NY Mirror

MEL GIBSON looked terrific in his mug shot—not just because plugs are much easier to control than actual hair, but because, though he had just been drunkenly screaming epithets at uniformed law keepers, he cagily remembered to gently smile for the camera. What a star! The resulting photo is reminiscent of that last image of Norman Bates in Psycho, where he's eerily grinning in the police station, with the corpse's teeth superimposed on him, as you hear his alter ego think, "I wouldn't hurt a Jew," I mean "fly."

But while the photo wasn't that messy, Mel's initial claim that he isn't anti-Semitic, he was just drunk, definitely was. I had no idea that an open bar is all it takes to turn Mother Teresa into a hair-plugged Hitler. My aunt the nun had better stay off the sacramental wine or she might end up grabbing a rifle and mowing down children in the nearest ghetto. We'd all better lay off the booze or, at perfectly sophisticated dinners, we'll suddenly find ourselves singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" with right arms extended. That could be embarrassing.

Mel's excuse prompted a friend of mine to snicker, "Well, he must have been plastered when he made The Passion of the Christ!" And he must be shooting down doubles because, let's remember, his filmography also reads like a laundry list of big-budget slaps in the gay face. There was his icky spoof of a flaming hairdresser in Bird on a Wire; his draining all the gayness out of the tender The Man Without a Face; the controversial Prince Edward II character, whose lover was thrown from the castle, in Braveheart; and of course the mincingly buffoonish Jesus baiter Herod Antipas in Passion. (He wasn't portrayed like that in the Gospels—in fact, he was a rabid womanizer—which tends to deflate Mel's Jews-killed-Christ defense: "But that's what it said in the Bible!")

What's more—as is now legend—when a 1992 interviewer asked what Mel thinks of gay men, the star pointed to his rear end and elegantly replied, "They take it up the ass. This is only for taking a shit." (No, in Mel's case, that would be the facial orifice.) In the same delightful quiz session, Gibson revealed that he had worked with gays at acting school, and "they were good people, kind. I like them. But their thing is not my thing." In fact, he remembered freaking that people might think he was one of them—but magnanimously enough, "I became an actor despite that." And the world breathed a huge sigh of relief! "But it would be hard to take me for someone like that," Mel added, perhaps sardonically. "Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them? What happens is when you're an actor, they stick that label on you." No, they stick the label homophobe, you friggin' anti-Semite. (Update: Poetically enough, in the upcoming movie Under and Alone, Mel gets to play a character named Billy Queen. At least he isn't Billy Queenowitz.)

Mercifully, Mel will be undergoing sensitivity training—which reminds me that in 1997, he did some gay penance by working with GLAAD and allowing queer filmmakers on the set of Conspiracy Theory for a seminar. They must have been thrilled to get to know his paranoid-nutjob car-driving personality—in the movie, that is.


FETA ACCOMPLI

At a press dinner at Geoffrey Zakarian's Country restaurant in the Carlton Hotel, a guest claimed that GQ is dropping Mel as their man of the year, and Zakarian quipped, "They should make it Manishewitz of the year." Some of us then expressed empathy for Mel's publicist, ALAN NIEROB—who's reportedly the son of Holocaust survivors—though there's a feeling Mel has calculatedly used Nierob's Jewishness to soften his own blows. And Nierob turning this into a "fighting for his life" issue for Mel—along with a "source close to the Oscar winner" telling a reporter that Mel was suicidal because he was "helpless to alcohol"—verges uncomfortably on more blame-game spin. It makes Mel the victim—much like Jim McGreevey's "Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity" speech—recasting an unsavory wrongdoer as a deeply ethical person who's poignantly struggling and finding himself utterly "helpless" (though admittedly Mel has sought help in the past—for his boozing, anyway). With each apology, though, Mel's gotten a little closer to a full disclosure. "It's like playing Operation," Zakarian cracked.

But let me get back to that dinner, where I was absolutely helpless to Diet Coke—with a wickedly corrupting lemon wedge! As we enjoyed Zakarian's "arpeggio of feta cheese," the restaurateur moaned that golfers used to dress much snazzier, before LEE TREVINOchanged everything into "an elastic orgasm of crap." I was suddenly tempted to point to my gay butt and exclaim, "That's what this is for!"


COUNTING QUOS

Culture is coming out of everyone else's. Nightlife legend FRED ROTHBELL-MISTAhas launched a plucky quarterly pullout magazine called No Status Quo, featuring—among many other things—an interview with rock icon RICHARD HELL, who gets queasy when asked if he's bisexual or still does drugs. Either way, he'd be a perfect No Status Quo reader. Exults Rothbell-Mista, "I want left-wingers, right-wingers, drug addicts, everything. There's no target audience because that's what ruins magazines. We have no target anything!" That way your demographic can't possibly desert you.

In music, the downtown kids seem to have one thing on the brain—or in the mouth. To wit, RAINBLO's song "East Village Cocksuckers" is a hard-driving ode to metaphorical pipe smokers. CAZWELL's "All Over My Face" is a rap-happy dance tune about, you guessed it, the squirting powers of jizz. And KENNY KENNY's "Stiletto Kickback" is a danceable romp about fetishy footwear, though he tells me, "It's not overtly 'stick it in my pussy.' It's very me, very androgynous. I'm effeminate, but I have a deep voice." (He does? Then I guess he'll never get in a Mel Gibson Bible movie.)

At Happy Valley, I swatted off an admirer three weeks in a row, only to learn he's the guy who was just bumped from Project Runway for being a total cheat. Now I desperately want him back.

But back to the bigotry. In a broadway.com piece, the incorrigible JOHN SIMON rails against "show queens" who he says have bad taste and laugh too hard and stand and cheer too easily (though he graciously concedes that they support the theater and occasionally like something he feels "worthy"). Can't wait for his article on "show blacks" who encourage OPRAH musicals or "show Jews" who start wars at the concession stand.

A member of Lord knows how many minority groups, the Times critic turned NPR reporter ELVIS MITCHELL was recently nominated for "hottest gay journalist in New York" by a blog named Left Behinds. "You know what they say about the length of a man's dreads?" was their teaser for Mitchell (who lost to current Timesman PATRICK HEALY). "But is he even gay?" some voters wondered. I don't know; he never sucked my dick.

In the movies, it's the year of the sad, pathetic gay who's dumped by the boyfriend and ends up feeling so suicidal he wouldn't mind being thrown from a castle—by himself. Poseidon, The Night Listener, and Little Miss Sunshine all have just such characters—but at least some of them eventually rally in a way even little miss CHRISTIE BRINKLEY could learn from.

Of course being "that way" myself means I'm capricious, malicious, wear eye makeup, and can now return to some other irrelevant comments about mouthy Mel: Don't you love how the celebrity showdown on the subject has basically amounted to ROB SCHNEIDER vs. JACKIE MASON? (And you thought they were the same person.) Why on earth are JODIE FOSTER and JOHN TRAVOLTA so vehemently defending a homophobe? When Mel threatened the officer with, "I'll fuck you," was the old truth serum arousing his real feelings once again? Does his lethal weapon have hair plugs too? And don't you think that female sergeant will get over her hurt feelings in time to start hawking her "sugar tits" to Playboy? Sorry, I didn't mean to say any of those things. I just drank another Diet Coke with lemon.

musto@villagevoice.com

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