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I would die for you, dear reader—or at least inconvenience myself a little. Just last week, I went all the way to Atlantic City to see MADONNA on a cross. But I guess it wasn't that much of a sacrifice—mine, that is. At least I could catch Maddy without all those clichéd queens who'd lined up to see her in New York—and besides, I wasn't invited to see the show in New York. And I adore Atlantic City's rebounding energy and hot contradictions—like Vuitton stores and go-karts, high rollers and low comedy, and birds picking at your crumbs as you eat fried chicken.

Madonna? She was fine, though Boardwalk Hall was hotter than BRANDON ROUTH because the little diva had supposedly decreed that air-conditioning would mess with her voice—just like that other soul legend, ARETHA FRANKLIN. "Take off your shirt," a publicist suggested, but I sagely replied, "Oh, no. There's only one old person who'll be stripping tonight, and that's Madonna!"

But amazingly, the lady stayed dressed—except for her chicken legs—while serving up a slick and artsy-fartsy mix of narcissism and preachiness. Looking like ANN COULTER with better clothes, she entered, Glinda-like, via a descending glitter ball and proceeded to mix her two favorite metaphors—straddling a stripper's pole with a saddle attached—while five video screens and throngs of athletic dancers soaked up whatever was left of your attention span.

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    When she landed on the crucifix for "Live to Tell," it wasn't shocking at all—just silly, especially since she was wearing a sort of executive-secretary outfit and my friend was yelling, "Jewish people don't do this! This imagery means nothing to us!" But Maddy shrewdly defused any objections by backing the number with hard-to-argue-with slides about African children orphaned by AIDS. (For my next show, I plan to rip up the Koran while talking about the dangers of cholesterol.) Her other themes ranged from dictators-are-bad to gays-are-good, but the high-minded approach and shall we say layered vocals left the audience—which looked not dissimilar to WAYNE NEWTON's, by the way—feeling quite pleased with itself.

    Toward the end, Madonna said ta-ta to pretensions and lightened up for a "La Isla Bonita" number that was like a commercial for a Carnival cruise stocked with Hawaiian Punch and a '70s-style medley that seemed like the afterbirth of those coke-fueled disco movies. She never spoke except to repeatedly screech, "I'm working my ass off up here. I want to see standing and screaming!" But that's why we love the woman—she has no desire to even fake warmth. She's not a complete fraud like MICHAEL JACKSON. She really gives at the orifice.


    The city of brotherly felching

    After recovering from all the buffets and aspirations, I journeyed to the Philadelphia Gay Film Festival to work my ass off up there and moderate a panel discussion about More Dangerous: The Making of Michael Lucas' Dangerous Liaisons. See, I made a fully clothed (even my legs) cameo in Lucas's Dangerous Liaisons—the Gone With the Wind of gay porn—so naturally I seized the chance to rewreck my career and turn up in the "making of" feature too. And I did this all for you (and the gift bag and the opportunity to storm Philly with fellow Lucas-ites RUPAUL and BRUCE VILANCH, my two favorite lavender Hollywood Squares).

    Onstage, Ru talked about the wonderful puckering butts and flatulence on a Lucas set (they need to add some Oscar categories). In another highlight, when Vilanch was asked, "Is the beard coming back?" I flatulently quipped, "Who, KATIE HOLMES?" That prompted Vilanch to swear that the Cruises are currently filming Mission Impossible: But We're Getting Away With It So Far. (He also feels that ANNA NICOLE SMITH should have starred in Dead Man's Chest. Me too, though her chest is still bigger than that dead guy's.)

    In more private moments, Lucas told me he got a close-up shot of Madonna's "sweaty pussy" in concert (I guess her clothes reveal more than I thought) and he also regaled me with tales of his hustler days and one particularly spunky customer with feet but no legs. (But hey, he had a valid credit card.) Limping over to Vilanch—who's played Edna in Hairspray—I asked him if JOHN TRAVOLTA has a leg to stand on in the movie version. "Well, he's not right for it," he said, "but they wanted a movie star. Brando's dead—that would be my choice. But you can't have a bigger disaster than Battlefield Earth, so this makes sense for Travolta. If Hairspray doesn't work, it's something he tried, and if it does work, he'll be De Niro." Yeah, DRENA DE NIRO!

