NY Mirror

Vocal-impressionist extraordinaire JIMMY JAMES—the SUSAN LUCCI of the Glammy awards for drag—just got back from a dizzying gig at a bar in Bayonne, New Jersey, and he needs resuscitation. To put it mildly, it was not exactly a black-tie recital at Carnegie Hall. In fact, the place made Barracuda look like the Essex House. "It was a dump, a toilet," James told me, laughing. "The sound system was Scotch-taped together. And I had to change in the rotted kitchen. They said, 'This is your dressing room.' I said, 'Why would I expect any better?' In the audience there was a heavyset guido guy with a blonde bimbo on his lap. I said, 'Look, that girl's a slut! She's stealing my act!' Then I got nervous and said, 'Sir, please don't shoot me till after the show.' "

But he didn't. In fact, post-curtain, Jimmy was given a lovely birthday cake courtesy of the esteemed bar and former grill. "It was shaped like a cock and balls," he said bemusedly. "It was pathetic. I was like, 'Oh, God, this is what it's come to. My agent is so fired! I used to be somebody!' "

Please—he still is! In fact, he's still a lot of people (CHER, EARTHA KITT, NORAH JONES, etc.) And so—segue, segue—is that drag impersonator favorite MADONNA, judging by the rising up of a quartet of obsessed fans calling themselves MADONNAFACTORY. They haven't played Bayonne yet, but they did mount a Madge-obsessed event at Apocalypse Lounge, where a performer named SISTA KIT was going to absolve revelers with a gospel performance of a Madonna hit (though it's the star herself who still needs to be cleansed of Shanghai Surprise and even Mr. Peabody's Apples). Alas, I didn't have like a prayer of finding the place and meeting these four whoresmen of the Apocalypse. It wasn't listed anywhere, and at the nearby Lucky Cheng's, the drag queens pleaded ignorance—though they did want me to write that one of their own house divas, CODIE RAVIOLI, is having a sex change, and to help her pay for it, NAN GOLDIN is going to give her a stack of photographs to sell. (You hear that, kids? Want to finally turn your penis into a cake mold? Call Nan now.)

Anyway, Apocalypse Lounge, which is not a toilet, turns out to be on East 3rd Street—or just ask around for the place where that American Idol runner-up from Brooklyn used to bartend. I found it a whole day later, and thank Ezekiel the Madonna shrine was still up, with everything from her New Republic cover ("Unlike a Virgin: Madonna, Minx Without a Riddle") to the letter she sent out promoting the AIDS Dance-a-Thon. ("We are all living with AIDS.") We are all living with Madonna—and I guess that's just fine.


TEACH THEM WELL AND LET THEM LEAD THE WAY

Like her, I aim to change the world on a nightly basis. In fact, I hear "benefit" and I start running there, desperate to help a good cause via some heartfelt guest list nabbing and gift bag grabbing. So when I was told the Trevor Project was having a fundraiser and it wasn't in Bayonne, it was at Crobar, I showed up and giddily exclaimed, "I'll do anything to save gay youth!" "For yourself?" deadpanned go-go boy-writer MATT BELL.

Anyway, the Trevor Project gives troubled young gays a shoulder to scream on. To support the support group, CARSON KRESSLEY and ROSIE PEREZ conducted the battiest auction since giant sheep bid on Jackie O's cleaning products in that Broadway satire. "I'm not used to being at Crobar with people who are coherent and have their shirts on," admitted Kressley. But as Perez educationally explained various Spanish words for pussy (chocha, she said, is the most ghetto) and remarked that BILLY CRUDUP should dump the skinny MS. DANES and go for her big boobs, Carson got to work raising bids for a package that included tickets to see both ELTON JOHN in concert and Crudup's play The Pillowman. ("It's dense, disturbing, and wickedly funny—just like Elton.") You also had to love rubber-faced JACKIE HOFFMAN—one of the night's comics—even if her agenda contradicted the event's save-the-youth mission. "My idea of a baby gift," she spit out, "is anything that says 'choking hazard.' "

