NY Mirror

Swiss Miss Susanne Bartsch really turned it out for her effusive Halloween bash at the Maritime Hotel, which climaxed in a topless costume contest won by Gisele Extravaganza as creepy, blue Mystique from X-Men. There was bottomless action too. Around 3:30 a.m., the endlessly accommodating Bartsch cooed, "Miss Musto, come here," so I obediently crawled over and found that she wanted me to check out a guy in glitter makeup and angel wings, his giant schlong hanging like an arrow. "Touch it! I'll close my eyes," the gent generously invited, legs akimbo. Naturally, I scampered away in horror—I'm a lady—only to find writer George Wayne taking the stud up on it, with a grateful grin. I hope the guy never opened his eyes.

Angels and private parts still hovered when HBO premiered its version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America—a sweeping, allegorical ride through Reagan-era AIDS denial, and well worth the long sit. Amazingly, Al Pacino—in the potentially scenery-chewing role of slimy Roy Cohn—is subtle and almost seductive, director Mike Nichols no doubt having lorded over him with a stun gun. Also amazingly, at the Cipriani after-party, Pacino wouldn't even give me a "hoo ha" because his PMK flacks apparently dislike any press they can't control. (Who knew that the upshot of 20 years of AIDS would be that a gay journalist who rolled around in the streets for ACT UP and writes for Poz would get dissed at a fancy-buffet bash by an Oscar winner pretending to be sick in a movie? Actually three Oscar winners; Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson were off-limits too.)

But Justin Kirk, who plays the pivotal role of abandoned PWA Prior Walter, was willing—and charming—when I asked him if taking on such a legendary part was daunting. "It was fucking daunting," Kirk admitted. "It was a daily struggle, and I never got over it till the last day of shooting. But now I just show up, people come up to me, I drink, and it's all good!" He even got a congratulatory message from the original Prior Walter, Stephen Spinella. But when I made the inevitable leap from Angels to CBS's scuttled Reagan TV movie, Kirk balked, "I don't like to talk politics. The more you identify yourself, the more you become a person people know, and you don't get as many jobs. That's all I care about—getting more jobs!" Still, after a few more cocktail sips, Kirk did say, "It's becoming more and more the red states versus the blue states. I live in California and I'm upset I didn't vote for Gallagher. This is how smart the people of California are: A guy named Schwartzman finished seventh! He insisted it was because of his heavy campaigning." (Please—it was because his name is so similar to Gallagher's.)

Looming nearby, the Food Network's Bobby Rivers spotted Kirk and murmured, "Wasn't he in Love! Valour! Compassion!? I recognized the dick." (Touch it! I'll close my eyes.) I also recognized author Kushner, who seemed thrilled that, after he spent years trying to drastically reinvent Angels for the screen, it got there so faithfully. But what about that Reagan thingy? Well, Kushner said, if CBS dumped it to cable because of the HIV-remark controversy, "shame on them, because the man behaved abominably and there's no way to erase that. His administration was barbarically callous to people with AIDS." (Sidebar: Reagan daughter Patti Davis, who's now ecstatic that the "idiotic" movie was pulled, once wrote a book about the hideous cruelty that plagued her unhealthy family. Furthermore, Ronnie also said, "Liars get cancer." No wait, that was Rosie O'Donnell.) On a lighter note, is Caroline, or Change—Kushner's new musical, written with Jeanine Tesori—basically Thoroughly Modern Millie with AIDS? "No, it has nothing to do with AIDS or flappers," he said, laughing. I'll go see it anyway.

And so much else too. The over-the-top revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has characters running around a shuttered bedroom, yelling "mendacity!" "sodomy!" "poontang!" and "spastic colons!" (if not "love! valour! compassion!"). Still, I enjoyed Ashley Judd's frustrated shrew and loved Margo Martindale's Big Mama, who's like a drag queen out of Greater Tuna, but with suitable pathos. Not so great, as you've heard, was Mayor Bloomberg, who misquoted Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire to the opening night crowd of theater fanatics. Maybe he is straight.

Another three-hour throwback, The Caretaker, has a self-conscious opaqueness that seems fucking daunting to the three straining actors, until Patrick Stewart's feisty old codger rallies and gives us (Pinteresque) pause. But if you prefer the Felicity guy to the Star Trek man, The Violet Hour is the fascinating misfire for you. The play's about a printer that cranks out journalism from the future, and in a weirdly parallel twist, the Newsday review of the play was readable online a day early! But I couldn't have predicted that at the opening-night party at Supper Club, scene stealer Mario Cantone would be admiring Patricia Clarkson's figure and she'd be complimenting his nice ass. "I run," Catone explained, "so I can drink!"

That tall drink of running water, Carol Channing, inaugurated the Village Theatre's Singular Sensationsseries, which consists of a diva Q&A with occasional musical outbursts. (By the way, if you're under 75, please skip ahead to the next graph.) An iron-willed trouper who won't stop bejeweling us with wide-eyed showstoppers, Carol was a delight and even danced with her feisty new husband for an encore. At the after-party at Lips, I told Carol that since she wrote in her memoirs that she's part African American, wasn't it she—and not Pearl Bailey—who was the first black Dolly? Carol grinned and said, "No! I'd like to say I was black, but I'm not." (Hmm, maybe the cutie didn't read her own book.) I awkwardly changed the subject to Skidoo, the insane '68 movie she made about gangsters on LSD and a real ski-don't. What did she remember about it? "Not much!" Carol said emphatically and tottered off, but not until cooing, "It was an honor to be interviewed by The Village Voice!"

But, like, back to current-event TV movies. Whose fascinating idea was it to cast the gay pedophile from Happiness as Elizabeth Smart's father? In movieland, a less controversial brainstorm was having the eternally dignified Walter Cronkite speak at the Master and Commander premiere. But Cronky's remarks about the late Patrick O'Brian (whose novels the flick's based on) were so gleefully honest, they almost had people mutinying. Cronkite said the guy was "dour," deeply critical, and intensely demanding, though he did add that after a few drinkie-poos, O'Brian loosened up and was terrif. Apparently the same goes for everyone in this column.

But one movie that made me tenser than a Pacino flack at an AIDS premiere was Love Actually, a mushy puff pastry that makes you want to run through a wedding chapel with a meat cleaver. The movie encompasses every imaginable kind of love—interracial, intergenerational, even romance between children—but not anything remotely gay and hardly anything that isn't pantingly looksist (a model-like love object's fat sister is studiously made fun of). Worse, it starts with an exploitative reference to 9-11 and climaxes with a character being heroized for running past airport security in the name of l'amour. This, after I practically had to submit to an anal probe just to get into the screening. Mendacity! Sodomy! Poontang! Spastic colons!


musto@villagevoice.com

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