Gossip About Avatar, Fame, and Antichrist!

Fame, the musical is watered-down, unlike von Trier's Antichrist.

The imminent remake of the original high school musical, Fame, has been watered down to just "feh," according to what screenwriter Allison Burnett said on an Outfest panel recently. As a co-panelist tells me, "Allison was very open about how much his Fame script was altered. He said he was happy when he saw anything that resembled what he wrote. He said that, for the most part, all that stuck were the characters' names. He'd written a pretty edgy script, and it was whittled away to a safe movie."

Well, at least there's a gay character named Kevin, and he's not to be confused with the troubled Montgomery from the original movie. "Kevin is not tortured at all," a source told Ontopmag.com. "The fact that he is gay is not discussed in the film." Hmm. Is that a good or a bad thing? And an even more urgent question: Did they really slow down the tempo of the title song? Sheesh!

I'm not sure if there's a gay Na'vi creature in James Cameron's Avatar, but I do know that the advance peek at 16 hours—I mean, 16 minutes—from the flick led to much hoopla, complete with the obligatory blog nerds typing, "It looks like the worst thing since Jar Jar Binks." Cameron, who went through similar rough waters with Titanic, probably knows how to ignore such murmurs.

Lars von Trier's Antichrist has been screening to press people in its entirety, and it's nabbing even more of a rise out of them than Lars got out of Willem Dafoe's bloody noodle. Last week, by the time the genital-mutilation scene came along—well, one of the genital-mutilation scenes—normally reserved journalists were shrieking, talking back to the screen, and practically crossing themselves and throwing garlic at the screen. I stayed quiet, having already been through the "I'm on the list" battle between columnist Roger Friedman and the publicist on the way in.

In an even more esoteric movie development, I went to the roof of the leather bar the Eagle to shoot a cameo in the otherwise masculine gay romp BearCity—a long way from the safe world of Fame, honey. My stellar performance involved pinning a glowstick on a bear's nipple clamp, then dirty dancing with him while rubbing his hairy stomach. This will surely be my Revolutionary Road. And what a hairy spectacle! There were more bears running around the set than in Yellowstone Park, and some of them were pairing up for ritualized acts of hugging and kissing—even when there were no cameras on them!

For bear snacks, Rice Krispies treats were lying around, and a girl walked through the crowd holding a tray of doughnuts as if they were canapés. As I stuffed my face, they shot a scene where the Spanish bear gets in the way of the relationship between the alpha bear and a twink. I hate when that happens! After that, the alpha bear came up to me and said, "I know you. I met you through André." André who? "You know, Michael Lucas," he explained. Oh, that André. And now that we know what to call him, what do we call bears' fag hags? "Goldilocks," suggested an extra, who must have read my column.

Hell's Kitchen femmes pop up in the Fringe Festival's The Boys Upstairs, a comedy about three friends who are very Boys in the Band–meet–Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy, and who are so terminally superficial that their dramatic high point comes when one of them admits, "I shit the sheets!" But it's breezy enough—the audience shit the seats—and (spoiler alert!) the lead character doesn't get to write for the Voice because "a bitchy old queen" there doesn't like his work. So I'm in the play!

Bitch actually got her own show in the festival—that's the title of the one with lively Charlotte Booker as salty-mouthed wacko Lady Lawford—and so did "The Slut" in Tearoom Tango, a strong bunch of monologues about bathroom sex, written, aptly enough, by the guy who played the Slut!

More toilets come up—and even back up—in the new book I Only Roast the Ones I Love by roasting genius Jeffrey Ross, who serves tidbits so good you won't heckle back. For example: At Pamela Anderson's roast, Courtney Love went into the bathroom with Andy Dick and came out the screaming mess you saw on TV. And it's no shit that Bea Arthur once told Ross that she used to sneak into Rue McClanahan's trailer and leave an unflushed dump there for fun. (They should add that tidbit to The Boys Upstairs.)

Ross has the poop on SNL, too, like how Eddie Murphy only got his slot there when Charlie Barnett, the street performer they'd hired, turned out to not be able to read. And Ross himself was all set to co-host Weekend Update, but Lorne Michaels felt pressured to hire from within and went with Tina Fey instead. If Ross ever roasts Fey, it'll be only because he loves her.

Another historic near-miss is revealed in the newish book by pop songwriters Leiber and Stoller about their chart-topping union. In 1969, the composers pitched Marlene Dietrich the song "Is That All There Is?"—the existential ditty about a woman's lifelong attachment to soigné emptiness—but the sultry siren rejected it because "It's who I am, not what I do." Fortunately, Peggy Lee felt it was what she did and had a career-reviving smash with it.

Contempo hits are reworked in the Lee Chappell–promoted Foreign Affairs Cabaret, an insouciantly zingy Wednesday-night revue (resuming September 16) on "the tiniest, sparkliest stage in New York," past the lobby of the Night Hotel. The show is co-hosted by the talented Lady Rizo, who combines glamour, wit, and real vocal chops as she slows down and pumps up "Fame"—I mean, "Toxic"—and croons a bilingual anti-love song that concludes, "Estoy creepo. Estoy weirdo. Yo no belong here."

Co-host Daniel Isengart, a naughty wood nymph in spangly hot pants, sings "Holiday" and other hits with a high-pitched twinkle and a real tan. And there are guest stars, from trannie jazz singers to exotic dancers and beyond. Yo belong here.

Next up for Chappell is Gutterball, a Tuesday-night bash at Lucky Strike Lanes, and four of my fingers are throbbing just thinking about it.

With great balls of fire, I went to the Chrystie Street hangout the Box for Patrick Duffy's mixed Tuesday night, which gets the too-cool-for-school crowd more than the Beige twink and muscle queen set, though it's so dark that they don't really get to show off their hairdos. The door scene itself was an act of s/m, with a little guy wielding a metal poker and barking, "How many?" as if I'd just arrived off the bus from Oshkosh.

Once in—plus one—I thrilled to the stage show of a trannie, with a giant attached hard-on, lying on her back as a sinewy acrobat put his finger in the hole of her penis (sorry if you're eating) and raised his body upright to cheers from the crowd. When did Lars von Trier start directing shows on Chrystie Street?

And finally, there was a real circus—the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Boom-a-Ring in Coney Island, where an elephant was paraded around the stage during the national anthem (an unwitting but welcome partisan touch) and a French clown rode a unicycle between an audience member's legs while announcing, "I did this with my brother. He's now my sister." And I still didn't shriek and cross myself.

musto@villagevoice.com

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