Please don't poke my eyes out as I try to say some nice things about Jerry Springer. His hostility-filled show is the most compelling trashathon that no one will admit to watching, and in its own raunchy way, it's helped make sexuality issues second nature to Middle America. And he just hosted my birthday party at Lucky Cheng's.
Alas, I'm not thrilled that the show which irritatingly promotes hair pulling as the answer to every debate has spun off a movie called Ringmaster (not to be confused with Jerry's book of the same title), the result being an embarrassment of bitches that's not at all my cup of pee. The dark white-trash comedy du cinéma is a fictional story about The Jerry Springer Show, which some observers contend is a fictional story in itself, so what you get are actors pretending to be people who are pretending to be angry a very surreal and removed experience. In the movie which unceremoniously begins with a blowjob Jerry plays a talk-show host named Jerry, and some of his audience might not be able to figure out who that's based on. In his typically agreeable manner, the Jerry guy calms down lascivious guests, sings a country-western tune, and autographs a pregnant belly. ("I'm always being asked to sign body parts," the real Jerry told me in an interview at the Plaza, which made me hope he knows calligraphy.) The multimedia star also told me that he's already prepared his Oscar speech, "and it goes like this: 'Come on, let me in, please! I'll stand in the back!' "
Jerry deserves some kind of award just for taking his shirt off in Ringmaster, something he says he'll never do again in public because at the premiere, everyone laughed their heads off. But on his talk show if we can get back to that, please everyone's too busy biting and kicking to engage much in the giddy pursuit of laughter. At least Jerry has a healthy perspective on the whole circus and seems to realize that his role in it is ludicrous, but possibly even more rewarding than, say, being the mayor of Cincinnati (which he was in the '70s). "I'm just hanging on for this ride," he told me. "I admit it's the stupidest show on television, and I happen to be the host, and I'm having a wonderful life because of it. I feel like it's an out-of-body experience. I'm just watching my career go. Nothing in my life prepared me for this job. I came out of nowhere. I didn't audition I was assigned to it. And it's been terrific." I interjected that Just Shoot Me is actually the stupidest show on television, and Jerry said, "OK, second stupidest."
Jerry denied that the third stupidest show, Good Morning America, is trying to lure him for credibility (oh, those tabloids), though he admitted that he might do a sitcom someday a real sitcom, that is. But whatever else he does on the side, he's committed to the talk show for five more years and loves playing Ed Sullivan to all those lesbian stripper nuns and their disgruntled drug dealers. "These people don't have airs," he said. "They're not thinking, 'I won't still belong to the country club.' They have not yet been warped by the trappings of status and wealth."
Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what about "I Married a Horse," the notorious Springer episode that was absurdly banned, as if it might prompt others to suddenly drag their animals down the aisle? Jerry told me there was real affection between the guy and the horse, "and I know this because when I stood between them, the horse nudged me away. And there was no sugar involved!" Well, I could certainly see what the guy saw in the horse, I trenchantly remarked, but what the fuck was in it for horsey? Deadpanned Jerry, "As the horse put it, 'I'm with him because he's hung like a man!' " I know the type.
Anyway, there were tons of women hung like men at that party I mentioned earlier, the entire room being filled with either trannies or chasers (or my family). Even Jerry looked a bit shocked, managing to find solace in the three biological women there big-bosomed, blond ex-Scores dancers who were perfectly, um, natural looking. Pulled away from them for a few seconds, Jerry came onstage to announce, "I used to be a woman. I used to be Sally Jessy Raphael. Different colored-glasses." After I revealed that I used to be a man, an in-house performer who had a similar experience gave Jerry a lap dance that even rivaled the ones at Scores (though it clearly didn't satisfy Jerry, who later asked a female friend of mine for her number).
By the end of the night, Jerry was covered with lipstick and battle scars, thanks to all the photo-op-hungry drag queens, who never seem to realize that these parties are designed for me to filch press! A more subtle act of extortion came at the height of the evening, when another friend of mine admired Ivana Trump's necklace and Ivana simply ripped it off her neck and gave it to her! After that, people lined up to admire Ivana's rings, bracelets, gown, and purse.
Most of the same drag queens turned up at Queen Bee (the Sunday night glamour orgy at Mother) to celebrate the sardonically sane Linda Simpson'svery own birthday, one that apparentlymade her so advanced in age that she was made to sit in a wheelchair during the show put on in her honor. Barbara Patterson Lloyd who Linda joked is an acquired taste ("like when you go to the Orient and they serve fried rat") did a frothily bonkers Fosse-inspired number and Misstress Formika rocked with a slutty rap song followed by a defiant Pat Benatar tune, during which she rolled Linda right off the stage.
I had just rolled over from a screening of Hilary and Jackie, which is not about a pair of cuckolded first ladies, but rather about a terminally ill cellist and her sister, whose hubby the cellist is desperate to duet with. Call it Shine with MS and an attitude. At the Le Cirque 2000 after-party, the film's producer, Alan Paterson, told me that when he saw Shine, "I thought, 'Oh, fuck! Is this going to help or hurt us?' " It ended up having no effect at all, but Breaking the Waves did; when Paterson saw that one, he knew he had to get the charismatically quirky Emily Watson to play the plucky cellist. He and his cohorts pitched Watson the story at a divey London restaurant and she started bawling, the men promptly following suit. "And we don't think of ourselves as weepy guys," Paterson told me. "We watch soccer games together!"
I sobbed on noticing that the brief but sweet same-sex couplings in last year's On the Town revival were chopped right out of the version that just made it to Broadway. What's more, while there's still some joy in this mixed bag of lyricism and shtick, a few parts that were great now just grate. On opening night, Mayor Giuliani introduced the show, and we nostalgically entered a world of cooch dancers and Times Square girlie shows and you thought irony was dead.
If you thought creepiness was a goner too, Glue magazine has been boasting that they've nabbed convicted killer Michael Alig to write articles for them and also shoot a fashion spread in prison (I guess that fab location access explains why they didn't hire O.J. or the Ramseys). Final thought: Don't fellate your horse unless there's real feeling there.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.