Where the Boys Are

While he's kind of kooky as Fez on That '70s Show, Wilmer Valderrama is hot in person, and friendly, too. He remained amicable amid the throngs of sorority girl-cum-junior media planners that packed into the Latino mega-eatery Noche last Wednesday for People's "America's Top 50 Bachelors" issue. There were other catches in the house, including too fine All My Children star Sam Page and author Brian Keith Jackson.

Wilmer is going into his sixth season of hapless slacking in That '70s Show, but don't let that make you think he's not busy. He was leaving to finish filming his role in Party Monster, the star-packed retelling of the Michael Alig story—he plays Superstar DJ Keoki!

Wilmer told me that he and his castmates—a cavalcade of nascent screen gods including Macauley Culkin, Dylan McDermott, Marilyn Manson, Chloë Sevigny, and Natasha Lyonne—are having fun re-creating the frenetic days of Disco 2000. Had there been any deep bonding sessions, like, say, nights spent cooking ketamine over the stove? "We didn't do anything crazy like that," said Wilmer.

The Keoki role seems like a breeze—just feign a permanently drugged stupor—but Wilmer researched the part. He actually listened to all of the Sunglassed One's old mix collections ("He's great," gushed Wilmer), and even tried to contact the man himself.

Elsewhere, Brian Keith Jackson, the first gay black man People has ever included on its list, was telling me how a camera crew had actually mistaken me for him—even though we have totally different skin tones and he's about four inches taller than me. "When they see black people, that's what they see," said Jackson, but added, "This is an amazing time for black artists." The next book for The Queen of Harlemauthor? A collection of stories and essays titled That's White Folk's Mess.

Meanwhile, the liquor must have set in—all the marketing kids were putting moves on each other. They were a cute crowd, if you discounted the odd predilection among the girls for hair spray and Coors Light. "You're from Florida? I'm from Florida!" I heard a guy say to two chicks with lacquered bangs. "He's from wherever will get him laid," his friend retorted.

As everyone focused on LMNT (pronounced "Element"), Teen People's lame manufactured boy band, I went to meet Chris Beckman, brushing by Soprano starlet Jamie-Lynn Siglerand organic-chic guru Danny Seo on the way. The gay bachelor—who endured six months with an anorexic, a high-strung fitness nut, a California Bible-thumper, and a teenage lesbian who regularly flashed her crotch to the nation on The Real World Chicago—has a modeling contract with Wilhelmina, and is moving to New York to continue making art.

"Kara is this 92-pound slut, Tanya had kidney stones, and here they were focusing on the alcohol problem I had," complained Beckman. For all the trials of being on 24-hour surveillance, Beckman's Abercrombie & Fitch-like marketability was not lost on him while the cameras were rolling. "On paper, I have four things in one: all-American boy, gay, facing a relapse, and national attention."

Another all-American boy, Sam Page, was telling me about his former days as a genetic biology major at Princeton, but we were interrupted by the increasingly drunk hordes of women. I went to get my bag, but it was wet and sticky! Someone had spilled a Coors Light on it.


In this age of the Department of Homeland Security, WKdoesn't want to say anything potentially incriminating about his newest works. The conceptual graf artist was premiering his new installation, "Rescue 2002," in an empty garage on the corner of Prince and Lafayette on a recent Friday evening. His striated portraits of skaters were now in gas masks and brandishing Uzis.

"It's a little bit indicative of what's happened in New York," he told me while I eyed the exhibit's lone 3-D element—a massive Hummer packed with drone-like white mannequins in fatigues. "Some people might not like it. It's a little bit political." The installation is up for another week.

Cops did actually show up earlier to regulate, but thankfully they didn't concern themselves with the artwork. They just came to make sure that nobody was drinking past the "line"—the part of the street where the mud in the lot stopped at the pavement. Apparently, area residents had complained about the hip-hop music playing in the background, not of a potential onslaught in Nolita by an army of dummies. Whew!


jgermosen@villagevoice.com

 
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