NY Mirror

 DAVID BARTON is always expanding and so are his gyms, growing and throbbing like washboard abs enlivening a midlife midsection. His new spot, at the old 23rd Street YMCA space, had a gala opening last week, and rather than resurrect one of my 10-year-old body-fascism-is-sick rants, I showed up and flexed my flab for the pecsy masses. "This is the YMCA on acid," Barton told me, beaming. "It's like my fantasy of what the YMCA could look like." Inside, scantily clad guys and gals sported the motto "Look better naked" in body glitter or on T-shirts, and five wackos dressed like the VILLAGE PEOPLE pranced around a steamy stage as "YMCA" boomed out of the sound system. Oh yeah, the decor was nice too.

Will Mr. Barton (who's the Barnum to wife SUSANNE BARTSCH's Bailey—in fact, their son's name is Bailey) ever stop working out? He looked pained. "When they throw dirt on me, I'll stop working out!" he swore. "I wake up and bounce out of bed and look in the mirror and I'm so happy to be David Barton! If you didn't tell me I was 40, I'd think I was 18!" (Funny, if you didn't tell me LINDSAY LOHAN was 18, I'd think she was 40.)

Well, I'll throw some dirt on you: Near the upstairs steam room, photographer TINA PAUL wanted to take a shot of leather-clad VINCENT GALLO and even slipped him a drink ticket as an inducement, but Gallo handed it right back, pointed to me, and cracked, "No. He says I don't look good." Well, if he'd have let me see The Brown Bunny, I'd know if he looks better naked! The Republican softcore star admitted that he'd had me banned from his premiere because of his recent mishegoss with the Voice and I'm glad he barely heard me mutter, "Maybe you did me a favor." But Gallo did plainly catch my response when he said he was getting a free Barton gym pass and added, "but I don't think I'm a celebrity." "Neither do I," I quipped, and Gallo laughed sportily.

The muscle appetizer at the opening of the new David Barton Gym
photo: Cary Conover
The muscle appetizer at the opening of the new David Barton Gym


BEING BENING

In a sweat, I ran back to the world of people who think they're celebrities and are right—like ANNETTE BENING's Being Julia character, a theater grande dame who's mounting both a hit play and a young stud. After a special screening, Broadway director MICHAEL BLAKEMORE told me he liked Bening's performance and that the film "had charming moments." In a whole new moment, musician G.E. SMITH's wife TAYLOR BARTON (no relation to David) said she admires Bening because "she's brave. She never did anything Hollywood to herself." "But she married WARREN BEATTY!" said Smith, and Barton laughed, "Blows my whole theory." I also heard someone say to WALTER CRONKITE, "You must be so upset about all the CBS stuff going on." "Yes, it's never happened before," said Cronky, but I have no idea if he meant the Reagans movie dumping, the MARTHA STEWART cancellation, the JANET JACKSON wardrobe malfunction, or the faxing from Abilene.

Theater ambience even trickled into the Shark Tale premiere; in fact, they probably held it at the Delacorte just so they could use the slogan "Sharkspeare in the Park." (If so, it was worth it. Anything for some cute wordplay, I always say!) The movie mixes appealing visuals with some dull and/or obnoxious stretches, though I welcome anything that argues fish should embrace their offspring even if they're vegetarian—i.e., are gay.

It was also a great personal triumph for me—the original gay shark—because I needed a humbling experience and got one when the check-in girl acted as if I'd landed from the planet Myanus. (This same Barbizon grad obviously works every door in town lately.) Once in, my head started swelling again—I'm so happy to be Michael Musto—so I was thrilled when the V.I.P.-area lady told me I couldn't possibly enter there, though she'd certainly swing the stars over to my seat. Well, five tubs of popcorn later, she hadn't, having clearly bolted all the Oscar winners and soundtrack stars away from my shiny fishhooks. At least theicons paraded onstage for our delectation—like CHRISTINA AGUILERA, sporting a fierce Marilyn Monroe/Betty Boop at the car wash at the end of the apocalypse look; MARY J. BLIGE, looking ready for the highway in her own wonderful sphere; ANGELINA JOLIE, oozing sultry lippiness in a leopard-print Cruella coat; and RENÉE ZELLWEGER (who has good posture), wisely cozying up to JEFFREY KATZENBERG.


