My four divas for the week are a doomed transsexual, a surgerized rich lady, a tough-talking ex-dominatrix, and a battered movie-star offspring. Shania Twain was not invited. First off, Shalimar—real name Atisone Seiuli—was the intriguing trannie Eddie Murphy drove all the way around the block, honey. Sadly, she died a couple of weeks ago in L.A., supposedly having fallen after trying to swing into her fifth-floor apartment from the roof with the help of a towel. If that’s so, she was perhaps more suited to the role of Jane than Tarzan. But Viva, a drag friend of Shalimar’s, told me the L.A. club crowd isn’t buying the terry-cloth scenario as readily as the police are. Some are tossing around celebrity conspiracy theories, but far more feel Shalimar’s death came at the hands of shady johns. “Unfortunately, the cops don’t want to investigate,” says Viva. “To them, it’s just another hooker.”
Even more distressingly, it was only a few months ago that Shalimar told Viva she’d love to find a boyfriend, do club shows, and “stop going in the streets and wondering what’s going to happen to me.” New York personality Linda Simpson met Shalimar last month at an L.A. party called Illusions and tells me, “She seemed sweet and sincere, a hooker with a heart of gold. She said she respected Murphy’s privacy and hadn’t made any money off the scandal. She only resented being called a ‘drag queen’ by the press.” Linda (who’s definitely a drag queen) later suggested I get Shalimar to host my perennial scandal party, and I promptly started fantasizing that Eddie could drive her cross-country. Alas, New York never got a splash of Shalimar.
Drag queen or not, my second diva has turned our night scene upside down with her strikingly surreal presence (hey, it’s a look). She’s the fab new muse of phantasmagorical photographer David LaChapelle, in whom he’s found his very own Linda Evangelista—I’m talking Jocelyne Wildenstein! LaChapelle tells me he and the bride of W. are collaborating on a secret project, and adds, “I love that her husband, who’s the real freak, is supposedly dating all these models, and now she turns out to be one.” This millennial Avedon and Hepburn are devising a session in which Jocelyne, wearing Parisian couture, will play the Sphinx—you know, the creature with the head of a woman and the body of a lion, noted for killing those who don’t answer its riddle. That could work.
I just posed a riddle to another fierce diva—Eva Norvind, the dominatrix-turned-psychosexual-counselor seen in the documentary Didn’t Do It for Love—and she cleverly averted my wrath by answering it. Asked what celebs she’d like to abuse, Eva paused midsession to respond, “Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt would benefit from surrendering to a dominatrix goddess who could relieve them of the pressure of being so attractive. And Arnold Schwarzenegger could use a good whipping because it helps relax muscles.” As for the gals, “Nicole Kidman and Linda Fiorentino have wicked glints in their eyes that suggest they’d make good dominatrices.” (I was starting to understand the Tom-and-Nicole thing better.) “And the most fantastic submissive would be Michelle Pfeiffer.” That’s true—she even stuck by her man after he created Ally McBeal!
I groveled in a dog collar for a full-length interview with the quirkily endearing Christina Ricci, but her flacks forbade it for whatever reasons they could whip (and I do mean whip) up. Instead, I caught that other Christina—Crawford—at the Town Hall screening of Mommie Dearest, which, after all, is on the entrance exam for being gay. For me, the movie works on every level—as biopic, horror, dark comedy, hagiography, and hag-iography. The evening—celebrating the 20th-anniversary edition of the book version—wasn’t exactly sold out, but it made you wonder if Christina was selling out. I mean, she detests the movie and has resisted the camp cult that’s developed around its child abuse themes, yet here she was presenting an honorary wire hanger to a drag queen and even serving up the screening! Ultimately, one could forgive her because it was a GMHC benefit and another chance for her to speak out about the plight of bruised children—plus it was so much fun.
First, Lypsinka and Stephen Pell uproariously recreated Joan’s Town Hall appearance, a 1973 q&a with publicist John Springer in which Mommie said stuff like, “The reason the kids are on pot or other junk is that they don’t have enough love or discipline at home.” Then, after guest appearances by the movie’s Mara Hobel and Rutanya Alda (who said she wrote a diary on the set because “I was trying to stay sane”), Christina was interviewed by Rex Reed and got a big ovation for admitting about the book, “I did it for me!” For us, Christina disclosed that Joan slammed a door on her tiny hand in the middle of receiving an honor for Mother of the Year! That the twins weren’t really twins! And, most remarkably, that Joan’s last hubby, Alfred Steele, “died way too early, and I’ve always been suspicious about the circumstances.” What? Was she accusing Joan Crawford of murder now? Yep—and horrifyingly enough, nobody followed up on the remark!
Desperate for elaboration, I cut ahead of the line of people buying books from Christina at intermission (“She really wants to sell books,” an official told me), and tried to briefly query her. Suddenly, she became Joan Crawford. “I’m doing this right now,” she said, blowing me off with a withering look, “and then we’re showing the movie, and then afterward . . . ” Yeah, afterward she was hosting a party at Life, and it’s lucky I didn’t schlepp there because she didn’t either. I was mad at the dirt—I didn’t get any.
And let me be a mad diva for a few more seconds—I’m doing it for me!—and rag about the T.W.E.E.D. theater company, which just asked me for large donations via a flier that unfortunately also happened to say, “The Voice hasn’t reviewed anything we’ve done in years, but who cares about the Voice anyway?” How charmingly duplicitous. Besides, I recently did a lavish write-up of their production of The Women (starring Lypsinka as, yes, Joan Crawford), which I’d also favored with a cameo performance, and another time I wanted to give ink to a show, but they (wisely) told me it wasn’t for review yet. Hey, I’d write you guys a check, but I’m doing this right now.
A gooder request arrived—to went to a Liz Smith? cohosted gala for Literacy Partners, which were really klass (kidding—it was). But oh, what the hell, three more divas: First, this weekend in town, screen goddess
Illeana Douglas is marrying TV producer Jonathan Axelrod, whose stepfather George wrote The Seven Year Itch—but let’s not mention that at the wedding, OK? The event promises to mix classic Hollywood types with young ‘uns like Parker Posey and actor Craig Chester, who’s especially thrilled. Craig told me, “Jonathan’s that rare show-tune-loving straight guy that we’re all looking for.”
And kudos to that progress-loving straight woman, Diane Sawyer, who really nailed it to her ABC boss on that PrimeTime Live segment about Ellen, though he pretty much hung himself with that used-car-salesman smirk and remarks like “[She] was gay every single week!” And our last diva is Mary Tyler Moore, who I hear didn’t come back for act 2 of High Society. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt, though—maybe she thought it was over.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 19, 1998