NY Mirror

The kooks are cocky and cooing at the Cuckoo Club, Sundays at the Maritime's Hiro Ballroom. The other night there, a lovely young man with no shirt and the hint of an ass crack sticking out said he was a major porn star named JOSH and he was thrilled to meet a "famous actor" like me. We bonded and posed for photos—I adore hobnobbing with other cognoscenti—and then he introduced me to his "husband," gushing that the guy had just purchased him a really expensive car. Honey, we all need a deeply appreciative spouse like that. I reached out my withered hand to greet the hubby/daddy, but the lovin' ended when he threw me a fishy look and whinnied, "You've written so many mean things about me!" "That's how I show love," I tried unsuccessfully before grabbing my clutch and crawling under a table.

Well, based on my research, the guy turned out to be ADAM SHANKMAN, who directed Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and who's helming the new movie of Hairspray! (He also, interestingly enough, played the washerwoman in a TV version ofThe Wind in the Willows. Yes, imdb.com fills in all holes.) Anyway, I was left in the lurch as the porn star lovingly straddled Shankman on a banquette, and they made a big spectacle of deep tonguing each other, only occasionally interrupted by Vegas star JOEY ARIAS gamely grabbing at them both. (You can't stop the beat.) And then they were off—no doubt in a really expensive car. That's not a mean write-up, it's just the truth—and by the way, it's the first time I've ever mentioned Shankman!

Farther downtown, Bank—the Saturday-night bash at Element—has become so popular there isn't even room to straddle your porn star boyfriend. The last time I went, the dancefloor was more packed than CLAY AIKEN's hookups' anuses. The balcony was as tight as the Queen Mother's vagina. And even the downstairs lounge rooms were more crowded than RICKY MARTIN's throat (when he's eating a supersized Cuban sandwich, I mean). After a while, you couldn't even get near the bar to buy a soda, let alone grab a free one, and for this little washerwoman, that spelled panic attack. But in the distance, you could sort of hear the live entertainment—a woman with a frizzy wig who belted out Spanish versions of dance hits by KYLIE MINOGUE and KATRINA AND THE WAVES. Ay, caramba.

By the way, I don't just haunt penis-filled nightclubs—I also go to Broadway shows about incest and pedophilia. But my heart sank when I realized that Festen was adapted from that Danish movie The Celebration, which mixed TV-movie potboiler dramatics—child abuse! interracial love! a note from the deceased!—into an overheated stew posing as avant-garde drama. Fortunately, the play is hypnotically directed and works better than the film, sustaining a nicely creepy mood, especially in the silences and eerie, faraway kiddie laughs. Critics have eviscerated ALI MACGRAW's performance, but I thought her awkwardness worked perfectly for the part of the ever smiling, monstrous enabler. Then again, I liked Sofia Coppola in The Godfather III.


TURN THE PAGE?

Kiddie sexual abuse is hinted at in The Notorious Bettie Page, which has great period detail, a lovely performance by GRETCHEN MOL, and lots of naughty posing, though it adds up to more of an extended photo shoot than a psychologically compelling drama. They've failed to come up with much of a story around the '50s pinup's controversial rise. Basically, Page comes off as a nice, mishandled girl who's asked to model. She does so. She's asked to take if off. She says sure. She's asked to do bondage. She says great. Oy! Yes, there's the crackdown trial, plus her religious awakening, but otherwise, it's her life that seems to have been bound and gagged here.

At the premiere party at, appropriately, B.E.D., I asked director/co-writer MARY HARRON if today's conservative assault on porn is the biggest one yet. "Nothing could be worse than the '50s crackdown," she said, "because porn was scarier and not as familiar then. But porn is the biggest moneymaking industry, so for people to get moralistic when everyone's on the Internet is all show." For her next show, Harron wants to do a punk movie about CBGB, though she said, "It's always a battle to get a film made." More immediately, she was planning to return the gorgeous Dolce & Gabbana dress she borrowed for the premiere, "and then I turn back into a Brooklyn housewife!"

