NY Mirror

They're trying to salvage it, but Hollywood is still pretty much a decayed mecca catering to stalkers, bizarros, and children who prance up and down the street buying star maps, gawking at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum exhibits, and engaging in 'Mary Poppins' sing-alongs. I loved it!

While in L.A., I also managed to fight my way out of the car to catch up with some more-legitimized palaces of star worship, most of them West Coast annexes of Gotham hot spots, from Asia de Cuba to the Knitting Factory. The L.A. version of Moomba is trèssleek, with mohair banquettes and, the night I went, a triumvirate of wacky '80s stars (Michael Bolton, Mickey Rourke, and Rod Stewart—or wait, was he '70s?) throwing me fishy looks. Drag commentator Vaginal Davislater told me she'd gone to the opening and was aghast at "all the ill-shapen titties on the women who were also sporting cum rags stuck into their lips. Has that replaced collagen?" Gee, I don't know, but the tuna tartare is great, and the spirit is willing; an insider told me Moomba "is aborigine for a bunch of friends getting together and having fun." Hmm, everyone come moomba in my pants plus one.

L.A.'s edition of Beige comes complete with a panoramic view and Porsche-loads of coked-out yammerers. (Just as the L.A. street weirdos are a notch kookier than the New York ones, their club nightmares have an edge on ours by a giant toot, and ours are pretty scary.) I heard one marvelous 'mare insist, "Between the power crisis and the strike, L.A.'s finally decided to grow up!" (Alas, they haven't become so mature that they've stopped parking right by the entrance of the gym rather than walk two feet to a workout.) As I split, The Mole's Jim Morrisontold me he wanted that show to include the fact that he'd won penis contests in a New York club, but ABC shockingly demurred. And they wonder why they're losing prestige points.

Meanwhile, I'd bitemy penis for a cut of A.J. Benza's loot. The gossip columnist turned L.A. transplant has not only gotten his own late-night talk show on E! (back in New York), he's also nabbed a regular slot in Talk and is releasing a memoir that Miramax wants to film with Johnny Depp! Don't look at me; I'll settle for nothing less than Kirsten Dunst.

By the way, Monica Lewinsky's people turned down a chance for the ex-intern to be a guest on Benza's show because she might not be treated like "a serious businesswoman." I guess these days she wants to de-emphasize the blowand accentuate the job.

In our own tempestuous town, a Mercer Hotel reservations clerk named Robert Webster claims he lost his job after he told managers he'd tested HIV-positive and wanted psychological help. "The director of sales was supposed to set me up with a psychiatrist, but she never did," Webster told me. "Then they fired me and later gave me negative references." Hotel owner Andre Balazssays no way; "He was let go prior to any knowledge of his status. There were a lot of problems with him ahead of time." End of moomba?

Lately, no one has any reservations (or complaints) in the love motel of gay nightlife. The hot new gays-on-the-prowl bar is xl, John Blair's chic, two-level hangout off Ninth Avenue, which pushes the gay Chelsea border westward now that those darn straights have been infiltrating the main strip. The state-of-the-art box has ever changing lights and sound in order to appease people with short attention spans. (Wait, what was I just saying?) The snazzy result's been drawing a refreshingly mixed gay crowd, the only downsides being the surly drunk who pushed me to get to the exit, the strobe that could give you a seizure, and the non-closed-off area where you're supposed to pee into a trough under a fish tank. Makes sense—superficial gay men hate "fish"!

You'll wet yourself at Uni-tard, a succession of trend-demystifying monologues by David Ilku, Mike Albo, and Nora Burnsat Fez that brings Chelsea to the East Village via the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum. A name-droppy spoof of flacks, latte drinkers, and monologuists, Uni-tardis a saucy romp whose stars should be on Saturday Night Live, and not just so I won't have to leave the house to see them.

On Broadway, the 38-person Follies revival has been called threadbare, but I found it a welcome enough plate of Sondheim centered on a gorgeous performance by Judith Ivey. Yeah, some of the surefire showstoppers don't stop the show ("Broadway Baby," "Could I Leave You?"), but the production brings out a lot of what's best about this legendarily difficult exercise in sequined heartbreak. It's not their fault that ghosts of past productions linger invisibly onstage behind the characters' younger selves.

The One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nestrevival reveals that old corker to be manipulative claptrap in which a stutterer, a mute Native American, and a "fag" (all from L.A., no doubt) drive home the hoary idea that looney tunes are more rational than the sane. I'm a looney tune, and I stilldon't buy that! Amazingly, the production is not ashamed of the material, making you cheer on every cliché. You'll be crazy about it!

There's even a new play on Broadway—the Hollywood-phobic Stones in His Pockets—which has two frisky actors, 15 characters, and one audience member saying, "It's not boring."

But the most not-boring show of all—aside from the spectacle of music-industry insiders telling me that Jeff Timmonsfrom 98° has gotten secretly married—was Aretha Franklin's VH1 Divas Live tribute, where the queen of soul moomba-ed her ass off for hours as it was emphatically kissed by friends and Nielsen families. Last time around, Aretha stormed out of rehearsal because the air-conditioning was on, so this time we sweated like pigs, only catching a breeze whenever the songstress sashayed her capacious gowns across the stage. There was also a gust of unintended laughter when Pamela Anderson, her gigantic orbs practically spilling out of her dress, revealed that she used to sing "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman" into her hairbrush. But forget the presenters. (When Ithink Aretha Franklin, I think Kelly Ripa, don't you?) The music soared, with Jill Scottstealing the show on that very "Natural Woman" and Aretha rocking on opera, jazz, and K-Tel classics, only petering out with a guest-star-studded "Freeway of Love" that wouldn't quit (though she was restrained compared to Diana Ross, whose diva tribute, I think, is still going on from last year).

Alas, Aretha neglected to thank Jill Scott in her acknowledgments at the end, and when I mentioned this to a VH1 big shot at the Chambers Hotel after-party, he seemed about to give me the backstory until another big shot hushed him up. "It was just a Chad Lowemoment," I was promptly assured.

A Taylor Dayne moment happened when that singer turned up at the bash and told me she doesn't play the title role in Aida—"I'm the white princess." Oh, speaking of Lady Di, her biographer (and Monica's), Andrew Morton, is working on an unauthorized book about Madonna, who has called him a worm and forbidden friends from talking to him. But I met with the bloke, and he didn't seem out for blood at all. Damn! And now, does anyone perchance know how to get a cum rag out of your lips?

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