Porn Stars! Strippers! And More Jeremy Piven Dish!

Who says Montreal is cold? It's hot, baby.

Montreal is one of the coldest cities in creation, but it also happens to paradoxically be the one where they take their clothes off the most, so there I was as part of a press trip the other day! The result was a weekend of high and low culture carried out in babushkas and thongs, as thousands cheered.

John Evans's trendy Opus hotel offered suites and sweets and cute help all blessed with what Evans told me is basically "facial validation." I tried for promotional validation by having a book bash in the hotel's Suco lounge, but Montreal one-upped me; four people showed up there to hawk their books on me. I hung with Montreal Mirror's Matthew Hays, who wrote The View From Here—Conversations With Gay and Lesbian Filmmakers (Joel Schumacher backed off from inclusion, but gaily sent flowers), and Daniel Allen Cox, whose novel, Shuck, is based on his days as an Inches model in naughty, bawdy New York. Cox told me he once tricked with David LaChapelle and, when he tried to go pee in the middle of the night, he found the bedroom was locked and he was being temporarily held prisoner. (I'm sure it was part of some visual art project.) More harrowingly, Cox once auditioned for porn titan Michael Lucas, but he was too unnerved to get it up, so Lucas handed him a magazine spread of himself to get hard by! Didn't work!

Montreal itself is sexy and très liberal; as I was told, "There's no French term for 'family values.' " But there are plenty of French words for "taking it off," especially in the strip bars, where the guys not only can show les privates, they can make them aroused (and without the help of magazines). There are even fully clothed places, like Faggoty Ass Fridays, the rock café in the Williamsburg of Montreal, though the club's proceeds go toward bringing sex education back to the schools! (And no, you can't just go there and teach them in person.)

And they're dressed to the nine-and-a-halves at the drag club Café Mado, where the divine Mado comes off like a speed-ed out Marge Simpson in her tufted blue wig and sparkly shroud that looks sheared off an angora barber pole. Mado cutely cuts down the crowd in French, only switching to English to hawk some $5 shots of "pussy juice." Speaking of which, let me tell you what Tony Curtis recently gurgled to Matthew Hays about Marilyn: "That dame's pussy tasted like champagne!"

Gets Smart

Back on Broadway, let's toast Obie winner Malcolm Gets with real champagne for attempting something original and risky, namely the small-scale, interpersonal The Story of My Life. "Is it a recession musical?" I wondered over a reasonably priced lunch. "I love a big show as much as anyone else," Gets responded, "but if there was ever a time Broadway could afford to have a small, humanistic show about the struggles of staying alive, then this is it."

Gets plays the longtime friend of blocked writer Will Chase, prompting much exploration of pain and connection. There are no other characters—and no intermission, which Gets freely admitted has raised some bladder control issues. "I love a good cup of tea," he said, "but I can't have one, or 20 minutes into the show, I'm in trouble." (Even more so than at David LaChapelle's house!)

Gets tinkles—the ivories, that is—in HBO's upcoming Grey Gardens movie, in which he's George Gould, the accompanist who moves in with Big Edie, then leaves her as flat as her high C. As Edie, he said, Jessica Lange is "unbelievable. She's so committed, you just have to rise to her level."

So is Gets, who has come queer light years from his bad period—"a long time ago"—when he indulged in bouts of reckless hedonism, though even that had a bright side. "All these years that I've been recovering from my past," he said, "that's sort of what's made me so political. I was surrounded by gay-lesbian-transgender people who also flirted with killing themselves for years."

Emerging from that cloud, he scored big on the '90s sitcom Caroline in the City, but he turned down an offer to be the male Ellen and come out in exchange for getting the lead story on Entertainment Tonight. That seemed like a weird deal and, besides, Gets had family problems at the time, so he waited a bit, and he's now one of the LGBT arts community's most out and active members—and he's definitely got facial validation!

Naturally, most of the other new musicals are actually just old ones with some revivifying touches. At a Hair press presentation last week, we learned three crucial things: 1) The new "Aquarius" girl is amazing; 2) The audience will still get to go onstage at the end to dance with the cast; and 3) hotshot producer Jeffrey Richards is mainly doing Hair "because I need to grow some." "Hair in 2009 is one long inauguration party," exulted director Diane Paulus, who revealed that she sang "Sodomy" as a kid without realizing just what it was. (That's the difference between her and me.) Just then, I noticed two scruffy old hippies who seemed to have straggled in by mistake—but it turned out they were the show's creators, MacDermot and Rado! "Hair is very connected to the natural and the supernatural," said James Rado, beaming. "Remember opening night in Central Park when the rain fell? There'll be more of that!" Even indoors? That'll be trippy.

Plays are coming back, too, like Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, which just had its own promo event full of high-tea wackos. "Is it a screwball comedy?" I asked the group as an opening salvo. "This press conference certainly is," answered witty Rupert Everett. "It's called 'an improbable farce,' " he added, "and a very good play." "I'm just going to refer to him," said co-star Christine Ebersole, weirdly dodging my gaze and pointing to Everett. "Wait, you didn't read the script?" I said, smirking. "I don't know all the high-tech terms like 'improbable farce,' " Ebersole explained. But the former Grey Gardens resident did force out an opinion on the revival's ghostly appeal. "Teen girls like the supernatural," she said, half-smiling, "so we're covered."

Some ex-teen gossip: At Beatrice Inn, Juliette Lewis was told by security that she couldn't smoke, so she asked to talk to the owner. . . . Smokin'-hot Indochine—the long-running eatery wrongly called Indo-gestion by cynics—is getting the book treatment by Rizzoli. Does the sticky rice have anything to do with Joey Arias's bathroom antics? The book will tell all.

A sticky TV situation: The Speed-the-Plow crew cancelled out of a recent taping of Theater Talk—the PBS show with Susan Haskins and Michael Riedel—when they learned the Jeremy Piven stuff would be brought up. (Duh.) First, the director dropped out, and then Raúl Esparza became unavailable because a rehearsal had supposedly been called. And the Plow team was sure the show didn't just want the producer, so that was the end of that! Two days later, the grievance was filed.

Here's another rude cancellation: I was pitched an interview with Steve Coogan (from Hamlet 2, which sank so fast there surely won't be a Hamlet 3, and Tropic Thunder, in which his head was blown off) because he's hosting some awards show. "Yeah, OK," I responded, but I was later told that Coogan's personal publicist had taken a pass on it! I love being dissed from something I never asked for! PR people can be colder than my privates in Montreal.

musto@villagevoice.com

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