NY Mirror

The world is finally starting to catch up with manic funnyman Mario Cantone, and it was worth the gay wait. Kooky Cantone will be in the upcoming roundabout revival of Sondheim's Assassins (playing the guy who tried to hijack a plane and kill Nixon), and festively enough, it'll be done at Studio 54! And he currently co-stars in Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour, and no, not in the role Jasmine Guy vacated. Says Cantone, "I'm the eccentric, persnickety assistant of a new publisher [played by Robert Sean Leonard]. I think I'm secretly in love with him, but it's 1919!" Please—I was out back then.

The Cantone-Greenberg collision started when the ex-Yalemates ran into each other on the street and the playwright (Take Me Out) flattered the comic actor, no doubt in floridly beautiful English. "Write me a play!" Cantone shrieked, so the big queen did—and Twilight Zone-ily enough, it involves a nutty printing machine that spews out books from the future. "It's all about wanting to know what's going to happen," said Cantone, "then all of a sudden you do know and it really fucks you up." Worst of all for his character, "There's nothing in the books about him!"

Of course Cantone's own future is set in gay stone and might even involve a sitcom; Imagine TV loves his idea of playing twins, one straight, one not. ("I can butch it up with the best of them," he swears. "Believe me, I can do it.") Alas, the show's technical requirements have made it a limited sell, but whether it flies or not, Cantone inspiringly exclaims, "I've gotten this far without a sitcom and I'm fine!" (You hear that, Alicia Silverstone?)

"I've gotten this far without a sitcom": Mario Cantone takes Times Square.
photo: Richard Mitchell
"I've gotten this far without a sitcom": Mario Cantone takes Times Square.

And he'll always have his Liza Minnelli impressions, especially now that he's been impersonating her as Wigstock the bird, tousling his hair and slurring, "Where's Shhhnoopy?" "David Gest is such a pussy!" Cantone told me as himself. "His m.o. was to marry rich women. She's not a rich woman! And how is she hitting him? She's so fragile, she shakes. I don't think she's as large as Kobe Bryant!" (Well, I wouldn't want to be chased by either of them in a dark alley. By the way, Liz Smith just reported that Gest is now palling around with Chandi Heffner, prompting an insider to tell me, "If he thinks he's gonna hustle her, watch out. She's the original hustle queen.")

In other legit news, Liza's mama would have gotten a buzz out of Wicked, which invents a Wizard of Oz backstory in a way that's very Into the Woods meets Dance of the Vampires via Dr. Phil. "Who cares how the evil witch got that way? Let's just see her being a bitch," was my initial response, but the resulting tale of scapegoating and role-playing—a/k/a The Oy From Oz—has some rewards, even though it's a weirdly uneven mix of psychological insight and campy in-jokes. The big mess's chief assets are pert Kristin Chenoweth (who enters on a big upside-down tennis racket and proceeds to channel Legally Blonde) and phosphorescent Idina Menzel (who redefines "Somewhere That's Green" and broods beautifully). Friends of Dorothy will love them.

Meanwhile, judging from what I saw at a group-sales preview last week, the upcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber-produced Bollywood musical Bombay Dreams looks like Song of India meets an extended theme number from a Cher concert, which is totally fabulous with me. Between highlights, the show's co-scripter Thomas Meehan admitted, "I know one Hindi word—tandoori." And the lyricist, Don Black, quipped, "You have to admire Andrew. If you don't, you're fired!"

Hollywood dreams live with Die Mommie Die!, in which Charles Busch is dryly amusing as a shady chantoozy with dark eyebrows and a darker past. (Sidebar: A playwright I've never heard of is suing Busch for allegedly ripping off his idea, but I don't cover that kind of negative news.) In another Busch-to-big-screen development, the dramateuse tells me that Barbra Streisand was briefly interested in starring in a movie version of his Tale of the Allergist's Wife, "but then she said, 'If I return to the screen, it has to be in a role of importance'!" Die, Barbra, die? No, Busch is philosophical about the whole thing, and says, "I guess a ménage à trois of middle-aged Jews is not high on anyone's must-see list." A ménage à trannie, however, has made it to Broadway in Taboo, with Busch's stamp on it; he rewrote the (still evolving) script, but whether he can help rewrite all the bad press is another thing.

But enough with bringing '80s club life back via the stage; let's revive it in an actual club. That's partly the aim of the imminent Crobar—a huge, amazing space on West 28th Street, which hopes to tap into old-style creative spirit, but in an aggressively contempo way. The joint will be a mass of "organic spaces," exposed brick, four DJs, and merch-for-sale. (But the merchandise will be artful, I'm told, and even the coat check will have some sort of installation to gape at.) "We want it to be a scene, not just a money scene," club-kid-turned-idea-guy Michael Tronn said on a hard-hat tour last week. And so, at the entrance will be a DNA wall of monitors ("very conceptual, not cheesy," assured Tronn) and inside, there's a giant dancefloor, an apartment-like side room, and another special area that's very "Barbarella meets ski lodge." And good news for waxed straight guys: There's no gay night per se, but there'll be metrosexual ones!

To relive the horror of the '80s, there's that upcoming TV movie that has Ronald Reagan denouncing AIDS sufferers and saying, "Those who live in sin, die in sin." But seeing as he never really said that, I agree with the protesters that this movie is absurdly shoddy and irresponsible and doesn't give Reagan his due! What he actually said was, "So, a bunch of fags and drug addicts have gotten themselves some sick, twisted, terminal disease? Well, let 'em drop! I'm not even gonna go near that subject or even mention the friggin' thing for years!" All right? Give the man his proper respect!

Returning drag diva Mona Foot made controversial AIDS remarks as the host of the live gay game show "Faggot Feud" at xl last week. Mona got booed when she said that from certain angles, Maria Shriver's look is almost AIDS-y. The place almost went haywire, but Mona quickly saved her ebony ass, regretted nothing, and continued to sparkle (as my team continued to lose).

Non-controversially enough, Madonna returns to the small screen in a role of importance, almost kissing Britney again at the end of that "Me Against the Music" video, then mercifully disappearing faster than Swept Away. Otherwise, her most scandalous moment has her putting a cane between her legs and singing, "Hey Britney . . . come over here, I got something to show ya." (As if Brit hasn't seen that snatch before.) Between this and Die Another Day, Madge is now delightfully typed as a leering lesbian dominatrix for life!

Finally, I got something to show ya—the gay mag Metrosource's feature on 50 people they love, from straight to ambiguous (Queen Latifah, Martina Navratilova look-alike Clay Aiken) to "openly gay news anchor" Anderson Cooper. He is? I guess now he is. Now where's Shhhnoopy?


musto@villagevoice.com

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