NY Mirror

The first former People's Liberation Army member with a nude pictorial in Playboy, BAI LING has dropped her great wall and flashed her China moon while emitting alternating squeals of "Whoopee!" and "Oops!"

In a phoner last week, the cunning Ling—the co-star of Red Corner, Sky Captain . . .and the upcoming The Beautiful Country—opened up to me about her public dressing-down. "I'm nervous," the femme fatale said about the saucy spread. "For me it's a little too provocative. It's not porno, but it's . . . I'm an actress, I shouldn't be doing this!

"But we're just shooting pictures and having fun," she said, switching gears. "The human body is a gift and needs to be cherished and celebrated, so I'm honored. I always imagine Playboy is beautiful blonde girls with big boobs. Whatever I have is natural, so I'm grateful they think I'm sexy!" For eight thigh-popping pages.

The layout, she said, is beyond the wildest dreams of someone who grew up in the hormonal wasteland of mainland China. "We never talk about sex in China," she assured me in clipped, breathless tones. (And by the Bai, I've kept her perfectly charming syntaxes intact.) "Anything related to sex is forbidden. I used to think babies come from the belly button!" Silly Bai—they come from storks' buttholes.

But the slow-blooming good-time gal learned the raunchy ropes the hard way. At 14, she joined the PLA, where, craftily enough, she'd loiter around the men's quarters—wouldn't you?—trying to grab a peek or a listen. But did she actually have, you know, sexual c-o-n-g-r-e-s-s? "Of course!" she exclaimed. "Many of them! Something when it's forbidden, it's human nature that you really want to do it." (I know, Blanche, I know.)

And did the frisky little soldier get down in the trenches, as it were, with the ladies too? "Yes," she blurted. "Because we all live together! We all wash naked in front of each other. The leader's wife takes a bath first in a swimming pool. After that you can imagine how dirty that water is. I was a new soldier, so they asked me to undress first. They would tease me and push me inside the water. And then everyone jumps in. It was disgusting when I think about it." Hmm, sounds hot! Actually, I was utterly bewildered, but the bi Ling got me back on track by explaining, "We developed friendship. For us to sleep in the same bed holding hands is a normal thing."

And that wasn't the end of the fabulous debauchery, honey. "I was a little alcoholic in the army," she confessed, giggling. "It tasted like a sweet wine. I wrote an apologizing letter. I'm always apologizing."

Well, there's no need for Bai to grovel and scrape over her blissfully unselfconscious celeb behavior these days—it always makes for gorgeous copy. Half the stars in Hollywood have elbow marks from Bai working her way into arrival photos. And last week, Page Six reported that she was shattered to be cut from the new Star Wars flick and wrongly thought it may have been because of her spread (which is poignantly in Playboy's Star Wars issue). But she must have later taken some sense pills because Bai's manager now tells me, "She realizes [being axed] is sometimes part of the creative process."

His client can be comforted by the eight fashionable spirits she says are inside her—"little girls with miniskirts running around." Her take on the fame game? "The red carpet is a fantasy world. I feel like we're butterfly walking by to add one color or one music on red carpet. But in my private life, I'm shy and turn off the lights when I'm in bed with boyfriends. They say, 'Why?' I say, 'Part of me is really traditional Chinese girl.' " And the other part has her legs spread to high heaven. Bye, Bai! Brace yourself for all the people who are gonna want to be the ninthspirit inside you!


I LOVE PARIS IN THE SCHWINGTIME

As for American-born disrobers with no lights on—spoiler alert—House of Wax seems to winkily play on PARIS HILTON's various gossip scandals. She supposedly said the N-word, so the movie deliciously serves her a black boyfriend. And in an apparent nod to you know what, a character shoots her getting nuzzly with the beau (though said character doesn't catch her servicing the beau's mantool—which alas, is out of Wax's frame too). Most notably, when Paris gets a spike driven into her head, no brain matter whatsoever comes out. You can prey and slay, but there's nothing to display. (I am so kidding. She's a real trouper. In fact, I'm mentioning her by name again because she's now officially a B-movie star. She wins.)