I saved gay kids all over again by co-hosting the benefit for the youth-empowering Live Out Loud—my chocha now has blond streaks thanks to the gift bag—where the silent auction was gayer than Bed Bath & Beyond on Super Bowl Sunday. You could actually turn queer just bidding on items like "black lacquered tray and porcelain teapot." But as the auction wrapped up, a heartbroken official told me, "Only two people bid on TOMMY TUNE's etching. Do you want to be the third?" (No, but I'll take that Elton-Pillowman double bill—and throw in some Nan Goldin photos, please.) Even more poignantly, a guy who'd won a snow leopard pillow was heard to whinny, "Don't tell my boyfriend. He's in PETA!" Ah, but nobody ever said life was fair, Tina. (Yes, I believe that only by embracing really clichéd camp utterances can we bury the past and move on to two years ago. Hello!)

The guest of honor was Broadway grande dame CHERRY JONES, who revealed that when her parents first told her about sex, they said, "If you're gay, that's OK too, but we're not going to tell you about that because we don't know about it." I bet now they do!


LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF HER

Cherry with a fringe seems to be the running thread of my entire life, and column, these days. In fact, when I crawled through the wreckage of jukebox musicals and bad Tennessee Williams revivals to go to the Drama Desk Awards, I found that Cherry was having yet another jubilee. But there were other winsome winners too. In the press room, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's JAN MAXWELL was clutching a publicist and moaning, "My agent's gonna go, 'You remembered the ushers in your speech, but not me!' " In a lighter mood, Maxwell later cracked to cable host STEPHEN HOLT, "I'll do this show for 20 years. I'll be known as Formerly Scrumptious. I'll be doing it with a walker." And she didn't mean LLOYD KLEIN.

Before leaving, I agelessly limped over to that minx with a fiddle HARVEY FIERSTEIN and naturally asked if he'd like to play Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. "Yes!" Harvey exclaimed. "I told EDWARD ALBEE! I said, 'Why don't you use me and Cherry Jones? You can switch the sexes.' He said, 'I already did [with KATHLEEN TURNER and BILL IRWIN].' " I fell apart laughing, but Harvey insisted, "No, he didn't! I was just kidding!"

But we've strayed from the topic of teens in peril. And so, the Musto (a bronzed troll doll) for best gay youth movie goes to GREGG ARAKI's Mysterious Skin, a tender, raunchy, disturbing, and powerful trip to the dark side. Don't let the fisting scare you. And don't book your drag act in Bayonne.


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House specials: Chicken and ribs at Smoked
photo: Oscar Perez

LITTER BOX

SSSSMOKIN'

Attention, trend editors: Barbecue restaurants are hotter than a pig's ass in an electric blanket these days. The Chelsea crowd has been coherent and wearing shirts while indulging in death-defying ribs at RUB Barbecue, and over in the East Village, I just ate like a Flintstone at the new meat shrine called Smoked. Does this represent a return to, among other things, mountains of potentially unhealthy food? "Precisely," said a publicist. Oh, good!

Meanwhile, chomp down on these nibbly bits, bitches: My new best friend TATUM O'NEAL says she wants to do—everybody now—a reality show! From her jealous dad to her scary ex to her apartment fire, it would probably make Chasing Farrah look like Dora the Explorer. Similarly, '60s legend LESLEY GORE ("It's My Party") is doing some reality music. Luscious-voiced Lesley called to say she has a new CD, Ever Since, "and it's organic, smoky, intimate, and personal." Sounds like a blind date with a plate of barbecued chicken.

But hold your corn bread: What does Cherry Jones—yeah, her again—think her character means when she says, "I have doubts! I have such doubts!"? "I think she has completely lost faith in God and the Roman Catholic Church," she told me, definitively. But hopefully not in the Tony; Cherry's got it in the gift bag. Now where's that genital cake?


musto@villagevoice.com

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