As an insecure C-word, I have two favorite pastimes—viciously lashing out at others and vehemently defending myself—so this particular column will combine those two endeavors, starting with my heartfelt advice to a myriad of stars, then building to a crescendo of bitter excuses as to why I'm the way I am.

So here's how I feel various celebrities can salvage themselves:

J.LO: You once had edge in movies like Out of Sight, U Turn, and even, dare I say it, Gigli. You even had it in interviews, like when you said spicy, controversial things to Movieline in '98—things that made you sound fascinatingly unvarnished—though you promptly denied having said them and never uttered a spunky syllable again. At the same time, you went after some exceedingly bland film roles, often portraying a sympathetic shopgirl generically waiting for a colorless Mr. Right. Work with SODERBERGH again. Stick your face in a blender. Act up!

Breaking and entering: Angelina Jolie
photo: Stephen Vaughn/SMPSP
Breaking and entering: Angelina Jolie

JOHNNY DEPP: You too, honey! Don't ever lose the weirdness. Swashbuckling comedies, romantic biopics, and cult-kiddie-flick remakes are fine, but now that you're getting Oscar nominations, you need to start worrying—a lot. You're getting a bit too lovable, too streamlined, and overly accepted (though you seem to have a healthy, bemused attitude at those awards shows). Your bizarreness has become too safe for mankind. Scare people again. Make us scream. Don't wash your hair anymore. Slap J.Lo.

LORNE MICHAELS: I adore Tina and Amy (and all the gang), but keep the Weekend Update disciplined and fast moving. No laughing or smirking after every joke—concentrate on making the audience laugh. And don't allow so many sketches that are spoofs of TV shows, whether real (Hardball) or imaginary (The Prince Show). You're a TV show, remember? And get Horatio to learn his lines. Otherwise, things aren't as bad as the CHARLIE ROCKET days, but most things aren't.

LARRY KING: Your show is tons of fun, but you sometimes seem to run out of questions after 20 minutes. Either get more guests or get more questions.


AND FURTHERMORE . . .

JANE FONDA: You were a feminist icon, but now you freely reveal that you've done whatever your men wanted, from three-ways to staying thin in grossly unhealthy ways. Keep all that up if it makes you (and them) happy—just don't tell me about it!

ANGELINA JOLIE: You also should not change a hair for me, not if you care for me. The savior of the children image doesn't jibe at all with the breaker-up of marriages thing, but it makes you damned interesting, so keep on keeping on, baby. But please know that Mr. & Mrs. Smith was a sleek, big-time bore. I guess offscreen mating rituals don't always translate on-screen after all—though it's made bushels of marvelous money, so again, keep it up, darling.

ELLEN DEGENERES: You've dazzled with your wry, casual humor, resurging when everyone had written you off as a dead lezzie. But while you're wildly out in your life and in the press, you seem to—except on very rare occasions—consciously rein in your gayness on your talk show, perhaps having signed some deal with the devil assuring him that you'll be an on-air neuter. Come on, Ellen. You don't have to scream, "Yep, I'm gay!" into a mic every five seconds, but can't you let your sexual feelings slip more often—just once in a while, the way straight hosts do? When you did the bit looking back at your prom date, couldn't you have ended it with something like "No wonder I moved on to women"? Even Satan would have muffled a guffaw.

MICHAEL JACKSON: Watch your fragile ass in jail, girl—it's going to be a bumpy ride. You will be treated like the lowest piece of scummy, skanky, slimy . . . oh, wait. You got off? Oh, in that case, you're free, kid. Enjoy the E-Z pass and learn from it. No more sleepovers. No more playing victim—or playing anything. Grow up—and lose the Ferris wheel.

KIRSTIE ALLEY: Let's learn from Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter. Put down that sandwich and give it to LINDSAY LOHAN immediately.

OLSEN TWINS: Your layered homeless look is bizarrely cute, but even my mentally ill aunt with cataracts suspects you wear all that stuff because you actually think you're fat and you're covering up unsightly rolls of flesh. News flash: You're so not fat you make NICOLE RICHIE look like the Neverland ranch. Take off all those clothes—and eat them!

MARCIA CROSS: Chow down on whatever's left over. I don't even care who you nibble on anymore—just eat something!

FELICITY HUFFMAN: I adore that you play a tranny in a movie by a guy named DUNCAN TUCKER. Tucker! I love it! An Oscar nomination may well be yours. Why did I even include you here? You and Angelina are fine. As a reward, I'll forward you both all the e-mails I get for "ladies drink free between 8 and 8:30" nights at bars.

