Dean Johnson's Legacy, Anna Nicole's Lunacy

Devout banter about a very different Bible class, plus sleuthing about Sleuth and ragging on Rita

For the Bible Tells Me So, the documentary about the way religion craps on homosexuality, premiered at a church, but it was just the right one: Marble Collegiate, where Liza Minnelli married David Gest. Before the film unspooled, I heard some devout talk from the media in my pew. ("I know you write for the Huffington Post too. What section are you covering this for? I'm here for the Living section." "Oh, don't worry. I'm just writing about divorce and religion.") But then everyone—even some people not from the Huffington Post—quieted down and took in the sensitively done filmic affirmation that misusing the Bible to bash gays is an "abomb-nation," as Jimmy Swaggart so illiterately pronounces it.

Afterward, the director and cast swarmed to the altar and congratulated each other, getting extra choked up about having just won awards at a Milwaukee film festival. Bawling the hardest was a woman whose daughter killed herself after Mom denounced her lesbianism. "She's one of the most courageous people I've ever met," the director said, crying as he hugged the woman as if she were an Oscar. Say what? Well, after the suicide, mom did some research and realized gayness isn't bad after all!

Sleuth—based on the movie based on the play—isn't very religious, though there is some flaming stuff in there, and Sir Michael Caine bedecked in ladies' jewelry is just the start of it. At the Kobe Club premiere party, director Kenneth Branagh bravely submitted to my own sleuthing (for the Living section) as follows: Q: Hey, Ken. Were you happy screenwriter Harold Pinter put in all that queer material? A: I thought it was an interesting departure to have a third-act development—are one or both guys gay, or is it a prelude to the ultimate humiliation? Keeps you guessing. Q: Speaking of the ultimate humiliation, was the C-word in the original version? A: No. It's part of the way Pinter breaks the taboos and both shocks and amuses with language. Q: Fuck! Was it weird to have Jude Law, who remade Caine's Alfie, star with Caine in a remake of Sleuth, which once starred Caine in the Jude Law role? A: No. They had great camaraderie. Caine is a great raconteur, telling stories about Sinatra and the queen—but not in the same story. There's a line in the film where Jude says "What's it all about?", but we didn't intend that as a reference to Alfie. Q: Keeps you guessing.

The truly ultimate humiliation happened to Rita Cosby at the Pacha bash for her Anna Nicole epic, Blonde Ambition, when a Howard K. Stern droog handed her his lip-smacking lawsuit right on the way in. Defiant Rita took the stage to cheers and promised, "We're not going to be intimidated by this smear campaign. We stand behind what we have in the book 110 percent!" She then wisely thanked her lawyers, who came out to give testimonials about how great she is. Then Anna Nicole's mom, Virgie Arthur (yes, Anna Nicole was like a Virgie), came out and—sobbing even harder than the lesbian's mother—declared "Rita's done a great job!" and thanked her lawyers, who were the same two from Rita Cosby! And finally, to complete the cable realness, Natalee Holloway's mother bounced out and declared, "When Rita came to Aruba, she had one mission—to seek justice!" Hey, maybe Howard killed Natalee too.

For me, the shocking assertion in the book isn't the sex video—two people in showbiz gay? No way!—it's the fact that not long before his death, Daniel reportedly went to a private investigator to say he knew he was going to be killed.

Whether he was murdered or just took in a bad drug cocktail, rocker/rebel Dean Johnson will be missed by those who appreciate nose-thumbing in a dress and stolen earrings at its finest. (He looked way better than Michael Caine.) At the Rapture Café tribute to Dean, I read excerpts from an '80s Voice profile I wrote, which detailed how, on the day of a photo shoot, Dean tried to kill himself by swallowing a batch of sleeping pills. Said Dean, "I told the photographer I'd rather die than do another shooting with him." The big baldie survived anyway, and when he landed a club gig and wowed the crowd, he realized, "Hey, this is better than being a suicidal drug addict." Dean also starred in a porno movie, but he wouldn't tell me the name of it because "I want to wait until I'm really famous and it can be a bigger scandal."

