NY Mirror

REESE WITHERSPOON is on the cover of Vanity Fair for three reasons—she's a huge star, her people threatened to sue, and her new film is titled Vanity Fair. VINCENT GALLO must be kicking himself that it's not called Brown Bunny magazine. At the party for Vanity Fair the movie at Taj, director MIRA NAIR told me she stuck to the Thackeray source material, though naturally the flick's ending was all hers. (You know, where it turns out they all live in the present. Kidding.) And how about the shot of grand dame EILEEN ATKINS's bare ass? "She offered it to me!" exclaimed Nair. "She said, 'I'd like to offer you my ass.' " More specifically, Nair had asked for the butt shot (which happens as Atkins leaves the bathtub), but amenable Atkins made it possible to make it ultra-revealing in a ripe old sort of way. "It's a very good ass," said the director, laughing. "She's extraordinary!" And she may have a whole new career ahead.


WAUGH AND PIECE

People showing their heinies and being oh so wicked and debauched populate STEPHEN FREARS's Dirty Pretty Things—I mean STEPHEN FRY's Bright Young Things, an Evelyn Waugh adaptation that's another festive cautionary tale not set in the present. The film centers on a flighty gossip columnist who makes up items—don't look at me—and the irony was too delicious when Fry had to talk to positively scores of such people at the film's after-party at Soho House. Finally, the actor-director got around to my reputable self and told me that when he chats about the old-time social swirl with these jaunty journos, "everyone always has a Pavlovian response and up pops the word Hilton. But that's like saying Johann Sebastian Bach is like Hitler because they're both Germanic." (I bet PARIS HILTON never heard of either one of them.)

"Waugh thought he was living at the height of a facile, shallow celebrity culture," Fry went on. "But in the words of Al Jolson, he ain't seen nothin' yet. At least the bright young things of his era had flash and wit and when they had a party, it was because they wanted a party, not because Louis Vuitton arranged free alcohol in exchange for a nice piece in Vanity Fair." (He meant the magazine.) "Can you imagine the Hiltons having an idea of any surrealist wit or dash?" I could have if Louis Vuitton had arranged for some more alcohol.

Fry left me by saying he'd "sometimes like to be an ice hockey star and just grunt," but he realizes he must be wildly witty to promote the film "and swing one's handbag on a streetcorner and be a whore." Sounds good to me.


HUSTLE WITH MY MUSCLE

And that brings us to current-day debauchery—namely the Sunday gay parties on the Maritime Hotel terrace, where, when a twinkie-ish couple arrived last week, someone whispered to me, "Don't call the one on the left Joe. That's his hustler name and his boyfriend doesn't know he's a hustler. Call him Glenn." How about if I don't call him at all? But do call me to go to that event—it's been the summer's most idyllic bash, where, collapsing on a banquette, you're encased by both a luminous sky right out of a Vincente Minnelli movie and the looming hotel—once Covenant House—whose chic porthole windows look back at you as if to say, "Father Ritter doesn't live here anymore." Or does he? The crowd, at its best, is a Satyricon swirl of bright young things topped only by the waiters, who are increasingly shirtless and flirty as the night goes on. And co-host ERICH CONRAD provides the Auntie Mame-like string of commentary about how TINA TURNER's legs are overrated. As for me, boys, I'd like to offer you my ass!

Hustling for a smorgasbord of Supremes classics topped with some peach cobbler and Louis Vuitton soda, I went to CARLTON J. SMITH's Saturday Motown brunch at B.B. King's and never stopped gorging in the name of love. Smith is a powerhouse who serves up oldies, original tunes, guest stars, audience birthday celebrations, tributes to dead people, conga lines, and everything but cuddling on your lap (though I'm sure that can be arranged). He delivered—and so did the collard greens.

There was plenty of food for thought when RICHARD BARONE's The (Not So) Great American Songbook took over the Central Park SummerStage for a concert of kitsch classics you love to hate—though eerily enough, the roster of supposed stinkers included all my favorite songs. (Call me by my hustler name, Moron.) Of the many highlights, MARSHALL CRENSHAW added orgasmic yelps to "Afternoon Delight," and DEAN BOWMAN prefaced "Hello" by saying, "LIONEL RICHIE was a very important part of a very bad era in music. He's one of the pallbearers of the blues." (Funny, I thought he ushered them right in.)

And now, let's usher the Republican delegates into the approved Broadway musicals they're scheduled to see on the 29th. Alas for them, the supposedly conservative-ready choices include Fiddler on the Roof, which is about the way an old codger learns to accept a shockingly unconventional marriage, and Bombay Dreams, which has a "middle sex" drag character who slithers around emitting campy one-liners and putting the her back in heroic! The delegates might as well go totally gay and see I Am My Own Wife—and I bet they will, on the sly.

Oh, they should also head to New York Sports Clubs. I hear those places are running BUSH-CHENEY ads in their in-club video feeds, and as a result, all my gay friends are taking their abs and pole-vaulting out the door (though the clubs have no political position; the feed is from an outside provider, blah blah blah).

As for my own husband, Vincent Gallo, I was strangely not invited to his Brown Bunny premiere, even though I'm the one who might have liked it. I hear it was quite a spectacle afterward—two celeb attendees had woken back up, CHLOE SEVIGNY looked stricken (her parents had come), and Avenue columnist RICHARD TURLEY was saying, "Gallo should have put the movie where the sun don't shine, not at the Sunshine." But even ROGER EBERT will like the magazine version.


LITTER BOX


BAT OUT OF HELL

Dracula the Musical is notapproved for Republicans—there are wardrobe malfunctions—but Dems will avoid it too, since critics have announced it's pretty much the kind of show Bialystock and Bloom would have mounted. (Sample dialogue: "There's been a telegram from Budapest . . . ") On opening night, face-lifted folks sat frozen watching the leaden story about the search for eternal youth. Afterward, I asked composer FRANK WILDHORN if it was upsetting when star MELISSA ERRICO told New York magazine that she's brainy, which she adorably added is the opposite of what Wildhorn does. "Is that upsetting?" he responded. "She's in my show! She does an amazing job singing the songs I wrote from the heart!"

To stir up more trouble, I cornered ex–Thoroughly Modern Millie star SUTTON FOSTER, who's next playing Jo in a musical of Little Women, and said, "Isn't it weird that Jo starts out at 16 and you're actually, um, 17, tee hee?" "I'll have to regress a year," Foster laughed, further cementing this as the season of eternal youth. Jo versus Millie, please? "Millie wanted to find a husband," she obliged, "but Jo never does." Wait, is she a lesbian? "I didn't think so," said Foster, pensively. "I'll have to think about that. Maybe that'll be part of my research!" Already I like this Jo better than GOLANwhatshisname (you know, "McGreevey's a slimy, duplicitous closet case—and I'm not gay!"). MM


musto@villagevoice.com

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