NY Mirror

Two ROBERT DOWNEY JR. movies in one night dealing with dead American authors who specialized in the horrors of drug abuse? Five more and this could be a trend!

First came the Pioneer Theater screening of Hubert Selby Jr.: It'll Be Better Tomorrow, a doc addressing the lifelong quirks of the Requiem for a Dream author, as Downey narrates with out-of-character observations about Selby's "magnanimous spirit" and the fact that "he did not die rich, though he lived a rich life." I'd rather die rich.

The actor proved to be way less greeting-card-ready at the Film Society of Lincoln Center screening of A Scanner Darkly, the rotoscoped romp based on Philip K. Dick's mildly autobiographical novel about a narc bizarrely investigating himself. The movie's a pisser, though I'm guessing it's an anti-drug film that'll send many a college student back to the bong (and maybe a few of its co-stars too).

Love him, can't explain why: Downey
photo: Dani Golomb
Love him, can't explain why: Downey

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The panel discussion after the screening was every bit as amusingly surreal as the flick, with Downey serving a pound of snark for every ounce of KEANU REEVES's cute earnestness. "I still don't get that he's Bob and then he's Fred—or is he fuckin' Bruce?" Downey remarked about Keanu's triple-threat character. "It's all three," informed Dick's daughter, ISA HACKETT, who seemed totally lucid. "But who was he when he was married?" asked Reeves, seizing the chance to learn some more. "Philip K. Dick!" said the daughter, by which point I was looking for my bong.

Audience members kept asking banal questions about the animation process, and director Richard Linklater politely responded that he doesn't know how anyone can sit at a computer for 12 hours without grabbing a shotgun, "but it's an interesting tool." So's a shotgun. Interesting tool Downey noted that "the missus" told him the film reminds her more of him than some of his live-action characters do. Well, he's certainly animated. With eyes flaring, he gleefully bitched about the Texas house they shot in, moaning, "It was condemnable." ("And smelly," interjected Keanu—or Bob or Fred or fuckin' Bruce—getting into the fun.) But the panel froze when they noticed—no, not ETHAN HAWKE strangely running for the exit, but a woman in the audience wearing a shirt that ominously said, "Explanation Kills Art." "As she's shutterbugging the hell out of us, by the way," sardonicized Downey. "Love you," he added, to the woman. "Can't explain why."


UP DAWSON'S CREEK WITH A PADDLE

Me and the missus have noticed that, to correspond with all the movie stars appearing in comic-book-style movies, now a movie star is actually doing a comic book. It's ROSARIO DAWSON, whose The Occult Crimes Task Force has her kicking Manhattan ass as a magic-empowered detective who's much more focused than Keanu's evanescent narc. Five more of these and we've got a trend.

Of course Rosario's done comic-book-style movies too, having starred in Men in Black, Sin City, and the immortal Josie and the Pussycats, though Rob Zombie—who's published his own comics—cut her scene out of The Devil's Rejects. Can't explain why. ("I was rejected from Rejects!" Dawson told me, laughing, at a luncheon for her at Michael's last week. "I was with Dr. Satan. I thought I was safe!")

At the informal gathering, Dawson was delightfully chatty, telling me that in real life she doesn't practice the occult, "but I do believe in magic and the power of belief." So did she sort of twinkle her nose and will herself to success? "Absolutely," she said. "When I was 15, they were filming a commercial down the block, and my father said, 'Go down there and get discovered.' I went down there, not to get discovered, but because there was a cute guy working on the crew. But I did get discovered after three days—by HARMONY KORINE and LARRY CLARK—and it changed my whole life." The cute guy, alas, already had a girlfriend.

By the way, Dawson's Occult project sometimes references strange, actual laws—"Like did you know there's a law that an elephant can't marry a dog?" she asked me, incredulous. "How did STAR JONES get around that one?" I wondered, sinking very low. To her credit, Dawson didn't get all high and mighty, but laughed and said, "It's all based on who you know." After a beat, we both also realized: "And she is a lawyer!"


