Eva Mendes' Underwear Scene and Madonna's Strap-On!

And inside the women in Towelhead. Plus Rockwell paints a fucked-up Casanova.

The remake of The Women is elevated by Bette Midler and Candice Bergen in small roles and by the fact that there's no pajama-party scene where the gals lip-synch old Motown tunes. Another plus—let's be kind—is that Debi Mazar plays a manicurist who claims to have done Madonna's nails. (At this point, I got one of those rushes of in-joke appreciation, gurgling, "Aha! Debi started out as Madge's makeup artist!") But Jada Pinkett Smith's character must have been painted a lesbo only to desperately try for a fresh touch; clearly, the writer has never met a dyke before (though I bet Jada has).

And while I'm glad they kept men off the screen until the end, some of them did make it to last week's screening. In fact, when Eva Mendes tried on a lacy black bustier, foxnews.com's Roger Friedman started applauding and catcalling to the screen: "I'll buy that for you!"

Over at Towelhead, a/k/a the vagina movie, you'll have to buy the fact that there are two scenes with people shaving the title character's privates, another with her profusely having her period, another where she and dad shop for tampons, and yet another where she's fingered by a neighbor. And I still didn't like it!

In yet more genital-cinema news, Radar presented a special screening of Choke, based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel about a sex addict who hardly ever needs to choke the chicken. After the film, director Clark Gregg said he liked the idea of delving into the "sex-addicted-colonial-theme-park-worker genre," and star Sam Rockwell chimed in that he liked playing "a really interesting fucked-up Casanova." And, ah, the memories. Said Rockwell, misting over: "Remember the four-in-the-morning cum-in-the-camera shot? I was fucking a camera, basically." "And the camera's really upset that you haven't called!" said Gregg, wryly.

On a less jizzy note, Palahniuk said the musical version of his Fight Club might still happen, eerily enough. "David Fincher approached me and Trent Reznor a few years ago," he related. ("Another Reznor musical?" deadpanned Gregg. "I'll be there.") "As long as I don't have to promote it," said the author, interestingly, "I would love the idea."

But back to the genitals. Save Me is an earnestly affecting movie about a Christian retreat where they try to "cure" gays, though it probably could have benefited from a big dose of John Waters or Todd Solondz. At the premiere, I capriciously asked fab star Judith Light, who's on Ugly Betty, if Betty happens to be gay. "Do you mean America Ferrera?" she wondered. "No, I meant the character," I said, "but I'll take an answer for that one, too." "I know America, and no, she's not a lesbian," said Light. And the character? Not her either, swore Light, as the man accompanying her weirdly interjected: "She's not a lesbian—she's queer!"

Anyway, director Robert Cary told me the movie's point is that "you've got to learn how to live with people who think differently or it's Armageddon." And, um, is Ugly Betty gay? "Yeah," he said, "good gay." You mean the character? The actor? "No, the show," he explained. I was getting bad confused!

Rather than seek clarification, I talked to a good gay in the crowd—zingy comic Jim David—who told me that he was never informed that he was nominated for a MAC award this year, nor even invited to the ceremony. "But the award came in the mail!" he said with a bittersweet smile. God, if that was how Meryl Streep found out about her honors, she'd spend half the day with her face in the mail slot.

Moving on, they may not be getting awards, but the seminal punk group the Ramones is set for a whole new gabba-gabba-heyday from the great beyond. Not only is Howard Stern remaking Rock 'n' Roll High School, but Dee Dee Ramone's wife, Vera Ramone, has written a memoir based on her life with the "diagnosed bipolar manic-depressive musical genius who was also well known for his infamous heroin addiction." And she still believes in the right to straight marriage.

Update: I've gotten an advance peek at the book, and it's riveting stuff, from Johnny Ramone's wildly controlling behavior to Dee Dee's mood swings, which hit bottom with sad physical attacks on Vera. "Was it my fault that they were not his brand of cigarettes?" she writes at one point.

An anti-violence legend goes legit in Fela!, the musical about the Nigerian musician/activist, which improves as it gets more expressionistic and becomes less of a concert with anecdotes. Bill T. Jones's staging is spectacularly rich, though most press people looked pained during the audience-participation number where you had to stand and swivel your hips on command. Not me—I'm queer!

And again we go back to the pudenda with the Howl Festival's preview party at Bowery Poets Café, which was a high-minded testament to flirty, squirty privates on parade. One performer sang, "I'll suck your dick on the dance floor," a folk duo belted something that went "Suck my dick, faggot," and when the MC had to stretch for time, he suitably improvised, "There's a special place for my vagina . . . " Don't ever tell me the downtown kids have no range!

And they've got pathos, too. At Beige, the sight of birthday drag queen Sultana being stuck with the check for a table of 20 friends who'd gone, leaving behind uneaten pieces of cake, was indelibly poignant, but she was going to charge it to her business anyway. I was almost tempted to do a Roger Friedman and yell, "I'll buy that for you!" I said almost.

Over at OW Bar, singer Nick Scotti was lamenting the fact that he hadn't been more of a whore in the early days when it would have been a piece of cake. "I could have fucked Seymour Stein, Valentino, and Madonna," he reminisced. Well, why not stick it in Madge? "Too easy," he said, laughing. Then couldn't you have at least given up some ass? "She did want to strap one on," he claimed. Always a gentleman, he passed on that.

Desperate for new frontiers, I journeyed all the way to East 92nd Street to the Tool Box, which I'd been told was a seedy gay bar and therefore well worth the nosebleed. Alas, at prime time on a Wednesday, the petite dive had about six people in it, and they all seemed surlier than Sarah Palin when a polar bear lives. (Sidebar: I don't know if he's gay, but in certain photos, Track Palin sports some serious gayface. Discuss.) Downstairs, one guy was making loud noises in the bathroom, and I assumed he was having a hell of a movement. But he finally sheepishly emerged with someone else! His manager?

And finally, I only went to the loo five times during the VMAs (no, Jim David wasn't invited), so I managed to catch the almost-funny Russell Brand telling the crowd to vote for Obama as Britney no doubt thought, "In which category?" At other points in the Sarah Palin–friendly show, I was thrilled to learn that the glorified hooch dancers known as the Pussycat Dolls believe in God, that Kanye can't be seen in the light right now, that accused rapist Kobe Bryant can be dressed up like a bridegroom, and that the Jonas brothers are proud virgins. But wait, where did I hear that before? Oh, yeah, Britney! Never mind.

musto@villagevoice.com

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