NY Mirror

There's no such thing as a free meal—you'll pay in some way—but it helps to know in advance which ones are more from hunger than others. "Family style"—named, no doubt after the donner family—means you desperately grab at the one emerging skewer an hour, then frantically try to devour it before your friends can see it. (That noted drag boite is big on this kind of fantasy feast. Zagat's, need a witness?) "Pass-along hors d'oeuvres" means that, unless you're a professional split end, you'll never be able to dive onto enough soggy spring rolls dipped in communal sauce to amass anything resembling sustenance. And "sit-down"? Well, that has you being trapped for a hellish eternity with people you normally run from, just so you can crow, "I got a free dinner!" (Five-dollar drive-throughs at Taco Bell are vastly underrated.)

But "buffet" usually signifies mountains of food, especially since you can return to the troughs over and over, each time pretending it's your first visit. So when a recent "four-course dinner" at a new Japanese restaurant turned out to actually be "buffet," I wasn't that upset, never guessing the result would be the biggest feeding fiasco since Titanic patrons didn't get dessert.

After a welcoming speech and a lengthy video about the backstory of sushi, the buffet was finally opened and the roomful of 150 sociopaths descended on it with tongues out. Alas, as we stood there, a couple of chefs then started hand-making snacks piece by piece, with all the urgency of Mac Warehouse customer service clerks! One of the guys was grilling eight little skewers at a rate that wouldn't even satisfy Lara Flynn Boyle on a light day, let alone swarms of ravenous schnorrers. It was a horrifying scene, but with some expert clawing, I managed to scare up a salad, some tragic tuna tartare, and a few (all right, 12) crispy asparagus kebabs, thereby avoiding the mass exodus to, yep, Taco Bell.

Would I do it again? Yes! This is what I do, folks, and I must bravely stay in the free-food front lines, for your sake. Besides, the restaurant nicely sent over an apology and a lovely ceramic bowl, and I'm filling it with cupcakes as we speak.

The party for Bertolucci's The Dreamers at Guastavino's had food, but alas, that unrealistically included two chefs custom-making a pasta dish for every single customer. "You want penne, fusilli, or ravioli, and with pesto, tomato, or veal sauce?" I was asked, after finally getting my turn. "Yes," I wanted to shriek. The movie certainly fed me—it's Jules and Jim meets Band of Outsiders via Les Enfants Terribles, with a hint of Truth or Dare, but totally original. The characters play games like "If you can't figure out what movie I'm imitating, you have to fuck my sister in front of me." After a while, they stop even trying to guess.

I told the film's adorably scruffy co-star Michael Pitt that I wanted the whole thing to be even dirtier. "A lot of Europeans say that," he exclaimed, eyes flaring. Well, why didn't he and the other guy do the deed, like in the book? "I showed up to shoot that scene, all nervous," he said. "It was in the script and it's what I'd signed to do. But they said we weren't going to do that." They should be needled with eight little skewers! Anyway, Pitt's parting revelation was très cute, considering he plays an avid cineaste. "I don't know what the French new wave is," he admitted. "I like some French movies, but I can't even pronounce the names of the directors." Honey, I can't even pronounce fusilli.

Can you pronounce Fernando Meirelles? Me neither, but when they announced a lunch for the City of God director at Amaranth, I was there, with plate outstretched. Midcourse the Oscar-nominated Meirelles (pronounced free food) told me he has "no chance" of beating Lord of the Rings's Peter Jackson for the award, "but I think my editor has a chance. His work is extraordinary. Rings has excellent editing, but it's a regular action movie." As I performed some regular action on the salmon, movieland staple Celia Weston told me she's acted with Michael Pitt—yes, this column has an arc—"and at first, you dismiss him as a stoner kid, but then you find out he has vulnerability and depth and has overcome incredible adversity." Like all those pasta choices.

I overcame the ultra-corporate Time Warner Center opening, which was dotted with both pass-alongs and buffet (but not enough), all in an Irwin Allen-esque setting that had Jon Stewart exclaiming, "I'm never going outside again!" Onstage, Jewel was singing the Britney-ish dance song she did last year to perk up her image, but she was doing it in a slow, acoustic version, immobile and fully clothed. I was so shocked, my nipples nearly popped out of my dress.

Speaking of which, Justin Timberlake's unveiling of Janet Jackson's bazoomba had all the smoldering sexuality of Ellen DeGeneres grabbing Tom Cruise's butt before the Golden Globes—or maybe of Justin fondling Kylie Minogue at a British awards show last year. Come on, whether intended or not, this incident didn't corrupt kids—they've seen breasts, especially when they've suckled on them, and they may have even seen fake ones. (This one was clearly made up of Jacko's old noses.) The stunt mainly irked grown-ups, who love to project their shame issues in the name of good taste. And what are we fighting for the sanctity of anyway—men rough-housing each other in the dirt to grab control of a pigskin ball (not even a pass-along hors d'oeuvre)? Still, it is weird that, thanks to the mass media, I now know every square inch of Janet's tit and her brother's penis.

By the way, trying to lighten up puritanical America on this subject has been even harder than getting people to fuck my sister. Me snarling "Even you have breasts perhaps" to a Family Research Council lady on TV didn't go over as delightfully as I'd hoped. Then New York magazine sardonically asked people what they'd book for next year's halftime show. I said Janet should unveil Justin's privates and Britney should run out and squeal, "I told you so." The remark was censored!

Meanwhile—if I can continue, unfettered—ballsy Rosie O'Donnell showing up at Martha Stewart's trial may have been a case of good gay/bad gay. Ms. Martha wants to put Baby in her place and paint Douglas Faneuil as a ditzy circuit queen, so she brings in the established mom and righteous soothsayer, right?. . . Over in the straight world, I recently got a promo e-mail from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, citing rousing endorsements from right-wing maniacs like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson and anti-Semites like Billy Graham. No wonder Mel's doing even more cutting than Bertolucci.

The Fog of War subject Robert McNamara has now made cutting remarks about how history is repeating itself with Iraq. "It's morally wrong, it's politically wrong, it's economically wrong," the ex-Vietnam War point man just told the Toronto Globe and Mail. Otherwise, he thinks it's swell! . . . I hear another former presidential accessory, Gennifer Flowers, felt sick and bolted BOOBS! The Musical(which then posted a closing notice). I guess these days, just one boob is more compelling . . . Moving on to another revue, there's no food, but a little dish at They Wrote That?, the reminiscence from songwriting married couple Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Weil says Bette Midler altered one of her lyrics—from "I love you" to "you love me"—"so it went from a tribute to love to a tribute to narcissism just by switching two lousy words." God! Go fuck myself! . . . BELCH!


Email: musto@villagevoice.com

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