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The first big fright at the premiere of The Omen came when I noticed that the seat behind me had a sign saying "LIZA MINNELLI Guest." I thought it meant she was still married to that creepy guy! Thankfully, I calmed down after realizing the key word was spelled differently. Moments later, Liza showed up with her Gest, I mean guest—a young radio-host twink named JASON DREW—and revved into her best Liza mode, acting as effusive and agreeable as if she were on Larry King Live. Someone in my row asked Liza if she planned to be afraid. "I have a protector!" Liza responded, chirpily. "He's my best friend!" She meant her guest. "We'll be under the chair in five minutes," the guest whimpered, not all that protectively. "But it's not like The Exorcist," assured Liza, adding many consonants. "The Exshorshist was shhhhcary!"

Another jolt happened when GRIFFIN DUNNE came running up to Liza and said his daughter recently sang "Maybe This Time" in school, but she coughed on the last note. "I did that too!" comforted Liza. "Tell her I think it's kosher!" (Her sudden Yiddishism may have been because the premiere was in a former synagogue—long story—which at one point prompted Liza to cutely exclaim, "I'm in a shynagogue?") By the time Liza was calling MIA FARROW over and vowing undying love, all I could think of was that Jackie Susann wanted them both to star in the tawdrily fabulous movie of Valley of the Dolls! Imagine Liza playing Neely, the part based on her mother—a singer-actress who loses roles because she's a druggy mess—while Mama herself played opposite her as Helen Lawson until losing the role because she was a druggy mess? Alas, it was neither kosher nor meant to be.

But back to this camp classic —a sleek bunch of hooey about a kiddie Antichrist, which really stretches credulity since The Da Vinci Code says there wasn't even a Christ, let alone an anti. As the darling demon seed causes suicides, beheadings, and doggy discomfort, no one does anything about it, even with PETE POSTLETHWAITE's tremulous, overacting priest screaming over the thunder, "He must die!" Daddy LIEV SCHREIBER finally jumps to action, and as he does so, you see a totally not-gratuitous product placement of a KFC sign! Now that's scary.

Rosemary's other baby: Farrow, director John Moore, and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick at the premiere of The Omen
photo: Dani Golomb
Rosemary's other baby: Farrow, director John Moore, and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick at the premiere of The Omen

At the din-din after the movie (which wasn't fast food), CYNTHIA ROWLEY wisecracked, "I'm gonna go home and shave the kids' heads."

I was terrified all over again when a screening notice for Strangers With Candy asked reviewers who plan to abbreviate the movie's name if they could please just call it Strangers, not Candy. That's because the same company has a HEATH LEDGER film coming out called Candy and would rather not have any kooky confusion around it. I'm just going to call it With. Or maybe "alternately hilarious and flat." Or maybe "four-alarm migraine," since I waited forever at the film's NewFest party for AMY SEDARIS to show up and she didn't. No, I worship the woman, and I'm sure she was just busy taking off her prosthetic teeth.

At the same fest, everyone showed for Another Gay Movie, TODD STEPHENS's very funny gay spoof of teen sex romps, which I insist on calling American Quiche (or maybe just Gay). It's refreshingly crass, from the carrot fucking to the spoof of the prom scene in Carrie with cum instead of pigs' blood. Porn star MATTHEW RUSH cameos as an OD'ing drug bunny, and survivor RICHARD HATCH shows up to get naked and stick his face in the underweared butt of a guy who's had three enemas and who calls his friend to gloat, "I'm about to get anal from a million-dollar bear!" After the movie, Stephens said Hatch was his "dream of a cheesy reality TV celebrity. I thought, 'What would it be like to finally see his penis?' I asked him if he'd show it. He said, 'Fuck yeah. I'd love to.' " And fortunately it was sizable enough to not get voted off the island.

I wittily asked Stephens if the million-dollar bear paid tax on his income from the movie. "The $250? Yes," he said, laughing. "Actually, he wanted to wear a cap that said 'Fuck the IRS,' but I thought that whole thing would blow over by the time the movie came out." But now that Hatch is jailbound, it's he who will either get fucked or blown over.

