NY Mirror

Atlantic City is fab again, but for God's sake don't go into the actual town. The streets teem with folks who are either junkies or diabetics with bad aim, and you're risking your life by hanging with them even more than if you gamble away your iron lung and DVD collection.

But on the boardwalk and around the casinos, the only hazard is that, as a result of all the sudden cash-flow tragedies, there are apparently more "jumpers" than at certain high-pressure universities. Otherwise, it's a trashy good time, with many hedonistic inducements to not just live, but live it up. The Borgata, in fact, is doing so well, it's taking business away from some of TRUMP's casinos, so I hear he's been offering free Mercedes service for select big spenders. (Maybe he should do an OPRAH and offer the actual car.)

As a too-cheap-to-gamble, too-scared-to-jump schnorrer, my favorite A.C. activities are the shows, the dinner buffets (which include a "hand-carved beef station"), and the breakfast buffets (which feature piles of early-morning fudge cake!). My tongue out, I was brought in by the Tropicana, which is sprucing up after a bad spell and is even opening an extension called the Quarter. (Speaking of which, can I borrow one to throw into the Betty Boop's Big Hit slot machine?) After a sirloin slab and a "three-carb dessert" at Wellington's steak house, I visited the Trop's high-rollers hangout, Diamond Jim's, a glassy nook that has appliqué-bloused people devouring masses of free burgers, once they've been approved by a spunky door-person named COOKIE, who wears "flair" on her vest and shows you pictures of her cat. Cookie? Love some!

All a-belch, I rolled into the big theater for impressionist STEPHEN SORRENTINO's Voices in My Head, which has Sorrentino vocally leaping from Jim Morrison to Flipper, backed by a big band and 10 scantily clad showgirls. The blue-haired ladies loved Sorrentino; he's gamely funny, from his Led Zeppelin song as delivered by JERRY LEWIS to his Sammy Davis Jr. tune "I Only Have Eye for You." In fact, he took my mind off the fact that my tummy had become a hand-carved beef station.

Backstage, Sorrentino—as himself—told me he played Maria Callous, the queen of the drag Mafia, in a '98 indie called Homo Heights. "For video," he said, "the title was changed to Happy Heights because Blockbuster wouldn't take it otherwise." Those homos!

Oh, by the way, I ventured into the town anyway and I not only survived, I ruled.


ROMANO CHEESE

Back in Gotham, there was more casino-esque entertainment when the hopefully named Everybody Loves Raymond had a DVD release party at Carmine's, where RAY ROMANO took the stage to serve up some gratitude, stand-up style. "Thanks everybody for coming—or not coming, BRAD GARRETT," he ba-dum-pummed. "He's cutting the ribbon at a Bed, Bath & Beyond." (Not at the new Home Depot—that's for gays. Trust me.) Romano then thanked the cast members who showed, including PETER BOYLE, but Boyle, I guess, hadn't heard; he stood up and pointed to himself as if to say, "What about me?" Everybody loves pathos.

Everybody loves J.LO, so we followed her to Coty's 100th anniversary bash at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the solar-system museum, which was suddenly filled with real stars. The OLSEN TWINS were there, cutely holding on to each other for dear life (or maybe deer life; they looked like mall versions of Bambi). And Lopez sat and talked to hubby MARC ANTHONY—not reporters—at length, which hints that there might be real chemistry there. (Most showbiz couples can't even fake mutual interest, even in public.)

In the crowd, I chatted up JOEL STEIN, the soundbite king who's on every channel, including ones about women, black people, and wildlife. "But the only places I'm famous are Las Vegas and Atlantic City," he insisted. (Maybe they should add him to the impressions show.) "I feel compelled to tell people, 'I don't get paid!' It's awful!" So why do we keep doing those kooky programs? "We have no better offers," he said, sagely.

Well, omnipresent playboy FABIEN BASABE apparently does. After swinging some chick around the dancefloor at the Coty bash and noticing that no one was noticing, he ended up dragging her to the predominantly gay party at the Maritime, where I surely took note.


PARIS WHEN SHE DRIZZLES

But back to the straight party on the tabletop: Someone on amazon.com said the PARIS HILTON memoir, Confessions of an Heiress, is "a waste of time and money and an assault on the intellect." They deserve the Nobel Prize for kindness. The book gives brain damage a bad name. It's like that old showbiz satire Little Me, but for real. I like Paris and wish they'd have just let her spout some real feelings; she's very savvy and could have come up with more interesting stuff, even just between gluing on hair extensions. But instead, the overly processed opus, padded out with lists and photos, offers special-school-level revelations like "I love yellow. I love blue. I love all colors" and "If I'm tired of my hair and I don't have a lot of time, I'll wear a hat. . . . Hats are cute." Yeah—in all colors. Worse are the obviously professionally written interjections—remarks like "Oh, the burdens of being an heiress!"—which add a cutesy self-reflexive wink of the type you'd never find in a Hilton.

