By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The mother of us all, Joan Rivers, has been in the columns even more than Bin Laden lately, so I wasn't surprised that the kvetch extraordinaire was busy when I called. "I just made a Cipro omelette," she cracked. "I've got Eau de Cipro behind my ears and I'm ready to face the world. And I travel with Baco Bits now. I can't overpower them from getting those 70 virgins, but I'm gonna hit 'em with bacon. I may be going to hell, honey, but so are they!"
I was thrilled that the woman was still making funny, since her take-no-prisoners comedy style is such a great healer they should stock it at Duane Reade. Like everyone, she's been through the wringer. "I lost a lot of people," she said. "And my dog Spike died September 9. It was a shitty month. I waited a month to perform again, and the audiences exploded with laughter. People want to laugh so they can face it. We're all scared!"
But don't cower away from Joan's new material (which she'll showcase at Madison Square Garden November 7 and 14). It's about being a single granny in wartime, "and about how people don't respect you when your dog dies. They say, 'He was only an animal.' 'Please, your husband'sonly an animal. I don't see you fucking a hamster.' " (Speak for yourself, honey.)
Her thoughts on the rodentlike Bin Laden? "Ugh," she moaned. "Just think what's in his beard, foodwise." Yeah, but I wanted to throw bacon at the E! tyrants who dropped Joan and daughter Melissa's preshow commentary from the Emmy Awardsthough the event was then rescheduled for November 4 and the gabby gals are on again. "The only thing I got out of it was four outfits," Joan told me. "They kept changingred, then black, then cocktail, then business. With all the outfits, I'm dressed till 2004, and don't even mention returning them!"
In another switcheroo, Joan dropped out of the all-star charity recording of "We Are Family" and told me, "I have it in writing that the money was going to the families of the policemen and firemen!" When she found out the dough was heading elsewhereincluding to a project promoting racial toleranceshe bolted, and, according to Joan, so did another style icon, Susan Lucci. "Racial tolerance is very important," said Joan. "I'm Jewish. I'm a minority! But it was a bait and switch, and one of the other charities was to show the diverse reasons the tragedy happened. This wasn't the time to give lectures and blame America when we're still sending flowers to fire stations!" The lesson learned? "Don't ever work for the Puce Cross, the Salvation Navy, or Hooked on Phonics Rehab!"
Or the Gray Panthers. Joan recently broke up with her octogenarian fiancé, banking heir Orin Lehman, and publicly blasted his new lady friends. "I didn't mention names," Joan explained to me, "but I said 'two old European hookers.' You know how many women have come forward and said, 'That's me!'? These old, old women who haven't seen a tampon in 50 years, groping for green cardsit's so distasteful." Is she talking about singer-actress Monique van Vooren? "I don't even know her. Trust me, this isn't my group. I've never been a felon. When was the last time you came to dinner at my house and I had Eurotrash hookers?" Never, and it's too bad, because those ladies love bacon!
On Broadway, the foofy By Jeeves has a song called "It's a Pig!" and all the happy hamming that goes with it. And Thou Shalt Notserves a porky gumbo in its musical updating of the Zola story about a wanton woman who's married to her pneumatic cousin but wants Craig Bierko. Not is refreshingly ambitious, but there's an underlying variety-show sensibility to the thing, an overemphasis on unsexy fornication, and no fewer than three camp-classic miniballets: the laundry one, the fucking one, and (believe me) the gang-rape one. The inert Act I so reeks of floperetta that during intermission, the crowd went berserk cheering break-dancers on the street. But the second half comes together more artfullythough the best feature remains the precurtain announcement: "Thou shalt not use video cameras. . . . "
Thou shalt believe me that at least the show broke Timescritic (and my idol) Ben Brantley's nicey-nice streak. Massive devastation had turned him into Mother Teresa, and though I know we're supposed to boost Broadway, leading innocent people to things like Mamma Mia! will only provoke mass mayhem! Speaking of that disco shlockfest, the Chelsea type who plays the groom was just announced in a gay bar rag as being straight, and this has prompted more screaming in the gossip chat rooms than there's been since I was called an old Euro hooker!
Openly gay and festive, Dragapella! Starring the Kinsey Sicks is the Upstairs at 54 revue in which the "beauty-shop quartet" puts dirty lyrics to classic songs as if concocting their own Cipro omelettes. "Fever" becomes a lesbian ode to "Beaver." A Christmas carol ends with, "O little town of meth mayhem." And there's even a crisply sung madrigal about water sports. Loved itthis is the kookiest cross-dress combo since, I don't know, O-Town.