By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Paper magazine (along with HP) had a 25th anniversary gala party at the New York Public Library last week, giving many of us a rare chance to be in the same room with some books. The bash was filled with all sorts of pretty people not snubbing me for a change, and I also got to meet Blake Lewis, who came in second to Jordin Sparks on American Idol, though I candidly told him I was cloudy on all that stuff because I don't really watch TV. "Neither do I," Lewis admitted. "I didn't even watch myself on Idol!" And not just because he didn't win.
I also bumped girdles with party tosser Susanne Bartsch, who said she's throwing a Halloween bash at hubby David Barton's gym on Astor Place, where I'm planning to come as a steroidal muscle clone. And I saw Basil Twist, who is all set for the ultimate Halloween experience, doing the puppets for Broadway's upcoming Addams Family musical. But what puppets? "A giant squid," he told me, "and Cousin Itt. I thought Itt would be a little man in a suit, but they said, 'No, a puppet.' "
Speaking of which, Liza Minnelli appeared onstage at the peak hour, and the crowd went insane for her rollicking, wind-up delivery of two classic songs. "I died seven times," said socialite Luigi Tadini as Liza was escorted, still hand-gesturing, to her transportation.
That launched Fashion Week, which was filled with people telling me, "I haven't seen you in ages," which was probably due to the fact that they're publicists who've cut me off their lists! But just about anyone could walk into the major boutiques on Thursday and be served comp champagne and wine all day, though one horrified fashionista told me, "Prada was giving away little bottles of Budweiser and small frankfurters! I felt like I was at a barbecue!"
At least Barneys' Simon Doonan restored a note of intentional levity by MC-ing a raffle—complete with a full lunch—at the Museum of FIT's Couture Council event in honor of Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. Doonan claimed he was raffling off "a mink-trimmed helicopter," but it was actually some Van Noten outfits, one of which he claimed was made by "100 nuns who went blind doing so." He brought Iman to the podium to select the winning ticket and advised her, "I'll hold the hat, and you pull it out—said the actress to the bishop." And then a real actress, Maggie Gyllenhaal, pulled out a serious, gushy speech about her Van Noten wedding gown, and, unlike most other actresses, she doesn't plan on reusing it anytime soon.
A downtown star who never repeats an outfit, Miss World Famous *BOB* used to pass so convincingly as a drag queen that she was once disqualified from a nightclub beauty contest when celebrity judge Downtown Julie Brown declared, "That's a man!" The farm-girl-turned-burlesque-revivalist recounted that anecdote—and scads more—in her hilarious and moving "one-man show" at Joe's Pub last week, concluding, "I had to go to a gay bar called the Cock to realize I was actually a woman." Me, too!
The week's other farm girls all had female names, kept their clothes on, and didn't do "speed and speed-like by-products for 10 years," as far as I could tell. At Paper Mill Playhouse's press presentation of numbers from the Little House on the Prairie musical, I spotted some surgery on the prairie, but it all seemed stirringly earnest enough, complete with dancing tykes and a singing blind girl (not a nun). I especially loved when the media crews were moved back to make way for the wagon, the director explaining, "We're taking you to an expansive prairie, but this room is tight!"
A little play with some dairy, Superior Donuts is the new work by Tracy Letts, who is coming off August: Osage County, the most riveting comic melodrama in theater history except for the Spider-Man crisis. This one centers on a broken-down Chicago doughnut-store owner and the young black guy who brings him energy and patchouli oil. "Is it Chico and the Man?" I asked Letts at a recent meet-and-greet, referring to the high-fivin' '70s sitcom. "I don't think it is Chico and the Man," he replied, generously not punching me.
The sitcom world's untoppable caftan wearer, Bea Arthur got a better-than-Bea-list sendoff at the Majestic, where Rue McClanahan told her the by-now-legendary "Betty White's a cunt" story, and Rosie O'Donnell remembered getting "shitfaced" with her brother and going up to Bea to sing the Maude theme song in tribute. Bea hugged them very hard (instead of strangling them)—and by the way, she'd been drinking a whole bunch, too.
They toasted the campy but sweet The Big Gay Musical again—and again—last week, with no fewer than three premieres for the film, in which I make a dazzling cameo as an irritated theater customer. I died seven times. At event No. 1, a cast member told me he'd heard the movie doesn't look that cheap, "though it was"—a very high recommendation. Another star filed to her seat, murmuring to her friend, "Not too close. It's scary enough." And then Fred Caruso took the stage to welcome us and say, "I'm the drunk who wrote, co-directed, and co-produced this thing." They started the movie—and there was no sound for a while. But it didn't look that cheap!