FISH GOTTA SWIM, TURDS GOTTA FLY

Meanwhile, gossip sharks have their fins in a twist, again about goddamned stage antics. Web bunnies say Queer Eye's JAI RODRIGUEZ is telling people he was offered the lead role in The Boy From Oz (replacing HUGH JACKMAN), but he couldn't do it because of his TV scheduling. He probably would have rearranged the set anyway. . . . Off-Broadway, The Oldest Profession aims to be on the level of a very special Golden Girls and comes up short. The '80s old-'ho comedy has five expert actresses reciting often stale dialogue, and gabbing about how their geezery johns are either dying or moving away. Strangely, the play doesn't address the fact that geezery johns want young 'hos anyway!

As for old screen legends, author VICTORIA WILSON has been working on a bio of the late, great Barbara Stanwyck for eight years now. Well, one insider claims the long haul is partly because no woman has yet come forward to say, "Yep, I slept with the old broad." Maybe that's because there is no such woman? After all, butch doesn't always equal dyke (though Stanwyck used to spend the night at neighbor Joan Crawford's house whenever she and her hubby had a fight. And ARNOLD SCAASI says that when naked, Crawford looked remarkably like a man. Please, she even looked like a man when gowned. Maybe she went to David Barton. But I digress. Throw dirt on me—now.)

No, wait, here it is: It turns out that datalounge.com, my favorite saucy gay gossip site, has gotten in even more steamy water through the years than my own outspoken ass. At an Out Professionals event at the LGBT Center, the site's creators told me they got a lovely call not long ago from the Secret Service (who followed up with a subpoena) when LYNNE CHENEY felt there'd been something potentially life-threatening posted about her beloved lesbian daughter MARY. (That must be why they kept Mary from the stage of the convention.) But gaffes sometimes lead to laughs, like when the dataloungers heard from '70s TV star ERIK ESTRADA's wife after one of their ranks wrongly wrote, "Erik Estrada outed in the Philippines." It was actually President JOSEPH ESTRADA who was ousted in the Philippines. At least they didn't write "Richard Nixon is a lesbian" when they meant CYNTHIA!


Litter Box

DE BIG DEBATE

Last week's debate was part game show, part verbal slam, and all ironic fashion presentation. (KERRY wore a red tie; BUSH a blue one.) Kerry did well with the two-minute limit—in fact, he should always have one—while Bush couldn't always manage to fill that much time with his thoughts. Furthermore, Kerry was decent and/or crafty enough to start with sympathetic remarks about Florida's woes, while Bush couldn't help adding his usual inspirational touch with talk of our "prayers." Kerry scored with terms like "colossal error of judgment," while Bush triumphed with "never waver," though he should never simper in cutaway shots. Kerry dropped the names of too many of his who-cares endorsers, whereas Bush rattled off way too many questionable statistics.

But Kerry dripped with authority, especially when he invoked Bush Sr.'s own prophetic words to discredit the Iraq mess. Bush Jr. did well with "What kind of message does it say to our troops?" but what kind of message is he giving the troops by sending them to risk their lives in an unjustified war? His best stab was accusing Kerry of changing positions, but isn't that what we want him to do? It all ended with the wives gabbing onstage, obviously about how they wore the same outfit. Without flip-flops!


Web Extra

The vice presidential debate really came alive during the gay marriage segment, when all the conflicting agendas on parade came to a homo-disquieting head. Both candidates seemed to push their usual let-freedom-ring-but-not-necessarily-for-gays agenda, couching it in talk about how approving gay marriage should be up to the states, while making sure to add—in the words of EDWARDS—"We both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman." But the twangy Democrat twink generously added there should be benefits for gay couples—namely that they should be able to visit their lovers in hospitals or be able to bury them when they drop! (Yes, I know those are serious concerns, but there must be more to marital rights than that.)

More mixed messages came when Edwards gushed about the CHENEYS, "You can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing." It was such a sweet sentiment—though it made it sound as if MARY were some disfigured circus freak that the Cheneys were so brave to acknowledge, even if just under pressure, and intermittently.

At least Edwards rocked when he talked about how the proposed constitutional amendment against gay marriage is unnecessary and is being hideously used as a political dividing tool. That shut Cheney right the fuck up. He had no answer. He suddenly couldn't rationalize all his conflicting feelings and statements. Painted into a corner, he simply thanked Edwards for the kind words about his family and just sat there dumbfounded. As I hope he'll stay through eternity.

PS: Afterward, Mary and her lover, HEATHER POE, were allowed onstage, as if they were actually human. Gee, thanks, Dick. Mighty brave.


musto@villagevoice.com

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