NY Mirror

We have some catching up to do, chickens. First of all, Joey Fatone's opening night in Rent almost had me going bye bye bye before the show even started. (Ain't no lie.) Swarms of teenies filled the theater, squealing out of control whenever one of Joey's *NSYNC bandmates sashayed to his seat in a bodyguard sandwich. I was sure the nymphets would keep on yelping and disrupt the entire performance, but it's a testament to the power of the show—and the, like, great cast—that they were riveted, retainers and all. Maybe the Playbill's two-page character map made things easier in a special school sort of way, explaining stuff like "Mark used to date Maureen," you know?

Amid the pubescent high spirits, my heart bled for attendee Justin Timberlake, who, after all, was supposed to star in the Rent movie that so unceremoniously fell apart. But Joey was a hit as the video artist character—the one who used to date Maureen—and he clearly finds the role cathartic; when I asked him at his opening-night party if he likes saying fuck onstage (not to mention shit and masturbation), the goombah heartthrob grinningly replied, "I wasn't allowed to say it all the time. Now it's great I get to say it!" Hey, I love saying it too: Fuck! Shit! Masturbation!

The next night, as you'll recall, Joey already had a (contractually arranged) day off from Rent to be at MTV's Video Music Awards, and Justin also turned up to do his overchoreographed solo number, which came off like warmed-over Michael Jackson soup, with de rigueur rap croutons. Fuck! (By the way, it's perfect that Jacko thinks he's the artist of the millennium. The millennium is only two years old.) But the nerviest spectacle, of course, had Eminem pushing away a hand puppet and threatening violence to "little girl" Moby. (Gee, where was Elton John to assure us that Eminem isn't really an anti-gay bully, he's just assuming an ironic pose?) To add insult to injury, the much ballyhooed surprise finale turned out to be the return of '80s homophobe Axl Rose, sans face or voice. Welcome to the bungle.

Standing up for freedom of speech: Rent's Joey Fatone
photo: Bruce Glikas/www.broadway.com
Standing up for freedom of speech: Rent's Joey Fatone

Better proof that rock lives came via Club Shelter, where the pre-Labor Day MOTHERFUCKER was mobbed by glam gods, freaks, and fucking, masturbatory trendoids. The floating monthly bash is very 24 Hour Party People meets fear dot com, the music veering angstily from Sid Vicious to the Strokes. (The Clash seem off-limits now that they've sold "London Calling" to a car commercial.) It's the club event of the millennium.

Jeff Palmer is the porn star of the male-enema. In his new gay porn flick, Raw, Palmer bottoms out for the first time—on film—and he doesn't put up much of a struggle. More astoundingly, he also orgasms into someone's butt, then licks the stuff out, as you're torn between yelling "Yuck!" and "Bravo!" At an Indochine party for the unreally blond stud, hosted by Paper's Mickey Boardman, Palmer told me he generally adores the taste of spooge—even other people's—"but I don't like it if the person is drunk or isn't healthy. You can taste it!" (I wouldn't know—belch.)

Does Palmer have a death wish? Au contraire, he says. He has a rage to live, and though he was diagnosed with HIV, he insists he's battled it by taking care of himself and avoiding all drugs—especially prescription ones—except pot. To Palmer, the real scourge is anyone who supports the majority view that pharmaceuticals are the best way to fight HIV infection. "Madonna put her face on the AIDS Ride, which tortures and kills fags," he told me, fuming (but smelling of Obsession). "And Elton John's AIDS foundation kills people with toxic chemicals." (Oh, I'm sure it's just an ironic pose.)

Other pesky Palmer viewpoints: "I hate when people suck my balls. I want to say, 'There's nothing in there!' " "Ty on Trading Spaces is so cute, you want to put your dick in his mouth while he's talking." And most touchingly of all, "My boyfriend bought me an apartment, a house, a Jaguar, and a dog. I don't mind if he fucks around." That's good, because the guy is married with children!

But back to the legit stage, thank you. Take Me Out—that unwieldy gay baseball romp at the Public—has wit, male nudity, and lots of balls. Frederick Weller plays a John Rocker type, and on opening night he told me, "In some ways my character is less intelligent than Rocker, but he's more complex and sophisticated." When I asked if he thinks Rocker and his ilk are actually gay, Weller wove me a long, involved answer explaining why not, then surmised, "Maybe!"

Staying within the realm of queer possibility, did you ever think HX—you know, Homo Xtra—would cross paths with Britney Spears? Maybe? Well, sure enough, this month Marc Berkley will be throwing the bar rag's anniversary party at Brit's Nyla restaurant, the first of his weekly gay events there. That makes sense since Britney's been dressing like the Village People.

Disheartened by people in the Village, Liz Smith agrees with Bill O'Reilly that the Gay Pride Parade is "offensive, foolish, and counterproductive." So that's why I've never seen her there. Come on, the parade is the most incident-free, spirited, and inclusive of all such events. We're not ashamed of our drag queens, big-breasted lesbians, and s&m bears—not to mention the tons of sedately dressed marchers—and we'll never be too beaten down to flaunt it on that special day. If the right-wingers use and misuse images of us for their own purposes, that shouldn't drive us under rocks any more than celebs should stay home because a tabloid might misinterpret the way they walk to the convenience store. The days when gays had to pretend to be boring and sexless in order to be thrown crumbs of advancement should be retired forever; who wants progress through deceit and self-denial? I've had it with closety gay people who say we have to tone down our image to appease the homophobes, when it's the flashy ones who are generally driving the bus anyway! A parade is about glitzy celebration—the gay-hating St. Patrick's Day one has people painted green and sometimes vomiting—and to have a GLAAD award winner trash all the effort and diversity that goes into Gay Day must have the Eminems and Rockers of the world rejoicing. And by the way, you should see all the happy families that gather to watch, without a single concern. Kids are warped by shame, not openness.

Calm down, Michael, with some soothing gossip. Like how, at celeb shutterbug Patrick McMullan's party on Wall Street, one of the performers bombed big-time—hasn't that area been hit enough?—though the mood was frolicsome and everyone loved the glitter-covered tableaux vivants of virtually naked guys. In fact, by midnight, more than one guest had glitter on his mouth.

Born into sparkle, Liza Minnelli's adopted baby will be named Serena, so club owner Serena Bass is offering to throw her a free christening. And not on gay night. Meanwhile, I hear that good son Sam Waksal, in his defense, will actually use the fact that he's the child of Holocaust survivors. I'm not making this shit up. And in sibling news, the artist of the millennium's sister, Janet Jackson, has recorded a duet with Beenie Man, a total horror who promotes the execution of queers in Jamaica. Fuck! Shit! Masturbation! If what her ex-hubby says is true, Janet had better avoid going to Jamaica. Maybe!


musto@villagevoice.com

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