By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I found my rock bottom last week when I dragged my sorry ass to the Material Girls party and was denied interviews with those illustrious sisters of darkness, HILLARY and HAYLIE DUFF. Can you imagine the degradation? And I was all set to quote an imdb.com user who said the film's incredibly special ("one of the five worst I've ever seen"). Fine, girlsyour loss.
Even the dead Bealesthat whack mother-daughter act of fallen socialites popularized in Grey Gardenswere more inviting when I went to the party for ALBERT MAYSLES's new release of found footage, The Beales of Grey Gardens. The fashion-forward dingbats were yacking away at me nonstopfrom a TV monitoras Maysles told me that Edie wasn't nuts at all, she was just in a teensy bit of an elliptical orbit. "I'm a psychologist," he said. "I worked at a mental hospital. Crazy she's not. The Times called her crazy and she wrote a letter in response. She's so much a poet, such a brilliant defender of her sanity!" And the fact she and mom owned not a single television, he feels, is irrefutable proof of their clarity of vision.
Maysles's next documentary will cover something truly crazyblood libel, whereby Jews have long been wrongly accused of killing Christian children to drink their blood for Passover. (Only HOWARD STERN does that, I'm pretty sure.) Maysles told me the Hezbollah puts out propaganda films claiming this shit is true, and his film will counter it by centering on "the 1913 trial of Mendel Beilis in anti-Semitic czarist Russia." " That'll have them lining up at the cineplex," I cracked, and he laughed politely.
Another dark victory, On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report, is LINDA ELLMAN's powerful piece (shown on Court TV and available on DVD) exploring jaw-dropping evidence of ineptitude and willful ignorance surrounding that hateful day. The Q&A after last week's screening became even more emotional than expected when the mother of a guy who died on 9-11 shrieked from the audience, "He was never told that if there was a fire below him, there was no plan to save him! I give the commission a failing grade! They wasted time and money and never got down to the nuts and bolts of what we need!" But someone else calmly chimed in that partly because of the commission, we're more vigilant now and were able to foil the alleged scenario in England recently (though I suspect BOY GEORGE is the real British terror plot).
After the dust settled, I cornered Ellman to congratulate her, but to also propose the flip side of her movie's thesisthat the administration sometimes exaggerates terror threats to bolster its own popularity. She glazed over like a doughnut and started sweating so hard she'd never be able to get on a plane (no liquids, remember?). "I don't know!" she said, eyes popping. "I'm not a terror expert! The job of the film was just to examine what the commission found!" And I suddenly realized I wasn't talking to MICHAEL MOORE.
One more esoteric documentary, Absolute Wilson, chronicles visionary director-designer ROBERT WILSON's experiences with stuttering, homosexuality, adopting a deaf and mute African American child, and a suicide attempt, all of which made him real popular with his father. At a Plaza Athénée soiree, Wilson told me dad didn't support his work either; after one production, pops told him, "Not only is this sick, it's abnormal." (Sounds like a good review to me.) What's more, at a performance of Einstein on the Beach, ARTHUR MILLER turned to Wilsonnot knowing who he wasand moaned, "I don't get it." "I don't either," deadpanned Wilson. As he told me this, a party guest passed by and quipped, "If you don't get it, then you get it!"
I totally got Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, a fizzy, old-style diversion that delivers enough giddy entertainment to validate Short's command to the audience, "Love me even more than I love myself." The critics didn't get it, but I think it's largely because they'd just taken in the edgier, more nihilistic specialty show by KIKI & HERB. (Who'd have thunk it 10 years ago, when the duo was practically playing welfare hotels, that they'd end up stealing Martin Short's thunder on Broadway? Heck, I dig 'em both.)
Anyway, at the Short performance I saw, they were rummaging through the house for a celebrity to bring up (a shtick they do at every performance) as I wet my lips and prepared to dazzle. But they dragged up fucking TRACEY ULLMAN instead! How sick and abnormal. Still, she was cute when Shortas obese interviewer Jiminy Glickpointed out that she'd worked with PAULA ABDULand wondered, "Was she as crazy as a fruitcake even then?" (Or was she just in a teensy bit of an elliptical orbit?) "She was sensitive at times," Ullman admitted. "She would cry." So did I when she broke up with JOHN STAMOS!
Way downtown at the Fringe Festival, Walmartopiathe Wisconsin musical about the "creepy Christian crypto-fascist" storemixed its zany attempts at humor with an earnest story about a female employee's quest for a promotion. I just didn't find it that rivetingand was dismayed to see there are apparently no blacks in the Badger Statebut a hot guy at Duvet told me that Act II was much better than a high school show.