This boring-assed preholiday stretch struck me as the perfect time to catch up with the kind of glitzy, crass activities we would normally never deign to engage in, even if we’re secretly jonesing to. Now, I assumed, was exactly when to go to all those kooky museums and planetariums—it would fill a gaping void in the calendar, and besides, no one would see me there except for silly, bedraggled tourists. The problem is that everyone else had the same crazy idea! A visit to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum—where you can touch the replicas (come on, fondle the Dalai Lama, I dare you) and where, I’m pretty sure, the actual Michael Jackson is on display—proved to be a complete nightmare when I was asked to join an absurdly long line of apparently human customers panting to get in. You’d think these people would have had the decency to go to L.A. to see plastic stars! It was good-riddance time, but not until glimpsing the lobby posters of the mannequins, which was reality two times removed and close enough for me, considering they were of Nicolas Cage and Yoko Ono.
Movies for Dummies must be the house bible at the AMC Empire 25 cinema mall down the block; even if there’s no line, you have to show up an hour early because your theater is generally seven escalator rides up and closer to God than Dalai. But I had the time, and it was worth the nosebleed anyway because the ticker display was promising something called Remember the Tit. How thrilling—clearly Times Square had reverted back to its swingin’ porn days. Alas, it was just a shortened title for Remember the Titans, which turns out to be more corn than porn and which reaches its apotheosis when a newly disabled athlete character cheerily says he doesn’t mind his paralysis because, hey, there are Special Olympics. Talk about making lemonade!
A whole mess of other escalators beckons you to Cyberworld, the alleged IMAX lemon at Sony Lincoln Square, which had always sounded like one of those cyber how-to films filled with too much information. Fortunately, the film explains nothing and sometimes doesn’t even make the least bit of sense. It’s just a mixed bag of loosely connected visuals, and though I had a headache from the goggles and became tired of fish swimming into my lap, there was mostly an OK time to be had in this world, especially since tickets were extremely available.
By showing up four hours early and pushing through the throngs of Dress Barn clients, I even nabbed a seat for Passport to the Universe at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, which is so far uptown that the atmosphere has no gravity. For $19, you get an approximately 20-minute show (that’s a dollar an asteroid) replete with an out-of-this-world neck ache to go with your cyber-goggle head throb. Lean back in the Big Sphere and let the twinkly stars envelop you until you’re shot through a black hole and back to earth, all as narrated by Tom Hanks. But don’t leave the building until you’ve also seen a demonstration of the big bang theory as narrated by Jodie Foster. I am not making this shit up.
While we’re seeing stars, these are the days when we get to lean back and size up the theater season, which so far has been filled with shows that don’t advance the form, but don’t really disgrace it, either. The Full Monty brings dick jokes to Broadway, but in a slick, winning context that makes them go down easier for the tour-bus crowd. Actually, the show’s about heart, not gonads. Before it opened, even the most erudite theater aficionados were running around saying, “Do they show it?” but once they saw the musical, they were so caught up in the plot mechanics that it didn’t even matter. Much. They should drop the duet between the fat guy and the supervisor, the lead guy’s song about his son, and the line dissing Buffalo (a steal from A Chorus Line), and this Monty will be even fuller. And they should show more . . . you know.
The Rocky Horror Show shouldn’t drop Tom Hewitt—he pretty much does a fabulous imitation of Tim Curry, and that’s exactly what you want. But it’s interesting to know that downtown drag stars Kevin Aviance and Dean Johnson auditioned for the role and came closer to nabbing it than they would probably get to a part in Proof. Johnson, the six-foot-six bald rocker—Homocorps organizer, told me, “I wore my hoop skirt for the audition and they really liked it. They brought me back for a backers’ audition, but I think the backers didn’t feel I had the appeal Midwestern tourists would appreciate.” (I guess he’ll never be a waxwork.) Johnson was thrilled with having been considered, but now realizes he “might have gotten bored singing the same songs eight shows a week anyway.” Not me—Broadway stardom would not be the least bit boring. Bring on the star vehicles—I’ll even do Proof!
Or I can grinch it up in Seussical the Musical, which finally opened after a hideously rocky tryout period. As Kevin Chamberlin—who plays Horton the elephant—recently told me, “You’d see a piece of scenery in the alley and think, ‘I guess that scene was cut.’ ” But Chamberlin felt things turning around a bit when kids would greet him after the show with goofy grins. “That means more to me,” he said, “than some theater queen going, ‘Well, you were good.’ ” The finished show? Not as much of a snoozical as they said, and though it could be way more juiceical, “things could be worse,” as the characters keep singing. The main problem is that what was once subversive is presented as sweet and warmly inspirational. But don’t yell boosical—just hand me the boozeical.
Performance haven (and booze mecca) Jackie 60 may be gone—blame the tourists—but the club’s majordomos are documenting its reign by editing 600 hours of footage into a 90-minute Jackie movie. I hope I’m not just in the director’s cut. Meanwhile, Flamingo East is trying to reclaim its queer-hangout throne with a diversity of gay nights filled with neighborhood wackos. On the night of the Clit Club, they had a birthday roast for drag king Murray Hill, and it was deeply moving, especially when Murray’s backup girls thanked him for leading them into bankruptcy and prostitution and for creating a safe working environment by “assuring we’ll never meet a straight man.”
I never met a buffet I didn’t like, and at the premiere for the exquisitely inert The House of Mirth, the University Club became the house of girth as I plowed into the food. (“I’m as reliable as mutton,” as one character says.) Over the sound of the pianist tinkling Les Miz songs and everyone celebrating the Edith Wharton Restoration, costar Eric Stoltz told me that Terence Davies “gave more direction than any director ever gave. We all pretty much had to give ourselves over to his vision. At first it bothered me a little, but he lived the project for 15 years, acting out every single role. It became enjoyable, if very odd.” Likable Eric has been to festivals with the flick and said, “They do sort of tote us around like a circus attraction.” Still, he’s only seen the ironically titled Mirth twice and said, “It’s kind of a brutal film. Not a lot of laughs.” But hey, there’s enough sex to satisfy Jodie Foster’s big bang theory.