By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
"I care less about Elliot Spitzer's dick than I do about health care!" boomed a female voice in the back room of Benson restaurant. It was Valerie Bertinelli, the One Day at a Time star and Jenny Craig client who's a lot tougher than the steak I was digging into at that moment. Reminded that this was a promo event for her Ladies Home Journal cover, my pal Val smilingly responded: "I never call myself a lady. I'm a broad!" The broad was pissed at "Kristen" and all the other hos who don't care whose marriage they may be complicit in screwing for a few bucks and a mint on the pillow. "I want to strangle them," said Bertinelli, whose memoir, Losing It, is topping the charts right now. " 'Why are you doing this to another woman? A man isn't worth that. Bitch!' "
I love this little TV icon, so I pulled her aside for some private bitching, one question at a time. Me: "When you divorced Eddie Van Halen, did you feel like you were losing 180 pounds?" She: "No. He's still around! We still co-parent. So I only lost the 40 pounds." Me: "I loved when you told your fellow weight-loss emblem Oprah you'd kissed a woman and asked her if she ever had. Did you believe her when she said no?" She: "Oprah doesn't lie. That's why we love her. I'm going to see Gayle later today and I'll ask her too. Kidding!"
Me: "Speaking of which, why didn't you read for the part of Ross's lesbian wife on Friends when you were asked to?" She: "I thought I was too fat to be next to those other women. I had self-esteem issues." Me: "Did anyone advise you against taking such a role?" She: "No! I've played lesbians before." Me: "Me too!"
We kept eating (salmon for Val, more steak for me) as the ladies-who-lunch piped in with queries about her hair treatments and ex-husband care. "Eddie called me," revealed Val, "and thanked me for not throwing him under the bus with the book. His girlfriend read it, he hasn't—he's not a reader. She said: 'You're an inspiration. I feel like I'm living your life now, and you've given me hope.' " I left in an appreciative glow, but a little frustrated, unable to invoke my favorite utterance: "Bitch!"
I was luminescent all over again on meeting Kerry Butler, a broad who's always seemed loudly underappreciated, though she's given me hope with performances from Hairspray to Little Shop of Horrors. But with Xanadu, the contagious spoof of the craptastic Olivia Newton-John fantasy, she's taken her patented ditzy-blonde-with-sense routine and turned disbelievers into worshippers at her feathered curls. Kerry skates away with the show, laying on an Aussie accent as thick as her comic charm.
Alas, there's a downside to Xanadu's success: It hurts. At the Gotham magazine party she guest-hosted for the revamped Renaissance New York Hotel, Kerry told me: "I go to physical therapy for my knees, I get massages, and I have to go in a roller before each show." I go to physical therapy for my knees too, but that's a whole other story.
There's no preparation Kerry can do for co-star Jackie Hoffman's ad libs, it turns out. "One time," she said, "there was a guy sitting in the onstage audience wearing a cap to the side. Jackie went up to him and said, 'What are you, a gay rapper?' I cracked up! He was most likely gay, because he was sitting onstage at Xanadu!" And it wasn't even "Boys Night."
It was everything night at the Spotlight Live party for Shannon Durig's 1,000th performance as the non–Jenny Craig client Tracy in Hairspray, meaning she's put on a fat suit more times than Spitzer's put on an investigator. Over girly screams for dreamy co-star Ashley Parker Angel, Durig told me that when the audience gets super hyped up, sometimes she feels like a rock star. But she doesn't act like a rock star; Durig doesn't even drink coffee, "though I like Nacho Mondays with an occasional margarita." I pulled Angel away from the estrogen bunch to ask what his stimulant of choice is, and he said: "Vitamin-water energy drinks, because they combine caffeine with guarana." I'm sticking to my beloved Diet Coke—though at the bar for the party, they wanted to charge me four bucks for one. Not kidding!
Let's clink-clink our nacho plates and wash it down with some quick takes for the easily bored: Touch, the sleek club on West 52nd Street, debuted its Tuesday gay night last week with a bar that lights up when you touch it—and they touch it a lot—and a lovely ice sculpture for hemp iced tea (but not vitamin-water energy drinks) . . . At the same evening's Beige bash over at B Bar, I recently wore a sweater with a furry baby seal on it and am proud of myself for advising one guy: "Go ahead! Club it with your dick!" . . . Logo will be doing an awards show this summer. That's all I can say at this moment, or Price Waterhouse will kill me.