I lined up to see USHER in Chicago, and I have to say she was absolutely great. She looked at my ticket stub, briskly showed me to my seat, and handed me a Playbill while mustering a warm half-smile. The star of the show was OK tooyou know, Usher, who plays sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn with a mild hint of Johnnie Cochran. Can he act? Not really. Does it matter? Probably not, since he has the smooth showmanship of a variety show guest and a healthy taste for being onstage. It seemed like the guy was dying to break into a higher key and let loose, but he stayed professionaldamnand you also had to admire him for making his first fully clothed public appearance on record and not seeming that embarrassed about it. He makes me wanna!
Two nights later at "It Takes a Nation," a Crobar fundraiser for post-Katrina rebuilding, co-host ROSIE PEREZ told me she'd seen Usher in the show and "I was pleasantly surprised. The acting? Eh! But he had a lot of charisma and sang well. My friend said, 'I thought he was gonna look a little gay on the Fosse steps.' I was like, 'You're stupid.' " Yeahyou don't need Fosse steps to look gay. Look at me.
Anyway, the Public just had a reading of a screenplay Rosie wrote about two underprivileged New York kids, and they'll pair her with a playwright (maybe STEPHEN ADLY GUIRGIS) to make it stage ready. She also just shot a movie, The Take, with BOBBY CANNAVALE and JOHN LEGUIZAMOI didn't know those were two different peopleand said the latter spitfire kept telling her their scenes should be done naked. "I said, 'John, Do the Right Thing was a long time ago!' " Rosie told me, laughing.
But let's go back to Usher, whom you'll remember also kept his clothes on. PENÉLOPE CRUZ showed up to see him with her sex-on-a-stick rocker brother, Eduardo, and not only was she clothed, she was resplendent in a Chanel dress she had just borrowed from her Paper cover shoot. I hear PEDRO ALMODÓVAR told the same mag that for his film Volver, Penélope's portrayal of a busty woman in flux was influenced by SOPHIA LOREN in Two Women and (completely unrelated) they padded her butt for the performance. By the way, I've seen Volver and all is forgiven, Penélope. You can really act. You're even better than as Tom's girlfriend. No, seriously. Brava!
CONFESSIONS OF A DRAMA QUEEN
That other female-dominated family epic, Grey Gardens, is going through some changes of life in its move to Broadway. A know-it-all on All That Chat says three new songs are being written, plus the family drama will be beefed up, especially the part shedding light on Little Edie's personal damage. They'll probably get a new usher too.
Shockingly intact is the revival of The Fantasticks, that charming, fey little thing that's like a Precious Moments musical with a hint of that Twilight Zone episode about a group of toys trying to climb out of a donation box. The problem is, every time they sang the big song, I was dying to scream over them, "Try to remember the size of his member and swallow." But I stayed put and smiled beatifically.
Members were carefully tucked for drag waitressing legend ROSE ROYALLE's birthday gala at Vlada, hosted by SWEETIE and DANIEL NARDICIO. The invite intriguingly promised, "You'll be shitting glitter for a week," but it's been eight days now and I'm starting to worry. Among the highlights, JULIE ATLAS MUZnot a drag queen, I don't thinkwas dressed as JonBenet and doing cartwheels as she adorably lipsynched "I Will Always Love You," and PRINCESS DIANDRA a drag queen, I'm pretty suregave a touching tribute, remembering, "When security came to throw me out of Jackie 60, Rose said, 'That bitch deserves it.' But fuck me! Fuck you! I love Rose Royalle."
Extra security was needed Tuesday at Happy Valley, when half the crowd ran to the stage after it was announced, "And now for the world's most famous transsexual!" But they meant AMANDA LEPORE, who sang "I Know What Boys Like" with way more exposed flesh than Usher in Chicago. Backstage, I asked Amanda about her other immortal song, "My Pussy." How does it go, pray tell? "Pussy, my pussy, my pussy, my pussy," she recited, dutifully. "Pussy, my pussy, my pussy, my pussy. Times 15." Yikes, that's 120 gaping vaginasmore than the entire cast of The View!
