By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
My favorite showbiz quirk is when stars don't even need to keep their careers going in order to stay wildly popular. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE has been just such a why-is-he-still-a-star for years, coasting for so long that he'd become famous for being famousa phenomenon that shrieking people always swear will cause the end of civilization, but which in fact only results in fun tabloid reading about people so stellar they don't even need product to create headlines. And now I'm mortified to hear that he has a new song out and even a few movies in the can! This could ruin him! Justin's ex-pal BRITNEY SPEARShas also been delightfully free of accomplishment lately, which made her even more of a luminaryone who generates rabid interest without doing a damned thing. And now she has a record in the works too, and I'm beyond horrified, having gotten used to following her private life without having any boring professional minutiae to distract from it. When Britney actually does something, it does absolutely nothing for me. For shame, woman! Stay home and get back on your ass!
Actually, I don't want celebrities to have private lives either. I can't stand it when they do the clichéd thing and hook up with each other, and I'm even more devastated when they collaborate on poor, unsuspecting babies. First of all, they burden the kids with impossibly in-jokey or biblical names, as if to further wreck their lives. (For the rest of their days, these delicate delinquents are fending off bad puns or living down the fact that they can't even part the sea in the bathtub.) Secondly, the babies usually come about when the stars are in a career lull, so they come to represent failure to the parentsand they pay for itor, worse, a chance for the folks to curry back some spotlight via shameless pimping and exploiting. Some stars become addicted to the birthing buzz, popping new ones out every five seconds as the other ones sit around fuming, "Remember me, bitch?" Worst of all, when the kids grow up to become actors, it becomes a whole new chance for the folks to grab some flashbulb action, so they go on TV to court their kiddies back, pleading to a mass audience, "Honey, I love you! Why don't you believe me?" It's beyond sickening. I'm glad my folks only worked in TV repair.
Oh, there's one more celebrity trend I hate. It's kissing and tellingor worse, divorcing and backstabbing. Lord knows I live for stellar conflict and wet myself whenever stars turn on each other with an ax and some teeth to grind. But there was something icky about HILARY SWANK ratting out her ex CHAD LOWE's substance abuse presumably just to clinch a magazine cover. An addiction is a probleman illness, remember? And though Swank apparently strained to help the guy, the ultimate dismissal and finger-pointing, long after he'd cleaned up, seems ice-cold (if not as callous as NICOLE KIDMAN's prenup saying KEITH URBAN forfeits every penny if he goes back on drugs. Really loving, huh?). Beyond that, I wonder if Skank's, I mean Swank's, lashing out was either a cover for something else she knows about him or a preemptive strike based on the fact that Chad has something on her. We should find out soon enough.
FIND A FLASK, WE'RE PLAYING FAST AND LOOSE
Whew. That was almost as cathartic as pushing an old lady into traffic. But now I'll have to swallow my pride and write about some celebrities who are actually doing things. Let's see, MERYL STREEP's Mother Courage and Her Children at the Delacorte is such a hot ticket they're encouraging press to come alone. "That wasn't a question," as Meryl says in The Devil Wears Prada.
Here's a question: TORI SPELLING as Roxie Hart? That's a rumor buzzing around the boards, and it's not April 1, is it? More certainly, Bravo is doing that fun-sounding, JOAN RIVERShosted Can We Dish? show with a gay panel, and months ago I heard they were considering names like SETH RUDETSKY, SCOTT NEVINS, and DENNIS HENSLEY for it (though HEDDA LETTUCE got bumped because they didn't want a drag queen. Maybe because they already have Joan Rivers?).
