By Anna Merlan
By Roy Edroso
By Carolyn Hughes
By Chuck Strouse
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Weinstein
By Tessa Stuart
Purge all thoughts of any other best-of-New York lists. This one is the sexiest, most alluring, most concise yet informative, most delightfully written, and least guilt-inducing by far. In other words, it's the best best list and it's best you just listen up:
The best hard drink is made at Duvet (45 West 21st Street), where you actually taste more vodka than mixer (though bear in mind this is based on just one boozy friend's comments. Otherwise, I hang with nuns). The best doorperson-promoter is KENNY KENNY, the colorful Irishman who showers Duvet, Happy Valley, and other joints with his elfin charm and wisdom, not to mention his sci-fi outfits of many colors and genders.
The best 99 cent store is Jack's (115 West 31st Street, plus three other locations) and the best discount store is Weber's, which fortuitously is right next door (119 West 31st Street), making for a one-two punch of cheap crap I live for. Between the two of them, I can spend 10 bucks and get a week's groceries, some paper towels, a candle, and a really pretty handbag.
The best gay sex place is the Christopher Street Bookstore, where guys can bend down and . . . oh, it closed? Never mind. The best weird shots of PARIS HILTONin that recent Vanity Fairwere on pages 283 and 286. Far from sporting cameltoe, she seemed to be packing a protruding appendage under her outfits that looked uncannily like an uncircumcised penis. Offbeat shadowing or gender surprise? I have no idea, but I was loving it!
The best reinvented persona is MARTHA STEWART's on her daytime TV show (regardless of the ratings). She's light, self-deprecating, and positively glowing, obviously thrilled to be freed of that ill-matching ankle bracelet. She's even bravely referenced her incarceration, rather thanwhat I would have donepretending it never happened. But now, to avoid becoming tedious, she should never mention it again!
SISTERS ARE DOIN' IT FOR THEMSELVES
The best celebrity sister is MAUDE MAGGART, FIONA APPLE's sibling, who proves there isn't one bad Apple in the bunch. I've caught soignée Maude crooning vintage tunes at cabaret events and she's arrestingly talentedplus she's never confronted me in public like her kooky sis (though Fiona surely had a right).
The best laugh I had recently was also the most elaborate bit of cashing in on a tragedy via shameless product-plugging in the guise of compassion. It was a press release that breathlessly bragged: "Partnering with Inside Edition, Kwiat diamonds is giving two Hurricane Katrina survivors a red carpet makeover! . . . Kwiat diamonds has created a celebrity suite experience at the Four Seasons Hotel! Here the women can relax, breathe in the scent of fresh lilies, sip champagne, and nibble on indulgent DOVE chocolates while trying on a wide selection of Kwiat diamonds to wear with their Escada gowns for the Emmys . . . . Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions." OK, here's one: How the fuck can you live with yourself?
The best advice I can give to everyone who's sent me releases either capitalizing on or announcing their supposed generosity about Katrina is to kindly shove it and remain silent. Be Kwiat.
The best way to kill a date is to flag down the waiter and moan, "Is the salmon farmed or wild?" The best way to ruin my day is to run up to me and say, "I loved something you wrote recently, but I can't remember what it was."
THE BEST IS YET TO COME
The most cost-effective roughage in town is the dollar bag of apples at the Greenmarket farmer's market at Union Square. The best budget Mexican joint is the Enchilada (28 East 12th Street), starring flame-grilled chicken. The most sensible place with Thai food is Lovely Day (196 Elizabeth Street), which recently lovelied up my evening. The most underrated street is Restaurant Row (West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues), which is not at all the hellish tourist trap you would expector would want, for those hellish tourists. (Two biggies on that block are the quaint Les Sans Culottes at 347 and the carnivore's paradise Brazil Brazil at 328, oink oink. But the showstopper is the Hourglass Tavern at 373, which is charmingly eccentric down to its three darling floors, 26-page handwritten menu, six-course meals, and shockingly friendly French staff.)
