NY Mirror

My best friend Julia Roberts was saluted by the American Museum of the Moving Image at the Waldorf, and there hasn't been so much love in one room since the last time Russell Crowe pulled out a pocket mirror. I led the cheers, being a major worshiper of Julia's impatience with stupidity, her readiness to pull away from Hollywood at odd moments, and her really cute outfits. I even liked The Mexican!

Rather than corner the Oscar-bound star and ask why Mary Reilly wasn't being mentioned much all night, I approached the male Julia Roberts—Aussie actor Hugh Jackman—to tell him how very irresistible a presence he is in movies and even in life. Jackman was all too willing to chat for days, but then one of those Nancy Seltzer PR droogs nervously insisted that he had to finish his meal just at that moment. "I'm a huge fan of Julia's," Jackman blurted as he crawled back to the table on command.

So's everyone else, the onstage tribute being filled with all manner of celebs gushing over "J. Ro," as George Clooney so adroitly called her (though Dermot Mulroney made a point of saying he did not sleep with her on the set of My Best Friend's Wedding, like, OK?). Diane Sawyer went so far as to talk about J. Ro's pride in her feet and to tell the star, "It's as if your peanut butter came wrapped in sequins and your terry cloth had sable trim. . . . It's like walking into a forest and seeing a cathedral of sunbeams that makes a hole in the sky." And all this was to introduce a scene from Mystic Pizza!

Everyone says they love you: Julia Roberts (with beau Benjamin Bratt) at the AMMI tribute.
photo: Patrick McMullen
Everyone says they love you: Julia Roberts (with beau Benjamin Bratt) at the AMMI tribute.

But Roberts herself lived up to the hype, adorably admitting how hideous it was to sit there all night watching her movie clips and realize "I didn't start plucking my eyebrows till '91!" Unlike most radiantly demanding megastars, she still hasn't started plucking my nerves.

Off-Broadway's been serving up lots of sequined peanut butter lately, though fortunately the sunbeams in the forest are sometimes lined in sable. Lobby Hero is the most penetrating ethical debate involving a building doorman since mine thought he deserved a bigger Christmas tip. And Martin McDonagh's A Skull in Connemara might prompt you to stop fighting the way all his plays combine sadistic siblings, kitsch-TV references, a pinch of cute cussing, a bop on the head, and a crucial piece of evidence that invariably gets burned. For all of its expected excesses, this one is "more fun than hamster cooking," as one character says while smashing skulls.

On Broadway, the revival of 42nd Street may not exactly be cutting-edge material—at this point, it's nostalgia for nostalgia for nostalgia—but all negative evidence was destroyed at last week's open rehearsal, which was more fun than a barrel of hamsters. I sat there with a 200-watt Julia Roberts grin as the cast of 53 danced its way through what they called the "tap mega-mix" of "We're in the Money." The kids tapped their tits off, and though we're not exactly in a Depression, this show could at least uplift us from the horrifying reality that $32 seared tuna entrées are getting a little scarcer these days!

Meanwhile, I hear that other Broadway revival, Design for Living, includes the vivid visage of Alan Cumming pierced and in drag. I guess it's a come-as-you-are party. Cumming turns up in male drag—now that's shocking—in Company Man, a weird little movie comedy about the Bay of Pigs that at least had a fun premiere party replete with Reese Witherspoon's plucked eyebrows. Sigourney Weaver didn't raise hers when I asked how she liked portraying the film's greedy, grasping woman. "I just played myself, darling," she said, wryly. Offscreen, she certainly seems to have grasped the sequined ring; a London rag reported that Weaver's nabbing a record $22 million for Alien 5. "It's just a rumor," she told me. "It was probably started by some guy who drank too many Guinnesses, bless his heart. We have no plan at this point—though it's an interesting concept. It might send the aliens running!"

While we're doing alien autopsies, it's confession time: I've become obsessed with a lost legend-in-her-own-behind named Dora Hall—a talent-free but game old lady who was married to the owner of Solo Cups, a fact that proved to be her ticket to low-level fame before Julia Roberts's feet ruled the earth. Back in the '70s, hubby produced lavish TV specials for Dora, and since the networks weren't exactly chomping, the shows became gifts for Solo Cups customers looking for a little spice in their peanut butter. Those who requested tapes of the programs received them—and a few innocent people got them too.

Being the proud owner of Moments With Dora, I know exactly what you got: gorgeously tacky production numbers, weird guest stars who'd do anything for money (Rich Little, Frank Sinatra Jr.), and granny Dora croaking out song after song, her unbridled nerve substituting for any semblance of charm or rhythm. Her wobbly version of "Hey Jude" is a camp classic topped only by her third-hand "Second Hand Rose" and her quease-making "Give My Regards to Broadway." You start to feel for the guests and especially for the chorus boys, who dance cartwheels around the woman as she stands there, relentlessly singing, grimacing, and looking like a skull in Connemara. I'm in love!

And now, let's fill our Solo cups with sequined Champale and go to the Eugene party for Cheap Date magazine, where creative coordinator Marlon Richards told me the publication comes out "whenever we have enough money." How noble of him not to hit up Dad for dough, especially since Papa is a Rolling Stone—Keith Richards!

I got no satisfaction watching the Miss USA Pageant, except for the poignant spectacle of Miss Missouri totally bombing out in the question-and-answer segment—and I'm talking nuclear bomb. When asked whether the media create too much controversy around sports, Miss Missouri admitted she didn't understand the question—"I can only repeat what's on the card," said celebrity inquisitor Daniel Baldwin—and then, when quizzed about who her favorite female athlete is, the floundering sexpot said she's not a sports person and had no idea! One last question: Can you find your way to the exit, darling?

By the way, recent sexuality coverage has raised some provocative questions and even answered them. Denis Ferrara wrote a wonderfully thought-out column for the vacationing Liz Smith about the Eminem crisis. And though I've addressed Rosie O'Donnell's private life for years, New York magazine ran one thing about it and then she practically came out! Oh, well, I welcome the progress, even if I don't get a Waldorf tribute for it.

Of course, not everything's so jubilant or clear-cut. Chastity Bono was just quoted as saying Tom Cruise couldn't possibly be gay because he dated her mother, Cher! (Yeah, but didn't David Geffen too?) Oh well, at least I just had the pleasure of personally confronting Eminem's mother on Sally Jessy Raphael. Mama Mathers—who's not trailer trash, by the way; she lives in "a modular home"—insisted, "My son's not like you think. Some of his best friends are gay." Oh, please, miss honey! That's the oldest excuse in the book—and besides, you're the one who's suing him. Now someone get all this fucking peanut butter off my sequins!


musto@villagevoice.com

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