Did Meryl Streep Ever Sleep With DeNiro?

At the buffet table with Rachel Dratch, missing Osama, and why Harvey Fierstein is always right

The lowest, most despicable excuse for a human on the entire planet . . . No, wait, that's my introduction for Osama bin Laden. Let me start again. The most exalted purveyor of cinematic art on the entire planet, Meryl Streep loves her craft almost as much as everyone else loves her craft. Even if you think Sophie made the wrong choice, you have to admit Meryl's made all the right ones, veering from melodrama to farce, from Danish to Australian, from male rabbi to an ant, for chrissake, with an effortlessness that obviously takes a shitload of work and dedication.

At the Film Society of Lincoln Center's tribute to Streep last week, all manner of bright lights paid homage to her with volcanic spewings of admiration mixed with healthy smatterings of insouciance. Rivetingly weird Christopher Walken gushed, "Meryl can do cartwheels in a big dress!" Impressively placid Robert Redford swore, "She could play the Brooklyn Bridge!" (Or, even better, she could make you buy it.) Ethereal Uma Thurman—who, I'm sure you all remember, co-starred with Meryl in something called Prime—decided that the multiple Oscar winner is "a normal person just like you and me, only much, much better." And Tribeca's own Robert De Niro was unexpectedly funny, saying, "I don't remember ever sleeping with her. Though . . . " (Thoughtful pause as the crowd screamed with laughter.)

But not a whole lot of dirt was flung Meryl's way, this being a gala tribute and all. In fact, the most damning thing about the woman, apparently, is that she's hopelessly pleasant. According to Redford—who wisely never specifically mentioned Lions for Lambs—"Part of her is really out to lunch. She has this constant smile on her face. You think, 'Doesn't she know she's an actor and we're tortured?' She knows and enjoys something that we don't know." We tried to find out what it is by watching a battery of clips bathing us in Meryl's greatness and range, ending with a Mamma Mia! scene of her belting "The Winner Takes it All" while Pierce Brosnan competes with the scenery to be noticed. And then our star emerged onstage with that smile on, to assure us: "An actor is nothing! NOTHING!" Yeah, sure, honey, now take your award and go back to your legendary life.

Now, at last, I can use my original intro: The most despicable excuse for a human on the entire planet is the subject of Morgan Spurlock's documentary, Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?, a decent try which might have worked better with Ali G at the helm or as a three-minute Daily Show segment (though then you couldn't have ended with Spurlock's moral: Most of our imagined enemies are actually nice people! Like Meryl Streep!). As the Super Size Me creator travels around the Middle East looking for the world's most wanted man—no, not Brad Pitt—he unearths lots of yakking about what's right and wrong withboth sidesof the war on terror, though the film's main hero ends up being his own white lady love. As Spurlock said at the premiere, "There aren't many wives who, when you say 'I'm gonna go look for bin Laden,' would say, 'Sure, go ahead.' "And she was pregnant!

The marital institution is scrutinized in the kitchen-sink musical A Catered Affair, in which middle-class people sing their feelings while dutifully making the bed and wiping dishes. Tom Wopat falls asleep during one of the songs—his character, that is. Still, the show's dramatic throughline develops some steam (and not just from the tea kettle), and it's lovely to have an antidote to jukebox musicals and Disney shows, especially one with the luminous Faith Prince and the fabulous Leslie Kritzer. I'm just not sure that a small tale about whether a girl should have a big wedding or not screamed out to be musicalized, especially since—spoiler alert—she doesn't have it! Writer/actor Harvey Fierstein adds star power as the raspy uncle who openly describes himself as "a wee bit bent" and talks to a wedding planner about "my people." Would such a gay exist in the Bronx in the '50s? I don't know. I wasn't there, believe it or not. (I was way over in Brooklyn, where most "confirmed bachelors" were practically shot on sight.) But if Harvey says so, I'll have to go with it. Whenever I've criticized him before, it's always turned out he's as right as black pumps are with a halter top.

At the show's lavish opening-night party at the Hilton—the wedding you don't get in the show—I became family with Kathie Lee Gifford, who turns out to be even more fun than Meryl Streep. I totally ate crow—along with the buffet—while talking theater with Kathie Lee as if we were long-lost BFFs. Turns out we both liked Grey Gardens a little more than Spring Awakening, about which she said, "Not every kid is that miserable!" And we agreed that Patti LuPone is astounding in Gypsy. ("Polish the Tony right now," advised Kathie Lee.) But the revival I'm really panting for, I told her, is Equus with Daniel Radcliffe. "Why?" wondered Kathie Lee. "Well, what's the show about?" I prodded. "Oh!" she exclaimed, getting it and laughing. "So you're saying he's hung like a horse!" Uh-huh. Significant pause. "I don't need to know that Harry Potter is hung like a horse!"

At the same bash, I started wishing Rachel Dratch was busier than a workhorse. (Hand me the Tony now for worst segue of all time.) I told Dratch I loved her being so honest in that New York magazine item where she said her job offers have completely dried up, while her old SNL castmates are soaring. Has any work poured in as a result? No, Dratch said, but at least she's gotten some offers of sympathy. "People say, 'We're rooting for you!' " she told me. "And some people come up to me on the street and say, 'Aw! Are you all right?' "

Downtown performers got a lot of work (though it didn't pay) thanks to the Pope's very-well-dressed visit, which prompted an all-star Benedict-bashing revue over at Rapture Café on Saturday night. Somehow this led to three Virgin Marys in a row. (One licked the Christ child, another birthed a turkey, and the third insisted that abstinence education doesn't work; "I'm a virgin mother, for God's sake!") And then came da Popes, one of them looking out into the gayish crowd and saying, "I do forgive you boys—especially the little ones!"

And that wasn't the end of the preaching to the perverted. At my favorite bar, Pieces, the rottenest opening line in history came from a Hebrew scholar who barreled up to me to say, "I feel the Bible forbids homosexuality only when a woman is also involved. Even a gynecologist will tell women that after they defecate, they should wipe away from the vagina . . . " Charmed to meet you too, darling.

Speaking of women's privates—as I so rarely do—let's get back to Jodie Foster and the nagging issue of her closety silence. Jodie's dear friend Randy Stone—who was a wee bit bent—was rumored to be the daddy of Jodie's sons. And I'm now reminded that after his death, Randy's mother told the Enquirer that she was desperate to know if Randy was the dad so she could have a relationship with her grandsons if that was the case. But of course, as with so many things, Jodie used her silence to prevent this possibility from actualizing. Still, I love the woman and absolutely refuse to believe that as an actor or a person, she's NOTHING!

An out gay, Marc Jacobs has become quite the love target in his post-adolescence. According to a gossip site, Marc's old boyfriend has threatened to kick the ass of his new one, Austin A, feeling the guy's nothing but a blatant golddigger. And I guess that's different from a golddigger and a rentboy, right? Why don't you two kids go play under the Brooklyn Bridge?

musto@villagevoice.com

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