Frank and Open Discussions

A visit to the land of Oz and straight talk from Rihanna and Ian Benardo, among others

 Death at a Funeral is a slight but amusing comedy of errors that builds to—spoiler alert—Peter Dinklage being bound and gagged while tripping on something that "wasn't really Valium after all," as one character sagely notes. Add some gay revelations, a few caca jokes, and Alan Tudyk's always welcome bare ass, and this may well be the wackiest interment of a corpse since Chuckles the Clown.

Over lunch in Times Square, director Frank Oz (who's also known for comedies like In & Out and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) told me he can truly relate to bouts of inappropriate hilarity. "I once saw a serious play that was so bad we started giggling," Oz said. "Was it Angels in America, perchance?" I tossed off, perversely. "No," he said, laughing. "Larry Kramer would have a heart attack!"

But back to THIS Funeral: Not only did the dark humor of the script appeal to Oz, but he also liked the relative teensiness of it. "It's so wonderful to work on a small movie without the huge pressure," he gushed. "I love pressure, but a big movie becomes a lumbering giant. It's like a B-52 bomber, whereas it's much more fun to fly the little fighter jet." I wondered if he was at all referring to his remake of Stepford Wives, which was a big bomber all right. "My biggest regret was that I didn't follow my instinct with that," Oz admitted, "which was to make it a smaller, more adult, intimate relationship movie." That's a much more integrity-filled answer than blaming the marketing or the fact that it was up against The Chronicles of Riddick.


The British-born Oz will even admit that he started out as a puppeteer for the Muppets and went on to become the voice of Yoda. Was he the physical prototype too? I asked, smirking. "I'm six-foot-two," he deadpanned. And tall on the flamboyance as well. Oz said he once told a cohort, "I should be gay. I love musicals and I love shopping!" Me too!

Whatever he is, Oz seemed so cuddly and lovable that I wondered if anyone has ever wanted him dead. "Three actors hated me," Oz revealed. "Marlon Brando, Cher, and Wilford Brimley. Cher probably thinks I'm a shitty director. Marlon did not like authority, but it was my fault. I was too tough on him. I told myself I would not let Marlon take over my movie. Any actor is scared, and he needed nurturing and support. I wouldn't let him do what he wanted in a nurturing, supportive way." And Wilford Brimley? Who cares? I was much more interested in the cute Tudyk and his nurturing, supportive flesh. "There was never even a codpiece there," Oz told me. "A lot of people who usually don't come on the set came on the set when he was naked." And believe me, when they came on the set, they came on the set.

Before we build up to my own funeral, let's chronicle this past week's low-cultural events that helped me get a giant step closer to it. At Sunday night's Cuckoo Club at the Maritime—a wildly festive conga line of gays and go-go dancers, and a mutant glitter ball—a producer for Tori Spelling's reality show told me about the upcoming season: "There's an erection joke, Tori fishing dildos out of a water tank, and a segment with Harvey Fierstein." Dear God, you can't get any gayer than that unless you throw in . . . a segment with me? With musicals and shopping? The guy said he was desperate to do just that, but the next night he called to say, "Maybe next time." Dissed by Oxygen? It's good that I've hit absolute bottom so I can now really seek help.

The next night, at Paper's party for music goddess Rihanna at D'Or (downstairs at Amalia), I heard about someone else's TV op: Apparently Lance Bass is working with Logo on a gay Making the Band–type show. It'll be great to have an openly gay boy band for a change! Making my day, Rihanna looked like a creamy summer parfait and was ultra-approachable once you climbed over her publicist. (It was a packed room.) I seized the chance to ask about that insanely catchy umbrella song that has "ella, ella, ella" replacing "I said no, no, no" in my noggin for the next five years. "It's not really about umbrellas," she told me, wisely. "It's saying, 'I have your back no matter what, and I'll protect you.' Usually you get tired of a song if you sing it a lot, but I'm not tired of this one!"

But is Rihanna tired of being pawed, seeing as she's rather hot-looking even to a gay? "People don't grab me," she swore. "I haven't run into a lot of rude, aggressive people. But I have standards also." Speak for yourself, goddess. Does she also have indulgences? "I watched what drugs did to my dad," she admitted, "so I never wanted to do that. And there's no legal drinking age in Barbados and I was so exposed to all that all the time, so it never seemed cool." Hey, maybe we should send Lindsay to Barbados! Surely there are some toilets there in need of celebrity scrubbing!

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