Beleaguered club kingpin Peter Gatien must be some kind of indestructible Canadian android because, despite all of Giuliani’s efforts to mess with and/or shutter it, the Tunnel is more overrun with human beings than ever on a Saturday night (though it’s drawing an ‘older crowd’ now—you know, 18). At Kurfew—the gayish, retro part of the club, in ‘the fuzzy room’—the place rocks with eye makeup, polymorphously perverse desire, and DJ Michael T playing Stacy Q‘s “Two of Hearts” on request. Endearingly ragtag drag queens like Ivana Hump mix with wannabe homeboys, curious straights, and vestigial club-kid types who vehemently suck lollipops and pacifiers, making you wonder what they really want to gnaw on. You can’t really see the show the trannies stage in a dark corner, but you can hear the enjoyably bitchy banter like, “I heard that Britney Spears is really 28.” (That’s absurd—I know for a fact she’s 45.)
Past Kurfew, the thriving main room is pulsed by a strobe effect that can bring on seizures, but if you close your eyes and keep going, beyond the area where white people break-dance, the upstairs men’s room is a great vantage point. Here, seemingly hundreds of potential Backstreet Boys walk by, and who cares if they can sing, girl? It’s like being in a room filled with grown-up Elián Gonzálezes, only you want to deport them to your home. If you sit there agog—and you can; the front part is more lounge than loo—the clubbies will think you’re a narc, but that could certainly provide an interesting psychosexual fantasy. The sicker things get, the more of a giant “fuck you” it is to the forces who can’t seem to pass wind through this Tunnel.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel for Calvin Klein, who’s been a sprightly party sight lately,
acting très festive at Beige and the Cock, and at promoter Erich Conrad‘s birthday bash at Centro-Fly. Maybe since he’s been trying to unload his company, Calvin’s experiencing less of an Obsession with his own Eternity. Au contraire for Kurfew musical fave Joan Jett, who had almost kinda sort of become semi-out-of-the-closet—she performed at the San Diego Gay Pride Parade—but then, I hear, declined to be listed as one of Out magazine’s Out 100 (of
notable queers). Wouldn’t coming out help her career at this point?
Meanwhile, a female comic—whose name I’ll omit because I’ve trashed her so many times and
after all I do enjoy her work—just said on TV that she refuses to label her sexuality because she doesn’t want to turn off burly construction workers or other straight types who might be alienated by personal specifics (i.e., of her lesbianism). This raises three fascinating questions: (1) When will I finally hear
a celebrity say, “I don’t want to be labeled straight because that might shut out some of my gay audience?” (2) Who would want to court customers who wouldn’t like you if they knew you were a dyke? (3) How far will performers go with this and remain celebrated for it? Would Jews cheer if a star changed her name from Kurtzbaum to Curtis because, “After all, some people out there might not feel embraced by me if I openly commit to one religion.” Oy!
Oh, and here’s more TV weirdness: The one time I saw that show Popular, it was about the fat girl rising above the oppression of all that bulimic-
cheerleader worship. Well, the bus stop ads for the series completely omit her, only showing the bulimic cheerleader types—and that tastes like more oppression to this fucking little fat girl!
A big, fat half-kiss goes out to the unpopular Isn’t She Great, which is deeply flawed, but isn’t nearly as not-great as some have said. No, the flick has nothing much to do with Jackie Susann, and yes, the actors do shtick rather than inhabit their characters, and yeah, it feels like a candy-colored fantasy rather than anything of any substance, but—you knew there’d be a but—the spirit, lines, and clothes often strike the right kooky chords, and you gotta love it that Dionne Warwick sings the theme song à la The Valley of the Dolls. Whatever you think of the movie, it makes a pretty good case for Bette Midler as the ideal choice to play Ethel Merman (whose reported lust for Susann is,
typically, left out of this one).
The Big Tease also isn’t as rotten as critics claim; the giddy mockumentary actually achieves some intermittent hair height. At the premiere party—a Lifebeat benefit at that Jeffrey store—the film’s cowriter-star, Craig Ferguson, told me that in reality, “I’m a beauty school dropout. I went as far as learning how to cut hair on nylon wigs. People do ask me for advice sometimes and I bullshit my way through it—like most people in the beauty business, I suppose.” Tell me about it—I just went in for a tasteful trim and came out looking like Gary Bauer.
A festival of spiky, perky, really terrific hair, the Drama League tribute to Liza Minnelli at the Pierre was a Broadway queen’s wet dream come true, like the drag show at the Tunnel, but with lights on. Chita Rivera and Sam Harris razzle-dazzled, Billy Stritch did a song from The Act that made me think, “Maybe that show wasn’t so bad,” and Roberta Flack—who backstage had crooned, “Here she is, Miss-cellaneous”—reclaimed her big song from The Fugees. Everybody was strutting and shimmying and hitting those “money notes” to impress Liza, who stood up and cheered them, who stood up and cheered her right back. The comic high point was . . . no, not Ben Vereen‘s wobbly Pippin retrospective, but Dame Edna Everage revealing (on video) that she’s Liza’s real mother and passed the baby on to Judy, who agreed to raise her as her own. (Edna didn’t take credit for Lorna, though.) Musically, the peak was . . . no, not Dr. Ruth‘s croaked-out number, or the Fosse cast’s medley, which decimated about nine songs, but with love. It was Renée Fleming‘s stunning rendition of two Gershwin tunes, which proved that the opera diva could probably earn
her own slot on the MTV hit parade if she would only start dressing like Christina Aguilera. Liz Smith had to
follow her by crooning “Deep in the Heart of Liza,” but, though she probably shouldn’t enter Der Rosenkavalier any time soon, she wasn’t bad, and even hit a few money notes.
Life’s been a cabaret for everyone involved in the overrated Magnolia, but I hear J.D. Salinger is less than enthralled with the seeming appropriation of his Franny and Zooey quiz-show-character motif. Will he be mad enough to come out of relative seclusion and vent publicly? How the fuck do I know? But I can tell you that, at the Paper/Reebok party at the Bryant Park tent, DJ Johnny Dynell eloquently vented through fashion, his T-shirt blaring, “Cynthia Rowley Still Owes Me for Spring 1999 Show.” He won’t charge her for the cost of the T-shirt, though.