    Another non– Masterpiece Theatre entry in the festival, Another Gay Movie, is the gleefully gross teen-flick spoof in which—top this, History BoysGRAHAM NORTONis a professor who shoots "Belgian chocolate" out of his butt as his prize pupil lies under a glass table. Yet one more Oscar category needed. At a New York party at Element, writer-director TODD STEPHENS assured me that plot device "didn't come from personal experience, just my sick mind." And Norton's game behind. Delightful Fat Pig star ASHLIE ATKINSON—who plays a rambunctious dyke—laughingly told me, "At the script reading, they'd read all this outrageous stuff and I forgot we'd actually have to do these things. I thought someone would just read them or maybe WILFORD BRIMLEYwould do a voiceover." I can hear it now: "Quaker Oats—now made with Belgian chocolate!"


    Macy's thanksgiving-day parade

    Avoiding the Hershey highway, I made one last star trek for you: I went with WILLIAM H. MACY and his puppy dog face to a Park Avenue South restaurant and used the table only for eating. We even sat inside, because Macy pleaded not to have to be so plainly visible in the outdoor- café section. Fear of fans? Yeah—his wife's. "Ever since Desperate Housewives took off," Macy told me, "people come up to me like crazy." Because he's Mr. Huffman? Yep, he said, smiling. "But I love being Mr. Huffman."

    He's not exactly chopped herring salad as Mr. Macy, delivering another top performance in Edmond, the taut little movie based on DAVID MAMET's play about a tightly wound man who goes on the biggest rampage since KATHY GRIFFIN couldn't find her ATM card. Macy saw the play in the '80s, "and I was outraged. I called Dave [Mamet] and said, 'Are you all right?' To put that kind of hatred and rage and use nigger with no impunity was outrageous." But he must have realized it's a juicy part, and apparently so did everyone else; movie versions have long been attempted, though the money people inevitably went on their own hate rampages when asked to produce it. "If nigger didn't get 'em," said Macy, "the sodomy did!"

    Crediting director STUART GORDON with making the film's "tortured birth" happen, Macy feels the result is more honest than the last big Oscar winner. "Beyond Crash's great acting and self-assured filmmaking," he said, "a lot of the scenes were not true, they were manipulative. You're thinking, 'Why are these people acting this way?' " To win an Oscar, I guess.

    Macy prefers gutsier flicks and he'd give the shirt off his back to help promote them—literally. Unlike Madonna, Macy's still flaunting his entire "middle-aged Lutheran" body, even doing so in the Disney biker movie he's shooting called Wild Hogs. "I had to take my clothes off in front of Travolta, TIM ALLEN, and some teamsters," he said, laughing. "Next time, it'll be in my contract— 'no nudity.' But it keeps me thin." He sheds in Edmond too and told me that the props department had him cover his penis with a tube sock. The director actually looked at this offbeat spectacle and said, "Can we get a smaller sock?"

    Before we zipped up and went back into the scary public, I had to ask about Mrs. Macy, whom he met when she was his acting student. Was this perhaps shades of Mamet's professorial harassment play, Oleanna (which Macy starred in and which stops short of Belgian chocolate)? "I never touched her until she wasn't a student anymore," he swore, puppy eyes twinkling. "Twenty minutes after."

    This year, being Mr. Huffman meant going to every awards show imaginable and even watching Crash win. Those ceremonies can be very trying experiences (which I live for). "You think, 'God, I hope I don't get nominated,' " Macy told me, dryly. "I started carrying a flask. The second I figured that out, awards shows got much better!"

    As for the next Oscar race, let's raise a flask to WOODY ALLEN and PEDRO ALMODÓVAR, both of whom—attention trend-piece editors—are serving up dead characters coming back to settle scores and look fabulous. But M. NIGHT RAMA-DAMA-DINGDONG could use a smaller sock. His dead-in-the-water Lady in the Water offers a swimming Hallmark card who spouts cringe inducers like "All creatures have a purpose." Or maybe all creatures have a porpoise? The laborious flick—which puts the cunt back in scruntand the barf back in narf—was summed up by the WOW Report with one lovely turn of phrase: "I see wet people." I might not die for you people, but I wanted to while sitting through that movie.


    Web extra:

    The most poignant part of the Miss Universe telecast the other night wasn't anything that happened during the pageant—it was the Cover Girl commercial featuring internationally known dumpee CHRISTIE BRINKLEY. "Would I want to be 25 again? Not a chance!" Brinkley said, wrinkling, as it were, her nose. OK, how about 17? Maybe then your skanky hubby would have kept you around. The ad, by the way, is for "age-defying makeup" and has Brinkley concluding, "But I still want that radiant look." Well, slather lots of the stuff on, honey. The days of BILLY JOEL singing "I love you just the way you are" are long over. Now, men love you just the way you WERE.


    musto@villagevoice.com

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