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The Producers, The Producers, The Producers. Everybody shut the fuck up about the goddamned Producers!

Anyway, The Producers people were considering doing "Keep It Gay" as a Tony Awards telecast number, but I hear they nixed it, thinking it might not work out of context. (Besides, telling the Tonys to keep it gay is like telling Tom Stoppard to keep it abstruse.) In other news about that show, the theater manager was hoping to stop the outrageous ticket scalping happening on Ebay, but struck out, finding himself a prisoner of love for a smash. Why am I hearing strains of "Keep It Gay, but Keep It Off Ebay"?

We’re not afraid anymore: Dawson’s Creek’s big gay kiss.
photo: Julia Xanthos
We’re not afraid anymore: Dawson’s Creek’s big gay kiss.


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They keep it fey over at 42nd Street, which is glitzy, brassy, lavish, smirky, declamatory, and lots of fun. The show's all about a hooker—I mean a hoofer—who becomes a star, but it's mainly about things like tapping, twirling, and swirling in front of a large mirror (sort of like the human swastika does in The . . . you know). At the opening-night party, TV personality? Revlon spokesmodel Karen Duffy told me the show was "the best antidepressant—it's theatrical lithium." Duffy's written her own play that might have the same effect—a one-acter called The Importance of Being Ernest Borgnine, about the short-lived marriage of Borgnine and Ethel Merman. Duffy—who's won Borgnine look-alike contests at Tortilla Flats—told me she learned that in the divorce proceedings, Merman revealed that Ernest gave her a Dutch oven (meaning he passed gas, then pulled the bedsheets over her head). "That's what I'm looking for in a man," said Duffy, who'll have to fight me over the guy.

Everyone fought over eternal moppet Macaulay Culkin at the Madame Melville opening, but I went for guest Natasha Richardson, who told me she plans to return to Cabaret, but she won't push Gina Gershon off the stage—"it'll be much later than that." Honey, I'll be on Ebay looking for tix.

Another show that's not The ProducersKing Hedley II—is set in the Pittsburgh I only know from Queer as Folk and from being an extra in Dawn of the Dead. But it's more dignified than all that. The contrived play has little forward motion and too much halo talk, but there's undeniable power there, and lots of dirt. At the opening-night bash, costar Leslie Uggams told me it's demanding "just maneuvering through the dirt onstage. Sometimes you're walking and you find yourself sinking in a hole." Well, I had the dirt on Leslie—in an outdoor televised concert that's been making the rounds, she flubbed the lyrics to "June Is Busting Out All Over," but didn't sink in a hole at all; the resourceful diva cleverly made up some mesmerizing mumbo jumbo and got through the song alive. "I've become famous for that!" Uggams told me, fully aware that the video's become a cult item. "The camera went this way, the lyrics went that way, and I made up a language!"

I went thataway to the Roundabout's salute to Stephen Sondheim, who may not have written The Producers, but has made up a language that's redefined the musical. (He should be knighted just for rhyming Loreleis and moralize.) But the Cipriani event unwittingly turned out to also be a tribute to presenter Elaine Stritch, who typically stole the night with her saucy talk. After being introduced by some theater personage, Stritch blurted, "If he just said I'm fearless, he's full of shit" (he'd said "peerless"). In other highlights, Stritch declared, "I wish I was Bernadette Peters!" and blatantly begged for a job ("There must be something for me in Wise Guys!").

Even beerless, Russell Crowe is a trip. A source from the set of A Beautiful Mind tells me that while shooting a wedding scene with Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, the extras threw rice, as directed, only to have Crowe crab, "How dare you throw rice at me! Who do you think you are?" He should have been relieved, for his career's sake, that it wasn't Minute Rice.

They threw wild rice at a special screening of last week's Dawson's Creek episode with the big gay kiss, the one you'll see on my next Christmas card, wallpaper, and tie pattern. The lip-smacking turned out to be short and chaste, but rather important, as it was promoted as the first romantic prime-time smooch between two guys—i.e., the first time the characters actually meant it. "It's gratuitous and groping," David Monahan, who plays Kerr Smith's love interest, told me before the screening, but he was totally kidding; it was tasteful—maybe too much so—but still a landmark in that it was presented with an invigorating matter-of-factness. And the memories! Episode director Jason Moore said that as they approached the 2 a.m. shoot, Smith told him he had a problem. "Oh my God," Moore remembers thinking, "my career is going down the toilet. He's not going to do the kiss!" "No, the kiss is fine," said Smith, "but I want to add a line—'I'm not afraid anymore.' " In other words, he's fearless (but thankfully his character's not pierless).

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