NY Mirror

It's fun to see drag queens grabbing the brass ring with their painted talons, especially since success seems to make their barbs more loving, their jewelry less dangerous. So thank goddess my sister Flotilla DeBarge has landed a part in HBO's upcoming version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, co-starring gender-specific biggies like Al Pacino and Meryl Streep. The future oscar winner plays a cross-dressing gospel singer—basically herself—lip-synching "I'm His Child" at a drag queen's funeral. (How Imitation of Life.) And Flo's deservedly kvelling so hard about this break, you could melt Land o' Lakes in her lacquered mouth.

After calming down, she told me, seriously, "They really wanted Jennifer Holliday to wear a fat suit and sing 'I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' from Dreamgirls. When they couldn't get her, they said, 'Scrap that and we'll just get a drag queen.' " ("I am telling you I'm not going to wear a fat suit," Jen must have shrieked on cue.)

They got several drag queens, it turns out; the funeral—which wasn't in the play—is also studded with Lypsinka and members of the Imperial Court. But it's all about DeBarge—the former "empress of large"—who tried out for director Mike Nichols in full getup and sensed she'd nabbed the gig when casting people started talking to her about wardrobe possibilities. "I said, 'Excuse me, but does that mean I have the job?' " relates Flo. "I had Cher tickets and I was like, 'Let's work around these Cher tickets.' They said, 'You don't have the job, but we're not seeing anybody else.' Then Jennifer fell through and I got it." And, more importantly, she still got to see Cher!

It's all about DeBarge: Miss Flotilla at home.
Makeup by Bruce Dean/photo by Richard Mitchell
It's all about DeBarge: Miss Flotilla at home.

So what was it like going from fringe fabulosity to being directed by Nichols? "It was amazing," says Flo, who's Fez-bound again. "He sent me a gift package after the shooting, thanking me for my technical professionalism. It was a handwritten note—not by his secretary, by him. So take that with you, you bitches, to quote Cher!"

To quote a publicist, the Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac are hitting the tube this week to co-host IFC's "Indie Rocks," a series that doesn't include Cher—she's neither indie nor rock—though they will show culties like SLC Punk and Gimme Shelter. That last one, Takac told me in a phoner from Foxwoods Casino—you heard me—"is the greatest rock movie ever because it's so real." Admitting that's about the extent of his film critiquing, Takac said, "In my current twilight years of 38, I can barely make it through a fucking news broadcast anymore without falling asleep!" (Not me—snipers and Republican landslides tend to keep me fully conscious.)

His fave flick to stay up for? "E.T.! I was bawling like a CEO on audit day. When E.T.'s lying there looking like a dried-up dog turd, I was rolling on the floor, going through my second box of Kleenex." (Then why—if I may digress—won't anyone cry for poor, broken-down Winona Ryder? But don't get me started.)

Indie raps with the cannily made snow job 8 Mile, which has you weeping for downtrodden, troubled Eminem, who's not—well, his character is not—a dried-up dog turd after all. In the flick—which touchingly starts with the rapper vomiting from nerves—it turns out the guy you mistook for a big bully is actually a victim of the bullies, who want to oppress his spunky spirit. And this version of Eminem is not a misogynist—in fact, women are the abusers, one lying to him and another heathen harpy betraying his trust. What's more, Eminem—I mean "Rabbit"—doesn't really want to dig a grave for his mama, he just wants her to lose her bully boyfriend, get focused, and stop talking about oral sex. (That's for him to rap about—and he does, honey.) A hugger and a swell big brother, he's an underdog who hangs with a Fat Albert-style posse of lovable, angsty shnooks, flying into a rage mainly when it's called for—like when he nobly has to tell a bigot, "Enough with the gay jokes!" (Queer responses in the audience will range from "Thank you for throwing us a crumb, Eminem sir—no, really" to "You patronizing motherfucker" to "Huh?")

And by the way, "Rabbit" hasn't appropriated anyone else's art form. Oh noooo, it's his black rap opponent who's unmasked—by him—as a complete phony and not a real gangsta at all. Helping you buy all this hooey, Eminem has charisma to burn, along with an adorable, pouty side that you'll be attracted to even if it kills you. At the big screening last week, the Rocky-ness of it all made the crowd dish Stallonemovies—like his arm-wrestling opus Over the Top, about which Jimmy Fallon cracked to me, "Jim Carreyshould do the sequel and call it Really Over the Top!"

We were tasteful again at the Far From Heavenpremiere—about eight miles from 8 Mile—where co-star Patricia Clarkson and her new beau, Campbell Scott, generously appraised each other's films to me, on cue. "I think it's beautiful. When do we see shit like this?" Scott said about Heaven. And Clarkson returned the favor about Scott's Roger Dodger, gushing, "He's incredible. Please!" I need a lover like either of these.

In the meantime, I'll stick with losing myself at nightclubs, wonderful nightclubs, as long as I can work around my Cher tickets. The old Tatou has become Vue, which is an all-white space module, a giant clamshell on which to project all sorts of longings and slide projections. At a bash thrown there by Page Six's Chris Wilson, Larry Clarkstar Tiffany Limostold me she's fed up with the attitude of those Y Tu Mamá Tambiénguys. One of them, she said, has been bragging that he's really made it in America because he nailed someone involved in a certain Oscar-winning movie. "Was it Mena?" Limos said to me, incredulously. "Thora? Annette? No! Annette's babysitter!" And probably her mamá también.

Another old club, Limelight, has lost the fat suit, reopening this week with the name Estate. (Their last stab at a name, Republic@Limelight, was canned because, as owner John Blairtold me, "The noodle shop gave us problems.") Blair seems thrilled to give up the Limelight reference, because "the only similarity with the old club is the address." The old Limelight, you'll—well, I'll—recall was a manic, colorful whirl of drugs, club kids, invention, and ultimately the after-effects of manslaughter. The new one wants to be so neighborhood-friendly they've even sealed the big stained-glass window behind the stage for noise-proofing.

In a tour of the place last week, creative director David Ashenexplained that he and designer Sam O'Donahue "tried to create a clarity between old and new. It's based on five experiences—discovery, escape, seduction, energy, and fantasy." (I never knew those were five different things!) They've studded the place with lots of expressive ideas involving hydraulic lights, fiber optics, and wood paneling, so you can discover your escape in one part, only to seduce the energy of your fantasy in another. The DJ booth—which will be sometimes manned by the likes of Calderone, Tenaglia, and Oakenfold—is practically an apartment. And there are three "floating" VIP rooms jutting over the downstairs dancefloor, each one replete with mirrored windows, a bathroom, and a private butler. That's myfantasy! So take that with you, you bitches.


musto@villagevoice.com

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