Who Put the Goth in Gotham?

Unconventional swordplay and vamping, plus blind items that will make you go blind

The Dark Shadows convention at the Marriott Westchester in Tarrytown brought out swarms of diehard goths, including an assortment of autistic types, people with hunchbacks, and all sorts of other outsiders who've found solace in the '60s show's glamorization of the Other. (Yes, I'm one of them and didn't go only because I was busy getting an anal bleaching. Weirdly connected friends filled me in.) The event served as a 40th anniversary in the role of Barnabas Collins for the elegantly creepy Jonathan Frid, who explained to fans, "I never played a vampire. I played a man with a secret." A fine distinction—sort of like sherbet versus sorbet. To perhaps inadvertently add to the gay subtext, Frid showed a clip from the series that had Barnabas describing his relationship with another male character as "a duel. I plunge my sword in you and you plunge your sword in me . . ." I can only hope they used condoms! While Frid bared his sheath, the persistent buzz at the convention was all about the Dark Shadows movie being made, starring, of course, he who plays all weird bloodsucking men with secrets, Johnny Depp. I bet the subtext comes prancing out like a drunken pirate.

Meanwhile, attention, all chicken hawks: For young men without a secret, get thee to zailen.com, which plugs all the weekly Zailen Entertainment club nights where inebriated (on life) young gays hook up for swordplay. Drew Zailen and his co-promoters have practically taken High School Musical out of the closet, producing a schedule that consists of Erection Wednesdays at Boys Room, which promise "free shots to those who loose [sic] their clothes"; Thursday-night Pop Rocks bashes at Bar 13, with "three floors, go-go boys, roofdeck with smoking permitted"; and Fridays at Rush, which used to be Heaven and is now, apparently, heaven, or at least a trashy enough waiting area. Zailen's no longer involved with Hot Mess at Porky's—where your shoes stick to the Jell-O shots on the floor and the go-go boys spazz on the bar as drag queens call out raffle-ticket numbers—but he'll relocate soon enough to another appealing Sunday-night hellhole. His crowd? They're generally hairless, unformed, semiclothed, and just like puppies—until they tell you their bizarrely vivid sexual histories or launch into wicked, violent dances that would scare even Jonathan Frid. They are shameless and without overly rehearsed game-playing—or money—and clearly enjoy releasing all that pent-up school energy from whenever they managed to show up there.

In the more grown-up gay world on Sunday at Hiro ballroom—sorry, no Jell-O shots—I wondered what's been up with porn idol Michael Lucas (who's always moaning that he's too old to hustle anymore)? "I had a fight with an Arab cab driver and had to call 911," he told me, furiously. "I ended up with head trauma. Also, my tent in Fire Island caved in and I hurt my back. And someone on the island was OD'ing, so his friends gave him a bump to revive him and that killed him. They're being investigated." Nice to see you too, dahling.

I plunged my sword back into my pants and walked into Tenjune just as Hamptons magazine cover boy Andy Roddick was scruffily taking the stage. "I didn't know I was gonna make a speech," he cutely stammered, with spiky hair trauma. "Turn the music back on." Over the thump-thump, I screamed to Roddick—the rare sports star I've heard of—that he's the first public figure I've ever seen not seize the chance to filibuster to his ego's content. "I don't want to hear myself talk," he said, laughing, and I realized neither do I, but damn, he's plenty cute.

There were tons of talkers at the Brasserie Ruhlmann luncheon for The Hunting Party, like director Richard Shepard, who told me the movie is based on an Esquire article about journalists who hunt for a war criminal and get mistaken for a CIA hit squad. "The article struck me as absurd and utterly compelling," said Shepard. Especially when the guy played by Richard Gere had that scary meltdown? "In the movie, Gere has a meltdown," Shepard explained, "but the three lead characters are composites of the guys." So no one actually had a scary meltdown? "I'm having a meltdown right now," he said, laughing. Does Shepard make big enough money to sugarcoat such moments? "I directed the pilot of Ugly Betty," he said, "and that's the gift that keeps giving. I don't think the network had any idea it was gonna be big. Permeating the production was a sense of 'No one has much confidence in this.' But America Ferrera is really lovely and is so real in the part. I remember how we took Patricia Field's actual glasses off and put them on her for the show. Pat was blind, but it worked!"

Wearing his own specs, Jesse Eisenberg—the youngest of the Hunting Party Sarajevo rompers—told me he's started a website called Oneupme.com, which offers a daily wordplay competition to drive everyone crazy. His other recreational joy is bike riding, which he admitted "has saved me from suicide many times." It's even saved him from meltdowns.

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