Spanish designer Miguel Adrover floated into his Amy Spindler-cohosted Saks Fifth Avenue event the way every visionary/kook should: sporting long, braided hair, a pin-striped jacket, and a floor-length powder-blue skirt — very Mick Fleetwood meets Gwyneth Paltrow at a double bill of The Magic Christian and El Topo. When he settled down to earth, I asked the up-and-coming fashion-world darling if he feels he’s gotten a teeny bit too much publicity lately. “Right now, it looks like it,” Adrover said, as the paparazzi gathered like buzzards — though those weren’t the animals on my jaunty little mind at the moment. As is now legend, Adrover had just featured a live sheep on the runway, an audacious move that has every barnyard animal I know getting breast implants and trying to nab a modeling agent. The sheep made such a sensation that the human models (and Anna Nicole Smith) have been freaking that they might become obsolete or, worse, might have to stop bathing and waxing in order to compete with a new crop of wool-bearing quadrupeds. Of course the sheep went a bit nutty, too, and had to be cajoled back down the runway by his personal fluffer and stylist. “What happened to the poor thing?” I asked the quirkmeister, perhaps overdoing my concerned pout. “He got scared from the flashes,” Adrover told me. “Like I do,” he added, running like an anxious rabbit from the photographers — and me.
Abandoned and confused — I’m scared when there aren’t flashes — I sheepishly sought solace in Boy Gets Girl at the Manhattan Theatre Club, assuming it would be a fluffy romantic comedy for the Woolite crowd. Wrong! It’s a hard-hitting stalking drama, and though it heavy-handedly shows how the objectification of women robs them of their identity, at least the play’s thought-provoking — and not just because the comforting policewoman who makes multiple office visits seems as fantastical as Miguel Adrover’s fashion tips.
But the deeply moving documentary Southern Comfort has the ring of reality to it, its girl-becomes-boy-and-gets-boy-who-became-girl scenario making perfect sense when you get to know the all-accepting cast of lovable gender benders. At a party for the film at Vandam, the transsexual Lola Cola — who’s a lesbian now — told me, “I didn’t know if the film was very good. I thought, ‘Oh God, I look so hideous!'” Please! She could easily walk a runway, and not just for you know who.
And now, prance with me down memory lane for a treasure trove of Nick at Nite-style divas who’ve burst out of that giant TV set/jukebox in the sky and fallen right into my wild and woolly lap. First was Nell Carter, who’s tearing up the room at Feinstein’s — not just singing, but being a dominatrix (“Don’t look at my butt!”), cutely showing her insecurities (“How long have I been up here?” she asked, and one weirdo shot back, “Seventy-six minutes”), and spouting revelations (“I didn’t think Ain’t Misbehavin’ was going anywhere” — shades of Southern Comfort, no?). Robust, sassy, and cornet-voiced, Nell kicks ass on classic songs — so much so that you’ll forget she ever did The Match Game.
Another golden oldie — Jackie DeShannon, the blond belter best known for “What the World Needs Now Is Love” — just resurfaced, predictably prompting me to set up a bicoastal phoner to cheer her on. Jackie seems thrilled with the career renewal that’s spawned her new CD, You Know Me, especially since the last time around, she “felt like a child in the corner, suffering from emotional malnutrition.” This time, she’s finally been allowed to record without limits, and it’s exactly what the world needs now. “I’m not here to be a diva,” Jackie told me. “I’m sort of like Shaker furniture — those handmade jobs. I don’t like pretentious things. I’m more the paint-on jeans kind of girl.” So am I, and when we started impulsively duetting on “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” Jackie nicely enough let me be Tammi Terrell!
I sang a different tune — “Chica, Chica, Boom, Chic” — with Charo, the long-running Spanish bombshell who wiggles, plays guitar, and turns up on more reruns of The Love Boat than there are donkeys lined up outside Elite. The “cuchi-cuchi” lady — the original Ricky Martin, in a way — is guest-starring in the Off-Broadway musical Pete ‘N’ Keely, a kitschy, TV-special spoof that’s definitely more suited to her talents than, say, Design for Living. In an interview at her Wyndham Hotel suite, Charo was expectedly vampy and campy, and it’s definitely not an act; until I corrected her, she actually thought the show was called Pete ‘N’ Kelly and is on Broadway!
“I am an international cucaracha,” she told me by way of a greeting. “I’ve been doing salsa since my cuchi-cuchi was only a gitchie-gitchie. I am mental!” She looked perfectly sane in a clingy white pants suit, her cascading hair and high heels practically doubling her 5′ 3″ frame. Her outfits in the show are “very conservative,” she said, then laughingly added, “but I really look like a $250 hooker!”
I offered to pay her double that if she explained why her English hasn’t improved one bit since the ’60s. “It’s getting worse,” Charo admitted. “That pisses me off. The problem is I only speak Spanish with my family. I say ‘hijo de puta,’ which means ‘son of a bitch.’ My son says, ‘Mother, you’re calling yourself a puta!'” (But a $250 one.) She feels her son looks like Val Kilmer, by the way — “but I never cuchi-cuchied Val Kilmer!”
All right, who does Charo think is humpable in Hollywood? “Everybody looks like shit,” she said. “Kevin Costner looks like a bookkeeper. Brad Pitt is too pretty. But Pierce Brosnan is very sexy!” A discussion of the muchachas inevitably led to Monica Lewinsky, about whom Charo insensitively said, “The only thing wrong with her is that her ass is bigger than Montana.” How about the little problem that Clinton’s married? “Well, nobody’s perfect!” exclaimed Charo, echoing the last line of Some Like It Cuchi-Cuchi. She’s mental!
And so’s Madonna — if we can move up to date — who surprised me with her letter to the L.A. Times defending Eminem‘s relentless horsing around with homophobia. Madonna seems so anxious to remain cool with the kids that she’s played havoc with the gay supporters she’s uplifted for years. I have a problem with her argument that Eminem’s just reflecting society (so do anti-Semitic demagogues) and that “at least he has an opinion” — as if whether gays deserve to be sliced up, even in a supposed pose or a joke, is up for debate. She could have said, “He’s brilliant and protected by free speech, but he should lay the fuck off my gay children!”
Finally, some undebatable dish: I hear Tom Cruise has been renting six rooms a night at a posh L.A. hotel. (I guess wifey got the house.) And what the packed house at the Garden’s big Vagina Monologues event didn’t know is that Calista Flockhart got her period at one extremely vivid point in the evening. I don’t care — I still want a vagina!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 27, 2001