Keith Olbermann hits NYC!

Michael Shannon flies first-class in a new thriller; Olbermann gets an award named after a former thriller. Plus other gnats and tats.

 Bug is the sweet little date movie with ASHLEY JUDD hiding out from her abusive ex in an Oklahoma motel room, where she's descended on by a paranoid war vet who's convinced that he's been experimented on by the military and, what's worse, that crazed insects are swarming the bedsheets. It'll have you reaching for the popcorn with one hand and the Raid with the other!

Baby-faced MICHAEL SHANNON plays the vet, and over a snazzy lunch at the Regency ("When else am I gonna get a $30 pot pie?"), the high-school-dropout-turned- stage-and-screen-actor filled me in on the darkly comic thriller's buzz, as it were. "Most people seem to get a real rush out of it," said Shannon, "but I've heard people say, 'This is very unpleasant.' There was an interviewer today who I could tell hated every second of it. She said, 'There's no story. It's just 90 minutes of horror!' But it's a love story, not just a paranoid delusional psychological thriller. All these two people are trying to do is take care of each other—and in the process they wind up potentially destroying each other." Story of my life, kid—minus the pollen.

But just how big could a fever-inducing nugget like Bug really get? "My friends say it'll be a cult movie," he related. "It'll thrive on word of mouth. Of course we're going up against Pirates of the Caribbean 3. It would be like me entering the World Series of Poker. I might win, sure, but I probably won't!"

Who's the buzz about? Bug's Michael Shannon
Who's the buzz about? Bug's Michael Shannon


Tune in: Michael Musto Dishes It Up

When he's not playing card games, Shannon's usually playing wack jobs, and very well, thank you. "If you look back over my stuff," he admitted, "you'll see psychos, mean guys, or cracked-up guys." But he got to show more range in Pearl Harbor ("It's not Chekhov," said Shannon, "but there was artistry there—there were images and spectacles that blew my mind") and also as the dripping-with-dignity military guy who vows revenge at the end of World Trade Center. (It's not his fault we didn't get any.)

In 2004, Shannon appeared in TRACY LETTS's stage version of Bug—the one where co-star AMANDA PLUMMER memorably split after the first half of the run-through and never came back. (I guess she was eaten alive by drosophila.) "Doing this play is like a straight drop 200 feet on a bungee cord," Shannon told me, sympathizing. "You think, 'Yeah, sure, I'll do that.' Then you get on the platform and say, 'Maybe this isn't such a good idea!' "

But it turned out to be a very good one, especially since director WILLIAM FRIEDKIN insisted on using Shannon for the movie even though the bigwigs weren't exactly jumping up and down like head lice. "I'm not a household name," explained Shannon. "I'm the guy you see on TV at three in the morning in some movie you can't remember the name of." (Alas, I can remember one of them—Kangaroo Jack, tee hee.)

Shannon's new mission is to shake up his filmic palette, and his inherent niceness should help that cause along. "The ironic thing," he said, finishing his $30 pot pie, "is I got this haircut for an audition to play another crazy person, but it's making me look kind of boyish!" Come on, Hollywood—hire him as a mensch. He'll slay you.

The Fox and the newshound

Taking the bug out of my ear, I finally got to meet KEITH OLBERMANN after four years of zanying up his MSNBC hit, Countdown. (They beam me in, Scotty.) Fortunately, the patron saint of skeptical liberals turned out to be as appealing as he is on the tube, where he provides a regular Bush-demystifying alternative to the Fox Noise Channel. At the Marriott Marquis last week, Keith received the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies first Molly Ivins Award, named after the late muckraker, and though we were told Molly used her honors for "doorstops, trivets, and salad bowls," Keith said he'll not only keep his intact, he'll actually treasure it. "I hope I someday will grow up to be Molly Ivins," he said, "perhaps with different hair. Molly Ivins is a crossover icon. I don't recall her facts ever being attacked. I recall her being attacked." He said the same thing's happened to him lately, but when he rebuts the attacks with actual facts, he never hears another word—except for more dumb attacks.

His message? "The necessity of everybody at every level of the media to think"—i.e., to do the math when something like the Fort Dix menace doesn't quite add up. But what was the math behind Keith having hobbled into this ceremony on a cane? "It's either a broken foot or a hex put on me by RUDY GIULIANI," he said, laughing.

See that girl, watch that scene

Even in flip-flops, I've managed to crawl around on the latest batch of gay club-a-dubbing, so let me run it all down for you while you sensibly stay home: Stereo is a concentrated dance club for some Saturday-night action complete with shirtless strutting and spazzing to PETER RAUHOFER's music; Porky's hosts some trashy Sunday-night fun called Hot Mess (co-promoted by MARC JACOBS's ex JASON PRESTON, who's still friends with LINDSAY LOHAN —I guess he got her in the custody battle). The casual, woozy bash has lap dances, strip contests hosted by the luscious EPIPHANY, and a DJ spinning tunes from a faux trailer; and on the same night, the Hiro ballroom's Cuckoo Club is still the place for high-energy enthusing, though from the VIP-freak area, it's a little too easy to spot swarms of shirtless "straight" guys making out with the girls they brought—just what I go to a gay bar to see! (Disclaimer: I adore and totally respect fish—I mean women—but I prefer fag hags and trannies to beards and the clueless.)

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