NY Mirror

It's going to be the gayest fall season at the movies since ancient Greece, honey. We've got Volver, the woman-bonding flick infused with PEDRO ALMODÓVAR's Technicolor sensibility; Infamous, the funny/sad/everything Capote pic that's gayer than Liberace; and Shortbus, JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL's gay/straight/whatever look at the search for the perfect orgasm.

That last movie is excitingly personal, a work of auteur dazzle, and though the sexual antics have gotten all the attention— from the guy dexterously servicing himself to another gent commingling with a trick's anus while singing "The Star-Spangled Banner"—the result is the sweetest project ever to deal with rimming and felching.

The plot has a gay male couple trying to survive with the help of a relationship counselor who actually needs her own emergency advice, all of them ending up at Shortbus, a salon/orgy where host JUSTIN BOND spreads lots of wisdom and flower petals. Sweet, right? "Once you've seen the movie, the last thing on your mind is sex," Mitchell—best known for Hedwig and the Angry Inch—told me last week. "It's like the end of a long relationship. You might go in looking for titillation and come out with a tear in your eye, and in the process realize sex is part of the mosaic of life."

Bed, bath, and beyond: John Cameron Mitchell (right) gets the Shortbus end of the stick
photo: Courtesy of Think Films
Bed, bath, and beyond: John Cameron Mitchell (right) gets the Shortbus end of the stick

Of course some right-wing screamers might want less of these 'mos, "but I welcome any controversy," insisted Mitchell. "I relish the opportunity to debate free speech and the fact that this is different from porn. It's an emotional and heartfelt film that's traditional and sentimental." And that's easily the most shocking thing about it.

Fortunately, potential naysayers will probably be too busy beating off in the back row to be all that upset. And Mitchell is finding it's already becoming a badge of courage to admit you saw a multitasker singing into another actor's asshole. (By the way, he swears he used the national anthem not only to make a First Amendment point, but "because the clearances were cheap." "America the Beautiful" might have been even better: "For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain . . . ")

The brave cast brims with fresh faces and anuses. Mitchell did audition one name—the ever game JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT— but he never found a perfect screen match for him in the mosaic. (I guess Shadowboxer had already paired Gordon-Levitt with his ideal co-star, MO'NIQUE.) So the roles are mainly played by unknowns, who helped create them with all the irrepressible pesk of youth. Mitchell himself even pops up in a cunnilingus-y cameo—a long story—and though he didn't get hard, he ended up admitting, "I've been narrow-minded. I want to eat out at different restaurants." And even tip!

But once the cameras stopped, Mitchell refused to indulge in on-set romances with either gender. "You don't shit where you eat," he told me, plainly (though his characters clearly disagree). "Europe is littered with great directors who threw it away for someone they wanted to have sex with. It's like a personal assistant you find attractive. You end up getting them coffee." Please! Mitchell should have a parade of people serving him champagne—and maybe some napkins.


HAPPINESS IS JUST A THING CALLED JOE

We got a little closer to porn when the classic cult sleazical Showgirls was screened at the IFC Center and I got to interview its maverick screenwriter, JOE ESZTERHAS, onstage afterward for a bizarre crowd of soft-spoken film nerds. I expected finger-snapping sparkle queens—and from Eszterhas I anticipated some kind of creepy Godzilla with a broken typewriter. What I found was a cowboy-hatted cuddly bear who only belched once! Joe has developed a great attitude about the flick, admitting that though it's "deeply flawed," he embraces it for all the joy it's brought people, for whatever-the-fuck reason. We also chatted about his more successful classic Basic Instinct and of course his infamous shtup with SHARON STONE. ("It wasn't the bang of the century," he said, when prodded. How about of the week? "Yes," he conceded. Sharon will be so pleased!)

Recently, Eszterhas actually paid to see Sharon's career get shtupped in Basic Instinct 2, but he feels that was covered by his amazing deal for part one. (He was allotted money for the sequel, even if he didn't write it.) Meanwhile, he's whipped up a script about late r&b singer Otis Redding, which CUBA GOODING Jr. was briefly interested in but griped, "Where's the sex?" (I guess Cuba found it with HELEN MIRREN in that same movie that put Joseph Gordon-Levitt on top of Mo'Nique. Alas, audiences lost it.) Eszterhas concluded by revealing that his wife feels like he has a twisted 12-year-old inside him, prompting me to say, "You're starting to sound like MICHAEL JACKSON." When the audience hissed, I chided, "Please! You find that in bad taste and you just paid to see Showgirls?" That shut them up.


