NY Mirror

Punks is a gay B*A*P*S, a drag Waiting to Exhale, a black Broken Hearts Club, and an L.A. Priscilla, but amazingly enough, it manages much uniqueness. The gossamer-thin film—about the love travails of a gaggle of fierce queens—flounders when the catty drag diva becomes Mother Teresa and the loveless hero gets his dream to come not only true, but on his face. but it's basically sassy fun, the kind of sweet little thing you root for, especially if you're a fan of Mahogany, Sister Sledge, or sex with bananas (don't ask).

At the premiere, writer-director Patrik-Ian Polktold me that African American drag queens "have a little extra attitude. I always feel like they mean it more. They grab onto the fabulousness a little harder." And if the stereotypes are true, they have to tucka little harder, too. But putting together the film's bootylicious ensemble was even more of an uncomfortable challenge. Polk said he cast Rockmond Dunbaras the ambiguous hunk next door "after a string of name actors didn't want to kiss a man." (Interestingly, Dunbar is now a name actor, on TV's Soul Food.) And then Wilson Cruzbacked out as the club entrepreneur, so dance-music star Kevin Aviancestepped in, with heels on. "It was shocking," Aviance told me at the premiere. "I couldn't believe I was in Hollywood and performing before a camera!" I can't believe I'm not!

Before the screening, Polk instructed the crowd, "Punks is a black movie. Whether you're white, black, or green, I want you to behave as a black audience. Holler, get up and dance, and celebrate!" I did all the above, but in such a distinctly "white" way that my banana is still looking for some whipped cream.

Once home—alone—a scheduled phoner came in from Brett Butler, who isn't a white trash lady, she only played one on TV. The ex-sitcom queen has come back to stand-up comedy and is grabbing onto the fabulousness a little harder. As she told me, "I feel like some girl who's left her favorite rag doll behind. I took two years off and I feel fairly certain it was mutual in the industry. There are a lot of people who say they'll never work with me, and I've never met them!"

Grabbing fabulousness: Punks director Patrik-Ian Polk (left) with Renoly SantiaGo, Jazzmun, Dwight Ewell, and Red Savage
photo: Christopher Smith
Grabbing fabulousness: Punks director Patrik-Ian Polk (left) with Renoly SantiaGo, Jazzmun, Dwight Ewell, and Red Savage

What exactly was the career-threatening problem, pray tell? "I worshiped the god of what other people thought of me," Butler revealed, "and I had to find a bigger, meaner one with squinty eyes that didn't laugh at everything I said. Now, I'm not as savage a pundit as I used to be, but I think I'm funnier." I desperately wanted to prove it with a giant guffaw, but bit my tongue in my new role as her bigger, meaner deity.

The refurbished Butler—who'll be making funny at the Comedy Garden Forum at Madison Square Garden on November 9 and 10—clearly doesn't miss Grace Under Fireany more than I miss Little House on the Prairie. "I love that I had the chance to do it," she admitted, "but I deeply regret mistakes or missteps that I made." Still, hotshots are starting to cut the gal a break, especially since she now seems like the most accommodating Butler since By Jeevesand is only high on life, thank you very much.

Adding to her pulsing chakras, the self-proclaimed "goyim Episcopal Southern thing" has deeply enjoyed a drop-dead cute boyfriend for some time. "He's younger than me by 10 years," she divulged. "Not enough where it's, like, sad." The modern, domesticated Brett is even friendly with her ex ("because I'm so fucking spiritual") and, in her most shocking move of all, relaxes via needlepoint! On the plane that very day, "people thought, 'Oh my God, she's gotten lobotomized!' But it's not just needlepoint, it's a big orchid that's going to be a pillow!" It'll look great with her favorite rag doll.

Moving back to that Broadway butler I mentioned, Noises Offspoofs the kind of nudgy-winky British sex comedy By Jeevesreally is. The revival of the split-second behind-the-scenes romp is silly, daft, and hilarious—an evening of pure, guilty diversion. And yes, the ever cute Faith Prince's bio in the Playbill gives her one more Tony award than she really has, but I'm sure that's just another wacky element of the carefully constructed farce.

While you're exploding with laughter, I'll tell you that an upcoming episode of Absolutely Fabuloushas Ruby Waxas a decrepit woman named Beth DeWoody who attends a workshop for menopausal creatures and announces, "The sands of time are trickling through my hourglass!" I asked the real-life Beth Rudin DeWoody—a well-known New York socialite who's miles away from that kind of character, mind you—how she feels about the appropriation of her name for this bizarre hot flash. "I have no comment because I haven't seen it," said DeWoody, who didn't sound thrilled at all.

Bursting with young testosterone, Michael and Hushiput on a really fun, hypnotic fashion show at the Ukrainian National Home, with model Theo Koganfrom the Lunachicks getting the biggest audience response. The girl's making it (in the Burberry and Courvoisier campaigns, for starters), despite André Leon Talley's dismissive comments, not to mention the fact that rock chicks who model are much rarer than model chicks who rock, got that?

But there's been some kooky timing in the magazine world lately. Poor Lisa Marie's on the cover of the new Gear, going on about how tight and loving she and Tim Burtonreally are. Whoopsy-daisy! And a recent Time Out New Yorkcover had "Cheap Eats" handwritten in white powder (relax, it was only sugar), a bold choice coming in the middle of the anthrax scare, and one I totally approved of. "Some readers were concerned about that," the mag's editor, Cindy Stivers, told me last week. "It was shot well before any of this started happening. We had the conversation and said, 'Does this look like anthrax? No, it's clearly sugar.' The sensitivity stuff is inevitable, but we're following the mayor's orders to get on with it!" No argument here—I'm downing 16 donuts as we speak, just to be a good citizen.

My appetite whetted, I pranced around on Halloween as a Big Mac and found myself battling even more of that sensitivity stuff. Anxiety-spreading idiots had dampened the celebration by painting it as deeply inappropriate, though a bunch of us brave patriots fought back with fearlessness and fishnets. Still, a visit to the Warhol-themed party at the Gay Center could only last as long as Andy would have wanted—15 minutes.

Speaking of celebrity dress-up, I have some pressing sartorial advice to offer today's biggest stars, like, OK? Alicia Keys, darling, I beg you to take off the headgear. You look like you're hiding from something, and honestly, you shouldn't, because you're not that bad looking—really! And Macy Gray, baby, kindly burn your hats and other doodads immediately. Your raggedy bohemian chic, which was so darned endearing, has morphed into a calculated weirdness that looks like the result of countless bucks and way too much fussing by stylists. Mess it up again! Oh, and Leelee Sobieski, you're fabulash, but please take a little break, pumpkin. You're in everything! Put ona hat!


musto@villagevoice.com

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