By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
STEVE WILKOS swears he's a gentle father and a regular person who hasn't had a beastly fight in years. Gazing into his baby blues while fending off the shininess of his bald head, I totally believed it, even though he's best known as JERRY SPRINGER's security keeper, the human guard dog famous for basically removing chair splinters from people's inbred butts.
Whatever the case, Wilkos is getting his own show in September, which he told me will be "like bringing a 911 call onstage and me reacting into it like I did when I was a Chicago policeman." Sounds a little like DR. PHILmeets DR. KEVORKIANand I'm scared enough to watch.
The Marine-turned-cop's ascent into the pop culture started when he was hired to be a guard on Springer for just one gloriously dangerous day in '94. As the show became more trashily confrontational, Wilkos got called back a lot, and by the time the producer asked him to shave his headdamn, it's contrivedhe knew it was time to quit the police force and become America's most frosty sentinel.
"People always ask if the fights are fake," he told me at B Bar (where he interestingly brought his own sandwich). Maybe occasionally, he said, "but for the most part, we wanted real stories. Fakes are terrible. And when somebody's sleeping with your wife or husband, you don't need a lot of incentive to get very confrontational." Just ask O.J. SIMPSON.
The worst blowup of all, he said, was one pitting the kooky Klux Klan against some seething African-Americans. "The staff tied a row of chairs together," he remembered, "so if you threw them, you'd have to throw the whole row." Even MICHAEL RICHARDS couldn't go that far.
The most nauseating guest? "A guy had a sex fetish," related Wilkos. "He would drink this green liquid and regurgitate it into these girls' mouths. Half the studio audience vomited and ran out." The other half probably orgasmed. "I had to try to keep my own breakfast down," added Wilkos, who you'll remember is rather not-barbaric (though he still won't see Beauty and the Beast). And the biggest shock? "Jerry is as down to earth and well-mannered as anybody you'll ever meet." Stop! I'm vomiting now!
The Springer show, concluded Wilkos, "is a train that can't be stopped," even with green liquid. "It's still such a big thing in America," he gushed. "Springer's name pops up in the paper every day almost as a verb. 'I went to a hockey game and the Springer show broke out'." Oh, yeah? Well, the last time a doorman claimed I wasn't on the list, the Steve Wilkos show broke out.
Don't Springer me for saying this, but the new movie of Hairspray is for the most part delightfully candy-colored, with a virtually nonstop flow of rollicking music that makes for a shortbus that can't be stopped. My main problem is that having Scientologist JOHN TRAVOLTA play the Divine role is a little like getting MICHAEL JACKSON to play NELSON MANDELA. What's more, while Travolta's more than game and comes off even sweeter than Steve Wilkos, something's amiss with his overdone prosthetics, weird accent (he sounds like CHER on the bayou), and limited portrayal. And, of course, though the black guy kisses the white girl and the skinny guy kisses the fat girl, the husband never plants one on the drag girl! But like I said, the flick swings, and the Lord giveth, too: MICHELLE PFEIFFER, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, and the young leads strike the right spoofy tone, and in a small role, ALLISON JANNEY is a scream and totally in synch with JOHN WATERS 's original vision.
Of course, the racial issue doesn't come across with any more gravitas than it did in Dreamgirlsno chairs will be flungbut this is basically buoyant fairy-tale fluff posing as social comment, and you eventually accept that it's basically Bye Bye Birdie with protest signs. The message? As we're told repeatedly, "The oppressed, fringey weirdos and underdogs are moving center stage!" They mean blacks and fatties, but believe me, it's really about the gays.
So, apparently, is the Encores production of Gypsy, where attendees have reported no line whatsoever for the ladies' room, but a long, winding one for the men's room, if you catch my demographical drift.
For yet more offbeat family fun, I anxiously checked out disneyswater-sports.com on a breathless recommendation. Alas, it turns out the site is not at all about Beauty peeing on the Beast ?it's about boat rentals "on beautiful Clear Lake, California"!
I pulled up in my dinghy for Cocktails at Sunset, an ACRIA fundraiser hosted by Banana Republic at well-connected artist ROSS BLECKNER's Sagaponack home. Finding out that this was the former residence of Truman Capote, I tried to break in and write a quick masterpiece, but was asked to stay on the outside grounds with the burger buffet, which was just fine with me, belch. Among the nuggets heard in my Hamptons experience: "I'm opening a holistic spa. You know, organic"; "Do you have a house out here?" (i.e., "Are you rich and worth talking to or just a day tripper?"); and, worst of all, from a guy who'd seen me and my friend in a restaurant earlier that day: "You're eating again?"