Let me turn back into a raging queen with a blood-soaked ax to grind, if not a pricey car to escape in. As you know, the troubled Q Television Network recently gave queers a bad name by laying people off and owing shitloads of gay money all around (including to me). Well, they've had a corporate overhaul, but a knowledgeable source tells me, "The new president has no TV experience. They're just making the same mistakes over again. It's probably just going to fizzle away. They've done such damage to the brand, I can't imagine anyone would ever take them seriously again." That's so true, but while the sad sacks are trying to rise out of the scum bucket, let's please take the following inside jizz very seriously: I hear one of the network's on-air personalities is having a lesbian affair with one of its "straight," married-with-kids senior executives! They should film that.

In other sexual entertainment news, I was just interviewed for a documentary about the notorious PARIS HILTON that promises to be her Truth or Dare, maybe even with the same Chihuahua. It's backed by Warner Bros. and authorized by Paris (who's fully cooperating), but it looks to be balanced, and she even curses in it! That one will never be bound and gagged.


STERN UND DRANG

Last week, I ungagged myself to give commentary on a TV news show—no, not about how BRITNEY and her baby are now both brain dead. It was about—what else?—the JARED PAUL STERNscandal, which I said will have to prompt a purge "for there to be a light at the end of the tunnel and everyone to be able to dish more ethically." "Did you just hear him say 'dish more ethically'?" the anchor remarked, smirking, before her co-stars erupted into giggles. (And then they went on to a really urgent story about TomKat's "silent birth.")

Hey, freaks, why is the prospect of ethical dishing such a joke? Has gossip become such a cesspool of conflicts that the Stern hoo-ha is just the tip of the insidious iceberg? Don't answer that! Believe me, I know the industry I'm part of is partly a subtly tangled mess of paybacks and backstabbing. But I don't think it's that laughable to say that this particular situation can be used to help flush out the bad stuff and emerge with (free-food-filled) heads held high. We columnists can do so in the following ways:

(1) Never think a publicist is your friend. They're actually the enemy. We strive for truth, they usually aim to subvert it. (2) Still, let's call for the other side of the story. Even if flacks are generally paid to lie, let's try to include their BS in the item just for equality's sake. (3) Fuck favors. When I hear someone say "I need you to do me a favor," I turn into NAOMI CAMPBELL. (Of course, if I want to call a plug about myself into a column, I'm still allowed to do so, in my most tremulous, pleading tones.) (4) Don't dis blogs as inaccurate when your own column (or tabloid) happens to be more fictional than a Bush war excuse or an OPRAH book of the month. (5) Please realize that anonymous or unnamed sources generally have an agenda. I knew that when I quoted that person about QTN, but I put it in anyway because I have an agenda too. (And the source isn't anonymous to me.) (6) Go ahead, go on junkets and free tastings if you're hungry and they're approved by your paper. Just trash them in print afterward. That's what I do, belch. (7) Quit with the endless plugs for that Italian guy's restaurant and that horrorhouse publicist. You may have inked a deal with the devil stating you will gush about them through eternity, but readers signed on to no such agreement. (8) The rival dailies that have reveled in this story so gleefully should probably step back for a little self-reflection. In the Daily News' case, their biggest scoop ever only happened because of the Post! And in the Times, all the articles on Stern's fuckup are second only in length to their corrections page. Wow, that was cathartic. Cigarette?


WEB EXTRA

Late Breaking Paris Hilton Setback!

Exclusive Gossip: Is it hard out here for an heiress? PARIS HILTON had a long-anticipated CD scheduled to come out in June. Out magazine recently sent me to L.A. to interview the multi-media personality about her music, which I heard and thought was perfectly enjoyable dance-pop, as helmed by wunderkind SCOTT STORCH. But a source tells me that Warner Brothers chairman/CEO TOM WHALLEY might not feel the same way. They say he doesn't think it's ready—in fact, he doesn't care for it at all—and he's putting the project on hold for now. (I'm hearing it'll probably be released in September.) At least this should provide some juicy conflict for The Simple Life. (I'm awaiting a response from a Warner Brothers publicist.)


musto@villagevoice.com

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