NY Mirror

The mother of us all, Rona Barrett, helped put a face—and frosted hair—on gossip as a pioneering entertainment journalist in the '60s and '70s. A yenta to beat all yentas, she came across like your glamorous Aunt Sadie who just happened to have all sorts of big-name stars in the palm of her manicured hand. After stints on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and Entertainment Tonight, Rona jumped the dish treadmill and moved with her husband to Santa Barbara County, where their ranch is filled with horses, buffalo, and cows in lieu of models and movie stars. Was she burnt out? "You can say that," she told me by phone last week. "I needed to take a rest and smell the roses—although this time I smelled the lavender!"

See, lavender has unexpectedly provided a comeback for the onetime gossip queen, giving me—the currentscuttlebutt goddess—more conviction in my plan to market parsley in my twilight years. Barrett's been cranking out the light purple plant for Lavender by Rona, a line of skin care and food products that benefits SIN (Seniors in Need)—pretty much the same thing I'llbe benefiting. Can the food products also be used as skin care and vice versa? "No," she said, "unless you're one of those people who like to put mayonnaise on your hair to give it a shine. It's a lot better on a great sandwich or potato salad."

Not mentioning the BLT in my bonnet, I asked Barrett how the response to mayonnaise—I mean gossip—has changed since her hotsy-totsy heyday. She said dish was so second-class back then that when she reported the first divorce in the royal family, it was virtually ignored, "but when Cronkitesaid it six months later, it was big-time." Today, gossip's more worshiped and adored, but so are all those yucky publicists—though on the bright side, flacks have helped Rona hawk her stuff at food shows from San Francisco to the Javits Center. "When people tasted the products," said our lady of the lavender, "it was yum, yum, yum, and then it was order, order, order!" Just wait till they smell my parsley.

The rest of my week in mayhem smelled of armpits, champagne, and me giving lots of orders, orders, orders. The fake fur was flying over at Crouching Bitches, the sort-of-monthly Tuesday-night event hosted by a woman known as Call Me Audreyat Fun, the mod little club in a picturesque spot under the Manhattan Bridge. The uniquely nutty bash encourages fashionistas to wrestle each other before a screaming throng, their tangles underlining the potential viciousness involved in being gorgeous and the fact that something as simple as the right pants set could truly be something to kill over.

I helped judge the proceedings as well-heeled pairs took to the mat to fight for their right to accessorize. First off was Tom Fraud—a leather-vested designer knockoff who claimed to represent Gucci Youth—versus Jonah, a shaved-headed guy in a zippered jumpsuit who said he'd go naked, but only with a female partner. It was a tie. "I don't see any erections thus far except for my own," announced the mildly dispirited MC, Mr. Mickey. Boners were more prevalent when a kook named the Reverend Jen, chicly sporting an American-flag bodysuit, lost to a scary if well-put-together lady named the Masked Scorpion, though I think it was rigged, since Jen came prepared with her own stretcher to be carried out on.

Next up, author Jennifer Blowdryer wore a fetching pink boa but was creamed by Girl Monday, a fashionable gal with a white lace-up bodice, nipple rings, and a deceptively smiley-faced aggression. And a seemingly wasted guy in his briefs was toppled by his casually dressed female friend, who yanked down those Calvins to provide a glimpse of a very special hidden dragon. Yum, yum, yum! And what have we learned? That no matter what you're wearing, the onlygood look is on top!

Speaking of frightful looks, the National Enquirerhad inquiring egg on its face last week when it ran a picture of Kembra Phaler, the dementedly masked and made-up star of the band the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black—she could easily wrestle—with a caption saying she's Karen Black, the actress. I love them both, but Karen Black, the actress, hasn't looked like that since Trilogy of Terror. . . . You want real terror? The most disingenuous television in years is the proliferation of shows proclaiming, "Is the media devoting too much attention to Chandra Levy? Tune in to our six-hour study and find out."

Here's a much quicker piece of insight from a music biz insider: Gay members of boy bands alwayshave girlfriends. This way, they can easily explain why they never sleep with all those female groupies. ("Because Janie would get really upset!") . . . I took my girlfriend to Christie's to check out the Hollywood memorabilia but realized I can't fit into Bette Davis's gowns—I'm too big—nor can the golden calf from The Ten Commandments(no, not Charlton Heston) fit into my apartment, which is too small. There's always Eddie Munster's purple fright suit.

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