NY Mirror

It's true confessions time: I didn't go to any of the Madonna concerts last week and didn't even call for free press tickets! After years of following and/or emulating her every move—I wore pj's to her Bedtime Stories party and dressed like the pope for her Sex bash, hello—I've decided it's time to grow up, move on, and just wait until the damned thing is on HBO, and then find someone who has HBO. Yes, missing out on the month's premier queer cultural event was painful, but I just couldn't bear to see Madonna's latest batch of attention-getting tactics, especially since her wifebeater theme was already done by the Dixie Chicks, her choreography's been lifted whole-hog from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and that kilt was probably worn by Mike Meyers. Besides, after trashing her comments about Eminem and her marriage to that one-trick director, I'm not exactly in the best position to beg for comp admission. All right, those are all bullshit rationalizations. The truth is, I'm a little jealous that Madonna's still kicking, still pushing envelopes, still annoying, and with muscles yet. She doesn't need me, and I'm going to try to act like I'm OK about it, OK?

Thankfully, there were other things to do, like check out the real gorilla my dreams, Helena Bonham Carter, at the Planet of the Apes premiere—the next best thing (to reference Madonna's last movie misstep). The event was a natural for 20th Century Fox flacks, who'd just gotten through working with a smorgasbord of animals for Dr. Dolittle 2. (In fact, I helped them judge a wildlife fashion contest promoting that flick, and felt like the llama who had to be dragged onto the runway.) They outdid themselves with Apes, the Ziegfeld screening becoming so swarmed—"Puffy" blithely showed up without a ticket, by the way—that a lot of us had to be bused over to a spillover theater as if we were, I don't know, humans.

Having seen the movie—the ending? Thelma and Louise drive off a cliff—I can now provide a veritable stampede of ad quotes: "Planet of the Apes is an orangu-ten. It's simian-credible!" "Finally, the summer box office gets the big ba-boost it needs." "Tie a yellow gibbon around this old oak treat. It's capuchin-tillating!" And for the TV ads: "Let's not monkey around—Planet of the Apes is chimpanzee-licious!" Actually, I found it all rather dumb and absurd, but the after-party at Roseland was swell, decked out with enough bananas to make a tutti-frutti hat with (and as a bonus, Helena didn't shed). By the way, director Tim Burton's (pri)mate, Lisa Marie, recently told a writer friend of mine, when prompted, that she'd like to try wearing the monkey mask while romancing Tim. Lisa denied that to me, saying it's actually not her fantasy, but hey, I'd love an injection of a monkey gland.

On the planet of the sex changes—I'm moving on now—Hedwig and the Angry Inch diva John Cameron Mitchell told me it's true that he made out with most of the guys who auditioned to play his lover-turned-nemesis, Tommy Gnosis—one of the many delightful perks of his job. Among the suitors was James Franco, the star of the new James Dean telepic and a rebel with a cause for celebration. "It was deep tongue," admitted Mitchell. "He's a real actor! Though I needed someone a little more geeky for the part." (Yes, Franco did star in Freaks and Geeks, but as a nihilistic babe from the nabe.)

Meanwhile, 19-year-old actor Jonathan Tucker told me he auditioned for Gnosis in a dog collar, chains, and kilt—thank you, Madonna—but he didn't get to the make-out stage, his prep-school realness clearly shining through the endearingly garish getup. Still, Tucker nabbed the hot gay role in the upcoming suspenser The Deep End, in which he falls for a mean-spirited older guy—been there, done that—only to have a video of him getting shtupped by the fella turn up to the horror of Mom (Tilda Swinton). Tucker told me he filmed the porn scene in a seedy Lake Tahoe hotel on his 18th birthday (for legal reasons)—"And that was my birthday party. Great fun!" Happy birthday, honey.

But back to trannies: A certain award-winning director has supposedly rid himself of his angry inch and come back as Michelle—or at least that's what a reputable national magazine has heard and is hot on the tail, I mean trail, of. As for trannie musicals, guess why cast members of The Rocky Horror Show loved it when Kate Clinton subbed for Dick Cavett recently? Because they got home 20 minutes earlier every night! But back to campy movie musicals: I'm thrilled that Chicago's been announced as a screen vehicle for the 8 millionth time. But let me divulge that the first such statement came way back in the late '70s, when producer Alan Carr told me he was going to film the project, "And there'll be a celebrity in every cell!" This old concept could spell new hope for Robert Downey Jr. and Shyne.

Speaking of stellar offenders, I disagree with reports that Gary Condit's brother resembles Willie Nelson—he's actually a dead ringer for Gary Oldman! And if it's so easy to find an on-the-lam criminal when there's some pressure to do so, why don't they always do so? As for criminally offensive cinema, I just remembered that Scary Movie was billed with the slogan "No mercy. No shame. No sequel." Liars!

Anyone who thinks the Hamptons are over is also full of shit; if those snooty resort towns are over anything, they're overcrowded, everyplace crawling with orangutans—I mean people—who are clearly looking for their own noisy culture clash in hopes of a lucrative lawsuit. The other week, I pushed past the East Hampton throng to go to a Cynthia Rowley bathing suit show at NV Tsunami—no food—where the highlights included Alan Cumming in a "boy-kini" and the PR director of Saks Fifth Avenue in a sarong. "It's so wrong it's right," said MC Robert Verdi.

And so wrong she's wrong, Tonya Harding turned up at the gay hangout Barracuda, only to have me—her onstage interviewer—break the be-nice rule by cracking, "Don't hit me!" "Don't you have anything better to say?" Harding snarled, dropping her girlish demeanor for a chilling second. Yeah—please don't hit me.

And don't slap me for revealing who'll be on the cover of the Vanity Fair "Rock and Roll" issue: Jewel, Beck, Beyoncé, Maxwell, Bowie, and even some people with two names—like Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell, who I hear joined for some impromptu scatting after the photo session.

Good news for aficionados of music in the flesh: In the fall, the Mother folks are coming back with an East Village club called Daddy, so make room for it, please. But bad news for Ellen DeGeneres lovers: I hate that she's already being lauded for soft-pedaling her lesbianism in her upcoming sitcom, and that even she seems repentant about having been too "issue oriented" last time around. May I remind everyone that a great deal of the public was ready for Ellen's aggressive frankness—it was the network that couldn't deal with it. But as long as hosannas are being sung, why not praise the casts of all the other prime-time sitcoms for playing down their heterosexuality? Oh, they don't? In that case, I'm sticking with HBO and that Madonna lady.


musto@villagevoice.com. Musto can be heard weekdays at 3 and 7 p.m. on Voice Radio.

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