Heath Ledger died in the nude, but most of today's young female stars live in the nude, albeit while teetering on the precipice of oblivion and trying to join him there. Whereas yesterday's sexpot Jane Fonda had to apologize just for saying the word cunt, most of these refreshingly shameless bimbettes are only sorry when you can't see theirs, even if the exposed pubes give the lie to their natural blondeness. Making the world their gynecologist in the tradition of sex bombs from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna, the Britneys and Parises have never been able to resist the chance to do intimate sex tapes that accidentally leak out to the entire populace or to create panty-less car-exiting shots that paparazzi just happen to catch from smack up-close between the kneecaps. Flaunting what they've got and pretending it's an accident, the tartlets have long turned spreading their legs into career moves, using their fertile crescents as cash registers, even while making us believe they're really just "singing," "acting," or "promoting my perfume." They're wily about their guilelessness and clever about their clotheslessness. Beating Paris at her own game, Britney even had a completely naked head for a while!

Of course it all started with Marilyn, and Lindsay Lohan—or at least her publicist—seems to have gotten that memo. In lieu of community service, Lindsay recently paid some boobalicious homage to Marilyn's famous Bert Stern spread, titting it up in New York magazine with a string of pearls, swatches of chiffon, and some colorful fake flowers, all helping to shine spotlights on her very real dumplings flapping around like they probably did in the rehab bathroom. Some dummo actually thought this would be a good move for the career-challenged-at-21 starlet—and honey, it was! Sales and clicks went through the roof, as the world gaped at the detoxing darling's freckled triangle and thrilled to quotes like, "I mean, Bert Stern? Doing a Marilyn shoot? . . . It's really an honor."

Howard Huang; Styling by Curtis Davis for Ken Barboza. Hair by Q. Hardy Illusions/CLICK Models. Makeup by Jackie Sanchez/Illusions/Smashbox

Mind you, this wasn't a random match-up, like Tina Turner and Beyoncé (or Tom and Katie). It turns out scrawny Lindsay has a real interest in Marilyn, which started way back when she was filming the toddler-friendly Parent Trap and watching the voluptuous one vamp it up in Niagara on the side. And she's not alone in worshiping the decaying diva: Ms. Hilton herself recently told the press, "I love Marilyn, and I was definitely channeling her while doing The Hottie and the Nottie," as Marilyn's corpse rolled faster than a spinning toilet-paper rod. (As of press time, it's unclear whether Britney's even heard of Marilyn—or even of Lindsay Lohan—but she's definitely a big fan of Monroe from Too Close for Comfort.)

A blonde actress's love of Marilyn has got to be the biggest Hollywood cliché since cute reaction shots of dogs. These girls never claim an affinity for anyone esoteric, like Barbara Payton, Carrie Nye, or Tippi Hedren. (When I told Mena Suvari that she was the new Madeleine Sherwood a couple of years ago, she endearingly glazed over and said, "Who?") They go for the obvious—and for the obvious reason: Marilyn was sex on a stick and knew how to promote that to sell product. Even more appealingly, you never saw the broad get all old and blowsy, which is why no one on the cover of Us Weekly ever cops to admiring two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters. Eluding the grasp of these starlets is the fact that Marilyn was not just a love goddess, she was actually a brilliant actress herself, one who didn't need the pretentious coaches she kept around in all her crippling insecurity. Even flat and snatchless, Marilyn could have turned out some sparkling performances—but, alas, the letches running Hollywood probably would never have let her do so.

As the New York article unavoidably pointed out, it was six weeks after the legendary Stern shoot that Marilyn died of an apparent OD, a tidbit that looms over Lohan's Stern shoot like the griffin in The Spiderwick Chronicles. But the doomy parallels between M.M. and L.L. seem far less upsetting if you believe, as I'm sure Oliver Stone does, that Marilyn was actually murdered. Why would the Kennedys kill Lindsay Lohan? (Unless maybe Herbie Fully Loaded somehow reminded Ted of Chappaquiddick.)

But enough about them. I've long lived quite dangerously myself, and so, anxious to share my desperate man-tits with an audience beyond Chelsea, I gleefully agreed to star in an homage to an homage: Musto as Lohan as Marilyn. That's three generations of loveliness, and I prepared for it by not shaving or waxing a thing, just letting it all hang in the wind as both a nod to history and a means of reclaiming control. Just like with Marilyn and Lindsay, people have always grabbed at me, wanting a piece of my piece and a slice of my soul, but usually with more pepperoni and less cheese. Well, this time, I was seizing the power back by saying: "My bits are only mine to give. Now here they are, world. Take it all!"

This wasn't my first shot at seizing the power back, Marilyn-style. Way back in 1992, I spoofed Madonna's Sex book, standing naked in a freezing Jersey street with nothing but a wig and a cig to distract from my painfully tucked penis. I almost ended up in jail when two cops pulled up to chide me for public indecency, but photographer Catherine McGann showed them a copy of Sex and that calmed them right down. (Ah, the power of superstar gonads. Next time a policeman tries to Taser you for some heinous crime, just hold up Madonna's crotch.) We quickly finished the shot, and then I ran back into the car, pulled my nuts back out, and invoked Madge by declaring, "I am not ashamed," then quietly added: "But I should be!"

This shoot was indoors, at least, and as far away from law enforcers as possible. And though I'm even less buff now, I felt somehow more determined to flaunt it, sensing that the offer might not come up that many hundred more times. The slinky Lindsay said she did 250 crunches the night before her shoot. Well, I did 250 Nestlé Crunches. Lindsay watched Niagara in early preparation for her Marilyn awakening. Well, I was considering Viagra. Unfortunately, we couldn't get Bert Stern, a man so caring of his subjects that he even ran the shots Marilyn had crossed out on the contact sheets. But I believe there was an offer from another sensitive Stern (Howard K.), especially if he could shoot me dead—I mean photograph me dead. Instead, we went with Howard Huang and his crack team of stylists, hairdressers, and makeup artists, who prodded and poked me harder than the last time I was gang-banged on a pool table—and I loved it! The experience helped me appreciate how much arduous work goes into the art of looking effortlessly beautiful. When it came time to break for lunch, the makeup lady—who cutely called me "Lindsay" all day—said, "You'd better order something, Lindsay. You don't want to be like those Hollywood stars." Yes, I do! But I still sent out for a turkey sandwich with gravy, mashed potatoes, and a side of tomatoes.

As we wrapped, I felt not only gorgeous but strangely topical, since the press was buzzing about how Madonna's hitchhiking shot had been certified by a "Marilyn Monroe expert" to actually be a lost, extremely valuable image of Marilyn herself! Exciting news—until someone finally shattered the freak's reverie by chirping: "That's actually the famous photo of the Material Girl without material, moron." This whole delusional mess turns out to be very good news for me and my gal Lindsay. If the overabundance of exposed snatches out there has led to such a blurring in the public perception of vamps, maybe someone will think "Musto as Lohan as Marilyn" is yet another lost session by the immortal Monroe. As Ernest Borgnine as Eleanor Roosevelt as W.C. Fields as Stalin.

musto@villagevoice.com

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