Dean's gay ethos? "I wanted there to be a strong homosexual figure on the scene, so I created it myself. I'm so fed up with Boy George's ambivalence. He's so unsexual, saying he'd rather drink tea and have a good conversation than have sex. That's not a very good image. If he's not very sexual, how can he be thought of as homosexual?" Point taken.

Today's strong homosexual figures on the scene? There's Joey Arias, who's coming back to New York after four years in a Vegas Cirque du Soleil show. Now the real sideshow attraction is watching drag stars Edie and Sherry Vine battle it out to replace him.

At Splash, I caught Bearforce1, a Dutch quartet of gay bears who do dumb but vigorous covers of disco songs with Village People–via–Busby Berkeley–type choreography. But weirdly, two of them are sort of thin, and the third isn't exactly Camryn Manheim either. What next—the Olsen twins on The Biggest Loser?

Over at Cuckoo club, a skinny ninny barreled up to stylist Philip Block to say, "I love that you're on TV!" Replied Block, "I love it too. Now keep moving, babe. We got started on the wrong foot." Block then turned to me and conspiratorially related, "He pushed me in the bathroom!"

No one will have to be pushed at Peter Gatien's wildly roomy new Circa club in Toronto. I hear it's a 55,000-square-foot "entertainment complex" weirdly aiming for rich people in a dangerous neighborhood. "Are there 3,000 nightly high-end clubgoers in the greater Toronto area?" wonders a source. "This ain't New York." Still, when Gatien started crying, Virgie-style, at a press conference last week, it was from joy that the place was finally opening, not from fear that he'll have to invite the D-list to fill it up. He's one of the most courageous people I've ever met.

In a cry for justice, Rosie Perez told me for Out magazine that she's the one who got Jennifer Lopez hired on In Living Color back when Rosie was the choreographer. She said J. Lo always gives the credit to Keenan Ivory Wayans, but actually, "Keenan didn't want her because she was overweight and she couldn't dance that well. But I said, 'She's got star quality.' He said, 'Your job depends on this.' " She's been working ever since.

As for her own star quality, Rosie's high-camp medley as wacko chanteuse Googie Gomez (starting with "The sun'll come out mañana") is the apex of the revival of The Ritz, the desperate but funny farce set at a time when the only health hazard at a gay bathhouse was a mafioso in hiding. In another conversation, Rosie told me about the dramatic reactions her role has been getting: "This one woman in the press said, 'Off the record, how do you feel about playing a negative stereotype? You've been one of the pioneers in pushing us forward.' I said, 'But that's how I can do this! Rita Moreno won a Tony for the role! What are you talking about? That's your issues! Then don't see the show! Miss out on the fun! Take your mouth off the floor! Rita Moreno, Tony, Broadway, hello! I'm stepping into the spotlight! Don't try to dim any of it for me. Move! If your wounds are still open from everything we've endured, I can respect that, but mine aren't! I'm reaping the benefits of our struggle! Let's enjoy the successes we've had!' " Hola! Put that in your Living section.

WEB EXTRA

My neurotic little life is centered around the Oscar nominations, and since they're only three and a half months away, I thought I'd tell you what and who will most definitely, undoubtedly, probably, possibly be in the running: No Country For Old Men, Atonement, Gone Baby Gone, Juno, Keira Knightley, Marion Cotillard, Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Casey Affleck, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Amy Ryan, Hal Holbrook, Julian Schnabel, Hairspray, and Julie Christie. Any arguments?

And furthermore: Don't care about the nominations, even on the actual day of the announcement? Well, I've got a much more exalted diversion for you. How about checking out this new wikipedia interview with a fabulous celebrity who has no chance whatsoever of being nominated for something as crass as an Oscar—me!

musto@villagevoice.com

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