SCUMBAGS USING SCUMBAGS

The schmuckof the century, JIM MCGREEVEY, swore to the View gals that he used condoms whenever he had sex at the truck stop. I can see it now: "Hello, Mr. Closeted Trucker. Would you kindly wrap this protective piece of latex around your swollen penis before I engorge it in my oral cavity for a few marvelous moments?" Uh huh.

But at least he's out. Still evading, CLAY AIKEN is outraged at "rude" questions about his sexuality, though he's all too thrilled to tell you about his brother's suicide, I mean his anxiety attacks and full prescription history, complete with copays. Clay, if you don't like invasive things, why did you do that stuff with JOHN PAULUS? Oh, and while you're cowering there in the closet, can you please get me my drop earrings?

On a lovelier note, PAUL LOMBARDI—the cute, out person with nice teeth who used to be on NY1—tells me he'll be doing spots about gay athletes for Logo. I wonder why they didn't call me!

But back to the genitalia, please. At Duvet, after a Canadian band named STINK MITT did a raucous performance, one of the lead singers pulled out her tits by the bar while screaming, "Fat and ugly is the new glam!" MIKE FUREY, the cute one from the "ambisexual" duo DANGEROUS MUSE, looked on in dangerous bemusement, but visibly flinched when she offered a whiff of her privates on her finger. Still, when the fun mess spread-eagled her legs on the sushi bar, as it were, I tried to stir up some trouble and told Furey to dive in. "I don't think so," he said, looking sick. I guess ambisexuality only goes so far.

Things were even gayer at the FringeNYC Encores series, where I caught up with the lively circuit-party dramedy Rainy Days and Mondays and was thrilled to hear a nightclubbing character exult, "We might even get in Michael Musto's column. He's always out!" His boyfriend's reaction? "Is that a new lesion on your chest?"

But the weirdest interaction in theater has to be in Jay Johnson: The Two and Only when the ventriloquist's monkey puppet repeatedly screams at him, "Don't touch my heinie!" Yes, even members of other species are in the closet.

And finally we get to some real porn—or at least real people trying to do porny things. A middle-aged "workplace expert" (I'll call him "Pig Man") has been trying to entice a young friend of mine ("Chicken Little") to turn hustler in the most unsavory manner. Last week on the scene, Chicken Little was hanging with friends (including "Skeet," whom Chicken Little is platonically staying with) when he met Pig Man, who could barely keep his tongue in his mouth, especially when he later found out that Chicken Little is well hung. The Pigster promptly launched an e-mail campaign, telling Chicken Little he'll rescue him from his sad sugar daddy (meaning Skeet, who's merely a friend) by wining-dining him and paying him for sex! "It seemed a bit like a control-freak situation," Pig Man wrongly surmised about Chicken Little and Skeet in one e-mail. "You looked like you wanted to escape . . . Have you ever hustled?"

I love this glimpse into sleazebaggin' politics. I adore how Pig Man has to paint someone else as a pig man in order to try and swoop in and be the real creep. Chicken Little isn't even remotely interested in this divide-and-conquer strategy, even though Piggy's offer is currently up to $400 for just an hour of hard labor. Fat and ugly isn't the new glam after all.


Web Extra, from September 25: Sources swear popular drag performer FLOTILLA DEBARGE ("the Empress of Large") is in trouble with the law, and not because she stole some comedy material. It seems there was an eye-gouging fight at APT—where the door help is notoriously barbaric at times—on Sunday night. (Maybe Flo tangled with STAR JONES, who wasn't happy when the drag queen impersonated her for an anti-fur campaign. Nah, maybe not.) Whatever the case, people are actually murmuring words like "Rikers" and "without bail." I've reached out to Flo via phone message and will offer updates as they develop.


Humiliation of the Week: This ought to deflate any hardons engendered by the previous items: I google my name every 15 seconds or so—who doesn't?—and in the process came across a release for some bizarre contest I must have agreed to help judge in a prescription pill haze. The release starts, "Did you know there's a cockatoo that can not only sing 'Jingle Bells,' but mimic Sinatra's 'My Way?' . . . All across America, there are pet birds with truly offbeat and outrageous talents. Now, thanks to the Mag Rack's The Pet Shop with Marc Morrone, America's most outrageous birds are finally getting a forum to celebrate their boldest achievements." The judging panel? EDWARD ASNER, ED BEGLEY JR., DOM DELUISE, TIPPI HEDREN, DAVY JONES, RUE MCCLANAHAN, ALLY SHEEDY, JOAN VAN ARK, JO ANNE WORLEY, and yours truly. They're all tons of fun, but judging animal talents? I'm gearing up to throw bird droppings at my agent—or would do so if I had one.

musto@villagevoice.com

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