NY Mirror

Every year there's one movie that buzzes through my system to the point where, even if it's not necessarily the greatest auteur work since the Godfather trilogy, it's so up my alley that I end up ordering it, eating it, breathing it, and choking on it till I almost die. This year that movie is—yes, I'm a gay stereotype—Dreamgirls, and as a result I've been finding myself slipping and saying stuff in public like, "Pass the Dreamgirls, please," "I'll have coffee with milk and three Dreamgirls," or just plain "Dreamgirls to you too!"

Sorry to have to indulge you in my private obsession, but it'll just be for one night only and then it shall pass like a glittery bowel movement. We'll start at the premiere, where I ran around acting as if the movie—that sweeping musical melodrama about six glamorous armpits—was a total documentary. Affecting my best deadpan, I asked director BILL CONDON if DIANA ROSS ever starred in a biopic about Cleopatra like BEYONCÉ's character does. No, he said, laughingly adding, "This movie has nothing to do with Diana Ross!" (I feel Diana should relax her extensions and take the same tack. In fact, if Diana had half a brain, she'd have done an ANNA WINTOUR and jumped right into the Dreamgirls hoopla. Like I said, if.)

Having a bite in a corner was the already fabled JENNIFER HUDSON , whose Effie character is loosely based on the feisty Supreme, Florence Ballard, but with a happier ending pinned on her bodacious butt. Grabbing J-Hud by the aura, I asked her if Gordy ever really impregnated Ballard, then gave her the dump, like in the movie (which ends up working out, as it gives her a cue for that showstopping number). "I don't know about that!" Hudson said, smiling. I'll take that as a yes. Feigning seriousness, I asked Hudson where her reserves of on-screen pain were dredged from—was it from getting bumped in favor of FANTASIA? "Reading Florence's story," she said, soberly, "I felt so bad for Flo, I got angry for her. I felt that Effie was Flo's voice and she could live through her." And what a voice. As I left, The Drowsy Chaperone's EDWARD HIBBERT told me he loved the movie and "I've never wanted to be a black woman more in my life!" Well, I'm halfway there; I'm a complete woman.

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The next night—bear with me; I'll keep your fantasies alive—DENISE RICH's LIFEbeat benefit gala for the movie brought a whole other chance to pester Hudson while the HX gays lined up outside for a later showing. In between the hoopla, Rich exclaimed, "I loved the movie!" and "I know Diana Ross and she's really nice!" which are apparently not mutually exclusive statements after all.

Not having had my fill—it's hard to say goodbye, my love—I harassed publicists and got Hudson on the phone a few days later, completing my journey into total girl-group groupie. The most natural new query was: Who's she going to thank in all those inevitable acceptance speeches? "God is always first on my list," Hudson replied, majestically. Fine, I can handle second billing. And my own reward will be One Night Only, the December 30 Saint at Large party at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where Hudson will belt for 40 minutes—"and I'm gonna bring some Effie-ness to it!" she exclaimed. And some truthiness too! But since it's a gay party, I had to bring up Hudson's supposed remarks about how the Bible says it's a sin to like Judy Garland (I'm paraphrasing). That's not really the case, is it? "Oh no, not at all," she said. "I don't know where that came from." "Oh good," I cooed, "because I'd really rather not go to hell, OK?" "You won't," she assured me. "If you go, I'm going too!"


Good Will Smith hunting
While we're still earthbound, there are some other movies at the cineplex—like The Good German and The Good Shepherd, if not The Good German Shepherd. And there's Notes on a Scandal, which is being hailed as a searing character study, though it's actually just fun, high-class trash—Baby Janemeets Sister Georgewith jailbait and pets. One might complain that JUDI DENCH plays a crazed, manipulative dyke, but the straights don't get very good representation either; CATE BLANCHETT is an adulterous pedophile!

More feel-good, The Pursuit of Happyness impossibly has you rooting for a decent person to become an investment broker! "Yeah! Make that deal! Handle that rich pig's portfolio!" you yell at the screen, unsure of where that capitalist cry came from. Not since you pulled for CHARLIZE THERON to kill more horrible men has there been such carefully crafted Oscar bait.

But The Holiday just made me scream, period. It's filled with clean-scrubbed cutouts playing air guitar with pillows and sipping hot cocoa while cute kids and an adorable dog look on in approval. No blacks or homos for miles—and no need for the cast to start preparing any public thank-yous to God either.

At least JULIA ROBERTS has moved over to the dark side, though this year, bizarrely enough, she's played both an ant and a spider. What next—Kafka's Metamorphosis? She should probably instruct her agent, "No more arthropods"—though I loved her in Charlotte's Web and cried when the rat saved her spider babies. (That's even sicker than rooting for a broker.)

