By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
There are so few original Broadway plays this season that if I got onstage and read the White Plains phone bookeven to myselfI'd win seven Tony Awards. But David Hirson's Wrong Mountain is an original play. Actually, it's an original debatea cross between some of Joseph Mankiewicz's windier movies and the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode in which that nasty critic blows into town and hectors everyone about artbut, for all of its abrasiveness and heavy-handed descents into both symbolism and sitcom, it does make a stab at exploring ideas. (And bravely: Hirson has his vitriolic lead character spout lines like, "At least crap is honest. Give me crap!") At the play's party at Gallagher'sgive me steakopening night jitters were palpable, but Hirson told me, "I've handled it before and I'll handle it again," smiling valiantly as he ran off to make a rah-rah speech to the cast. Sure enough, the scribes came in for the kill, saying Wrong Mountainis more a debate than a play and more irritating than funny. Maybe they'll like my phone-book reading.
I just caught that more exquisite Broadway creation, James Joyce's The DeadI never miss a Christopher Walkenmusicalbut most nights, I stay home and tune in to the barely living Joycean entity known as Roseanne's talk show. The once ballyhooed chatfest is apparently only still being taped because of contractual obligations, but if you get Channel 55 and have no car accidents to watch out your window, you should give it a whirl. The decidedly nonconformist Roseanne will devote two whole segments to some third-billed star of Veronica's Closet, who makes all sorts of bizarre sexual come-ons to her, with annoyingly fake homeboy mannerisms yet. To fill out the rest of the time, Rosie phone-interviews the mayor of Des Moines, learns about "hand yoga," engages in borderline homophobic remarks with Angie Everhart, and brings up audience members to act out "Trailer Park Shakespeare"a promising idea that fails because, though the audience members (who generally look like convicts) are fine, Roseanne has to keep asking off-camera help where she should be and what she should be doing. The show is so cuckoo that it verges on the wackily inspired, but usually Roseanne seems alternately belligerent and Zen-like, like a spiritual person on a plane whose engine has just died. Oh, well, at least crap is honest.
My off-camera help told me to take a sneak peak at Roxy owner Gene DiNino's not-yet-named upcoming restaurant-club, and I found it trèssnazzy in its own Stork Club crossed with the Delano Hotel via a Christopher Walken musical kind of way. A daring attempt to bring a '30s Parisian boîte to 24th Street, the joint is expensively done with quilted walls, light-up onyx tables, and columns wrapped in taffeta. All that's missing is a baby grand on which I can drape myself and sing "They Call Me Wicked Lola."
Stopping by the current Parisian-style restaurant du jourPastisat a peak hour on a Saturday night, I was promptly swept into the heaven and hell of such a victimy situation, along with everyone from the White Plains phone book. At the door, a throng of wannabe patrons was being told there'd be a mere two-hour wait, while in the main room, the chosen hordes chowed down as dazed dozens stood around them, waiting for their chance like vultures who weren't hugged enough as children. It's all very Frenchy-wenchy, with long tables, ceiling fans, and menu items written on a big mirror so that, even when deciding what to eat, you can look at your fabulous self. I have no reflection, of course, but I did see Molly Ringwald, Ben Stiller, the gay hairdresser from Rosie O'Donnell, and Damian Loeb, no doubt making his entrée even more artful. I also spotted owner Keith McNallybusily running around the place, at one point chewing out a waiter even harder than I ultimately gnawed on my poussin. Yes, after pushing, cajoling, and taking advantage of priority seating (there are no reservations after a certain hour), I got a place in the better room, and didn't even have to pull out inducement money the way I'd seen one overly moussed smarmball do. I'd been so miserable until then, but suddenly was overjoyed, grabbing at the so-so food with hand yoga techniques learned from Roseanne. But enough of these trendathons where you pay to eat status for dinnerit's back to KFC.
Dripping with extra-crispy, I went to the premiere of Down on YouI mean Down to Youa teenie- oriented event where they truly did chicken right. The film is a slowish but sweetish young love story marred mainly by the scene in which a male character reveals that his girlfriend put her finger in his ass, then wonders, "Does this mean I'm gay?" No, honey, you'll know when it's a penis up there. Anyway, before the screening started, the stars of the movieFreddie Prinze Jr. (a dreamy heartthrob), Selma Blair(so good in Cruel Intentions), and Ashton Kutcher(the hottie from That '70s Show)were acting all cute and personable, so I, like, hung with them for a few marvy minutes. My idol Prinze said he really meant his Seventeenremarks that "girls don't have to be thin to be hot"but how far, I wondered, will he take this? Would he date, say the lusciously large Camryn Manheim? "Sure," he said. "As long as a girl is cool, that's what matters!" Yaya teenie star who doesn't promote eating disorders!
The skinny Blair, meanwhile, told me she terrified Jon Stewarton The Daily Show, and Prinze murmured to me, "She touched him and he got scared. Women don't know how powerful they are. Men live in constant fear of them." "But my mother taught me to be a nice girl," cooed Blair, batting her lashes. And an observant one; Blair noticed that my age-inappropriate notebook had Britney Spearson the cover, embarrassingly enough. I explained that it was flat-chested Britney, before she hit, um, puberty. "Is that what they call it?" cracked Prinze. These kids are going to be fine.
Going for an even younger demographic, Barney's Musical Castle is the most popular dinosaur epic since that Santanaalbum. The Radio City Musical Hall production has the purple one going up the right mountain to check out the castle decor and return a crown to the king. At least that's what I think it was aboutall through the thing, the three-year-old behind me was kicking my neck and pounding my back in a rather distracting manner. At intermission, we were treated to The Wiggles, four Australian bachelors who feverishly danced around while singing lyrics like "Hot potato, cold spaghetti, mashed banana . . . " We slurped down all of the above at the after-party, then pushed screaming kids out of the way to get our picture taken with Barney. He copped no attitude whatsoever, and I found myself developing a sort of lavender crush on the guy. (Dinosaurs don't know how powerful they are.) Does this mean I'm gay?
By the way, kiddies, downtown divo Michael Schmidthas a flashy new jewel in his crown. I hear Schmidt's nabbed a deal to dress the women in the Charlie's Angels movie, and having promoted the drag-rock club event Squeezebox for years, he'll undoubtedly know just what to drape them in.