By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
2009 was the year of the biopsies—I mean the biopics—with auteur-driven peeks into the golden lives of Mandela, Earhart, Keats, Tolstoy, Chanel, Orson Welles, the young Victoria, Julia Child, and the Sandra Bullock person, with a little Darwin on the way. And I learned so much!
I mean, did you know that Mrs. Tolstoy screeched things at her hubby like, "I'm still your little chicken, and you're still my big cock. Let me make you crow!"?
I guess Leo's war wasn't nearly as interesting as his piece—and while you nosh on that, let me say that what will make Oscar voters go cock-a-doodle-do this time around are two screen Nazis: Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique.
But Academy Awards expert Tom O'Neil, who does GoldDerby.com, assures me that Inglourious Basterds will cop Best Picture, too. He swears that Up in the Air is too lightweight, and that both that and Precious "aren't great directorial achievements." What's more, O'Neil feels the Best Picture choice is based on who directed it, and it's Tarantino's turn to crow. Furthermore, the name of the picture is a factor, he said, "and Inglourious Basterds is an aspirational, cool title. If Million Dollar Baby was called Rope Burns—the book it was based on—it wouldn't have won." In that case, I'm going to rush out a movie called Million Dollar Basterds and start heading toward the podium as we speak (though I actually think Avatar's blue characters are the ones headed toward the gold, even if the glasses left purple dent marks).
By any name, the Coen brothers' A Serious Man might be too good to get that many nominations, though superb star Michael Stuhlbarg did cop a Golden Globe nod as the midwestern Jewish man falling into a Kafka-esque abyss. At a Monkey Bar lunch for the film—where an editor from Heeb was duly invited—I asked Stuhlbarg if the tragicomedy will top Avatar at the box office. "Maybe if we come out in a 3-D version," he said, laughing.
Back to Up in the Air: Supporting actress Anna Kendrick told me at a glitzy event that she semi-cringes about having started out in a Broadway musical. "I'm both embarrassed and proud of every work I've done," she explained. "At 16, I sang Elaine Stritch in the movie Camp." "Well, you were both in diapers," I cracked, hilariously.
(Relevant sidebar: At a recent Times talk, the divine Stritch read aloud a letter that Tennessee Williams once wrote about her, which actually said, "I think she's afraid a lot of the time, but she's a trouper, and she laughs a lot while she's soiling her panties." Discuss.)
Up in the Air had a more recent free meal, where the by-now-multi-nominated Kendrick looked way less insecure, though director Jason Reitman and his dad, Ivan Reitman, were engaging in their familiar, entertaining game of "You're the best," "No, you're the best."
Dad thanked Jason for letting him be part of the film's whirlwind, and Jason gushily responded that Dad's the only Jewish man who ever told his son not to be a doctor. "My favorite frame in Up in the Air is 'Produced by Ivan Reitman,' " he added, as I became so jealous of their relationship I wanted to choke them both.
Another protective father-child dynamic happened behind the scenes of the flea-bitten comedy Old Dogs. I hear John Travolta requested the digital removal of shadows under his nine-year-old daughter Ella Bleu Travolta's eyes, frame by frame. Pricy! And savvy Travolta also looks out for himself: Sources swear that the star wanted larger pants waiting in his trailer, so he could feel better about eating. I'd rather just vomit.
You'll spew when you hear that Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black was turned away from "dollar beer" night at the gay bar the Phoenix because he didn't have the right ID. He should have just held up his Oscar; they haven't given one of those to a minor since Anna Paquin.
A special award should go to John Waters, who's been trying to get a couple of projects off the ground but finds that greenlighted movies these days are all budgeted at either under a million or over 100. In his one-man show, the still-optimistic Waters said he'll keep pushing Fruitcake, his children's movie about a family of meat thieves. He's also written the treatment for Hairspray II: White Lipstick and told us the plot: "The British invasion has happened and no one cares about the show anymore, so they're getting desperate. A Phil Spector type has gotten ahold of Tracy and made her lip-synch and pretend to be a singer. Also, Motormouth Maybelle has a competing show, Little Inez is a Black Panther, Edna has lost weight, and Wilbur has become a chubby chaser. I think it sounds commercial." Any takers?
At Indochine, the Bar d'O reunion brought on enough hairspray to destroy the Eastern seaboard. But contrary to Tracy Turnblad's plight, there was no lip-synching allowed as the drag queens from the '90s club belted and bitched in high style. Spotting trannie diva Amanda Lepore in the audience, singer Raven-O gushed, "She reminds me of Tupperware—perfect in every way and proof that plastic will not kill you." "But don't put it in the microwave. It'll blow up!" advised Joey Arias with a giggle.
The heat was on at the Ali Forney Center benefit, "Jingle," which starred gender-reassigning performer Our Lady J, who'd just had a fundraiser of her own called "Boob-Aid (All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Tits)." Our Lady J told me that the event was a hit, "and the 'girls' are coming! I'm starving myself so I can make room for the silicone." Or maybe she can just have larger blouses waiting in the trailer.
What I Did for Love
Want to twirl your ta-tas over some old Broadway gossip from the era when people didn't eat a hoagie while watching a show?
First off, I ran into Donna McKechnie, the original Cassie from A Chorus Line, and asked her about something said in the Oscar-shortlisted Every Little Step documentary. Supposedly, creator Michael Bennett realized that Cassie had to get cast in the chorus line because Marsha Mason told him the audience hated the fact that she didn't. "It had to be more than her just saying it," McKechnie instructed me. "The audiences tell you everything. Michael said, 'We can't do that anymore!' [Producer] Joe Papp wanted it to be real—he wanted it to stay that way—but Michael felt the obligation to lift up. You want to make it palatable." Still, Donna and I agreed that it was right for Sheila to not get the job!
Leroy Reams got the job of entertaining at a Tovah Feldshuh tribute at the Friars Club some weeks ago, so he took the stage to do an axed song the character of Horace Vandergelder originally sang in Hello, Dolly!. Reams said star Carol Channing understood the cut, remarking, "It's called Hello, Dolly!, not Hello, Horace!." But in person, she didn't always get such a greeting. Reams described driving with Channing on the road and passing a tunnel on which it had been painted, "God Save Us." They looked down and saw that someone had added, ". . . from revivals of Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing."
Want some more current theater gossip? Well, I recently met a woman who told me she's trying to get a musical about a girl with a purple vascular birthmark produced on Broadway. "Oh, that's been done," I smirked, rolling my eyes. "Actually, it has," she said. "Violet!"
Oh, well. I'm off to download Leo Tolstoy's secret sex tape—the one where he soils his panties.