RENEE ZELLWEGER: Congrats on the marriage to KEITH URBAN, I mean BRAD PAISLEY, I mean KENNY CHESNEY. But Cinderella Man wasn't a proper hookup for you at all. You're much too good to play lip-biting, long-suffering fishwives of too-swell-to-be-true boxing lugs. You're a star! Kindly remind your agent of that! And eat something, bitch!

RUSSELL CROWE: You should also have skipped that corny trip to Cinderella land, especially since the reports of bad box office receipts coincided with your throwing a phone at someone's face, and that couldn't have been a coincidence. Oh, yeah, don't throw phones at people's faces anymore—or at least discuss with NAOMI CAMPBELL how to do that sort of thing with some grace.

COLIN FARRELL: You've fucked everyone except me. Fuck me!


THE RECORD SHOWS I TOOK THE BLOWS

And now that I've savaged some lives and careers, let me salvage my own and defend my fine, fine ass. Why bother? Well, as a C+ level celebrity, I Google my own name all day and encounter all kinds of dirty disses and vituperative grudges. And while I thank you, Anonymous, for spreading my name—and you too, Anonymous—I'm glad I have a forum with which to differ with your bitter complaints.

The most common criticisms are:

1. I'm unattractive.

Well, I'm proud to be considered unsightly, since it means I must have truly triumphed over the odds. Besides, being called displeasing to the eye drives one to build character, read books, and do other things that people who scream "ugly" don't always do. So thanks, all of you (drop-dead gorgeous, I'm sure) aesthetes and cretins. Every put-down drives my hideous puss further into your face.

2. I'm a whore because I've appeared on so many cable shows.

That's totally incorrect because a whore generally gets paid. But even as an often free-sound-bite server, I'm thrilled to be in a position where I'm asked to spout opinions like a crazed windup doll. The pooh-poohers who pretend to be so above it all would pant at the chance to shoot off their mouths for a loving lens. In fact, friends who've long put me down as a media prostie have been known to suddenly exult, "I was walking through Times Square yesterday when TRL panned the crowd! I'm a star!"

3. I'm often spotted looking like I want to be recognized.

Yeah. So?

4. I'm old.

I know!

I didn't really have a choice on that, but I guess all my conscious and subconscious attempts to die didn't work and so here I still am, valiantly carrying on. It's not really a fault—just some horrid Twilight Zone thing that happens if you're lucky enough to keep on breathing and breathing. So before you use "old" as an epithet just because you're terrified of your own mortality, be a little more considerate and maybe even try for some reverence. Nah, never mind.


LITTER BOX
Yet more unsolicited advice for the wicked

WHITNEY: Drop BOBBY. Bobby: Drop Whitney first. KEVIN FEDERLINE: You mess with my girl in any way and I will not only whup your ass, but I won't support your rap career! ANN COULTER: I think you have low self-esteem—and you're right! CHER: I believe in life after farewell tours. Start yours up again or I shall perish. WOODY ALLEN: Keep obsessively cranking out flicks one after another, even though there's often not any inspiration behind them. I'm serious—occasionally, they turn out OK anyway . . . People: Tune in to MSNBC's smart, observant Countdown With Keith Olbermann. You'll occasionally see me being my crazed windup doll self. Isn't that what you want?



WEB EXTRA

Hold everything, I have some urgent advice for Broadway producers too: Put Cyndi Lauper in something right now, even a jukebox musical. The pop stylist was on fire at last week's all-stars-for-gay-pride True Colors concert, a slick night which only stumbled with its cutesy Up With People-type opening number about how great Lincoln Center is. ("If it's good enough for Marc Chagall, it's good enough for me!"). Things got more sophisticated when the event trotted out knockout perfs by both Broadway divas (Lillias White) and classical ones (two lesbian-lover opera singers who sized each other up longingly between high notes). For the finale, Lauper did her full throttle, exciting thing, running into the crowd and yelping in our faces for extra Laupery effect. Everyone knows that Cyndi was up for the Mrs. Lovett role in the upcoming Sweeney Todd revival, a meat-pie-serving opportunity that went to Patti LuPone instead. Well, I hear the producers wanted Cyndi, but while Sondheim liked her, he ended up anointing Patti, who's an old friend. My guess is that Cyndi would have been a revelation, so let's get the little powerhouse onstage in something—anything—else. It's good enough for me!

P.S: Someone who probably shouldn't be on Broadway is the doctor in the audience who loudly crowed that he just gave one of the concert's stars (whom he named) lotsa prescription refills because she was going away. TMI!


musto@villagevoice.com

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