NY Mirror

The very first celebrity listed on the tip sheet for the gala premiere of Factotum was JARED KUSHNER, the fresh-faced, 25-year-old new owner of The New York Observer. That was surprising—until I noticed that the Observer was co-hosting the event!

But this was not your typical pink-paper fare in the slightest. Factotum is the MATT DILLON movie based on the Bukowski book about a drunken scribe who's prone to blurting things like "Crabs, baby. You gave me the crabs. . . . You got it off a toilet seat?" At the after-party at BLVD, I cornered Kushner for an inspired meeting of uptown and downtown alterna-weekly titans. "Is a movie about crabs and alcohol abuse the kind of image you really want for the Observer?" I asked him, feigning nonchalance. "Is it what you want for the Observer?" he countered, as some photographers swooped in for the kill. "No," I cooed, "it's what I want for the Voice, and I've worked very hard at it, thank you!"

Awkward silence. Time for another penetrating question: "Anyway, Jared, have you ever had crabs?" ("I know I have!" I added, though I genteelly neglected to interject, "and not from a toilet seat.") "Emphatically no," Kushner said, with a nervous smile. Another strained silence. We grinned at each other, bonding even tighter as ABEL FERRARA loomed in to tell me, "Nice movie!" "Come on, kid," I prodded, "isn't there a dark side lurking beneath that impossibly clean facade?" (I nicely didn't mention his father's prison record.) "With me and the Observer, what you see is what you get," Kushner responded, and then we cordially parted, with him vowing, "I'll check out your work." Mama say what? The freak never even heard of me? He doesn't read the competition, have cable, or leave the house much? No wonder he's never had crabs.

Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway
photo: Joe Oppedisano
Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway

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SURI WITH A FRINGE ON TOP

Scrubbed down with lemon-freshened Kwell, I was all through with lice, lice, baby and ready to leave my own house again. After a lovely dinner of soft-shell crabs, I went to the Fringe Festival's I Was Tom Cruise, a low-octane but intriguing Twilight Zone–y look at what it takes to literally become a grinning replicant like Tom. In the lead role, JEFF BERG captures the earnest boyishness and motivational-speaker-type hand gestures, and though he's portrayed as a poignant freak, Tom would probably love the whole thing, mainly because there's no mention of any gay rumors.

Completely out—of their minds—lopsided lounge duo KIKI & HERB just hit Broadway's Helen Hayes Theater, and Helen must be rolling. With laughter. There have been a few modifications made in the duo's move from crack dens to the Great White Way: There's now a set (a giant leaf that's like an upside-down version of BETTE MIDLER's clamshell, plus a tree stump for holding the booze), some contempo patter (Kiki wants MEL GIBSON to fry, primarily because now that the Holocaust miniseries is off, she won't get to sing the theme song), and smatterings of perfectly respectable audience members taking notes instead of ludes. But otherwise the show is intact in all of its indulgent, woozy, erratic, lacerating dazzle, working as a showbiz satire, an actual pop-rock concert, and a stirring call to arms. The tawdry twosome—played to the hoochie hilt by JUSTIN BOND and KENNY MELLMAN—indulge in hilariously kitschy and/or esoterically poignant narrative-song covers in between Kiki's rambling 'logues of commentary so warped and offensive it's generally right on target. I've never seen an act that so wants to die end up being so damned life-affirming. But will all the uptighty whities adore it? Emphatically no. I hope not!

Somewhat more traditional Broadway types filled Tony's DiNapoli for the presentation of the Drama Desk Awards, which were announced way back in May. Why the delay—to bring more drama to the Desk? "You tell me," The History Boys' twinkly SAMUEL BARNETT responded. "I've been waiting for three months. It's Lalique!" he suddenly exclaimed, fondling the pricey statuette and softening a bit. It takes so little to calm an award-winning star. And what did he get as a Tony nominee—a set of luxury dinnerware? "A cell phone," he revealed, "with unlimited free minutes. Of course, the contract stops when I leave the country." He'll eventually do so anyway.

Barnett's next prize is that the movie version of The History Boys is in the can and all ready for a November release. "We had to bring it down to a film performance," he said, "which meant finding the truth in our lines. It was natural to take it down and internalize it. It was reinvigorating." As a result, is he expecting all sorts of Lalique thingies and phone accessories from the Oscar committee? "I'm not expecting anything," he said, sagely.


WHERE HAVE ALL THE PACKERS GONE?

That movie's got all sorts of high-class intergenerational diddling, but don't expect any gay representations in current fare, please. Friends tell me that Step Up is that true rarity— a high-kicking flick about an arts school without one gay student! What next— Fluff Up, about a hairdressing university for the bi-uncurious?

And there are no 'mos in World Trade Center either (though I did catch a quick shot of a leering tranny hooker). We've been singed out of the apocalyptic day just the way Mark Bingham's sexuality was notably absent from United 93. Instead, you get the straightest story ever told—about two guys left in the wreckage who happen to be great cops, terrific fathers, and top-notch survivors. (Only OLIVER STONE could be contrary enough to make a feel-good story out of 9-11.)

After Stone decided that even the whittled-down gay element of his Alexander ruined it at the box office—I guess he didn't notice that Brokeback Mountain went on to rake in almost 13 times its cost—he's retreated to family values and the joys of the human spirit (as written by others). Over heart-tugging music, the characters—adrift in a Samuel Beckett wasteland of mangled metal and shattered dreams—hallucinate Jesus coming at them with a water bottle and declare sentiments like "It's as if God made a curtain out of smoke shielding us to what we're not yet ready to see!"

Still, I found much of the film powerful and feel NICOLAS CAGE does his best work when he can't move. And Stone does include some realistic gay baiting when one cop gets badgered by another for wearing colorful shorts. ("Do they make those for men too?" the harasser says—and the whole incident turns out to be a product placement for Target, by the way!) At the end, a dewy-eyed marine—in white undies, no doubt—vows that we're gonna have to get some good men out there to avenge this thing. Maybe in the sequel, they'll show us bombing Iraq instead.

I should mention that Kiki—the previously discussed broad with the baritone— isn't thrilled with the new no-liquids rule at hyper-vigilant airports. "Kiki DuRane without her sports beverage?" she deadpanned. "You don't know terror."

Speaking of good men with avenging weapons, I hear—late-breaking news—that the West Side Club will supposedly be a goner soon, so pack up your greasy towels and run for the showers. But bachelorettes can rejoice. DANNY THE WONDER PONY—the saddled guy with the bit in his mouth—recently ponied up to Happy Valley to ride people to freedom. Where's he been all these years? Shedding? "I've had an exclusive booking at Tequila Joe's in New Jersey," Danny explained to me, braying, as I glanced down to see if he's hung like a, you know.

But there's one less promoter at the Valley these days. Scene star Sophia Lamar had been bad-mouthing the place's bracingly mixed Tuesday-night party, which is my second home (third, if you count Duane Reade). That irked hosts KENNY KENNY and SUSANNE BARTSCH, a/k/a Mrs. DAVID BARTON, who encouraged Lamar to take a chillaxing vacation. She ended up quitting ("I didn't get paid enough to keep my mouth shut," Lamar tells me) and found that her Barton Gym membership had been as terminated as my last parasitic crotch visitor. But Lamar swears she hasn't done voodoo to get back at Bartsch. That's good to know. Now I go do doo-doo. I hope the seat is clean.

musto@villagevoice.com

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