STAR WARS, NOTHING BUT STAR WARS

Not to go after Star again, but ever since she held hands with her co-hosts in a seance for her career, I've been chewing on a couple of side issues: First of all, when BARBARA WALTERS revealed that she had originally planned to let Star spin her exit from The View however she wanted, it confirmed my long-held theory that KATHIE LEE GIFFORD's split from daytime TV had to have been a similar let's-spray-air-freshener-on-this-corpse situation. You didn't really think Kathie Lee voluntarily left to focus on her singing, did you? Let's not forget that she had married a gay, had a sponsored wedding, and lied about her stomach stapling. (I mean she'd been cheated on by hubby and had underage kids working on her fashion line. Whatever.)

But that was then. Looking toward the future of The View, my main concern now is whether ROSIE O'DONNELL will be her outspoken gay self or if she'll revert to the more generic persona from her old chat show, when she was an ambiguous mom who talked about her cute kids and adored TOM CRUISE. After all, there aren't a lot of out gays on daytime. In fact, there's only one—ELLEN—and even she's practically retreated to early-Rosie territory these days. My bet is that Walters won't be craving an avalanche of out lesbianism on the panel—despite her GLAAD awards—but riveting Rosie will be itching to provide it, and the internal conflict might actually have me tuning in.

Speaking of out TV stars, the guy who bills himself as RuffHairyTOP on bigmusclebears.com looks an awful lot like that spunky BUNKY from Big Brother! I guess he's into bear-back mountin'.

Moving on to beavers, a reader wrote in to ask: If TomKat's refusal to let their supposed baby be shown escalates into "Surigate," does that make Holmes the Surigate mother? (Yes—and by the way, can I get some props for having broken the story last year that the child was actually a pillow? And is it possible that Katie's afraid to align herself with BROOKE SHIELDS by announcing that she's suffering from post-pillow depression?)

In other parental craziness, another reader chimes in that in Superman Returns, both stars of On the Waterfront—Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint—are seen as the title character's folks, interestingly enough. Waterfront, he adds, is laden with Christ and crucifixion imagery. Discuss.

But despite all the sexuality chitchat surrounding that particular comic-book epic, the gay movie of the year is clearly The Devil Wears Prada, which the queens have been lining up to see with their pants down and their tongues out. As Duvet doorman DARRELL ELMORE told me, "I don't want to see men in tights, I want to see girls in clackers. It's porno to me!"

Sporting stilettos, I recently lunched with a British-born editor—Out's new chief, AARON HICKLIN—and was happy to find he's neither a devil nor wears Prada. And in his first editorial for the mag (which I write for), brave Hicklin spills the truth about the challenges of editing a gay publication in a phobic world. "Can I just be irritated for a moment," he wrote, "with publicists who tell us not to make their clients look 'too gay' and actors who strip off for a movie in the blink of an eye, but are then coy about undoing a collar button when the shoot is for Out? And as for the four Montauk surfers who walked off our 'Endless Summer' fashion shoot when they discovered it was for a gay magazine, I have a small question: Are you that insecure?" Well, maybe it's hard to hang 10 when you're only hung with three.

There's no point in tucking 10 this year since, I hear, Wigstock's not happening. The dragfest's organizers are taking a break, so hide your Nair, your hair, your Tussy, and your fake pussy till next time.

But let's end with the ballsy people in snoods that populated the Grey Gardens float at the Gay Pride parade. (Yes, I know this is ancient history already, but it just raced back into my noggin like an amphetamine flashback from a Philip K. Dick novel.) The float was a moving truck on which they'd built a gazebo, and the musical's co-star CHRISTINE EBERSOLE was precariously seated on top of it, about eight feet off the ground, with her legs spread. It looked uncomfortable, unladylike, and quite fabulous all at once, and watching the tirelessly game Ebersole perched there for hours, I simultaneously thought "Wow, what dedication!" and "She needs a new agent!" Oh, well. Like rotoscoping, it's an interesting tool.


musto@villagevoice.com

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