Film

NY Mirror

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Hideous Kinky is neither hideous nor kinky. Discuss. But David Cronenberg‘s eXistenZ—about people ramming electrodes into each other for recreational purposes—is certainly eXistenZ-ial. Watching the trippy, oozy flick, I agreed with Jude Law‘s character’s observation, “I find this disgusting, but I can’t help myself” (though his other big line—”I have this phobia about getting my body penetrated”—is more up for debate).

The penetrating premiere bash was at the suitably sci-fi–ish Float, where Michael Stipe got up on a lit runway and performed a little dance as model-singer Bijou Phillips jumped me and said, “Don’t you dare dis that movie!” Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t, since Cronenberg had just arrived, not looking the least bit disgusting as he told me he’s never grossed out by his own work. “Part of my agenda,” he said, “is to change the aesthetic sensibility of my audience.” Another part, apparently, is to avoid that rival alternate-reality epic The Matrix. (“I’m not gonna rush,” said Cronenberg.) As for The Phantom Menace, “I’ll see it in three years. I don’t want to line up.” Honey, line up now and you’ll see it in three years.

Queue up for Get Real and you’ll get the new (if not as compelling) Beautiful Thing, down to the plus-size fag hag, though both projects actually started as plays around the same time, back when only AfterSchool Specials were covering the coming-out process. What distinguishes this closet-buster is the bawdy bathroom setting where various blokes pantingly seek out loo-d behavior. At a dinner for the movie, its writer Patrick Wilde told my pretend-innocent ass that such places really exist in England. “People stand at urinals and display erections,” he said, as I tried to look stunned. “We call it cottaging. Very much the George Michael kind of thing. It’s extraordinary to me that he needed to do that. He’s handsome and rich and presumably can have any man he wants. There must be a peculiar thrill about that kind of behavior which is almost like a narcotic.” “Gosh, beats me!” I said, affecting my most wide-eyed Annie Warbucks expression yet.

The next night, I emerged from the john at Nobu and found a party for the kitschily fun Aussie film The Cottage—I mean The Castle—so I promptly shoveled in the sushi and asked the director, Rob Sitch, if he hopes to change the aesthetic sensibility of his audience. “We’re so used to low hopes,” he said, “that having the movie released at all is a highlight.” He smirked and added, “Fortunately, we have no competition. Like Star Warsthat’s not gonna be big, is it?” Honey, line up now, etc., etc.

A potential bantam menace, The Civil War turns out to be a gun-totin’ Broadway tuner in which even the slaves wear head mikes, along with their shrouds of nonstop nobility. In fact, all the characters are iconic and all the songs are anthemic, and the effect generally sounds like a male Lilith Fair starring Foreigner, James Taylor, and Alabama—but you might as well drop your phobia about being penetrated by sentiment and give in. The showstopper-laden production happens to be gorgeously sung (Keith Byron Kirk has special star power), and your emotions are roused, even if by force. Critics be damned—The Civil War wins.

Not so The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm, which is neither fascinating nor rhythmic, and which succeeds only in updating the Gershwins to the ’70s. Except for a fabulous rumba number, it’s like a tacky old TV special, but with no stars!

Off-Broadway, Clea Lewis is updating herself with Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight, a boudoir comedy coming to the Promenade about three couples who toss off racy quips in their skivvies. “I feel good about it,” Lewis told me about her underwear exposure. What she’s less ebullient about is the demise of Ellen, on which she played the kooky Audrey. As she remembers it, “The network’s actions seemed to be slightly insidious by omission instead of active animosity. They’d promote the night’s lineup until our show.” That’s not too gay, is it?

It wasn’t Lewis’s first botched TV experience; a few years ago, she was in a short-lived series called Flying Blind, which she thought was brilliant, “but nobody watched it. I played Tea Leoni‘s roommate and was a manic-depressive, moody, spooky young lady—the antithesis of Audrey and much closer to me, actually.” Alas, offscreen, people generally expect her to be Audrey. “They assume I’m perky and delightful,” she related, “but I’m not. Well, I’m delightful, but not perky.” I’m neither.

MOMA’s special showing of the delightful but not perky North by Northwest began with a Hitchcockian moment of suspense when a museum rep mistakenly announced that we were seeing Rear Window. That would have been fine too, but as long as we were getting North by Northwest, it made sense that Eva Marie Saint was there, gushing of the classic flick, “I have such wonderful memories and a scar!” Saint said that the much misrepresented Hitch actually loved actors, “and I always called him my sugar daddy because I had beautiful clothes.” Hmmm. As for her hot-daddy costar Cary Grant, “Everything you thought he was, he really was.” Now don’t go there, girl.

No connection here, but there are two new gay bars on Avenue A. The Starlight—from the Wonder Bar folks—is a cozy cruise lounge, and Phoenix—courtesy of the Bar’s ex-owners—is where you’ll generally see two guys licking each other’s faces at the bar (and no, it’s not always the same two guys). There must be a peculiar thrill about that kind of behavior which is almost like a narcotic. Westward, at the Roxy, Ivana Trump made a surprise appearance the other night and special-requested a visit to the go-go boys’ dressing room—no doubt to compare jewelry.

And now, if I may remove my drop earrings and launch into the obligatory bad news: Thanks to an abundance of media chasing around the same number of celebs, entertainment journalism has fallen prey to a bizarre balance of power whereby publicists call the shots; they’ve become the editors, and the editors are merely their enablers. Case in point: A colleague of mine was recently assigned to interview a major star for a glossy magazine. He was told that the star’s PR firm had to approve his writing samples, insanely enough, and though they mercifully gave him a thumbs-up, her record label then decided to put in their own two demented cents. Since they had the choice, they decreed that they’d rather have more of a music writer do the story—so the poor guy lost the assignment!

Sadly, I may have started this trend some years ago when a publicist asked if I was interested in interviewing actress Amy Madigan. I was desperate, so I said yes, only to have the flack ask me to send my clippings for Madigan to peruse. I must have been really hard up because I actually sent them, thinking that would just be a formality—but then I never heard back! Amy Madigan! More recently, a publicist for an even lesser-known diva, Leslie Mann, was willing to let me interview Mann for a national magazine as long as I signed an agreement that I wouldn’t also talk about her on The Gossip Show. Leslie Mann! Shouldn’t she be begging to be on The Gossip Show? I give up—I’m becoming a publicist. It’s a real cottaging industry.

Oh, as long as we’re ranting, Ricky Martin, please stop with the girlfriend talk, girlfriend! That’s hideous kinky.