NY Mirror

Down under diva Toni Collette, exuding her usual Aussie moxie and some new Uma-ized hair, swept in for a Blue Fin lunch promoting the two-hankie romance Japanese Story. "I had done a long line of weepies and needed to stop," Toni remembered, looking scarily glam. "I needed to laugh again!" But after doing two comedies, Toni was ready to cry again—hence Japanese Story, which really gets her when she thinks about the scene where she jumps into a water hole so freezing they needed a "safety person" to make sure she didn't croak.

All defrosted, she's also upcoming in Connie and Carla—one of the comedies—in which she and Nia Vardalos play wacko friends who witness a murder and realize they can hide out by pretending to be drag queens. "It's sort of Some Like It Hot in reverse," she explained. "I'm probably more feminine as a man doing a woman than as myself." So am I!

To interject some man-woman gossip, I told Toni how Page Six reported that Lenny Kravitz is supposedly using Nicole Kidman to help his record sales. "I'm sure they're way up," she said, with a mild smirk. Toni's eyes kept rolling when I mentioned her own triumphant musical stint in Broadway's The Wild Party. "I thought it would be long lunches and hanging out in New York," she said. "But you're exhausted and have to constantly conserve your energy. Three songs are cut and you have to learn two new ones. Still, you're part of history!"

At this point, another reporter made dingbat history by crashing our table and asking, "So Toni, have you bought the new Kylie?" (The big connection is they're both Australian.) "No," she responded, calmly. "So were you lost in translation making Japanese Story?" he went on. "What was the strangest thing you experienced filming in Japan?" "But it's set in Australia," Toni replied, rankled, then laughingly added, "I think you're lost in translation."

Once he was banished (the safety person removed him), I brought up In America—which is set, I think, in Japan—and told Toni I resisted it at first. "I resisted it," she admitted. "The script seemed too messy and general." Samantha Morton got the part instead.

A big fan of anything in America, Shohreh Aghdashloo—who plays Ben Kingsley's angsty wife in House of Sand and Fog—was my next victim, one who doesn't know from mild smirks or rejecting scripts. At a House premiere party at the Maritime, the ebullient Iranian American told me she adored Kingsley, worshipped the strict moviemaking schedule ("Time really counts"), "and I love your paper, The Village Voice!" A longtime stage presence, she's every bit as cheery as the movie is intensely gloomy and histrionic. ("I miss my dad," wails Jennifer Connelly in one of the lighter moments.) "It's my first major movie that I dreamed for," Aghdashloo told me, virtually bursting out of her skin. "Everyone said, 'Stop dreaming.' I said, 'But dreams do come true in the U.S.' Ironically, it came from DreamWorks!"

From Fox, Stuck On You confirms this as the year of the conjoined twins (Big Fish has a pair too), thereby eclipsing all that annoying hoopla about little people and/or Tom Cruise. At the premiere, the big freak show was the lead starlet doing her red carpet turn, then having her handler gush, "You posed great! You did the front and the back. You were amazing!" Oy. Well, I thought she was too messy and general.

Clubwise, I've been conjoined to the West Twenties, where all the late-night action is happening these days—though some of it is a little too high-minded for my low self-esteem. I got an opening-night tour of Spirit, which used to be the pleasantly debauched Twilo but is now an enrichment mall for your holistic needs (instead of your hole-istic needs). "This is the restaurant, Soul," said a publicist, pointing out the organic food grazing on the upper level. "It looks down on Body, the dancefloor. And now come with me and I'll show you Mind." I'd always wanted to see that! It turned out to be a "wellness center" with "treatment rooms" where you can get your chakras read, body painted, and light journeyed—in other words, everything Shirley MacLaine was pushing 15 years ago. At this point, the owner—a sweet-faced Irish guy named Robert Wootton—joined us and told me all the club's security people wear white because "it's open. It's not dark, it's light." (Alas, since most of the guys are black, they look uncomfortably like butlers on a Swanee River showboat.) Wootton then took me to the DJ booth, where David Morales was in a dark mood, spinning out of his Mind. "I don't want anyone playing percussion during my set," Morales told Wootton, without wellness. Somebody hadn't been taking his chakra pills!

Exuding his own healthy sense of rage, Boy George gave a wacky electro performance at a Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi Valenti Stingray Sunday at the Coral Room, singing about his sexploits with a jaded yet whinily danceable charm. "I'm old and very wise," he told the crowd between numbers. "So if there are any young homosexuals who need advice, come to me and I'll finger your asshole." (Strangely, everyone stayed put.) In the same high tone, George sang "Electro Hetero," about a "two-hour stand" he had with a horse-hung guy named Roderick. "He said, 'You won't get me hard,' " related George. "I said, 'Give me five minutes,' and the rest is history." (Judging from the lyrics, George also gave him some money.) By the way, I had my own interesting encounter at the club that night when a punky young lady told me, "When I was a baby dyke, I gave you grief at the door at Meow Mix." How surprising she's now a backup singer for Pink.

Yet another West Twenties funfest was thwarted when my press invite for Crobar's opening night resulted in more door grief—namely a goon screaming that I should get at the end of a long line of other goons. For this shit heap? I don't think so, especially since the line was mainly there because I've been hyping the place. Finger my asshole!

Anyway, darlings, it was back to the movies for the new Lord of the Rings—the most spook-tacular epic ever made; don't miss the flaming-vagina climax, not to mention the burning looks between Frodo and Sam—where I sat near Daniel Tay, Will Ferrell's kid brother in Elf and a real hoot. As I listened in, Tay and his friend were giggling and talking about Ritalin! When an announcement was made asking people to turn off cell phones and cameras, Tay smirked and said, "I'm confused. No hablo inglés. No comprendo." And when the flick was over, he moaned, "Oh my God! Three hours and 20 minutes. Oh my God!" Maybe they can use that in the ads.

Don't use this, but a source swears Cameron Diaz will be surfing in Chile for a cable reality show. Meanwhile, I've been Web surfing and found that if you Google "miserable failure" and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky," you get the official White House bio of President George W. Bush! Yay—I needed to laugh again.


SPECIAL TO THE WEB: Remember the gay channel that MTV and Showtime were going to collaborate on, the one that's been more on-again, off-again than "Bennifer"? Well, thanks to all that Queer Eye hoopla, it's on again—for sure. Sources swear the channel's been green-lighted and its launch will probably coincide with next June's Gay Pride celebrations. I hear only MTV is involved now, not Showtime, and it'll be advertiser-supported, not the special-order pay channel that was originally planned. Whatever—just show me to my dressing room already.


musto@villagevoice.com

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