Still, I did love the list of Paris's hottest men, which starts with "my boyfriend" (no name is given—they knew there'd be a new guy by the pub date). And I was pleased to read the statement "I never pee on the floor"—then realized that chapter is a diary by Paris's dog, Tinkerbell!

Yet more fashion folly came when style mavens tried to party on a rainy Rosh Hashanah night last week. Imitation of Christ's kabbalah-lovin' handlers even booked a sparse bash. And at Lot 61, Jack's designer daughter JENNIFER NICHOLSON tried to celebrate her birthday and confided to me, "I didn't know it was a Jewish holiday. Someone should have told me! How did you know?" "Someone told me," I responded.

Oh, the burdens of being a columnist!


Litter Box
Questions for the strong-stomached

What fabulous diva paces around her A.A. meetings playing with her handbag whenever other people are speaking, but when it's her turn, takes the stage to tell long-winded career tales, seemingly using the event as a performance workshop? What same legend is known to give her number to beginners in the group, who think they're gonna be helped by or become friends with the old broad, only to find out she merely wants them to do something like fix her roof? What cutie researched his gay role by playing around with his co-star and was amazed at how serious it got and how much he liked it?

What Mexican actor just disappointed me deeply? (Free answer: DIEGO LUNA, who told the Daily News about his gay scene in Y Tu Mamá También, "I still have nightmares about that." Why—because it made you a star?) Did you ever notice how much VICTORIA GOTTI looks like DONATELLA VERSACE? (Even more than the Hiltons resemble Nelson, right?)


Web Extra
Pushing the Envelope

By far the most memorable Emmy Awards speech was that of grand dame ELAINE STRITCH, who thanked one of her producers (but mispronounced his name and said she didn't like him much) and expressed unrepentant glee that the other four nominees lost! The opposite approach—i.e., patronizing and pandering—gave us the evening's most hideous moment when West Wing's normally delightful ALLISON JANNEY insisted that MARISKA HARGITAY, whom she'd just beaten, come join her onstage. Hargitay looked mortified as she crawled up there, only to be completely ignored by Janney and even the camera! (Maybe it wasn't so opposite after all.) No wonder the other three losers sat frozen as Janney begged them to drag their sad asses up there too.

An almost-as-awkward moment came when SARAH JESSICA PARKER won and had to give KIM CATTRALL the quickest, most unloving air kiss in history. And the show's biggest missed opportunity happened when BARBARA WALTERS presented a major trophy to Angels in America. Instead of just saying, "The Emmy goes to . . .," Babs should have announced, "By the way, I once dated this show's lead character—the self-loathing, AIDS-riddled, virulently evil denial queen Roy Cohn. Congrats, guys!"

By the way, before you take away my own gay Pulitzer, I'm well aware that Atlantic City's current labor problems make it less than completely fabulous. I sincerely hope the dispute is worked out soon, so we can prevent more "jumpers."


Web Extra

What about the media outing of CYNTHIA NIXON, so unabashedly carried out in both the Daily News and the Post? Some of the same columnists who are now either breaking that story or jumping on it used to crucify the likes of me and outing pioneer Michelangelo Signorile for routinely announcing the gay sexuality of celebrities. But years of whittling down at prejudices have made gayness more reportable, especially since the entertainment landscape now includes positive out gay images, making queers more visible and appealing to the masses. (Sex and the City itself, interestingly enough, helped contribute to that phenomenon.) A legal decision earlier this year also argued that it's not intrinsically libelous to say someone's gay, even if they're not!

On top of these developments, a lot of the show biz press have finally realized that (a) Saying someone's gay doesn't make them gay—you're just reporting it; (b) If you're gonna dig into "dirt" that these people don't want in print, leaving out homosexuality is hypocritical and biased; and (c) It's OK to be gay, so outing someone isn't a condemnation at all, it's just a fact!

Things have progressed so much that, far from the old-style furious outings of a more closeted era, the Nixon reports were done in an angst-free, even positive way, with pains taken to point out how successful and happy Nixon is. I'm thrilled she has an Emmy and a girlfriend. I'm just upset that this is one scoop that eluded my otherwise perfect gaydar. I thought she was just a fag hag!


musto@villagevoice.com

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