Harry will be in a movie called Fluffing, about that quite essential porn industry task. I don't make this shit up. Meanwhile, I'm thrilled to learn via Matthew McConaughey's antics that naked bongo-playing with a male friend is the new heterosexual pastime!

Finally, bang on this: Best Supporting Actress winner Mira Sorvino sat at the table of photog David LaChapelle at Interview's 30th anniversary bash at Canteen, either blithely forgiving him for their control battle or-more likely-utterly unaware he was there. It was that kind of party-star-studded and giddy, with LaChapelle's cute dad beaming, "We're very proud that David's able to make a living!" And the food was sumptuous. Don't judge me.

e-mail: musto@villagevoice.com

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