By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
TONY KUSHNERbrainiac, activist, Pulitzer-winning playwright (Angels in America), and now bona fide movie star. He's the subject of FREIDA LEE MOCK's Wrestling With Angelsopening at Film Forumwhich follows Tony on his creative and ethical mission, only to uncover what I already knew: God, he's terrific!
And honest too. "Freida's a really nice person and respectful of privacy," he told me by phone from London last week, "but it felt a little at times like being invaded. Then there were times I was really happy she was getting things she gotlike moments of working on Caroline, or Change." You also see Kushner trying to stop voter fraud in Florida, inspiring graduates with a politicized yet funny commencement speech, and just being, you know, all-around faboo. You even catch a bit of Tony's hubby MARK HARRIS (EW's departing editor at large), but don't blink or look down. "He was very unwilling to do very much," said Kushner, "and I think he in a sense is nervous about the parts he appears in, though he's much more photogenic than I am and has a better public speaking voice." Yes, Tony's humble too.
But I like the guy best when he's all fired up, so I asked hima true-blue (-state) rabble-rouserabout the campaign to diminish CLINTON's efforts to nab Bin Laden. "It's bullshit," he fumed, dropping all politeness, "and I think it's being received like the bullshit it is. There's no way to rewrite this history to make it a history of who did what before 9-11 happened.
"Issues of security and intelligence gathering need to be examined," he went on, "but what really needs to be examined is what's been done since 9-11 and how to make us safer without turning into an imperial power or some country that's strayed so far from its origins that it's not America anymore. That has nothing to do with Clinton!" I would have stood and cheered, but it might have looked silly on the phone.
Luckily for himand usKushner feels the stage is the perfect venue for political debate during wartime. "There's a real hunger on the part of the audience to get theater that goes to the heart of a time of terrible crisis," he said. "People want stuff that really grapples. The audiences for Mother Courage [which Kushner translated] were amazing, sitting through rain and cold to eat it up. They got the dilemma that Brecht is delineatingwhat to do in a murderous time."
I left Tony by telling him he's the new Betty Grablegiving people what they need in a time of crisis. Plus he's got nice legs.
MIRREN, MIRREN, OFF THE WALL
The New York Film Festival opened with HELEN MIRREN covering her knees (and emotions) in The Queennot the famous drag pageant documentary, but a trenchant and funny look at Elizabeth II's obstinate dignity in her country's own dark period, after Princess Di's death. This will no doubt be followed by OLIVER STONE's flick in which the queen has Diana killed because she's pregnant with a Muslim baby.
At a press conference a few days earlier, screenwriter PETER MORGAN revealed that Idi Amin (the star of his other tyranny romp, The Last King of Scotland) visited Elizabeth once and told her he had come to England mainly because it was the only place where he could find size 14 shoes! What's worse, he called her Mrs. Queen! Morgan also talked about lead-footed TONY BLAIR, saying, "We couldn't do a hatchet job on him like we wanted to because this was his finest hour." As for size-14-eared PRINCE CHARLES, "His friends are really pissed off with the movie." But enough empathy is sprinkled all around the palace, and thin Lizzie comes off better than some of her predecessors. Said Morgan, "The most vicious queen was George IV!"
Downtown royalty lined up for the SHORTBUS party, which was capped with a 90-minute concert featuring virtually everyone who was in the movie and practically everyone who's seen it. THE WAU WAU SISTERS were dexterously hilarious doing lesbian calisthenics to "Sister Christian," and from the cast, the saucy BITCH and dreamy JAY BRANNAN drove my bus to heaven.
By the way, the late, unlamented Q TVwhich tortured workers like me with lies about how we'd eventually get paidexecutive-produced the movie! At the bash, an exQ exec unintentionally furthered the abuse by suggesting that Shortbus's profits might somehow be funneled into a plan to pay off those debts. Oh yeah, I'll be waiting by my mailbox with my tongue out.
In other dubious financial news, I hear AMANDA LEPORE is no longer Mrs. Queen. Her young boyfriendsupposedly some kind of Mott's apple heirdumped her, but Amanda told me they simply broke up and it's for the best. One bad apple . . .
Meanwhile, STAR JONES swears her husband is not a fruit at all. But her legal threat to the Enquirer was idiotic to have stated that while Al, of course, isn't that way, the couple feels "everyone should be free to make their own choice concerning sexual preference." Ugh. Why do celebs trying to prove they're hetero always slip and use the C-word? Sexuality is not a choice, Star. Even a 12-year-old knows that. But being honest about it is!