By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
What do Halifax, Nova Scotia, residents think of Ellen Page, the Oscar-nominated star of Juno who was born in their midst not all that long ago? Well, apparently, they're prouder than a salmon whose kid has been turned into lox, though they've obviously been speculating as much about her sexuality as I have. A Halifax-based magazine named Frank just ran an article probing into some very heavy Page reading. The author's main assertion? "Ellen's a self-admitted tomboy who wears baggy clothes and comfortable shoes." Stop there! That's all the evidence I need!
In a previous issue, the same mag dug even deeper, but—like me—could only come up with stuff like "Ellen's first major studio picture was X-Men: The Last Stand," part of a franchise which gays find "a not so thinly veiled allegory for homosexuality." (Footnote: That particular film was also a magnet for sexual adventurers like Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn, and Omahyra. Are we getting any warmer?) What's more, Page has been attached to co-star in Jack and Diane, whose synopsis intriguingly begins: "Two teenage lesbians meet in New York City and spend the night kissing ferociously." OK, so we've established that the Canada-dry actress is willing to play lesbians (even on Saturday Night Live). But what do we really know about her off-screen life? Well, Frank went on to brazenly declare that Page has a "dyke-friendly air," considers herself a feminist, and admires Patti Smith and Jodie Foster. OK, folks, we're basically still at square queero, I mean zero—especially since Ellen's been confusingly seen with everyone from Frankie Muniz to a friend named Paula Robbins. But hold onto your potpourri, here comes a giant clue: Page told USA Today: "I don't talk about my private life." Case closed! I've got my answer!
Another Canadian tomboy, the married Avril Lavigne, just played the sumptuous Borgata casino in Atlantic City, which delightfully sent us to see her after Van Halen cancelled. There was an opening act called Boys Like Girls (I can't put my finger on it, but something about that name didn't appeal to me), and then boy-girlish Avril barreled out, fully clothed and looking like the spiritual grandchild of Nicole Kidman and Meg Ryan. With the help of her feature-perfect puppety face, she went on to fulfill her apparent mission to bop around in skull-and-crossbones pants and make anger seem adorable. Even when she was narrowing her eyes and screeching, "I'm sick of your shit," you wanted to pinch her on the high cheekbone and go, "Aww."
But it turns out Avril's a fun performer who's relaxed and responsive to her very white 'tween fans, whom she obliges with her hits (like the one I once rewrote to go, "Why you wanna fuck me up the ass when I'm constipated?"), some weepily introspective ballads at the piano ("I miss you . . ."), and even a couple of plus-sized dancers prancing around her while crushing any thoughts of teen bulimia. And she talked, too! I loved Avril saying, "I want to dedicate this song to all my fans who were there from the beginning"—you know, six weeks ago. And I adored the simplicity of intros like, "On guitar: Steve!"
On the B-52's lead microphone, it's still Fred! Yeah, it's Fred Schneider, who, at the Socialista bash for the band's Funplex CD, told me why their new product took longer to create than a love shack. "We started to write it seven years ago," he said, "but it didn't gel. Four years ago, we started again and we paid for it ourselves. We'd gone through a big business change." Was it like getting back together with an old lover—or rather an old bunch of lovers? "No," Schneider replied. "We've been performing together continuously since 1997. We're the dysfunctional family that will always stay together and love each other!" Unlike the Jacksons, the dysfunctional family that will always stay together.
Two normally warring clans—the literary folk and the gossip gang—came together when The Atlantic Monthly put Britney (the anti-Avril) on its cover recently, and I read the high-toned rag for the very first time. At last week's panel at NYU about celebrity-news mania, an Atlantic rep said the magazine got flak for "selling our soul for newsstand sales," but the reality is: "We put her on the cover at the great peril of our newsstand sales." I guess having a PR-driven panel on the same topic was designed to add to the peril. And what did I learn about gossip (aside from the fact that Miley Cyrus sells tickets but not magazines)? That, like me, Page Six's Richard Johnson reads about the stars of The Hills and says: "Who are these people?" Also like me, he often will write that a celebrity is "high-spirited" when in fact they are a complete druggie. And unlike me, tabloid queen Bonnie Fuller insists that good news about celebrities sells even better than bad news. Well, everyone must have thought Britney's breakdown was great news, because it sold even better than the freakin' Bible.
Speaking of breakdowns, Patti LuPone is having one every night in Gypsy, and the result is so breathtaking it could turn a gay man into a lesbian. I should know—I've spent most of my adult life watching Gypsy and cheering on everyone in it, including the cow (and I don't mean Mama Rose). I've seen Gypsy in New Jersey, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and with someone from Cagney & Lacey. Of course, this one seemed cursed—and not just because everyone loved it at Encores except the one person that matters, Ben Brantley. In previews, the air vent was falling and a curtain was bopping an actress on the head. But by last week, the mechanics had been oiled and the result, if at times overemphatic, was kicking so much ass even Brantley had to admit that "Mama's got the stuff." (By the way, that Cagney lady, Tyne Daly, ebulliently told a friend of mine on a bus the other day: "I knew six months ago she'd get raves and he'd eat his words!")
This time around, Dainty June is refreshingly played as a completely bitter bitch, the three strippers are magnificent grotesques, and they've gotten the first straight Tulsa in history. And LuPone! She rips into the part as if eating a live lobster. With her slash of a mouth surrounded by that Hirschfeld-drawing face and askew curls, she's a driven, sexy, playful, monstrous Rose—and crazier than a loon at the climax. I could do without the new ending that follows, but at least it shows once again that this is an attempt to breathe life into Gypsy, not just take it out of mothballs. (Another footnote: Marc Jacobs went to see the show with a hairy, hot Brazilian who works in advertising. "Ciao," said LuPone backstage, thinking the hottie was Italian. Same difference.)
Say "Bali hi!"to that other revival, South Pacific, though it just had an Internet wag complaining: "The naked-butt shower scene was not necessary at all. And on the other hand, all those sailors on a hot island and no one had their shirts off!" God, there's just no pleasing these queens. How can there be too much ass, yet not enough chest, especially since Lieutenant Cable does take his shirt off for "Younger Than Springtime"? But of course, Nellie doesn't show her Forbush, OK?
In a musical stroke of gay happenstance, the Imperial Court's Night of a Thousand Gowns and the Saint At Large's Black Party were booked on the very same night, so all the gays were tucking and gowning, then frantically running home to uncover their facial hair, take off the bra, and let the tits hang in a muscle T. Oh, well, it's all drag. And they all should star in South Pacific. Usually, the Black Party scene involves dozens of porn stars getting beer enemas backstage—or sometimes onstage. This time, I encountered swarms of guys who looked like Ellen Page in a leather harness, plus an old taskmaster teacher of mine wearing a brown bandanna. I always knew he should eat shit.