Ever the available whore, I agreed to judge Crunch Fitness’s Who Wants to
Kick a Millionaire’s Butt? kickboxing event, figuring it to be a passable minor kitsch diversion that might serve as a distraction from ennui for a few ignoble minutes. Well, honey, my jaw dropped to my knees when I entered and found throngs upon throngs positively panting to see TV’s famed alleged rich guy Rick Rockwell get whupped and humiliated. (It was a case of giving the people what they want, I guess.) This thing was bigger than the Olympics—or even Miss Teen USA—and my hookery little self was now a proud and integral part of it!
The match pitted Rockwell against Crunch’s contest winner, Marni Rosenthal, in a vicious battle between male money and female rage. As a pop-cultural happening, it had the mythical potential of a great sci-fi flick—but all the greenbacks in the world couldn’t quell my sudden fury on finding that this little contretemps was as fixed as Jocelyne Wildenstein‘s face! Minutes before the fight, the judges—actors Liev Schreiber and Craig Chester and I—were told point-blank that we were to vote for Marni and only Marni. “So it’s a complete sham?” I shrieked in horror. “Yeah, I’ll show you the script,” came the ready reply. I guess they wanted this to be like real wrestling, and that seemed rather appalling and a little bit against my principles, sort of. But hey, once the thing started, it was obviously a fake—a stunt whose unapologetic fraudulence was easily made up for by the fact that the gym donated $20,000 to Rockwell’s favorite charity (altar dumping?). The event had a downtowny performance feel to it, and as long as Rockwell was game enough to lose, everyone was going to work to make things extra shameful for him.
As the press-hungry opponents pretended to assault each other in fragile places, MC Misstress Formika warned Rockwell that if he tried to bribe the judges, he’d be instantly dismembered. “You can’t dismember me,” shot back the world’s shortest-lived bride-groom since Drew Barrymore‘s, “because I’m not a member here. I can’t afford it.” Millionaire indeed! Moments later, he fell to the floor and we all went along with the gag—if not the gag order. Was I so wrong?
And now you want a real fight? Tell me you didn’t like Dancer in the Dark—my favorite capital punishment entertainment since the Bush campaign commercials and the ultimate battle between female money and male rage—and I’ll sock you one but good. The musical tragedy has divided people so strongly that I’ve practically risked my privates admitting I liked it. In fact, most people find it so alternately shattering and annoying that you’d think everyone would have run home in tears after the New York Film Festival opening-night screening, but instead they made it to the Tavern on the Green after-party and bravely continued to promote their own agendas and chomp away at the free food. Whit Stillman was carrying around his plaque from something called Shecky’s; Darren Aronofsky asked me if his own movie, Requiem for a Dream, scared me (yes, by the time Ellen Burstyn was strapped down for electroshock treatments, I was not only beside myself, I was beside the person two seats away from me); and an intrepid gossip reporter moaned, “I just told Björk that her name rhymes with New York, and she didn’t understand what I was saying!”
Rather than try to teach the little diva both phonetics and geography, I spoke to her Dancer costar Siobhan Fallon, the former Saturday Night Live regular who winningly plays the prison matron with a surprise liking for Björk. When I brought up the movie Caged, Fallon said, “I’ve never seen it. I don’t hang with the swing crowd, baby.” But it’s a 1950 women’s prison flick! A perhaps more coherent question: Is her character flat-out in love with Björk? “In the ’60s, to have a steady job in the prison was a privilege,” answered Fallon. “To risk losing that job, I must sort of love her . . . as a mother.” As a hot mama is more like it.
The mother of us all, Aretha Franklin, sang forthe swing crowd at the Louis Vuitton Classic—a designer-car show in Rockefeller Center—but she never did the song that would have made the most sense, “Freeway of Love.” The soul goddess trotted out other signature numbers, some esoteric choices like “Danny Boy,” and an audience sing-along of that opera tune she premiered on the Grammys a couple of years ago. (I soared on that one.) Her set was heavy on instrumental breaks and lower-register riffs, but Aretha’s still the absolute queen—a multimillionaire who kicks real butt—and why should we force her to sing “Freeway” when her ass was driven all the way to New York anyway?
I took the freeway of gloves to Cowboys!, a goofy, eager-to-please gay musical spoof at Wings Theatre, where leather chaps tend to signify the old West and the old West Village. The production—a sort of Homoklahoma!—doesn’t really have anything to say about the genre; it merely grins and yodels and makes puns on cowpoking as it gives the old let’s-put-on-a-show-to-save-the-ranch plot a spirited twist. But hey, the horse gives the finest performance I’ve seen on the gay circuit in years.
The week’s ultimate novelty act was Weng Weng, a Filipino dwarf who starred in a vintage spy spoof called For Your Height Only, revived at an esoteric screening hosted by Paper critic Dennis Dermody. The movie’s pretty cute in itself—it’s beyond Caged—but for extra yuks it was smirkily dubbed by folks who must have seen Woody Allen‘s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? In one typical moment, when a photographer shoots a corpse at a crime scene, a character says, “I wonder if she does weddings and bar mitzvahs.” Meanwhile, little Weng Weng creates his own photo ops by kicking so much ass you could set him loose at Crunch without a script.
In the audience was Julianne Moore, who’d just wrapped Hannibal, but was actually more terrified by her recent Upper West Side experience. “I felt like I was living in Scarsdale,” Julianne told me, quaking. She’s moved downtown, where the suburbia has more of an edge to it. Finally, my weng weng perked up even more at the Va Va Voom Room, a burlesque show at Fez hosted by Miss Astrid, a snarling diva in an eye patch, a pink boa, and a German accent—very Ute Lemper meets Marni Rosenthal. The marvelously decadent revue trotted out magic, a depressed clown, a balloon dance, and Scotty the Blue Bunny, a guy in a sequined bunny suit who—after rollicking through “On a Wonderful Day Like Today”—said he was dressed that way “because I wanted to be the queerest looking thing on earth.” I approved—and besides, who am I to, you know, judge?