Laughing and Crying at Keaton's Roast

Commiserating with fellow club columnist Romano. Plus playgoing and going to play.

No one but DIANE KEATON can laugh and cry at the same time while making you laugh and cry at the same time, and that's just one of her many special skills. In The Family Stone, she laughed, cried, and signed. And at her gala tribute last week—the biggest Friars Roast ever to be held at Lincoln Center—she even sang a few bars, and she did so while standing up perfectly straight, proving that not every Oscar-winning actress needs Boniva. (Or maybe she does and it had kicked in big time.)

The event had more star power than some previous such tributes, probably because über flack LOIS SMITH supposedly helped pull the luminaries out from rocks and caverns. The female stars (like MERYL STREEP, LISA KUDROW, and SARAH JESSICA PARKER) were wildly admiring and a little hurt that Diane never calls. The men were equally awestruck, but wouldn't reveal that until laying on lots of zingy Borscht Belt shtick. Among the more memorable faux swipes, WOODY ALLEN smirked, "Keaton always looks like the woman who comes to take Blanche DuBois to the sanitarium"; STEVE MARTIN banjo-strummed a deeply personal song he wrote about Keaton, which turned out to not have any lyrics; and MARTIN SHORTclaimed Keaton once turned to her Mrs. Soffel costar MEL GIBSON and said, "What are we going to do about these Jews?"

Everyone else described her as a lovable eccentric who talks in staccato half sentences, though when our star glided out for her big speech, she was the picture of composure and modulation. She's gotta be on something! Nah, she kept her neurotic edge in what she was saying, if not in how she said it. (Typically, she admitted she didn't see The Godfather until 17 years after it came out, "and then only because I had to.") At the end, she crooned a little bit of "Seems Like Old Times" from Annie Hall, then broke down in highly convincing tears. No laughing. Just tears. I was moved to stand and cheer, even without Boniva.

By the way, getting Keaton and her tight-lipped circle to provide great copy on the way in apparently wasn't so easy, which explains why one reporter was jumping up and down and crowing, "I talked to her designer!"

But enough about her tribute. The next night, I walked into the Box—the rich-with-atmosphere-and-credit-cards performance space on Chrystie Street—only to find hardworking MC MURRAY HILL onstage gushing about a certain Village Voice columnist. I started pushing my way to the stage to greet my audience, only to hear Mur say, "And here's that columnist now— TRICIA ROMANO!" Mama say what? Oh, right. It was the party for the fifth anniversary of Tricia's "Fly Life" column. I went home and cried myself to sleep.

But seriously, folks, I caught up with Romano two days after the event (when she woke up) and asked her if she loves the club beat with the same denial and inappropriateness that I do. "It's certainly a fun job," she said, "but there are moments—like in the dead of winter on a Tuesday night—when you don't want to go out at 1 a.m. by yourself because all your friends are now grown-ups and sleeping. But I go anyway, and I sometimes find magic." (And no, she's not including the time when CASEY SPOONER confronted her for saying his band is way overhyped.)

To add to my burning jealousy of other writers, the effortlessly witty SIMON DOONAN is working on Eccentric Glamour, due in '08, just in time to compete with my next book. As Doonan tells me, "The book exhorts women to avoid the ubiquitous trampiness of PARIS, BRITNEY, and The Real Housewives of Orange County, and inject a little idiosyncrasy into their personal style. Say no to 'ho!" I've never said no to a 'ho in my life, but I'll try this time, just to mix things up.

Also ripping the glamour away from the trashtastic stars du jour, publicist-turned-tab-writer HAL LIFSON has an upcoming book of his own, tantalizingly called Sources Say: The Ugly Truth Behind America's Tabloid Business. In it, Lifson reveals that he more or less made up a story in the Globe saying that WARREN BEATTY had urged JESSICA SIMPSON to go political and use her stardom to support the Dems. It sort of magically came true when not long after that, Simpson turned up in D.C. and lobbied for kids with cleft palates. Could she have read that story and made it a reality? The bitch in me says, "Jessica Simpson reading?" while my other half—the total dick—says, "Yeah, but it was a tabloid."

Lifson says that in a similar rag, he helped break last year's story about GEORGE CLOONEY andTERI HATCHERdating. It was true, he swears—no, really—but he embellished it and made Clooney out to be extra-romantic, sending Hatcher oodles of chocolates from Beverly Hills. I knew that couldn't be right—no one who wants to court a TV actress sends fat grams.

But forget about all these new books. Two old ones battle it out in the pleasing revival of Inherit The Wind, the cobwebby yet somehow still relevant play about the hateful misuse of the Bible to beat Darwin back down into the primordial ooze. As the saner of the dueling lawyers, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER gives a master class in stagecraft and even convinces you that the evening's central issue—whether man may have evolved from worms—is more important than who DANNIELYNN came from. Kudos also go to the audience members seated onstage for acting like they didn't think they were going to see Spring Awakening.

I pray I'm seated onstage for the next play by the aptly named DAVID HARROWER, the Times-hosannahed author of the sex-abuse psychodrama Blackbird. Harrower told Playbill's HARRY HAUN that he's working on a play about sex, the Enlightenment, and philosopher David Hume, tentatively called Flesh Market, after a historic area of Edinburgh. "One of the great things about Edinburgh," Harrower explained, "is its Jekyll-and-Hyde nature. Even as they're philosophizing, they're getting their cock sucked." Sounds more like Jekyll and Hide-the-Salami.

And suddenly it was 1 a.m., and since most of my friends are now grown-ups, I had to wake them up and force them to go clubbing. At Kino 41, the kookiest dance party in town, DANGEROUS MUSE performed electropop with dangerously moussed hair while, in the crowd, AMANDA LEPORE introduced people to her "old man" (her new 19-year-old boyfriend). The night's DJ, MARK MOORE, got raves for his thumpy blend of everything from THE EURYTHMICS to THE GOSSIP, and though cohost KENNY KENNY loved him, it's certainly not because the guy's British. "I hate the British!" Kenny told me, wincing. "I'm Irish! But he's a great, high-energy DJ from the Heaven days. Google him!"

Instead I blog-searched the Gossip and learned that they're not a new ghetto-house band starring CINDY, LIZ, and RICHARD JOHNSON. They're a Portland, Oregon group fronted by lesbian powerhouse BETH DITTO, and it just so happened they were having a party the next night at Mr. Black. There, in between posing with the waiter's bare ass—a house tradition—Ditto told me she'd pulled up in a stretch limo earlier that night to have a truly exquisite meal—chicken fingers at McDonald's! After that, she and her posse saw Hairspray, "and I almost cried four times. My makeup isn't waterproof, so I had to keep the tears back in my eyeballs." Is she aware that TRAVOLTA's starring in the movie? "Yes," she beamed. "You must keep an open mind. Maybe you never would have put that in a sandwich yourself, but when you taste it, you say, 'Wow, that's a delicious sandwich.' " Yeah, pure ham!

And now I'm going to do exactly what J. LO did after instructing the American Idol contestants to sing from the heart and intimately connect with a song. I'm going to scream out a number with exploding smoke bombs, fiery screen projections, and eight backup girls in silver lamé jackets! (While standing perfectly erect.)

musto@villagevoice.com

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