NY Mirror

Hey, Dr. Laura—clarify this, witch. As for you, Mr. Pope, would you kindly apologize to the millions of gays whose lives the church has ruined, too?

But on a lighter note: Former talk-show host Charles Perez has come out of the closet, and we might forgive the long wait since he was fairly eloquent defending gay marriage on ‘Larry King.’

Alas—on an absurd note—I failed in my efforts to marry ’N Sync at their Laura Belle party last week, but at least they didn't take one look at me and sing "Bye Bye Bye." The lovable moppets and I talked about way more substantive issues anyway. The slick one, Lance Bass, assured me that their new marionette theme is not a ripoff of/homage to Being John Malkovich—and unlike most teenie stars, at least he's heard of Being John Malkovich. Meanwhile, the deep one, Chris Kirkpatrick, told me that "Bye Bye Bye" is "a cry out for men—an answer song to stuff like 'No Scrubs.' " I thought he said no jobs, so I asked what it was like working with Kathie Lee Giffordon her chestnutty Christmas special. "She's very God-fearing," Chris said, "so she was really genuine and nice towards us." I bet God's scared of her, too.

There were no terrifying Patsy Clines at Cowgirl Hall of Fame's annual Patsy look-alike contest, where I helped rate the parade of hip-swiveling imitators and chose a talented African American woman named Debbie Dangerfieldfor the top tiara. ("Bye, bye, bye," we had to tell a poor nine-year-old contestant.) "Talk about overcoming!" exclaimed MC Brenda Bergmanwhen the winner was announced, and Dangerfield chimed in, "Yeah, Patsy must be rolling over, but she was lying in one place for so long, don't you think she shouldmove?"

I generally just lay in one place during sex, so I was thrilled to come upon Hunkomania, a weekend revue at a place called 2 I's, where male strippers expend almost as much sensual energy as Annabel Chong. The guys disrobe and act wildly interested in gaggles of bachelorettes who squeal their estrogen-laden hearts out—and I thought this only happened at the Gaiety. Among the theme-costumed studs performing the other night were a cowboy, a cop, a military man—virtually allthe Village People. Alas, none of these boy toys came near me, let alone married me—not because I was press or a man, mind you, but because I wasn't waving any bills. It's all part of my new show, Cheapomania.

The big-money crowd stripped their wallets to attend the Public Theater's recent gala benefit at Pier 60, which, hearteningly enough, will help allow me to get free Shakespeare in the Park. As a bonus, the evening's honoree, Mandy Patinkin, told me he sports blackface in Broadway's The Wild Party—I guess he's sort of Eddie Cantor by way of John Wayne Gacy—and added of the demanding show, "I'm pacing myself so I can not drop dead." Three nights later, sure enough, he had to bow out for a while to try to recoup his voice. One of the pressure points seems to revolve around bathroom access. "There's no intermission," Mandy had explained to me, "so it's a pee-first kind of show." Well, the other Wild Partymusical has the right idea: They tinkle onstage!

Aidais a pisser—an attack on acquisitiveness and vanity that's packaged in feathers and baubles and presold like a weekend at a theme-park resort. When you get to the musical's '60s-style fashion show, you start to realize this isn't any sort of documentary on ancient Egypt. But Heather Headley's magnetic, and many will enjoy the sheer audacity of the extravagorgonzola—if more for its bitchy kitschiness than its preachy screechiness. The music is strictly from a fromagesale, but at least Aida's bringing in a younger Broadway crowd than usual—people in their fifties.

Hitting just the right note, Cherry Jonesis glorious as the rambunctious earth mother in A Moon for the Misbegotten, and she's also in Erin Brockovich, in which Julia Roberts's cleavage saves a whole town. "Julia was fabulous," Cherry told me at the play's opening-night party. "She made a point of making me feel not just comfortable, but confident. She boasted that she was scoring points with her boyfriend [Benjamin Bratt] because he was going to get to meet the Heiress!" You'd think he'd be happy enough with Julia's money.

I was delighted to get to meet another Broadway bright light, Maya Days, who's Mary Magdalene in the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, not to mention a one-woman wild party with perky hair and a vivacious mouth. Having grown up in Massachusetts singing Donna Summersongs to her grandmother, Days has played Mimi in Rent, had three top 10 singles in England, and seems like she could explode in any medium she chooses. One of her hits, "If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better," is an irresistible bit of bubblegum dance that starts with the hook from Madonna's "Material Girl" and goes on to sardonically spoof self-satisfaction and hype. ("I never knew life could be so fabulous," Days exclaims over the break.)

Life's fab all right—things seem to click for this woman in magical fashion. She told me that the producers known as the Tampererheard her vocal on a cry out for men called "Wanna Drop a House on That Bitch," written by a friend ("He was in love with this man who was married, so he wrote the song about the wife"). The Tamperer remixed it with a Jacksons song and came up with "Feel It," her first hit, which happened simultaneously with Rent and was followed by Superstar—my favorite New Testament rock musical, and not something the pope needs to apologize for.

Discuss that show with Days, and she flings theater, biblical, and street lingo into the debate as if tossing a very dope salad. "Jesus—Glenn Carter—has a wicked voice," she told me, "and Pilate—Kevin Gray—is giving you drama. He is so grand and so beautiful. In the show, he wears Nazi-type jodhpurs and boots, but then he has the Pilate crown thingie. He was, like, the fifth Phantom." (Alas, I stopped going after number four.)

Mary Magdalene? "She is a fierce, fierce lady—the purest soul onstage because she's the most honest. Even Jesus, when he sees Gethsemane, he's like 'I'm scared now. I'm not with this.' " But Mary is eternally ready—"and she's a modern woman because she sings, 'He's just a man.' "

Days has even thought out how Mary's different from Mimi: "Mary used to turn tricks to eat. Mimi turns tricks to get high." Well, the gymnastically able actress performed tricks of her own on the high bar in Rent, and in Philadelphia, Equity said they'd close the show if she continued to be so brazen. "But in London," she remembers, "the director said, 'Equity doesn't care if you fall and kill yourself. They just want a really good show. Just do what you want.' That was great!" Oh, Maya! That's it—end of Days. Well, end of Days interview. Beginning of Days.

Now get away, Dr. Laura, before someone drops a trailer on you, too.

musto@villagevoice.com

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