Another pro playing a modified 'ho, CHRISTINA APPLEGATE sails through Sweet Charity without ever singing, "If they could see me . . . ow!" Christina's right foot has replaced Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as Broadway's best refurbished special effect.


BRICK-OVEN PIAZZA

But Broadway types are referring to The Light in the Piazza as either The Light in the Piazzzz . . . or Mrs. Johnson, or Change. It's an A-for-effort kind of thing with songs that almost catch fire surrounding a story that only moderately provokes interest. You know, Italian guy falls for American girl, but doesn't figure out that she's mentally challenged, mainly because she seems fine, especially compared to The Pillowman's mentally challenged person. Yes, she does occasionally grab the genitals on statues and blurt stuff like "olly olly oxen free!" but the guy's still captivated, seeing as he doesn't know English anyway. Meanwhile, Mom never gets around to telling him the secret, thereby sparing us potential lyrics like "Be careful what you've started/My daughter is retarded." I'm being very flip about a show that's actually done with a lot of loveliness and class and, alas, dull good taste.

A fugue for the tasteless, the revival of Glengarry Glen Ross—a/k/a Seven Angry Men—is not for the Iowa crowd that's allergic to words like cunt and cocksucker. In the audience on opening night, STEVE MARTIN was cutting through the venomous mood by doling out Dots to strangers, but comically withholding the red ones. Damn. Something when it's forbidden, it's human nature that you really want to have it.

Finally, Juilliard seems to hand out some sweet lovin', then flat-out snooker it back. The esteemed school booked the drag performer SHEQUIDA to do a fake master class-recital last week as her other opera-related persona, JESSYE NORMOUS, but it canceled at the last minute because next year the realJESSYE NORMAN is doing an actual master class there. (A Juilliard rep didn't return a request for comment.) "I said, 'Are you serious? Do you people not have a sense of humor?' " Shequida/Normous told me. "I wanted to show that opera can be fun, that it's not all old stuffy people doing it." Well, they showed her otherwise. And she was even a student there! Oh, well, at least she's still in Star Wars.


WEB EXTRA

Cable host and celebrity interviewer SKIP E. LOWE just called me, irked as a wet hen about Martin Short's movie, Jiminy Glick in La La Wood. Glick is the plus-sized interviewer character that Short has done on Comedy Central and elsewhere, and now he's the large, gooey center of that medium-funny feature film. So what's the problem? "Everyone knows he's doing me," insisted Lowe, "and I'm not even geting paid. He never gives credit. He stole my persona!"

Well, The New York Times review did indeed say that Glick originated as a spoof of Lowe. But considering that Glick is ignorant, inept, and klutzy—if amusing and ultimately likable—it's weird that anyone would run around going "He's doing me!" Oh, well. Lowe is currently venting his frustrations by doing a documentary called Meet the Real Jiminy Glick.


LITTER BOX

A HARD HABIT TO BREAK

Pay attention, class. As you know, CHERRY JONES is giving one of those performances for the ages as the quizzical Sister Aloysius in Doubt. Well, at last week's Drama Desk nominees' reception, Cherry told me how she came up with the coiled, pursed, jack-in-the-box stance she uses for the role. "I wondered why Aloysius hadn't had kids with her husband," explained Cherry. Drawing a little bit on her own grandmother, she decided that Aloysius once had a hysterectomy and as a result, got advanced osteoporosis (if not pregnant in her navel). But wait a minute—a nun who was married? The only non-lesbian sister act? "That could be," said Cherry, "but she's worldly, so she at least recognizes them when she sees them!"

Moving on to hysterec-ord news, I know a good pop career move when I see one—like "Incomplete," the BACKSTREET BOYS' comeback single (and video). It shrewdly emphasizes the two members with "edge"—the tattooed rehabber and Paris's unruly old boyfriend—and puts the three bland ones so far in the background they're practically in *NSYNC. Incomplete indeed!

Let me complete you with this imagined bit of conversation from the set of Monster-in-Law. J.LO: "I hate my ex!" MICHAEL VARTAN: "I hate mine too! She left me! For your ex!" M.M.


musto@villagevoice.com

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