NY Mirror

As sure as Anastacia is the new Taylor Dayne, Asbury Park—the sea jewel of New Jersey—is starting to look more diamond than Diamonique thanks to the renaissance that's lifting it out of the ruins. (When Zippy costume purveyors Allan & Suzi opened a store there, I knew there had to be something going on.) But with all the hoopla about the town—most of it thanks to its patron saint, Bruce Springsteen—something's fallen through the cracks of the boardwalk. The Today show recently covered the place by way of brooding Brucie, but as columnist Michael Liberatore pointed out in the triCity News, "Not one breath was uttered about who spearheaded the rebirth—the gay/lesbian community. . . . If the revitalization was brought about by any other minority group besides homosexuals, you can bet your life Matt and Katie would have been talking it up big time." The Today coverage did include a gay bar, mind you, but Brucie only identified it as the former Fifth Avenue Pub, which is what it was called back when it was straight and Springsteen-ready. "Well, folks," wrote Liberatore, "it's Georgies and it's gay!"

Liberatore adds that since the show ran, countless straight rocker boys have asked him where that pub is, anxious to tie one on at the Boss's old haunt. "They'll get an eyeful when they spot two men kissing at the bar," he wrote. "I hope the Today show's insurance policy will cover the stitches required when someone smashes a pool cue over [a patron's] head."

What's more, another Asbury Park nightspot, Club Paradise, wasn't mentioned at all in the Today piece, and owner Shep Pettibone—yeah, the Madonna guy—is going borderline. He wrote a letter to the same paper saying how devastated he was by the oversight. But Pettibone seems guilty of the same sin of omission, never mentioning in his letter that the Paradise is gay-gay-gay! Oh, well, sugar. Tramps like us—baby we were born to run the truth.

Laser Tolkien: middle earth in Central Park
photo: Cary Conover
Laser Tolkien: middle earth in Central Park

Meanwhile, you Today people, gay clubs are thriving in our own revitalized burg, so maybe you should send someone over with a camera and some poppers-repellent. As sure as "muscle bear" is the kookiest new contradiction in town, GayCollegeParty Saturdays at Heaven (with the lovely mascot, Alexandria) continue to rock my timeless aesthetic. The smash event, thrown by Tony Gambino and Allan Piekis, brings out a fresh-faced assortment of homo homies, guys unconvincingly dragging girlfriends along, young 'uns who'd be club kids if there still were club kids, and one person who already finished college. (You're looking at him.) Last time around, a dozen hotties waited in the wings to bump and grind it in the scheduled strip contest, but alas, by the time the drag show ended, they were gone, leaving only three forlorn-looking gnomes with their pants down. The winner was the one who doused himself with water, Flashdance-style, as MC Miss Anthony Lamont said, "I feel like I'm at a baby shower!"

The gnomes had robes on at the Lord of the Rings event by the Central Park Lake, where a well-orchestrated armada of costumed ghouls in boats wielded DVDs of the movie as I stood in merch-ready awe, until a stunning display of green lasers almost gave me a seizure. The lead ghoul then crawled ashore to pose with an executive from New Line—yes, this was all a photo op, not a mass mugging—and the whole gang went inside the Boathouse to watch exclusive footage from the unfortunately titled sequel, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. (It looks like even more of an elaborate QVC program than the original.) At the bash, broomless Hilda Caroline Rhea confessed to me that she's never seen Rings:"I'm here to get the DVD." Well, I was there for my own gift package—a chance to meet John Rhys-Davies, who plays Rings' dwarf, Gimli, and who's actually about 5 foot 10. "I spent most of the movie on my knees," he explained, "or in trenches, or in the background so far away. I spent 30 years trying to become a recognizable face, and then I become known for a silicone prosthetic. My career's over!" he shrieked, sardonically. "Now the only roles I can play are dwarves with a strap-on dick in German porno films!" Hmm, make that three towers.

I strapped on my really big bib for the party at Rocco DiSpirito's Union Pacific restaurant for Mostly Martha, an epicurean epic about a neurotic chef with serious managerial problems. (No, it's not that Martha). With marinated fish hanging out of my mouth, I asked writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck if she thinks her flick will find an audience. "You never know," she said. "It's a German movie. That's a turnoff right there. German films are not the most entertaining films to watch." I guess she's never seen the porno one with the dwarf.

As sure as Tweet isn't working on a Halloween album called Trick or Tweet, the new Apollo show Harlem Song—an even better choice than Asbury Park Song—is very PBS special meets Radio City Christmas show, but with affection, dignity, and flashes of George C. Wolfe's customary artistry. The whole thing is such a blatant commercial for Harlem that you think, "I really should go there," before realizing you are there. It's so self-referential and self-reverential, it even includes a scene at the world-famous Apollo Theater! But, though it's wildly uneven, there's no faulting the revue's loving spirit—and sassy, bourbon-voiced B.J. Crosby steals it as if it were a Saks Fifth Avenue dress. On opening night, Rosie Perez told me that though she's never lived in Harlem, "I've dated guys that lived in Harlem. I've had my own Harlem song!" Any romance in her life now? "Semi," she said, cryptically. Gee, her semi would go well with my colon.

Back in midtown, I've been living at the Museum of Television & Radio lately, not only because of that fab Bowie series, but because TV producer Bob Booker just presented an entertaining outtake compilation called Behind the Scenes in Hollywood. Among the more salacious highlights were Eddie Murphy deep-throating a large plastic cup and insult comic Don Rickles pretending singer Steve Lawrence had fisted him and Steve's jewelry was coming out of his butt. The golden days indeed!

The new stuff is pretty good, too. In fact, The Anna Nicole Show on E! is riveting viewing, focusing on a self-absorbed, tranquilized inflatable doll of a woman who's everything reality TV should be—though the gay people who rebuilt Asbury Park should probably get to work on her real soon. The busty Britney Spears might also need repair. As you know, all of a sudden, radio's changed focus to Norah Jones, Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton, and other clothed gals who can actually play instruments and write songs (but of course happen to be good-looking too). Even Pink has wisely picked up a guitar and gone rock-a-doodle. I picture Brit putting her breasts back in jars and learning the flügelhorn as we speak.

They've reconstructed The Boys From Syracuse on Broadway and added a surprise cameo—don't read this if you don't like your surprise cameos ruined—done by squeaky-voiced TV Land-er Georgia Engel. They've also exhumed Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, a wise, sexually explicit stalker romantic comedy that's mainly lessened by its fairly redundant second half. But see it and you'll see an entire audience who'd been saying, "Stanley Tucci is not a sex symbol" drop their tongues as the curtain goes up and screech, "Stanley Tucci is a sex symbol!" Think muscle bear minus the bear part. Think non-dwarf with non-strap-on. Think Club Paradise.


musto@villagevoice.com

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