Riding the Shortbus

Sex-starved East Village hippies get naked for John Cameron Mitchell's latest perverse utopia

The real-sex thing was one of the reasons to go with mostly unknown actors. One principal in particular—Sook-Yin Lee, who plays a woman who's never had an orgasm—is a revelation. She had so much charisma, you were compelled to watch her regardless of whether or not she was naked. The film gig, not surprisingly, almost got her fired from her high-profile Canadian Broadcasting Corporation gig, but big-time celebs like Michael Stipe, Yoko Ono, and the Coppolas wrote letters to her boss in support. Lee got to keep her job, and she got to make out with Justin Bond. Hot.

After the screening, we were taken to the after-party via a long procession down Houston Street led by the Hungry March Band, who stopped traffic for a few blocks. It was one of those moments that mythologize New York—the sort of thing a tourist sees and thinks, "New York is so crazy! Anything can happen here!" (We hate to break it to them, but it's just as rare a sight in NYC these days as it is in Kansas.)

The band kicked off a long evening of performances (which led to an after-afterparty much later at the Delancey): Mitchell and an all-star band that included Corn Mo played "Ça Plane Pour Moi." Singer-songwriter, violinist, and lesbian extraordinaire Bitchperformed one of her own songs with The L Word's Daniela Sea (a/k/a the Hottest Dyke Alive), who is also her girlfriend. (Bitch.) And Julie Atlas Muz performed her patented bleeding-heart routine, which, like parts of Shortbus, is shocking and beautiful. One woman standing nearby wasn't impressed: "I'm offended. We're in a church." (This, after watching a movie with all manners of fucking?) Later, when the Wau Wau Sisters did the most acrobatic, sacrilegious striptease on earth to the tune of "Sister Christian" (ending with one of them nailed to a giant wooden cross and the other one spread-eagled), I was sure the offended woman would go up in flames, but no, she liked that performance.

The celeb-studded crowd included Michael Stipe, Barry Diller, and Harvey Fierstein, as well as Mitchell's usual utopian mix of omnisexuals. " 'Utopian' is the right word," he says. "It's all about the spirit of the (2003) blackout—that feeling we had that night is what I wanted to show. You turn off your cell phone and look into each other's eyes and realize you're alive and you're in New York. Shortbusis a love song. I hope it's not a fucking requiem. People are still gonna come here. They are gonna figure something out."


flylife@villagevoice.com

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