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 kazillion-dollar expansion of the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut was launched with an outlandishly excessive exercise in celebrity worship that I begged to be part of. It turned out to be the most compelling orgy of star love since Will Smith last looked in a mirror. When I arrived, Bill Clinton was being honored in a side room for having helped the Mohegan tribe become formally recognized, and even hewas being treated more as a celeb than a dignitary. "He's like a modern-day rock star," gushed the presenter. "So many people want to get near him and touch him!" (Clinton lowered his head a little embarrassedly at that one.)
Mildly aroused, we traipsed on to the performing arena, where the fab Cyndi Lauperserved up her masturbatory anthem, "She Bop" ("one of my self-help songs"), an intriguing ditty called "Madonna Whore," and remarks like "Anna Nicole Smithshould have gotten the money for sleeping with that guy once. Did you see him?" (I guess nobody wanted to get near him and touch him.) For the finale, the newly liberated Rosie O'Donnellclimbed onstage to sing along with Lauper and to tell her how to impersonate the headliner, Cher: "Act like you have a giant phlegm ballbut in a goodway."
Soon enough, Cher emerged like a vision and did Cher in a verygood way. Ms. Sarkisian LaPierre, etc. entered on a descending, 40-foot riser, belting out a U2 classic that proved she likes Sonny andBono. (Steve Tylerlooked unimpressed in the crowd, but I got chills.) The fully appropriate "half-breed" then journeyed through practically all her phlegmy hits in eye-popping outfits, backed by dancers in Lion Kingensembles and video clips chronicling her many moods and hairstyles. She even went Bollywood with an Indian princess number rendered high atop a papier-mâché elephant! The overall effect was so head-spinningly special that, as Cher herself said, "I wish Iwas sitting in the audience."
The starsand free mealskept on coming, and in the big ballroom the next night, O'Donnell returned to stand-up comedy as we fished lobsters off a lazy Susan. Entering to that Pink songwhich some clever DJ must have thought says, "I'm coming out," not "I'm coming up"Rosie declared, "I'm just a big-mouthed lesbian now," as she proceeded to rip into a variety of big-name targets. It turns out she loathes Sharon Stone(pretentious), Michael Jackson("a pedophile"), Joan Rivers("does not look human"), Clinton (a big liar who "really fuckin' pissed me off"), and Anne Heche("Just admit ityou took the dive for a year, you didn't like it, and you went back to the dick"). Rosie's rage was so vivid that one audience member impulsively yelled, "Jealous!" ("I have better people to be jealous of than Sharon Stone," countered Rosie.) Wait, what happened to the ass-kissy queen of daytime TV? "I had to be nice to people I hated!" she admitted. (At least she's honestabout her phoniness, though it's jarring to have it confirmed that we'd been conned all those years.) Less shockingly, Rosie said that, while everyone told her coming out would ruin her career, "I'm the only person it's made morefamous." So I was rightshe should have done it ages ago!
After some more lobsters, we were served Aretha Franklin, who was poppingout, but who sang magnificentlyand no one gave a rat's ass that she bitched everyone out when her mic fed back, then later admitted she hadn't done a sound check. The woman is the queen and she was feee-ussss. Among the other luminaries who jumped at the free weekend, John Cusackwas irritably shooing away a photographer, Spike Leesat looking glum and underappreciated, beleaguered chef Todd Englishwas carousing with two gal pals, the gay cop from Six Feet Underwas acting really obnoxious, and Jimmy Fallontook my cell phone number!
Back in New York, an even kookier celebration was the annual HXAwards ceremony at SBNY, which honors the insular but fabulous world of bars, drag queens, bartenders, and drag bartenders. There were packets of Horny Goat Weeda sponsoreverywhere, so by the end of the night, we were all fucking the walls. People who had taken the dive for a year were running back to the dick, and vice versa! But HXwinner Larry Tee said he won't go back to drugs, and he even suggested that MC Hedda Lettucedrop by his AA meetings. "Fuck you! Get off the stage!" screeched Hedda, who promptly lifted her cocktail in a "toast to AA."
We raised a Diet Coke to Christina Ricciat a special screening of Pumpkin, in which she plays a stuck-up sorority girl who softens when she realizes that mentally challenged people aren't all that bad (especially when they're not really mentally challenged at all). In person, the lovable kook I once praised for being a little pudgy now disappears when she turns sideways, like most of the other starlets at the arugula store. When I caringly told her, "You're skinny now!" Ricci deftly deflated my line of attack by replying, "So are you." (No, I'm not exactly Lara Flynn Boyle, but I havelost a pound or seven, initially driven by a need to eat more healthily, but ultimately shedding due to sheer vanity. We're all victims of Hollywood, even if some of us just watchmovies.) "Oh, come on. Touch this!" I said, pointing to my tummy, which somehow still swells like a basketball. Ricci obediently felt the tumescence and insisted it was "rock hard." ("That's not allthat's rock hard," I said, as an insane joke, and she nicely grinned.)
Anyway, is the actress-producer happy? "I feel pretty good," Ricci said. "I'm making movies I want to make." So no one's bothering her? "No. I left my stalker outside with specific directions." To wheremyhouse?
Another night, I followed the directions to B.B. King's second anniversary bash and got to dish with singer Phoebe Snow, who turns out to worship trashy blind items and twisted gossip. I love bringing legends to my own level!
Peoplemagazine is already at my level with that bathtub shot of skier Jonny Moseleyin their "Top 50 Bachelors" spread. But that can't be his schlong hanging out in the bathwater, can it? Can it?
All right I'll can it, but first let me report that while Martha"I want to focus on my salad" Stewart's crisis has already spawned a Web siteMarthastewartlivinginjail.comI think she'll be fine, especially since the worst-case scenario has her getting the chance to hand-make so many darling license plates. By the way, Martha's stock has been plummeting because of her scandal, so I advise you all to promptly dump your sharesno, wait, that's illegal.
Speaking of no-no behavior, the Mr. Deeds commercial starts with Winona Ryderscreaming, "Help! I'm being robbed!" Yeah, and how does it feel, honey?
As for larger legal issues, I feel fine about the court decision saying the Pledge of Allegiance's "one nation under God" phrase is unconstitutional. Alas, the verdict has all the flag wavers and Bible thumpers up in arms, clearly forgetting that separation of church and state is a hallmark of our free society. Appallingly, their most repeated argument is, "No one thinks about the meaning anyway." Then why are they so pissed about changing the words?
My choice? "One nation under Cher."