NY Mirror

There are two kinds of people—the ones who want to be in Page Six, and complete liars. In fact, I'm mainly writing this because I want to be in Page Six, and you're probably reading this because the Page Six link is backed up from everyone else checking to see if they're in it. And we'll both keep devouring it, even when they say Ricky Martin has a new girlfriend!

So when Men's Health magazine threw Page Six pooh-bah Richard Johnson a 50th birthday party at Marquee the other week, all the boldface names (and me and probably you) crawled out of typeface and showed up to pay respects, while making sure their mentions stayed frequent and favorable. If the bash had been for this column, my own dazzling circle of stars would have been there—everyone from the singer who, on Christmas fucking day, mass-e-mailed a listing she'd gotten on a cable network's website to the off-off-awful "actress" who furiously faxes out releases detailing her own sightings and even auditions!

But for Johnson, you had shameless self-promoters who actually deserved the ink—the people who move, grease, lube, and light up New York. There were the pardoned and those who pardoned them, the fixed and those who fixed them, the creative and those who audited them, the tipsy and those who screwed them. There were no less colorful figures than Donald Trump, whom I worship now that he's hot again; the indomitable Harvey Weinstein, who was in a surprisingly sunny mood considering that everyone there was carrying a copy of Peter Biskind's book ("I like Page Six," he told me, "and I read the sports section too!"); Foreigner dude Mick Jones, who said, "Page Six ran a picture of me with an item about a Clash member. But Richard's an old friend—and I think he was on vacation at the time"; and Geraldo Rivera, who came with his young wife and announced, "Happy 50th, Richard—you're now almost three times older than she is!" For the icing on the birthday cake, superchef Rocco DiSpirito showed up to crack to a Times reporter, "For 50, Richard looks good. I'd do him!"

Taboo in Taiwan?: The "Prairie in My Heart" troupe celebrates Chinese New Year.
photo: NTDTV
Taboo in Taiwan?: The "Prairie in My Heart" troupe celebrates Chinese New Year.

Oh, while in Rome, I naturally had to talk to a model—Sports Illustrated coverlady Petra Nemcova—who air-kissed me three times and instructed, "Five times is the Swiss way. Sometimes you end up kissing all night!" No, honey, that's the swish way.

Covered in lipstick and suddenly addicted to chatting up mannequins, I made it to the Ford agency's Supermodel of the World contest (so did Richard Johnson), which was held at the New York Public Library, maybe in hopes that some of the babes might pick up a book between swivels. Looking like complete cowplop, I was extremely out of my element, especially since I was sitting near flawlessly dressed fashion workers of the type who tell each other, "Hi hi hi! I can't decide if I want to make the five-hour drive to Vermont this weekend for just two nights. I just got over my surgery for a twisted intestine. . . . Ari! You look fantastic!" (Not that I was listening, mind you.)

Twisting my gut to look thinner, I noticed that the judges for the contest were a stylist, a hairdresser, and even a couple of straight people. What's more, the emcee was Billy Bush, who, as his cousin was busy giving a State of the Union address, was using his own platform to declare, "The winner gets a modeling contract!" (Actually, I preferred Billy's comments to Dubya's. No one in the job once held by JFK and Clinton should be that sanctimonious about preserving "traditional marriage.") But it was all very painless, with funny moments like the Slovakian entrant just standing there and beaming after having been honored with "the Pantene award," finally having to be shooed off stage by security. But as she ran, her hair looked radiant!

But wait, stop the sashaying; stop everything. It's time for my postmortem on Taboo, the hair-product-laden extravaganza, which is supposedly closing on February 8 in a whirl of sequins and tears. Right off the bat, when the Boy George character is wearing a feathery headdress and calling Mom from a phone booth, I felt it looked like a still from Not Since Carrie, Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops. (It's a book, models—check it out.) But Taboo is still better than was ever admitted by those who used it as a repository for all their distaste for Rosie O'Donnell. (The more she picked up the tab, the more they yelled boo.) The show happens to have a uniquely vivid score and cast, and by the way, George can act, especially in the scene where he furiously tells off Big Sue. Best of all, it has the courage of its convictions. The simulated blowjob I'd seen at an open rehearsal went bye-bye, but even as a tuner without a hummer, Taboo reveled in "the swish way" and even forced Times Square tourists to look at a gigantic billboard of a drag queen and a urinal!

Alas, the show's tonally uneven and a structural mess, with almost no interaction between the two leads. Instead, supporting characters like Philip Sallon were overly beefed up, his gay-bashing incident and subsequent ballad grinding the show to a halt (though Raul Esparza is strong in the role). As a result, what could have been a smash Off-Broadway coming-out musical for young gays and fag hags is unfortunately now best known as a matinee lady's worst nightmare.

A dulcimer player's wet dream, New Tang Dynasty Television's two-day Chinese New Year gala at the Hammerstein Ballroom sounded so alluring that I was there faster than you can say "egg foo old." Unlike Taboo, the result was shocking in all of its gentle reserve. The New Year's celebrations I've known have always been filled with confetti-studded vomit and loud confessions in the night, but this one had a series of slickly produced numbers providing contemplative entertainment for a polite, lightly clapping audience. Of all the many-splendored treats, my faves were a Taiwanese college troupe's fluttery dance number to "The Prairie in My Heart" and a soprano's version of "Longing for China Proper," performed with Evita poses, smoke machine emissions, and slides of the Great Wall. Welcome to the year of the monkey—or spanking it, anyway.

Perhaps for folks longing for China poppers, I hear VH1 is doing a Totally Gay 2 special, and this time the topics might include Matt & Ben (the show), Brini Maxwell (ditto), Jonny McGovern ("the gay pimp"), and Cojo (the gay primp). In another nutty roundup, Vanity Fair just shot a group photo of Gotham nightlife impresarios past and present, from Ian Schrager and Rudolf Pieper to Amy Sacco and Erich Conrad. That's everyone who's ever given me a drink ticket—true legends!

Before I bellyache up to the bar, let me tell you that rubber-faced riot Jackie Hoffman, who stole Legally Blonde 2 in under 30 seconds, is doing The Kvetching Continues Mondays at Joe's Pub. About being in the long-running Hairspray, Jackie says, "You remember what happened to poor Roy Horn? I'm afraid Harvey Fierstein will drag me offstage that way someday."

Well, a street rat is dragging me off, so let me quickly ask: Does John Edwards seem a little gay to you? Um, er, not to me either. Now go back to Page Six!


musto@villagevoice.com

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