Survivors of A.D.D. lined up for the Golden Trailer awards—given to movie trailers, not mobile homes—which started with host JIM GAFFIGAN saying, "I'venever heard of me either," and got even giddier as it went along, a Beer League star accepting Trashiest Trailer just because the real winners (for some skanky epic called Three) had done a Sedaris and not shown up. "I'm too big for this," deadpanned presenter RICH VOS. "I've got to go to the Ringtone awards."


A slice with extra sausage

And I had to get to a shynagogue, I mean to Fire Island, even though Fleet Week had just ended and boy was my butt sore. Alas, the slushie machines weren't even filled yet, and there was hardly a single tick-infested deer (or gay) in sight, let alone licking your face. I guess the queens were busy waxing their pubes and alphabetizing their MADONNA remixes. Still, it wasn't hard to locate the usual overhanging cloud of relentless sexual innuendo just by glancing at the community bulletin boards. A pizza-eating contest at the Ice Palace came with the slogan "How fast can you swallow?" (Not very, it turned out; the competition dragged—and you had to buy the slice to enter!) And one of the big theater events being promoted had the guy who sang "Boom Boom Boom (Let's Go Back to My Room)" co-starring in some three-enema romp called Two Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night. Actually, after a Broadway season of overdressed British drama, that sounds exactly like my cup of jizz. I'll swallow it quickly.

Back on the mainland, the nights seem hotter now that BAILEY BARTSCH BARTON—the son of party queen SUSANNE BARTSCH and gym titan DAVID BARTON—just got his first love letter. From a girl. And he's not repulsed. "I guess he's straight," Bartsch told me over the din at Happy Valley. Oh, dear Antichrist! What went wrong? (Kidding. Straights are people too. Except in the White House—though I must say DUBYA does stand for change: changing history to blame Iraq for 9-11 and changing the Constitution to stop gay marriage!)

While we're talking sexuality talk, EGAN ELLEDGE was one of the biggies at the late, unlamented QTV, which screwed tons of people (like me) out of oodles of money. Well, insult has just been added to gay injury. Ex–Q personality JACK E. JETT says Elledge recently contacted him to try to get his name off the imdb .com credits for Q's old Queer Edge show! (Elledge refused comment when I asked him about this.) Elledge told Jett he feels that some people in the biz aren't cool with gay credits, and I guess he wants to do whatever it takes to fudge things (or un-fudge things) and secure his next job. "Our number one concern is to help Egan get a gig," says Jett, wryly.

Meanwhile, ex–Page Sixer JARED PAUL STERN is staying on the offensive, as it were. He tells me by e-mail, "RON BURKLE and the Daily News are both completely full of crap and they'll find they've made some very costly mistakes in launching this ridiculous smear campaign. Burkle will have to crawl back down his diamond-paved hole and stick to being BILL CLINTON's fluffer. If there's any justice at all, he'll end up with his old pal ANTHONY PELLICANO in jail. And even the mouth-breathing morons who buy the Daily News will find out just what a sack of shit it really is." Rather than ask if he prefers the Post, which fired him, I deleted the e-mail, shaking. That was shhhhcary!


A heck of a Heckie

But let's end with some cockle warming and—for those who found my Valley of the Dolls section too au courant—a little education: Eileen Heckart was a brilliant stage-movie-TV actor who filled her acerbic roles with layers of humanity, most notably in life and as the mother of three sons, including theater guy LUKE YANKEE. Well, Yankee's memoir of Mama, Just Outside the Spotlight, is a multi-hankie Heckie-thon that's one of the most compassionate and illuminating showbiz books ever written. There are gossip flashes— Lucille Ball and Mary Pickford as nasty drunks—along with dizzying opening nights and offbeat confrontations, but mostly you come away with the portrait of a towering talent, with an allergy to BS, giving a master class in life—complete with some very challenging assignments—to her awestruck son (who probably has a birthmark of the Ticketmaster number on his head). It's a privilege to be privy to it. End of shinsherity.


musto@villagevoice.com

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