By Albert Samaha
By Amanda Dingyuan
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Albert Samaha
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Roy Edroso
I prayed the seductive Désir show at Spiegeltent wouldn't be a softcore embarrassment-fest with writhing people biting sushi out of each other's vaginas. Fortunately, there was only one bit with squirting whipped cream and another one with a song that went "Oh, mister, don't touch me tomatoes." Mainly it was a high-toned circus show with very few whole foods (or even hole foods)—a dialogue-free kitsch-athon with stunning performers finding various reasons to gyrate around in acrobatic displays, all in service of "a sparkling merry-go-round where your last love affair is merely an entrée to your next encounter." Alas, though the evening's kitschy "divertissements" included "the boy and the girl" and "the girl and the girl," there was no fully realized "boy/boy" encounter—but at least the boy at the end was in drag as a girly-girl.
Boy meets boy/girl meets puppet in Arias With a Twist, the breathtaking collaboration at HERE Art Center, which has just been extended till the end of the year as the Obie committee, I'm sure, wets its whipped-creamed panties. The 90-minute pastiche brings together performer Joey Arias and puppetmaster Basil Twist for a swirling fantasia that envelops you with surreal visuals and vocals and lots of miniature people doing major things. After you're asked to turn off "your BlackBerries and your dingleberries," curtains open to reveal more curtains and eventually Arias emerges, strapped to a revolving gyno-hoop while done up like Betty Page meets Yma Sumac and belting Led Zeppelin. After being probed by aliens and loving it, Joey tumbles to the jungle, and—skip ahead, skip ahead—ends up in a chorus line, where he finds himself . . . oh, please! Anyone who thinks this show is about the plot probably thinks Hillary is rooting for Obama/Biden.
After a performance last week, I snuggled up between Joey's legs and asked the diva some hard questions. Me: Darling, don't you wish you were a woman? Joey: Didn't you hear the story? I'm the two chromosomes at the end of the alphabet. I'm both man and woman. Me: Congrats! What is the show saying about women and their relationship to the earth? Joey: It's the path of the sacred warrior. The female is the earth. She's an Amazon—the one who beats down the door, gives birth, and so on. God, of course, is a woman. Me: And She's got a lot of 'splaining to do. Anyway, before this show, girl, you MC'd Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity for six whole years in Las Vegas. Did that suck the soul out of you? Joey: Vegas was like a finishing school to me. I went with the groove. It'll only suck your soul out if you don't know when it's time to leave. I thought, "I'll become part of the terrain—a cactus stuck in the sand. And that'd be the end of this part of Joey." Me: And this part is much needed—especially your stunning Billie Holiday interpretation. Do you prefer suicidal Billie or jaunty Billie? Joey: Jaunty! She was fun and crazy and a big lesbian. But all you hear about was the bad stuff. It's like me. Back when I performed at [the downtown boîte] Bardot, I got drunk and fucked up all the time. Me: And I way prefer jaunty Joey!
The next day, jaunty Basil Twist called to tell me that Joey has brought out some lovely naughtiness in him—"in everyone"—and also to inform me that the HERE theater is named after his own grandma, Dorothy B. Williams, and the puppets in the display case were made by his gramps! I guess sporting wood is a family tradition.
Let me now pull the splinters out of my mouth and break for some news about wooden figures with Hollywood agents: The wildly erratic Penélope Cruz gives the year's most entertaining performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the year's most unwatchable one in Elegy. She'll undoubtedly be up for all kinds of awards . . . Vin Diesel isn't an Oscar nominee yet, but I hear that at a press junket for Babylon A.D., he was blabbing with a strange self-seriousness, practically discussing his bad self as if he were Sir Ian McKellen . . . In Death Race, his lordship Tyrese Gibson plays a character who's called "the homo," but he's telling press the guy isn't gay at all. Oh, goodie!
In similar news, Michael Phelps was just seen everywhere in that photo with a sexy female swimmer. Her name? Amanda Beard! I love it! But as you know, even he said they never dated, and she retched and said she wouldn't want to. (Why not, honey? Even if Phelps weren't hot—and he is—he'll be super-rich in a matter of minutes, hubba hubba.) Phelps even announced that his personal life is private and well known to his friends. You know what that means—but afterward, he was seen going down under with a female Aussie. Hmm, why do I feel this guy will soon be having twins via a surrogate mother?
Meanwhile, possible love-child maker John Edwards's indiscretions have lent the Enquirer much credibility for breaking the story, but I was astounded to read that as the rag gains honor, its popularity keeps plummeting. I guess the readers feel: "This shit is true? I'm not reading this garbage anymore!"
Keep reading my garbage as I take you to an upscale lunch at Brasserie Ruhlmann for Discovery Channel's Into the Unknown with Josh Bernstein, who's sort of their Indiana Jones, but younger. And what's the wildest adventure Bernstein's had so far? An anal probe by aliens? Almost. "I went to the Arctic to learn about dynamic ice structures," Bernstein told me. "I lived with five guys in a small hut with no toilet. We all crapped in one five-gallon bucket." That made the corpse mummification in Papua New Guinea look like a church outing with the Jonas brothers.
I used an actual bathroom at the Cutting Room on exotic 24th Street in between grilling Tommy Chong about his puffy (get it?) book, Cheech and Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography. So take an imaginary hit of Pineapple Express and brace yourselves for another Q&A, folks. Me: Hey, Chong, in your book, you say you'll never work with Cheech again. But I see you're going on tour together once more. Did they dangle some lovely bucks in front of you? Chong: It's to sell books. I didn't think we could work together again. But I won't rewrite the book. It's from the heart. Me: What exactly was your main problem with Cheech? Chong: I was a control freak. Me (confused): How awful of him! Anyway, why are today's drug films always set in the past? Chong: It's a reference point. But drugs are better now. They come faster and you have messengers bringing them. In the '70s, when you had someone bring you the drugs, they stayed for days and you couldn't get rid of them. Me: Today, they just swipe your credit card and leave. Why were you thrown in jail? I know you sold souvenir bongs, but why did they target you so vehemently? Chong: Because I'm anti-Republican and anti-Bush, and while others went into hiding about it, I came out. Me: Did you at least get sex in the clink? Chong: No. No one came after me—because I'm too old. After a while, I was ready for it!
And now I'm ready for Michael Phelps. Come on, honey, please touch me tomatoes.