"It's hotter than PARIS HILTON's music," Amanda decided, citing a socialite with a dog and a pussy. Ooh, tranny enmity, ma chére ? "We had a food fight once," she admitted. "But I like how she matches all her accessories. And she's smart. She's the world's highest paid club kid." Except for my pussy, my pussy, my pussy . . .
HAIL THE CONQUERING HIRO
Over at the fruitily festive Sunday gay night at Hiro Ballroom, the highly paid club kids have moved downstairs, where host ERICH CONRAD has interestingly decreed that all the promoters now sit grandly on the stage. That makes the party like a giant Buñuel movie, and as they're all joined by their friends and hangers-on, it also becomes the most concentrated area of caked eyeliner in the world, not to mention the shakiest platform since the Republicans'.
But can I climb with my pussy onto my high horse and pause for a rant, please? Too many clubbies are shameless name-droppers who are desperate to grasp at status by claiming they've brushed against celebs and therefore they actually exist. Alas, rather than impress me into some kind of genital salute, this practice tends to make the person seem way more pathetic as I gag, running to the nearest monastery. Besides, it's so easy to top them. At one club, a guy recently ran up to me shrieking, "I've been doing COURTNEY LOVE's hair!" Oh, yeah, well she used to stalk me back when she didn't even have hair. "I was once a personal trainer for JON CRYER," another freak whinnied, handing over his card. Well, it didn't work. And one more woebegone wannabe just screeched to me, "There were cameras in my house when I was seven because my father knew KATO KAELIN!" Well, MICHAEL ALIG once tried to suck my dick. Why don't you do the same? At least it'll hush you up for an hour and a half.
Hey, this should plug you club freaks up for a while: Murmurs say that any month now, the legendary Roxy will be razed and turned into condos. But majordomo Gene DiNino says that's pure horse hooey. Yay! You don't know how much that place means to me! My picture was on the drink tickets! Fuck me! Fuck you!
On an even happier note, I caught an advance screening of Infamousthe other Capote movieand not only did it turn out to be fabulous, but it has way gayer elements than the last Capote movie. That will leave some people breathless with excitement while rival film companies inevitably squeal, "This is an outrage! That never happened!"
Wait, I'll tell you what did happen. On eastvillageradio.com, host Daniel Nardicio asked MICHAEL LUCAS ("the ZSA ZSA GABOR of gay porn") which Queer Eye guys he's done it with. "I don't know," Lucas replied. "I don't watch TV." They cut to a song, during which Lucas whispered to me, "Two of them. I made out with JAI and did it with KYAN, who likes it rough with a little slapping around." But don't tell anyone.
And keep it mum that I enjoyed the Emmys, which reached a gay peak with the South Park bit, the LESLIE JORDAN speech, and the early clips of Aaron Spelling as an actor! The Spelling tribute started shakily with HEATHER LOCKLEAR gushing as JOAN COLLINS flinched and STOCKARD CHANNING looked sick from the audience. But then Charlie's original angels reunited and "reclaimed the brand," coming off amazingly sweet and restoring my faith in guilty pleasures. On a higher plane, HELEN MIRREN won for Elizabeth I and now she's an Oscar front-runner for playing Elizabeth II in The Queen. There's no stopping the bitch. Now where's that usher? I'll go out the way I came in.
On the Emmys, HELEN MIRREN may have been terrified to fall "ass over tit," but The Office's MINDY KALING was not the least bit reluctant to go "tit over the entire TV-viewing world." Few noticed, but when the cast and crew of that show went onstage to collect the Best Comedy Series award, Kaling hugged a cohort, then pulled away, only to have the right part of her dress fall and go boom just like FARRAH used to. The result would not exactly beat JANET JACKSON for Best Wardrobe Malfunction of all Time, but it was still quite tit-illating.
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.