NY Mirror

A couple of Hamms, PAUL AND MORGAN HAMM, were scheduled to do a pommel horse presentation at Chelsea Piers, so I was there in the club Lotus position, holding a fizzy cocktail and some hors d'oeuvres on the front mat. As you know, Paul is the one who won the gold medal but he didn't but he kept it but he deserved it but the other guy maybe was better. Morgan is his twin brother, who won a silver medal and got no argument about it whatsoever.

Their event turned out to be a promo stunt for their "2004 Rock & Roll Gymnastics Championships Tour," done before a gaggle of scarily athletic day-camp seven-year-olds. "Raise your hand if you watched the Olympics on TV," said the kids' grown-up leader in one of those soothing voices that make me crazy. Hands shot up like legs on a parallel bar. (Does no one watch cartoons anymore?) "Well, Chelsea Piers has brought you the best two guys from the Olympics. They look the same and they made the whole country proud!" Unprompted, the overwhelmingly white assemblage of tykes started chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and suddenly this had become some kind of master-race rally for the prematurely double-jointed.

"Paul won the gold medal because he never gave up," continued the grown-up leader, calmingly. And not because the judges made a boo-boo, OK? The brothers then got to answer the kiddies' questions about their dedication to the game and to each other, Paul cutely sounding like he'd ingested helium. After their inspiring live-your-dream remarks, the grown-up said, "Morgan and Paul have to go get famous now. Everybody's gonna sit here like good campers when they leave." Well, not me! I was livid that they never did the pommel horse thing and started screaming for my mommy. Security promptly calmed me down with large syringes.

The Olympic-style events kept coming, like the MTV Video Music Awards, which were a weird mix of illiterate depravity exhibitions and preachy exhortations to be a better American. SEAN COMBS is probably not the right person to lecture me on how to be a good citizen and vote, and even the KERRY GIRLS probably shouldn't be made to spout such over-earnest material. (When the brunette one made a shushing gesture and said, "This is very important!" it made the booers want to yell, "Shove it!")

By the time JOHN MELLENCAMP told the audience to pull the lever, you wanted to push the remote button. Thankfully, CHRISTINA AGUILERA and ALICIA KEYS saved the show; they've emerged as beyond-the-stratosphere goddesses, oozing full-throttle charisma, talent, and accessories. You even forgave Keys for speaking and making up the word "ethnesticity," especially since the same telecast featured Combs's immortal "there's nothing hottier," MASE's "yoof," and every, like, wow, amazing thing ASHLEE SIMPSON said. At least her sister's supposed to be a ding-dong, right? (Oh, speaking of scary siblings, MARY-KATE OLSEN looked positively obese!)


AND THE WIENER IS . . .

The ultimate awards show, the Republican convention, was an eerily seductive propaganda parade whose speakers insisted that the Repub agenda is needed now because we are in a time of war and danger. Alas, they neglected to add that the Republicans started the war! These girlie men and women are so compulsively aggressive, they've even pulverized their own faces. LAURA BUSH's eyes are practically on her forehead, and we're supposed to believe her about what this country needs? (And was MARY CHENEY tied up in the audience when the rest of her clan converged onstage? I thought Dad was so proud of her.)

As for the danger thing, the Repubs have been masterful at manipulating post-9-11 fears and keeping the terrorist alerts ringing, sometimes based on info older than DUBYA's hazing rituals. The convention played 9-11 like a charm, trotting out the weepy widows and arguing that the nation owes it to the victims of that tragic day to vote for Bush. (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!) Of course the flip side of that argument would be, "Excuse me, but 9-11 happened partly because Bush's administration didn't pay close enough attention to warnings, and ever since, he's been using it as an excuse to engage us in unjusti-fied bloodshed amid hollow-sounding rantings about freedom and peace. How dare he and his band of elitist oppressors traipse into our town to promote themselves by exploiting our horror? Bush owes it to the victims of 9-11 to step down."

But—I'm just guessing here—he won't. Between the fear-baiting, the KERRY smears, Kerry's flip-flops (he's only the lesser of two evils, I know), and NADER's existence, Dubya might even pull off another lose-the-popular-vote-but-win-the-electoral-thanks-to-Florida stunt. I hate to sound like John Mellencamp, but that's why it's urgent that you vote—for Kerry! (It bugs me when celebs just say, "Please vote," when they really mean, "Please vote for my candidate.")


BEAVIS AND BUSH-HEAD

Oh, kill me one more time, but I thought the Bush girls' stand-up routine was a riot—they were cute and amusing and at least they never shushed the crowd. Less advantageous for the Repub agenda was STEPHEN BALDWIN going on TV and praising the fact that Dubya is avidly into God, "eck-cetera, eck-cetera." I swear, this yoof today!

But all ideological differences dissolved when the Blank Rome legal firm threw an RNC bash at the Chrysler Building, complete with a sumptuous buffet of the kind only non-Monopoly money can buy. "What's Iraq?" I said, gleefully stuffing my puss with lobster tails. There was even a kosher table, where I spotted commentator MARTIN LEWIS chowing down without partisanship. "I thought Republicans hate Jews!" I remarked, agog at the culinary consideration. "Judging from the flat taste of this hot dog," Lewis replied, "they do."

That crowd sported black suits for men and immobile hair and shoulder pads for women, but the next night at Cipriani, everyone was in cowboy hats for a JOHN MCCAIN comedy tribute and some bottomless shrimp casseroles. McCain didn't do a pommel horse demonstration, but he did gamely massacre "New York, New York" with JOE PISCOPO and he even sat onstage while Piscopo serenaded him with his satirical version of "My Way" ("And now, we're in New York to ratify the nomination . . . ").

My own stunt had been emptying my pockets before going through the bash's metal detector, only to have security find a sardonic "Chicken Hawks for Bush" button I'd just gotten at Air America. I'm still living it down, eck-cetera, eck-cetera.


Litter Box

Blind vengeance

What director was supposedly obsessed with and dating the underage star of his big movie? What divorced couple makes sure to schedule their festival appearances so they don't run into each other? (It's not that they're out of love—they were never in love—it's just that one of 'em's mega-pissed about the way the money situation played out.) Who, say rumormongers, actually got jobs for several males he put on the payroll, including at least one underager, who—to make things even less savory—was supposedly involved in some murder scheme? And whose wife is allegedly not that upset about the recent turn of events because she's been doing it for years with a state trooper anyway?

What televangelist who's always preaching about the sin of vanity looks like he just got a face-lift and hair transplants? What reality-show creator was so disliked by some cast members that they cruelly danced a proverbial jig when she died? What young soap star turned movie actor lured a hot straight guy into his bedroom to watch a video of the ex-soaper doing it with a girl and, mostly, a guy? (The straight guy didn't bite, as it were.) What jiggly talk show personality is a big drunk?


Web Extra

The aforementioned convention was such a horror, it sent Clinton reeling into the hospital, clutching his chest! Its message was that Bush is the king of keeping us safe and secure, but they couldn't even keep hecklers and screamers out of the freakin' arena! Now, that the whole mess is over, the Repubs who traipsed around our town with bad style and who didn't buy a thing except for some time with sex workers have vacated, and so have have the swarms of protestors, who also purchased zilch, but in their case because they're flat broke. And now, as we crawl through the wreckage, we have to listen to Mayor Bloomberg gurgling about what a financial boon the convention was to the city! Chalk it up alongside all the other lies, like "We didn't start the war in Iraq," "We've liberated 50 million people," and "Nixon was the greatest!"


musto@villagevoice.com

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