Dead-animal-wearing Anna Wintour, as I mentioned, was genius to sashay onto the Devil Wears Prada bandwagon and to tell BABA WAWA that it's important for a fashion editor to be as decisive as Miranda is in the flick. And Baba was nice enough not to interject, "She's not decisive, honey. She's a total cunt!"

A total stud, '70s porn star JACK WRANGLER is the subject of a documentary being made called Anatomy of an Icon, which will explore his life as a child star, gay porn actor, straight porn actor, and unexpected husband of singer MARGARET WHITING. Thanks to me, it might even mention his porn duet with an ear of corn.


Onward Kristin soldier
But back to the animal kingdom: While nibbling on the intermittent charms of The Apple Tree —the musical trilogy about forbidden desire—one feels overcome with quizzical thoughts: Like, was it Kristin Chenoweth's idea to cast ex-boyfriend MARC KUDISCH as a snake? (Maybe Julia Roberts wasn't available.) And now that we have two concurrent musicals with a chimney sweep, would one more make this an even bigger trend than jukebox shows?

Bingo! Spring Awakening mentions one, so it's definitely sweeps week. The show amazingly brings people under 90 to both the stage and the audience! Even people under 20! And over six! Picture The History Boys (and girls), but without that liberating teacher and you've got this fresh piece of work filled with emo rock songs punctuating herky-jerky moves and pressure-cooker sexual situations. Is it perfect? Hardly, thank God, but even with slow stretches, it's definitely my wound of the moment.

Horny high schoolers are also vamping it up at P.S. 122, where there's finally an intentionally hilarious version of CarrieERIK JACKSON's authorized satire, with a poignantly otherworldly SHERRY VINE turning the pom-pom crowd into flaming queens. From Carrie's locker-room menstruation to the pig's blood dropped on her at the prom, the show really flows.

Another yearning teen—The Little Mermaid—is getting made over for a stage spectacular, and awards-laden DOUG WRIGHT(Grey Gardens) is writing the crustacean-laden script. Wright tells me the show will mercifully not be done underwater—this ain't Cirque du Soleil—though the cast and crew were humorously served sushi at the first meeting. And Wright says he's right for it, beaming, "I am a plucky nine-year-old girl in a 43-year-old man's body, and it's just my speed." Not me. I repeat—I'm a complete woman.

I hear the womanly ELIZABETH ASHLEY will be the next theater queen to get the ELAINE STRITCH treatment; JOHN LAHR is helping write a one-woman vehicle for the raspy diva, and I pray she includes her "I went down on the devil" passage from her memoir. Not that I read it.

Meanwhile, downtown darling CANDIS CAYNE just shot a guest role on CSI: New York, which I assure you will never be the same. And the equally gammy CLAY AIKEN was dazzling on Live With Regis and Kelly singing—I kid you not—"Mary, Did You Know?"

But what the fuck does any of this have to do with Dreamgirls? Nothing. And I am telling you I will never do that again.


Web extra: A Powerhouse Books panel for RON GALELLA's Disco Years book brought together the four people from Studio 54 who are still alive (including myself). In the case of original Village People cowboy RANDY JONES, he's not just alive but kicking. Randy has a new CD of pop covers called Ticket to the World and in February he will go to North Carolina to play Prince Faisal in The Man in the Desert, a play about the Iraq leader's dealings with T. E. Lawrence. Says Randy, "It's a little intimidating stepping into the shoes of Sir Alec Guinness, who played Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia, and while I've played with many queens and sang 'YMCA' for one actual Queen (ELIZABETH II), this will be my first chance to play a real king." Can a knighthood be far behind for Sir Cowboy?

Another web extra: Speaking of titles, DONALD TRUMP certainly reserves the right to say his famous line, "You're fired!" to Miss USA TARA CONNER if he feels like it, but I would think his best argument for doing so would be if she really missed title-related appointments (you know, all those highly important pet food store ribbon cuttings and waffle tastings and such). Just the fact that she was having a good time doesn't seem strong enough—though I guess anyone who buys into the pageant lifestyle has to be prepared to become a human Barbie doll without excesses or personal thrills. The whole mess exposes the hypocrisy of these pageants, which parade women around like pieces of meat, then get punitive when they enjoy the fruits of their hotness. I can see how drug abuse might be considered bad role modeling, but having sex? You're chosen as the hottest babe in America, but you're supposed to stay celibate? And there's been a little too much lip-smacking emphasis placed on the fact that Conner made out in public with Miss Teen USA. Isn't that just what most of the straight men (and lesbians) who watch these pageants would have loved to see? And didn't the organizers get the memo that same-sex stuff is not something punishable or below standards? I say abolish the whole thing. It's in the toilet even more than Miss USA herself is anyway.
Update: The Donald has given the beauty queen another chance! Yay! We can't even impeach Bush for serious international horrors, so to dethrone a girl just for partying would seem ludicrous.

musto@villagevoice.com

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