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The Writers Guild Awards at the Pierre went on for about four hours, proving beyond a doubt that they weren't the Editors Guild Awards. The ceremony was a heady mix of film clips, literary descriptions of the trophy ("frozen labia in flight," decided one winner), and an original screenplay award surprisingly given to Bowling for Columbine. (Wait, aren't documentaries mostly ad-libbed?) But mostly there was Bush bashing, with presenter Marcia Gay Harden declaring, "I'm a Texan and I can't stand him," and emcee Al Franken calling the war in Iraq "Operation Finish Desert Storm—or Operation We Wouldn't Have to Do This If Poppy Hadn't Fucked Up." After the ceremony, I—fully bearded by now—asked honoree Nora Ephron if at least the war will be good for comedy. "Bush does seem like he's right out of Saturday Night Live," she said, "but I don't think it'll be very funny!"

Gaga gun talk also dominated the Gabriel's lunch for the "Rendez-Vous With French Cinema" fest, which was filled with "frogs" who've lately been even less generously designated "weasels." They seemed absolutely human to me. America-loving screen goddess Anouk Aimée told me of the U.S.-France rift, "It's like in school. 'She's not nice. She wouldn't come to my birthday.' I would hope our friendship is deeper than that." At my table, the legendary Jeanne Moreau had come to my proverbial birthday, but she'd tasted the fish and decided, "It's a little sugary. It needs some salt." It turns out the woman doesn't sugarcoat anything. How does she feel about the current political situation? "I'm really in pain," Moreau announced dramatically. "I have a lot of grief. It's a fucking awful, ugly event."

Alas, the really ugly event came later, when Moreau was talking about Marguerite Duras—whom she plays in Cet Amour-là—and I interjected, "Was her lover a lot younger than she was?" Moreau suddenly became a salted fish. "I will stop now," she said, fuming. "This is going to be sheet what you are writing. I'm talking about a book Duras wrote, not the one the lover wrote, which the movie is based on!" But I was just . . . oh fuck it. I turned my back on the ex-soubrette in shame, wondering if I should put my frozen labia in flight, but just seconds later, she valiantly tried to make amends. "All right, let's start again from the beginning," she purred. As a peace offering, she told me about a French notable who once sent her orchids. "A fellow actor told me, 'He's really sending you his balls,' " said Moreau. Honey, the woman doesn't need them.

The next day, at a promo event for Broadway's Enchanted April, I caught up with the American Moreau, Elizabeth Ashley—she has big orchids—who sang the romantic comedy's praises in her own brilliantly salty way. "There are feel-good shows that make you feel like a moron," the diva said in that fab rasp. "This is not one. It's life-affirming, but it's not all treacle. I don't give good treacle. And don't we think it's time I played my own age? I just finished The Little Foxes, where I had to try to suck up and shave 20 years. My rib cage can't take it anymore! When I did Sweet Bird of Youth, I swore it would be the last time this old, wrecked-up body would wallow around in a slip onstage." (Hopefully, offstage is another story.)

But are there parts that suit older babes' body parts? "Unless they've been sawed, sucked, and sewn and become those mutant people," Ashley said, "women on the dark side of 50 either play a grotesque monster or someone pathetically addle-brained. At a certain point you've fucked everything, and done everything, and maybe those white, straight males that own the world are afraid that if older women are treated with credibility, they'll spill the beans on them. But we have a lot more sympathy for them than they ever could conceive of!" As both a white man and an older woman, I'm really glad to hear that.

I met a younger woman—Spun's Mena Suvari—at the drug romp's Lot 61 premiere party, and told her that she's the new Madeleine Sherwood, referring to an obscure but fabulous star of cinema and The Flying Nun. Suvari understandably looked blank—she's on the bright side of 25—and said, "I'm the worst! I don't know any movies!" No time, dear? "No, that's not it. I just haven't wanted to." Shocking—but at least the girl makes a lot of movies, lately seeming to go off on a fun prostie/druggie jag. "But I didn't do drugs in Sonny," she corrected. True, she was a completely sober whore. Still, Suvari conceded, "I am attracted to dark, twisted, interesting flicks," and we finally found our common ground.

Lightly twisted and beautifully uplifting, HBO's Normal had a premiere after which everyone wondered, "If your husband got it lopped off, would you stay with him?" "No way," was the truly correct answer. "I'd stay with her." But comic Mario Cantone had his own take: "I'd say, 'Sorry, you have to go. I'm not a lesbian and you look horrible in that dress!' "

A little too normal, Tea at Five is another of those solo shows about a legend (Kate Hepburn) who's waiting for a critical phone call, but in the meantime, will gladly tell you a Cliffs Notes version of her life story. Still, Kate Mulgrew shines as the older Kate—against all odds, she makes the calla lilies bloom again.

But back to big orchids, a producer named Maury O'Rourk just played me a copy of an '89 recording he found by Robert Blake's murdered wife Bonny Lee Bakley, who gave very good treacle. The record turns out to be just the kind of poignantly kitschy celeb-worship collectible you'd expect from the woman who owned a photo of her face superimposed next to Elvis Presley's. The rap tune—"A Tribute to Elvis"—has a cheesy sounding synth and drum machine backing Bakley's effusive utterances like "Some people say it's hard for them to understand/I want to be in heaven's rockin' band/Bill Haley and Buddy Holly too/We sing our song for all of you." Sadly, she made it to the band before her time.

Moving on to real singers: So Madonna's writing a bunch of children's books? My guess is they'll be titled See Spot's Sore Run, Horton Hears a 'Ho, and Fun With Dick and . . . never mind. In younger hooch news, the Hilton sisters should take a quick break from table-dancing and realize they've truly arrived; I know for a fact that E! is producing a True Hollywood Story about them. Meanwhile, Adrien Brody has also made it big time. The guy's so secure, he's the first straight man to ever bring his mother to awards shows!

Also nervily, Saddam is reportedly a shareholder in Elle magazine. That's all the proof I need—let's definitely get the bastard. And speaking of dictators, I caught a chunk of The Savage Nation, the MSNBC show starring shock jock Mike Savage, who fields calls while dressed like a '70s gay leather clone. The guy talks over his callers, quotes psalms from his Post-It-laden Bible, and rails at "mutilingualists" for watering down the language. He's sheet.


musto@villagevoice.com

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