NY Mirror

 Paper magazine's Odeon dinner for Spanish cinema provocateur PEDRO ALMODOVAR was like a miniature avant-garde film festival, with all the guests hawking their projects so vehemently they almost, I said almost, forgot to eat the dinner. I personally fielded all their pitches (between courses), and as a result I'm an early front-runner for at least five Independent Spirit Awards. First, designing woman PATRICIA FIELD cozied up and said, "I'm doing a short movie of Plato's Symposium, set at a modern-day cocktail party. DONNA KARAN's putting up the money. Will you be in it?" Lemme think, OK, deal. Then JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL cooed, "I'm directing the video for the SCISSOR SISTERS' 'Filthy/Gorgeous.' I cast all the tranny prostitutes at Edelweiss. Come down and be a john, a pimp, or a whore." Um, I don't know—all right, are my legs spread wide enough? And Tarnation's creator-star JONATHAN CAOUETTE enthused, "JAMES RADO just asked me to direct a new movie of Hair! This is so exciting!" Caouette didn't ask me to be in the flick, but he's not a cow-ette; I'm too busy with my other films anyway. So how's he taking to the success of his buzzed-about budget bipolar bonanza? "I keep saying, 'Take the microchip out of my brain,' " Caouette replied, endearingly. "I feel like it's 2027. It's a blessing and an unleashing of Pandora's box at the same time." It's the dawning of the age of Aquarius.

Moving on to the real New York Film Festival, Undertow is DAVID GORDON GREEN's arty Southern gothic that—as was revealed at a festival Q&A—was influenced by Hansel and Gretel, The Goonies, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; uses a line from Treasure Island; dabbles in camera techniques from Grand Theft Auto; and evokes the plot and mood of The Night of the Hunter. But it's kind of original, and you'll just have to take my word on that. So how did Brit JAMIE BELL (the Billy Elliot prancer) get the Georgia dialect down? "I hung out at Wal-Mart," he admitted, and the crowd laughed even harder than the audience for Hansel and Gretel, The Goonies, etc. Co-star DERMOT MULRONEY restored the gothic horror mood by wondering, "Who peed on the stage? It smells so much like urine!" I guess Alice Tully couldn't make it out into the hall.


Billy, don't be a hero

You could only smell greasepaint at the Stage Beauty premiere, where BILLY CRUDUP was serving the red-carpet journos some intricate remarks about the Elizabethan era that I'm sure had them silently screaming, "But what's your favorite cologne or body wax?" My own crass mind noticed that Billy wasn't arm in arm with his co-star, CLAIRE DANES; either they had gone kaputsky in the way so many of those throw-everything-away-for-an-on-set-romances tend to do or they were simply hiding their fervent yet unpopular love from the press's unkindly glare.

Inside, I asked JOAN RIVERS what her favorite Shakespeare play is. "King Lear," she said without pausing. Because of the ungrateful daughter? "No, because I saw four dykes do it in the Village. They called it Queen Lear." She wasn't kidding. Nearby, I told TINA BROWN she should retitle her CNBC show Tina Tartare. "I probably should," she said, half-smiling. "You don't want to say 'Ta-ta to Tina'!" Playwright DOUG WRIGHT (I Am My Own Wife) told me he just spent six weeks doctoring the tata-laden script for the Memoirs of a Geisha movie. "Finally I could put my years in Japanese brothels to artistic use," he said. He was kidding, and explained, "As the film says, a geisha is not a prostitute!" (Even when you call that absolutely marvelous hotline, Geisha to Go. They're "escorts"!)

Stage Beauty? It turned out to be superb, though Crudup's theatrical geisha character (don't read this) learns to be a man and in the process seems to go from gay to much straighter. At the after-party, director RICHARD EYRE told me, "I'm not sure if I really care who he goes to bed with. It's that he's learned to love another person." Rather than learning to play Queen Lear.

On leaving, I ran into DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA, who's straight and pregnant with a boy, Luka. "Will he live on the second floor?" I said wittily. "That old Luka-Vega connection," she replied, laughing.


Breast intentions

Mother-child bonding once again signaled some free hors d'oeuvres when longtime screen darling LYNN REDGRAVE and her photographer daughter ANNABEL CLARK touchingly discussed their book, Journal: A Mother and Daughter's Recovery From Breast Cancer, at a Paper event at the W Court Hotel. "I'd love to tell RAQUEL WELCH, 'God bless you!' " Redgrave exulted, explaining that the Welch wig collection made her look fab after chemo. Totally kicking, Redgrave's a lesbian in the upcoming Kinsey (in which the title role is aptly played by LIAM, who's reportedly hung to his NEESON). How would she react if they ever redid her first triumph, the enchanting Georgy Girl (à la Alfie)? "Why remake it?" she squawked, eloquently. "They'd only fuck it up!"

They didn't screw up the Shall We Dance? remake; it's mushy and too straight, but almost as enjoyable as an adulterous afternoon tango. At the party, scene-stealer LISA ANN WALTER told me, "My finest dance moment was when I was 16 and saw Giselle with MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV and afterward, I grabbed him and kissed him on the mouth. I was a little virgin then, not a big whore like now!" she added, laughing. Honey, at 16, I was already a geisha to go.

The next day, I was off to do my subtle whoring when author VICTORIA WILSON called to say that, contrary to what I wrote, her Barbara Stanwyck memoir isn't being held up partly because she's waiting for a lesbian lover of the screen icon to come forth; it's simply exhaustive, plus she has a day job. "Stanwyck wasn't a lesbian," said Wilson. "Most biographies have invented the fact that she was gay based on nothing. It was a persona. She was maybe in love with two women, but I don't think anything ever happened." But wait, she wasn't a lesbian? "No," she said. "Women sometimes fall in love with other women." And that doesn't mean they mount productions of Queen Lear, OK?

As for all you kooky crystal meth queens, come on, say ta-ta to tina!


Gypsy had a little lamb

Upstairs at Studio 54, RICK CROM's NEWSical is a clever mixed bag of topical songs performed by a quartet that includes kooky fave KIM CEA; she spoofs everyone from La STREISAND, complete with nails, to MICHAEL JACKSON, complete with neuroses.

It's miles above Cea's last gig, as a stripper in a woebegone Houston version of Gypsy. On opening night, star ANDREA MCARDLE lost her voice and had to be rushed to the hospital for a cortisone shot, postponing the curtain by almost three hours. Cea said the actor playing the lamb had health problems too: "They got a sheep the size of a Buick and it shit itself. Over the speaker they announced, 'Someone get some paper towels. The sheep's shit all over the stage!' " To add to the production's high tone, Louise was played by the producer's daughter, but it couldn't have been nepotism; she's the one who had to sing "Little Lamb" to the incontinent quadruped.

Was it at least wacky fun to terrorize Bush country? "No!" shrieked Cea. "Houston sucks cock. They put me in the Holiday Inn across from NASA. I said, 'I can't stay in this room. It smells like pee.' " Well, don't look at the sheep—or Dermot Mulroney.


musto@villagevoice.com

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