The best tandoori chicken platter is at New Naimat Kada (124 Lexington Avenue). It's much better than at the Old Naimat Kada. The best Kim's Video clerk is the one who is so fabulously blasé, he once told me, "It's too early [for you] to sign a receipt" and just handed me the movie. The best thing LIZA MINNELLI said to me this year was, "You're a great audience! Thank you, Coney Island!"
In TV bests, the first premier pay gay network, Here TV, is still kickin', so I called their VP of development, MEREDITH KADLEC, for some insider insight. (Yes, we're taking a detour here for some actual reporting.) "I'm proud of our programming that breaks stereotypes," she said, "like Third Man Out, about a gay guy who's a tough guy and has a committed relationship. You don't see that on TV." She also kvells for exHRC head ELIZABETH BIRCH's political talk show, on which Birch got PAT BUCHANAN to talk about gay issues for an hour. "She created an intelligent discussion," said Kadlec, beaming. Well, I'm sure her half was intelligent. (And by the way, Gawd bless the other gay channels too.)
The best club musing, perusing, reminiscing, and dissing is on motherboardsnyc.com, CHI CHI VALENTI and JOHNNY DYNELL's site for sore thighs. (It's a four-year-old extension of the departed club Mother, with forums for trannies, goths, Gypsies, and goddesses.)
The best performance as a '70s Irish drag queen by someone best known for playing villains is done by the blue-eyed star of Red Eye, CILLIAN MURPHY, in NEIL JORDAN's upcoming, picaresque Breakfast on Pluto. At a New York Film Festival party for the movie at Gabriel's, Murphy told me he researched the part by hanging with London drag queens "and grooming, plucking, and shaving. I could understand why they develop such an acerbic wit. It's because everyone shouts epithets at them on the roadand all they want to do is look good!" Speaking of looking good, was the fetching red scarf he wore in some parts of Red Eye a warm-up for Pluto's drag? "Actually, I did Pluto first," he said. "But if you want to attach some meaning to the scarf, that's fine." Nah, I'd rather attach some sequins to it. Before he moved on, Murphy said he wants to do a play in New York, but he wouldn't specify what it was. Will it be a big smash? "Well, I'm not JULIA ROBERTS," he warned, smiling. (But he can be twice as lovely.)
The best thing about seeing Broadway's A Naked Girl on the Appian Way is the way the game audience keeps rolling in the aisles, even as the play vainly tries to shock us with incest, mixed-race relations, homosexuality, and a cursing old lady. Fortunately there are a couple of genuine laughs sprinkled into the labored boulevard comedy, but it was all much better and shorter when it was called The Goat.
The best cat theater from Russia is, big surprise, the Moscow Cats Theatre , a kitschy, low-budget, high-spirited Russian doll of a show, with a ruddy-faced ringleader wordlessly guiding some kooky felines through stunts like riding a glitter ball, walking parallel ropes, and clawing their way into your heart, where they'll no doubt turn backflips on the strings. Cutest of all, they don't sing any ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER tunes.
The best stage version of Saved by the Bell seen at Apocalypse Lounge was Bayside! The Un-Musical!, a formless fantasia of pills, pregnancies, feminism, and homosexuality, with RACHEL WITZ especially perfect as Screech.
And finally, the biggest tragedy of today's gays is . . . heck, nothing whatsoever. They're terrific!
Stars in my crown
Here are some celebrity bests I've so generously tracked down for you: CYNTHIA ROWLEY's favorite video store, she told me, grinning, is "HBO on demand." Composer PHILIP GLASS revealed to me that his favorite movie theater is "whatever is closest to my house" and his most favored restaurants are the similarly convenient Cremcaffe (65 Second Avenue), Atlas Café (73 Second Avenue), and Madras Café (79 Second Avenue). I guess he's the prisoner of Second Avenue. And that's all I got because I don't actually know any other celebs. I don't even know those two, but they were close to my house. M.M.