By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Things we'll still have: irony (the Times and Graydon Carter both said it's over, but I'm sure they were just being ironic); insufferably weepy music by Enya and various flag-waving country stars; Starbucks; cockroaches; Cher.
New things we'll have: big hair; escapist sitcoms about genies on a three-hour tour; and lots more doleful telethonslike that last one, which trotted out an assortment of 50-plus rockers in such a morose, tasteful mode that we almost looked ready to surrender. The event did raise tons of money (Oscar winners and Penelope Cruz manned the phones) and couldn't help but be deeply moving at times, but wouldn't the best way to show American moxie be to turn out our most alive, resilient spirit rather than look so cowed and mawkish? Instead, as if any flash or fire might offend someone, we were served the most minimal TV event everone with no MCs, no studio audience, no Steve and Eydie, and so much uniformity and drabness that Will Smith's yellow running suit seemed like a dazzler. And the downbeat stars kept on coming: funnymen from Ray Romano to Chris Rock seizing the chance to look stricken, Bono wailing for freedom (though you'll remember his boyfriend these days is Jesse Helms), and Bruce Springsteen invoking our city's devastation. (Yes, the Boss decried cops' behavior in his Amadou Diallo song, but now he was kicking off the biggest homage to uniformed men since the Village People movie!) And you had to love Tom Cruise, consciously lowering his voice in his assignment to pay tribute to the gay priest who died, though he didn't mention (or probably know about) the gay part. The finalein which all the stars stood awkwardly around Willie Nelson as he crooned "America the Beautiful" for dayswas so mesmerizingly bizarre I bet it scared the terrorists. (Gossip update: I hear a lot of the celebs, including Jack Nicholson, had no idea who Faith Hill was, prompting one star to actually call a friend and find out. Her gospel choir must have thrown them off.)
A few channels over, Liza Minnelli was belting out "New York, New York" for the Mets crowd, and though they never showed a close-uplip-synching, dear?the woman had sparkle, life, and joy, and I love her!
Speaking of New York, New York, for years we attacked Rudy for "cleaning up" the town, and though we'll never forgive his crackdown on nightlife, bohemia, sex, and art, some of the Giuliani-town gloss is starting to seem richly romantic in retrospect. It was an affluent metropolis with mysterious bands of twentysomething millionaires lining up for ritzy restaurants and pricey Broadway shows, and if you were a hideous yuppieor a self-serving social criticwho was part of the fun, the New York of a month ago is starting to take on a certain luster.
But should he be allowed to extend his term? No, you don't bend the rules of the democracy you're supposed to be protecting, any more than you censure Bill Maher for critiquing our policies, put terrorist-content warnings on video shelves, or cheer Barbra Streisand's decision to remove any disagreement with Bush from her Web site. Oh, those things have all happened?
Well, back to doleful TV, the recent Miss America competition climaxed with a montage that contended it was a gigantic triumph of American freedom that we were still going to have beauty pageants. Even more insanely, it is! I enjoyed every surreal second, even Tony Danza reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
And there are even more absurdist images to be found right over in Times Square, where Hooters has added "God Bless America" to its marquee and Hedda Gabler has been sporting an ad campaign I bet they'll be pressured to rethink. ("This season, she sets New York on fire.")
The Producers still has Roger Bart as a big-time flamer, but his uncle, Variety editor Peter Bart, recently told me, "Starting at 12, Roger was accused of being the poor man's Warren Beatty. He's permanently priapic and definitely, overwhelmingly hetero." I asked.
But back to the war, if they ever do find Osama bin Affleck, or whatever his name is, they should make him watch Glitter. (And where did he get a fax machine to spread his hate messages? Do they have Kinko's in caves?)
On a lighter note, at least last week brought a vibrant all-star effort benefiting a worthy cause. It was The 24 Hour Plays, an assortment of quirky quickies written and staged in a day, to make money for Working Playground, Inc. (which brings arts to the kidsa war in itself). Playwright Richard LaGravanese told me that the authors chose their casts, stickball style, from a pool of big-name actors sitting in a circle. His first choice was Julianne Moore and then he noticed that a cardboard representation had (absentee) Kyra Sedgwick's face on it, so he took her next. (This brought back painful memories of when even puppets were picked over me for sports.)