NY Mirror

It's too soon to serve up any critical analysis of the hurtling-our-way epic Babel, but I can say that it's definitely an "aha!" movie. You know, "Aha! So that was her family! So that was his object," and so on, until even the deaf Japanese girl probably makes sense. Much of the interrelationship info is withheld until well into the two-plus hour depresso-pic, so that you can eventually connect the strands, link the heartbreaks, and become very proud of yourself. Best of all, you can promptly call all your friends and become the ultimate spoiler queen.

In Shortbus, it's not hard to figure out that the gay ex-mayor character—who feels a tiny bit bad for having done nothing about the AIDS crisis—is based on, everybody now, ED KOCH. But director JOHN CAMERON MITCHELLtells me, "We don't say who it's based on. We actually thought, 'What if there was a mayor who caused a lot of pain because of his being in the closet?' and went from there. The scene with him is my favorite one in the movie." Koch would probably like it too; he's actually treated sympathetically—and he gets to kiss a hot young guy.

A more overtly political film, Catch a Fire is an apartheid movie by PHILLIP NOYCE, who sardonically oppressed me at a Sarabeth's Kitchen meet-and-greet last week. Why did he cast TIM ROBBINS as the bad-guy cop, I wanted to know. "He's tall and white," Noyce responded, dryly. "So am I!" I screeched. "You're not tall enough," he said, laughing, as I stood on tippy toes. "Tim wanted to play a character whose actions seemed inexplicable," Noyce went on. "At this point, Tim is choosing the parts he really wants to play. He doesn't make decisions based on his position in the box office hierarchy." Or even just based on his tallness.

Do the hustle: Erik Rhodes, Talvin DeMachio, and Jeffrey Davids at the International Escort Awards
photo: Miles Ladin
Do the hustle: Erik Rhodes, Talvin DeMachio, and Jeffrey Davids at the International Escort Awards

The film's real-life hero, PATRICK CHAMUSSO, is short (unlike DEREK LUKE, who plays him), but Noyce said he's turned into some kind of big messiah figure. "People respond to him so passionately because it's all so homespun," he said. "All of us regularly face an amount of artifice. We even find ourselves bullshitting at times. But he doesn't know how." I'll have to teach the guy. I've always wanted to be a mentor!


TIE ME UP! MAKE ME EAT!

PEDRO ALMODÓVARwasn't BS'ing at his KIM HASTREITER and DAVID HERSHKOVITS–hosted Paper magazine dinner at Indochine when he said the place was so knee-deep in fabulosos that his one-hour trip from the entrance to his table was a total joyride. After my two-minute trip (I pushed), I got to PENÉLOPE CRUZ, the amazing star of Pedro's Volver, and asked her if the movie—about some heavy-duty chick bonding—is at all man-hating. "No," she said. "This is a movie mainly for women, but there are good characters that are men." Yeah, and they kill them! (Kidding. Or maybe not. I'm not gonna give away an "aha!" moment so easily.)

At another table, JUSTIN THEROUX told me that Inland Empire, the DAVID LYNCHfilm he's in—which has lots of women and men—"is long. Take some weed first. But it's fantastic. Deeply spiritual, I would say." Sounds like heavier drugs might be in order.

Recouping from KIKI & HERB's fab uptown stint without pharmaceuticals, that one-person man-woman JUSTIN BOND told me he now has a wellspring of appreciation for Broadway performers. How did he get through all that energy-giving? "I was told I needed a vocal rest," he said, "so I couldn't talk between performances. But if I can't talk, how am I supposed to know what I'm thinking? I was depressed all through the run because of that. If we hadn't gotten good reviews, I would have killed myself!"

To keep him going even longer, I asked Bond if Kiki & Herb will be up for the Special Event Tony against MARTIN SHORTand the guy with the puppets. "I don't know about the Tony," he said, sardonically. "I'm more concerned with the Oscar. That's definitely my ticket. I'm the JUDI DENCH of Shortbus!" Even more so than the Ed Koch guy.

The winner of three Tonys, an Oscar, and a reprieve from DAVID GEST, LIZA MINNELLI hosted the Starz Home Entertainment screening of Me, Eloise, a cute animated film based on the lovable moppet bitch created by Liza's godmother, Kay Thompson. Before the movie started, a publicist cornered me with some hot dish: Liza had come 40 minutes early! And she was cute as hell, saying that whenever she and Thompson were whooshing through Beverly Hills and the wind hit, Thompson would say, "Look, Liza, the trees are having their hair done."

Clubbies have been getting out their crimping shears because the Avalon people swear their club (recently shuttered for tax evasion) is springing back to life any minute now, and I hear there'll be a SUSANNE BARTSCH Halloween party to help rechristen it. This place has reopened more than SHARON STONE's legs.

Meanwhile, every Thursday at Duvet is Halloween, but last week some crazed harridan pulled KENNY KENNY's wig off onstage, and though Kenny reacted calmly, not wanting to have a FLOTILLA moment, the girl did the same thing again off stage. Why did they let the unruly creature in? "They didn't want to," murmured an insider, "but she's friends with the owner."

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