Dropping his own drag queenfor a minuteKENNY MELLMAN(of Kiki & Herb fame) and his fiery singing protégée BRIDGET EVERETT are working with Sex and the City scribe MICHAEL PATRICK KINGon a hush-hush show project. And there's more offbeat collaboration in the thick summer air. For those who missed DAME JUDI DENCH's immortal pairing with VIN DIESEL, now the esteemed HELEN MIRREN teams with CUBA GOODING JR. on the dark, heated Shadowboxer, and not just because they showed her the money. I guess the punk-ass bitch wanted the juicy role of a dying assassin who gets to grab Cuba's ass while seizing her last chance for life. At a special screening, director LEE DANIELStold me, "What makes Helen genius is that she demanded me to direct her because I was intimidated. She'd say, 'What do you want for this scene?' I'd say, 'What do you want?' And she'd say, 'Don't play that shit. You're the director.' " God, I would have given my left tit to hear Helen Mirren say, "Don't play that shit."
Anyway, since he is the director, I asked Daniels (who produced Monster's Ball) what brought him to a hit-man movie hoping to be a hit. "I got a lot of flack from the black community," he said, "because HALLE BERRYhad sex with a racist. We didn't get nominated for an NAACP Image Award. So now I tried to flip it. I did this movie for my family, who were very verbal about not liking Monster's Ball. Now I hope the white people get it!
"I got offered Boyz N the Hood 6 and Where's the Father of My Baby? 2 for lots of money," he added, not laughing. But Daniels wanted to do this one because it's so deeply about his people that he dedicated it to his late drug dealer uncle and showed it to his cousin in Rikers, who loved it. Some family, huh? "Most African Americans," Daniels explained, "are in denial about how Huxtable we are. Even CONDOLEEZZA RICEis only a generation away from the projects."
Well, this night there was a glittery reception, and in the screening room, Daniels exulted that even WENDY WILLIAMS was in the house. Alas, she was nowhere to be seen, so as the lights went down, he was heard to mutter, "I guess she only came for the photo op." Wendy, don't play that shit.
ONE POTATO, TWO POTATO
ROSARIO DAWSON not only showed up for her promo lunch at Michael's last week, she gleefully took on a heap of french fries, telling me, "I live in California. I've seen enough freakin' salad. There's something about french fries that makes everybody so happy!" I'm gonna start sprinkling some on my Zoloft.
Meanwhile, carb-faced DAVID GEST isn't gay, according to his bodyguard (who heard Gest bragging about bedding women with whipped cream and, I guess, waxed eyebrows)? OK, can we get a second opinion from someone not on the payroll?
Gay designer extraordinaire THIERRY MUGLER won't need a bodyguard with the makeover he's been sporting lately. Nude shots of Mugler are circulating in which he looks scarily ripped, tattooed-with-arm-stripes, modified-mohawked, facially enhanced, and downright bizarrely fabulous (or fabulously bizarre). Ooh la wha'?
Also spookily cute are the "kitlers" featured on the guilty-pleasure site catsthatlooklikehitler.com. What nextmonkeys that look like Bush?
But not-cute tyrants BEENIE MAN and T.O.K. have long been rabidly homophobic, advocating bigotry to a reggae beat (though Beenie Man touchingly says his lyrics have been misconstrued and T.O.K. may have mellowed). Well, having spent much of the last month pulling down stapled posters for Beenie Manwhile remembering that when gay activists protested a London event featuring T.O.K., they were beaten by angry fans yelling, "Kill the chi-chi man"I sent a lovely e-mail to LIFEbeat. I asked the charity org how they could have booked those two acts for their "Hearts & Voices" concert, where "international reggae artists come together for the first time to address HIV/AIDS." What nextkitlers peforming for the JDL? I eventually got a mass response saying they'd decided to cancel the concert under pressure, which was terrific, but get this. Their statement said that while they believed very strongly in the event, "the possibility of violence at the concert from the firestorm incited by a select group of activists makes canceling the event the only responsible action." Huh? So they didn't can the whole damned thing because of the hate-crime-espousing artists they'd insanely booked, but because the people who objected to all the verbal bashing were endangering lives? Why do I feel LIFEbeat-en? (Update: The org later rethought the situation and sent out a much more contrite and compassionate statement, explaining that they'd gotten random threatening calls and also promising to reach out to the Caribbean community in other ways. Mighty Huxtable of them.)