By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Stop the presses, stop the presidential campaign, stop everything. I have to tell you about the most fabulously rotten singer of all timeworse than that '60s screecher, Mrs. Miller, and even more godawful than the '70s Solo Cup hag, Dora Hall, if not as bad as ENRIQUE IGLESIAS. She's WING, a Hong Kong-to-New Zealand émigré who mangles classicsongs to the delight of camp lovers and hearing-impaired beings everywhere. The wacky, high-pitched warbler is the worst thing to happen to New Zealand since the boring Oscars telecast. Impossibly enough, the woman has recorded six albumsonly in New Zealand, kidsand if you don't believe me, visit wingmusic .co.nz/listen.html, and sample her awkward, shrill renditions of tunes you used to love, from Carpenters hits and Sound of Music standards to MARIAH CAREY's "Vision of Love" (which Wing interestingly makes "Wision of Love" and bizarrely makes atonal). As Wing herself says, "I do performances in rest homes and hospitals. I hope you have all found I am improving." Well, she ain'tand if she ever does, I'll be furious!
Terrified I'll end up in a rest home in New Zealand, I've been accepting any other comp-travel offers, which is how I wound up in Bal Harbour, the Miami Beach boutiques-and-boutique-hotel-laden area that's a wision of love for the aggressively designer-label-wearing. I went for "Destination: Fashion," the Bal Harbour shops' benefit for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, many of whose attendees, ironically enough, had voluntarily paralyzed their facial muscles with Botox. But there was enough glittery gorgeousness on display to offset the lack of wrinkles, along with celebs like TOMMY LEE JONES and Christian rocker SCOTT STAPP (from CREED), both of whom looked flawless as they ran breathlessly from my notepad.
But getting back to paralysis, it was a scene right out of Ab Fab as host GLORIA ESTEFAN, who was once in a tour bus accident, appeared on a giant video screen to address the cause du jour by singing, "Get on your feet. Get up and make it happen!" Everyone stayed seated as Gloria suddenly loomed before us in person, saying the charity "is very close to my heartand my back." Before you knew it, a RALPH LAUREN fashion show was unfurling on the runway, and behind my back, a paralyzing reporter was barking into her phone, "No color. No accessories. Timeless. French resort seaside." Thanks. Timeless. Now hush.
I was seatless at the "couture" after-dinner in Neiman Marcus, so I gamely scared up hors d'oeuvres on the lower level, where Caucasian models with slanty-eye makeup stood in Flower Drum Song-type tableaux and, on display by the exit, two immobile flamingos and a baby alligator with his mouth taped shut proved that even wildlife doesn't need fur to be fashionable.
Afterward, mouths were open at Jade, a sprawling South Beach club complete with Ocean Drive magazine's ERIC NEWILL attracting a small crowd by the bar with an impromptu performance piece as a crazed Amtrak announcer. The next day, Angus burgers at the Tides Hotel provided protein and people-watching, and so did that night's effusive Wolfsonian museum Prohibition-style gala, which had boas up the wazoo and PETER DUCHINdaringly dipping into Beatles tunes when his '20s repertoire ran out. (I was too busy ingesting "floating islands" to be that mad.)
The trip's only downside: Parts of Washington Avenue have gotten so raunchy that I was the butt of an "I'll mess you up, faggot" and Paper's MICKEY BOARDMAN got even worse epithets, one about his sequined outfit. ("Nice shirt, sugar-plum.") At least flying JetBlue was a gay-friendly experience. In fact, as I exited the bathroom, one of the male flight attendants exclaimed, "Speaking of gay pride . . . "
I positively brim with Italian American pride too, but that didn't stop me from picking up press tickets in advance for the Radio City Music Hall Sopranos event, then waiting on line for 30 minutes for the after-party. No wonder people turn to organized crime. But I adore HBOeven if its casting people once called to check my availability for a Sex and the City cameo, then booked ISAAC MIZRAHI insteadand I loved the Sopranos characters alternately seducing and ratting each other out, while tossing around observations like "At least Judas didn't go into any apostle protection program!"
By the antipasto tables, I asked MICHAEL IMPERIOLI how the show's changed his life, and before he could answer, he was interrupted by a stampede of fans and well-wishers. "That's how it's changed my life," he said, beaming. His views on gay marriage? "That's a no-brainer," said Imperioli. "If people love each other, they should be able to get married." And so should LIZA and DAVID, and BRITNEY and JASON, and even DREW BARRYMORE and TOM GREEN.
The Oscars must be made illegal, though! Sopranos attendee RICHARD BELZER agreed, telling me that this time, "there was an invisible, gelatinous, repressive air to it all. The scariest kind of censorship is self-censorshipthe intimidation that's happening under the established order that we live in." (Truewhen Hollywood's three baddest boys are fresh-scrubbed and sitting there panting for the gold, something smells funny.) But Belzer has a theory behind the telecast's sheer awfulness. "Every year," he said, "the movie industry takes over TV for one night and makes the most boring fucking show so everyone will go out to see a movie!"