NY Mirror

The glitz! The gallantry! Da noive! Put 'em all together and you've got the New York Film Festival's opening-night gala. Things were happy-go-lovely enough when 'About Schmidt' director Alexander Payne brought his cast onstage, capped off by Jack Nicholson, who looked high (on life) as a kite as he bowed and scraped to the adoring throng. Things stayed kooky when they unspooled Schmidt, an even more Depends-ably engaging widower road movie than Harry and Tonto. (We'll forgive the sitcom shtick with the water bed.) But then the rains came down like battery acid, so at the Tavern on the Green after-party, everyone crowded awkwardly into the inside areas, where if one more person bumped into me by the buffet, I was gonna make a frittata up their ass. What's worse, we searched for hours for Nicholson and Payne, only to find out they'd blown us off and gone to Man Ray! Without even telling me! But no one can fuck with my opening-night joyride. I got to hang with Bill Cosby's daughter, Anthony Michael Hall's mother, and a guy screeching, "Dr. Ruth's here, but she won't talk about sex!"

Raunchy talk lurked between the lines—of my face—at the Red Dragon party, where everyone was so famous or attractive (same thing) you could almost eat them with a carving knife. TV star Sara Rue told me she couldn't concentrate after being surrounded on the red carpet by the film's male stars. In a far corner, Andy Dick moaned, "The movie was disturbing," then went back to giving his number to a cute waiter in a tuxedo. (Later, the waiter told me Andy wasn't hitting on him, it's just that they went to the same school.) And on leaving, I got to ask one question of dreamy Josh Hartnett. Let's see: Will you marry me in a shotgun ceremony this weekend? Nah, how about: What did you think of the movie? "We were scared shitless," said Josh, as the girlfriend agreed. I'll take that as a yes.

I was scared boozeless for Liza Minnelli at the listening party for her Liza's Back! concert CD at the Equitable Center, but fortunately the woman didn't go to Man Ray instead; she showed up and even glittered—literally. First, Clive Davis played large chunks of the record, staying onstage and practically lip-synching along, with arm gestures. Liza sounded swell, the most poignant moment being, "If happy little bluebirds fly, then why oh why—thank you mamma—can't I?" (A question I can't answer. Can you, mamma?) And then, just as the recorded audience burst into applause, we joined them in bravos because we were suddenly privy to Liza's Front! The singer had just burst onstage, wearing six miles of eye makeup and diamond drop earrings that scraped the ground. "I can't tell you what this means to me," Liza gushed, "but I'm trying!"

Bringing the joy back into nightlife?: the House of Domination performs during the Bartenders Ball at Webster Hall.
photo: Cary Conover
Bringing the joy back into nightlife?: the House of Domination performs during the Bartenders Ball at Webster Hall.

To show just how unique and separate the Downtown world is, I then went to the Bartenders Ball—part of a four-day ClubNation expo at Webster Hall—where a Liza impersonator was onstage singing "New York, New York"! Will the invention never cease? Still, the idea of putting on an elaborate clubbie convention was so wacky but crass but promising but obvious, it was pretty unmissable on my part. The enforced-fun emporium was designed to bring nightcrawlers and their ideas together to the tune of $225 for four-day VIP tickets. But even with comps, I skipped the daytime panel discussions—drag queens and club owners already screech their thoughts at me all day—making sure to hit the ball, especially since the talent lineup (Patricia Field, Jackie 60 Further, and Susanne Bartsch) specialized in people who've really been around the block. (Fascinating sidebar: On Halloween, Bartsch will launch her weekly Copa-cabana bashes.)

But though the stage shows were fabulous if longish, the crowd looked mildly dazed, probably thanks to the corporate sponsor reminders everywhere, from the Perrier footsteps on the stairway to the half Chrysler onstage. (The other half was probably in the gift bag. But where was the Voice sign? Oh, yeah, we were sponsors too.) Helpers handing out temporary tattoos and promo glowsticks added to the contrived feeling. And though the promoter was exulting, "This is bringing the joy back into nightlife," Louis Osbourne was pissed that he'd flown in from L.A. and his DJ gig had been way delayed and shortened. "This should have been organized better," he understandably fumed to me. "They're so queeny back there," his publicist-manager chimed in. "Now they've given him just a 15-minute time slot. He's Ozzy Osbourne's son!" As the scion negotiated with Johnny Dynell—the DJ at that moment—the flack bizarrely shrieked that Dynell shouldn't stand next to her client. This prompted Jackie empress Chi Chi Valenti to have security remove the woman from the stage. That brought the joy back into nightlife.

In perhaps sadder club news, Red was just raided by the cops, and as a result it won't have gay lap-dancing anymore, just your basic, honest bouts of young men searching for "sponsors." It's called wallet-dancing.

But pop open the champers again. It might amuse people and their tricks that Brit comic Eddie Izzard turns up in the imminent All the Queen's Men, which has been called "the world's first transvestite WW II heist movie." The flick's un-documentary-like plot has some British special agents, led by Yankee Matt LeBlanc, donning drag to weasel into an all-gal Nazi factory. It's like a special drag Nazi episode of Friends. And if you think LeBlanc—who looks like a hairier Brenda Blethyn—would pass for a gal, you just might like it.

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