I beg to differ from the accepted view that The Blair Witch Project is a real screamer. It’s actually more harrowing than scary, more Debbie Rowe than Leona Helmsley, but whatever it is, it’s so well done that I’ve vowed never to camp again—and that includes dressing up in drag and doing Bette Davis impressions! A few nightmares ago, a bone-chilling double-decker bus took us to the premiere party at the Central Park Boathouse, where the film’s magnetic
star Heather Donahue told me, “I’m not the frumpy college student I played!” In fact, in her glamorous ensemble, she looked way better suited to klieg lights than flashlights, to red carpets than yellow fever. She has the right attitude, too. “Honestly, it was really fun,” Donahue said of the barbaric-but-worth-it moviemaking experience. “We didn’t shower for eight days, my scalp was really itchy, and by the last day, they only fed us one Power Bar and a banana. But it’s fun to push your limits once in a while.” I pushed mine—right to the buffet line.
Another distressing adventure, the Twin Falls Idaho premiere, intrigued me because model Michele Hicks recently said she decided to star in the film because “one of my big hang-ups about movies is that I can’t believe them. They don’t depict real situations and feelings. But this one convinced me from the start.” And what everyday situation is Twin Falls Idaho about, pray tell? A model who eats a Power Bar and a banana and yells at makeup artists? Nope, it’s about Siamese twins, one of whom falls in love with Hicks and becomes heartbroken (or half-a-heart-broken)! Happens all the time—on Jerry Springer anyway. Actually, after seeing the flick, I felt a Springer episode would be way less clichéd, studied, and arty-farty—though I did like Hicks’s character saying, “They’ve got two arms, they’ve got three legs—what’s the big deal?”
Eyes Wide Shut won’t have legs, but it does have viewers up in arms when they realize that pacing-wise it makes Meet Joe Black look like It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. On the bright side, it was brave of Tom and Nicole to do a relationship flick concocted by a science- fiction director— not to mention a movie in which they don’t shtupp and he’s suspected of being gay. But poor Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford, in the front row of the big media screening, looked appalled; the film’s a long, torturous meditation on adultery!
Let me cheat on my spies and tell you that Spike Lee‘s supposedly developing a movie script about club kingpin Peter Gatien—and I bet the feds would like it to be called He Got Blame.
The fluffy gay romance Trick— a/k/a Woo the Right Thing— isn’t exactly a perfect treat, but the Eyes Wide Shut similarities add fascination. (The characters keep almost having sex, and the stars, Christian Campbell and J.P. Pitoc, are announced as straight in the press kit.) Tori Spelling aggressively plays a wannabe singer-actress who’s the world’s biggest fag hag—and, more important, in real life she’s successfully changed her public profile from that of an industry punch line to a delightful contender. At the Trick party at Twirl, the moxie-ish Tori told me, “I love gay people! I have a lot of friends that are gay.” Well, it would be hard not to in L.A., wouldn’t it? “Everyone’s bisexual to a certain degree,” she said, with a knowing giggle. Well, is Tori, um, er, a fag hag, by any chance? “Sure, why not?” she said, agreeably enough. “Well, I’m a fag,” I muttered, wittily. “Then I’ll be your hag!” she exclaimed, and threw her famous arms around me. I love this girl!
With a whole different fag hag, I went to hilly, chilly San Francisco—which makes L.A. look hetero—because promoter Marc Huestis had appointed me to interview former tyke star Patty McCormack, onstage at a gala camp event at the Castro. I was afraid McCormack would be similar to Rhoda Penmark, the Bad Seed character she played so spine-tinglingly in 1956—an amoral, violent child, sort of like Tommy Lee. Actually, the now fiftysomething actress was as different from Rhoda as Heather Donahue is from her Blair Witch camping tyrant. She’s neither harrowing nor scary—she’s delightful!
The night before the interview, we had a sumptuous dinner at Piaf’s and regretted nothing, except for the Little Sparrow impersonator who kept coming into the crowd to make us clap along. Then, at the Transmission Theatre, we willingly applauded Cyberotica!, a fab drag rock musical about which Patty wistfully remarked, “The guys always have better legs.” And better social lives. When we arrived at the Castro the next night on a motorcade, Patty surveyed the long line of gay guys there to see her and lamented, “All these men—and I can’t get a date!” She had an appointment inside anyway, where I coaxed dish out of her as intently as Rhoda insists on getting her telltale shoes back. Among McCormack’s rowdy revelations: She always wanted to be Sandra Dee (so did Sandra Dee); she played Rhoda not like she was evil, but “like she was right!”; the Diff’rent Strokes cast not only weren’t actors, “they weren’t stars!”; Patsy Ramsey “is twisted for having dressed JonBenet like a two-year-old hooker!”; and Nancy Kelly, who affectedly played the Bad Seed mom, once told little McCormack she was getting too fat for Kelly to pick her up off the couch and also complained that she had garlic breath. Deadpanned McCormack, “I was nice enough not to mention the distinct smell of gin on her breath!”
Afterward, the eight-year-old girl who’d played Rhoda in the pre-show was living the part a little too accurately, exclaiming, “Where’s my money?” Even more spookily, no one could suggest a single fun thing for me to do after midnight. (Frisco’s new population of Silicon Valley commuters has upped rents and short-circuited abandon.) I landed at a bar called the EndUp, but in a real Guinness-ready incident, I couldn’t provide any age ID and wasn’t let in! Or maybe it was my two arms and three legs that turned them off.
Back in New York, I was deemed old enough to see the Off-Broadway musical Naked Boys Singing, during which no audience member looks at any arms or legs. A friend recommended I split after the opening number, which unhesitatingly brings on the entire cast of naked and singing boys. But I stayed, and though the revue is pleasant and cleverly staged and the costumes certainly can’t be faulted, the net effect doesn’t have the sting one would expect from eight bare members. I’d like to see the uncut version.
Finally, not to swathe John F. Kennedy Jr. in even more layers of saintly clothing, but to me, he always came off as an amiable, perspective-laden guy who’d go out of his way to shmooze in a pleasingly jocular fashion. Even if that was just press-courting, you’d be amazed at how few public figures of his stature feel the urge to do so. Of all the media bites that emerged about John last week, the most unintentionally eerie one was W‘s long-lead-time plug for his flying school, which says, “The weather may be stormy inside the simulated flight training room at Flight Safety in Vero, Florida, but it didn’t stop J.F.K., Jr. from earning his pilot’s license!” The most intentionally ghoulish item was Steven Brill suggesting on CNN that Lady Di was less substantive a personality than John-John. So now we’re going to compare celeb deaths and discredit the previous one for not being quite tragic enough? That’s harrowing and scary.