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The breathless call came in from Sweetie: "You've got to come to the Park Side Lounge to catch Steve Friday, a straight cross-dresser who does cover versions of '80s hits as Lisa Jackson." Enough said, darling: I promptly put on my finest Bangles and got ready to Go-Go. The act? Sporting a diagonal dress and mall-ready rocker-chick hair, big-lunged Lisa ripped into attitudey classics from "Heart of Glass" to "99 Luftballons" like a wedding-band singer (in Vermont or Hawaii) crossed with Hedwig playing the seafood circuit. The audience lapped it up, especially Lisa's side trips to the '70s (an impassioned cover of "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves") and the present (her original song about the beauty of being a freak). She's got the beat!

A biological woman who's got the part of '60s legend Janis Joplin in Love, Janis, Cathy Richardson grew up worshiping those lusty, busty Heart barracudas, though aspiring rockers can now look up to Richardson herself; she's a powerful belter and has admirably trilled her way out of the closet. The Windy City songbird's been open with loved ones for ages, but told me that "a few years ago, a Chicago interviewer asked me why I had never come out publicly. I explained why and the headline turned out to be 'Cathy Richardson Comes Out.' So I guess I'm out now!" Still, the overused term "lesbian singer" drives her even nuttier than it did Joplin. "Lesbian-comma-singer would be fine, though," Cathy said; it's all about punctuation.

Love, Janis doesn't touch on Joplin's having been a bisexual-comma-singer, but Cathy—who alternates in the role—said the show doesn't pretend to be an all-encompassing biography. She's convinced Janis was indeed bi, though, and said, "I wonder if that was one of the things she was so miserable about, because she was obviously very unhappy, to be drinking and doing heroin. I never did heroin, but I drank and was very self-destructive." Me, too—I downed peach schnapps just to fit in!

It’s all about the punctuation: Love, Janis star Cathy Richardson.
photo: Michael Kamber
It’s all about the punctuation: Love, Janis star Cathy Richardson.

Richardson's new addiction is trying to determine just who the kooky Love, Janis audience consists of. Sometimes she'll spot an obvious Woodstock survivor in the crowd—"and her 16-year-old daughter, who has her hand on her face, thinking, 'It sucks. I can't wait to go home and listen to Britney Spears.' " More proof that our education system is in complete shambles!

The judicial system's doing just fine, though. In fact, I just did jury duty and found it to be an East Coast version of Sundance, with celeb attendees like Zoe Cassavetes (who looked a bit demoralized when they called her name for a trial) and director Todd Solondz, who told me, "I'd love to be chosen for a jury, but I was just rejected!" So was I, after revealing that I'm a lefty liberal Village Voice beatnik and couldn't possibly be objective in a housing case.

What we bolsheviks are comfortable assessing are house parties—like Bow Wow Brazil, a Southampton blowout in some rich lady's mansion benefiting ARF (Animal Rescue Fund). That's an organization that saves woebegone critters, though the staff doesn't seem nearly as compassionate toward humans. In fact, a gigantic sourpuss greeted my arrival by screeching, "There is no Michael Musto on the list! Not for dinner!" Suddenly I was dying to be on a jury. Once past the bee-otch, I was treated to plantain salads, surgerized socialites, and those wacky Hilton Sisters, who would surely vanish like Shangri-La if there wasn't some buffet event or other to go to. Here, they were circling around like well-groomed Afghan hounds, never realizing they've already arrived. I love them!

Nikki Hilton was on Marcus Schenkenberg's arm at the O premiere, though there were more urgent modeling issues at hand. The film's updated Othello, Mekhi Phifer, told me he was so naive when he started acting that, when he needed to submit headshots, he'd go to the photo booth at Woolworth's! I know the feeling, having done entire fashion spreads there.

Another depressing yet photogenic romp, the remote The Deep End, is being criticized for being gay-negative, so let's form a really fun jury and discuss, shall we? The plot has a young guy falling for an evil gay, who's found dead, after which a blackmailing porn tape of the two in action turns up to the horror of Ma (played by Tilda Swinton), who's protective if grossed out. But Swinton's said her character's simply jealous of the son's sexual freedom. If you don't buy that, at least there's a sicko straight guy, too, though some feel the subtext is that he's involved with his thug underling. I'm confused.

Subtext galore is surfacing in two pop careers, thanks to photographer Steven Klein (who infamously captured Brad Pitt as street trade in W). Klein told me he recently shot 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake in a Long Island house (no, not in Southampton) for the cover of the Brit magazine Arena Hommes Plus, and the spread will startlingly present Justin in the role of "a suburban kid, kind of violent." Justin—who's being pegged for the lead in Spike Lee's movie of Rent—is clearly rethinking his squeaky clean veneer. "You have to kill to have a rebirth," explained Klein, who's also jazzing up the timeless icon Britney Spears for her next CD cover. "She's looking harder and more rock," he revealed, admiringly. Is the stomach still out? "The stomach's still out," Klein said, laughing.

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