By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
My favorite li'l honoree at the Songwriters Hall of Fame last week was Loretta Lynn, the coal miner's daughter from Butcher Holler, Kentucky, who trailblazed country music while singing hard-hitting female-p.o.v. songs with lots of parentheses, like "Don't Come Home A'Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)." Lynn chit-chatted with me by phone before the event, adding some all-new parenthetical thoughts while proving to be as utterly down-home and charming as a quince-pie tin in a quilted cozy.
"I'm so pleased about being in the Songwriters Hall of Fame," she gushed (admitting she hadn't quite heard of the other inductees). "I'd rather write than sing. It's kind of an escape. I don't know what else it could be!"
But performing, Lynn said, can be something she wants to escape from. "When I first started out, they had to push me onstage," she admitted. "I was so bashful. I'm not really over that. But when you get over that completely, you need to quit!"
Not only hasn't the woman done that—at 73, she's still butcher-hollering up a storm—but she's recently worked with newfangled producers Jack White ("a great kid") and now John Carter Cash, whom Johnny and June used to let her babysit when they were busy walking the line. But it's her songs, Lynn told me, that she considers to be like her children. "I remember writing each one of them," she said, "and I know what state of mind I was in when I wrote them. My husband ['Doolittle' Lynn] was one of my greatest inspirations. I'd come off the road and he'd done something else, so I'd write about it." Wait, had the man done something good or bad? "Something bad!" she squawked. "What do you think 'You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)' is about?" God, men are such state-fair-variety prize pigs. With parentheses.
"Every song I've ever written has something in the back of it that I know but nobody else does," the new Hall of Famer went on. "Sometimes I get lost in the remembering." Lynn especially loves singing "Dear Uncle Sam," her anti–Vietnam War tune that is sizzling hot again because of the situation in Iraq. "It's not old," she told me. "It's still fresh today—I hate war!"
But don't think my new best friend Loretta Lynn is always mad at the menfolk; the country legend assured me that she can do happy songs, too. "One's on the way!" she informed me, laughing. By natural childbirth!
A Television Hall of Fame legend, Carol Burnett started her Q&A show the other night at Caesars Palace's Circus Maximus in Atlantic City by praising a man: her recently transitioned co-star Harvey Korman, who she said through tears "made my game better." She needed to be in top shape to field questions from this audience of kooks and fanatics, including a young lady who stood up, put on a graduation cap, and announced: "Guess what school I just graduated from? Carol Burnett University! Everything I learned in life I learned from you!" Rather than yell "Security!", Burnett was gracious as always and even thanked the girl for the elaborate truffle cake she'd sent backstage (which another audience nut was angling for a piece of). The star was also charming about the microphone battery pack that she said was lodged in her butt and had been wrapped in a condom in case of perspiration. "We call it safe sound!" said Carol Burnett, laughing. I bet it can prevent what Paula Deen so delightfully calls "a butt biscuit."
Wearing a battery pack with no protection whatsoever, I went to a party for John Leguizamo's Hamptons magazine cover story and asked the co-star of The Happening how he managed to act as if the foliage were Charles Manson. "You've had bad weed," he replied, smirking. "It's terrifying!" So true—but even scarier, what was M. Night Rama-lama-dingdong like to work with? A complete pill? "Shyama-lama-dingdong," Leguizamo corrected. "The other one is a holiday. If we were in Denmark, we'd be in trouble!" Pause. "But I enjoyed him. He's got this wonderful laugh, and then he gets deep and philosophical. At the end of the shooting, you know what he gave crew members? A trip to Europe! It was like Oprah's Big Give." And what did Leguizamo get, pray tell? "A great part with a great monologue!" he said, beaming. Better than a potted plant.
Speaking of kooky pharmaceuticals, that old drug den—I mean literary salon—Mr. Black finally came back on the site of the old Gypsy Tea, which is a downstairs rec room just like the old club, but it's bigger and a tiny bit glossier, with extra nooks and crannies (like a VIP cage for higher-class mammals) and bathrooms that not only work, but come with sinks and soap! The restroom area even has a gigantic sign stating that drug use is absolutely forbidden on the premises—so that should stop that, right? For the preview last Tuesday, they drew a totally mixed crowd, meaning 1,000 East Village gay guys and one fat black chick. But will Black's attempt to shake up the too-polite nightlife scene stay in the black? I don't know, but a good sign was that as one clubbie greeted me hello, he darted his hand in my pocket to try and nab some quick cash. Alas, there was none—I'd stuck it all in G-strings.
Next up came a retrospective event looking back at 15 years of crotch-hugging 2(x)ist undies—sort of a Whitney Biennial for scrotal sacs. I can't believe these things are already older than Abigail Breslin! And what an homage. They served champagne in the elevator and underweared men once you got there, plus creative director Jason Scarlatti was on hand to tell me why he chose Nick Adams over Mario Lopez for their new poster boy, as Page Six reported: "I'm all about new faces!" (Oh! So it's the face that's selling the underwear? Whatever the case, Adams swears to me that he and Lopez are not feuding at all. Neither are me and Lopez.) In another corner, a guest with clothes on (and probably a deeply lodged battery pack) told me, "I taught my niece how to be a modern radical last night. We used the same glassware twice!" I'm green with envy—get it?
Nick Adams turned up half-naked in Broadway Bares 18: Wonderland, the annual high-toned gonadal revue for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and so did Tony winner Julie White—in green! She was the mock turtle, wearing a mock turtleneck as she bitched about the caterpillar: "They say brevity is the soul of wit. Well, his cock is a motherfucking riot!" Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin also dropped by as Mr. and Mrs. Cheshire Cat in a skit that outed both John Travolta and Clay Aiken and ragged on some others, too. (When Lane's character entered, Alice in Wonderland cooed: "It's a huge, monstrous smile without a face. Is it Carol Channing?") The show had a couple of dull spots (Joan Crawford should be retired as a camp icon), but it was ebulliently trippy and dirty, and rarely did I want to musically yell at the stage: "You Ain't Man Enough (To Wear That Little)."