Before last week’s mayhem wreaked havoc on our lives and liberty, the entertainment world was carrying on with its usual absurd aggression. Color me superficial, but in the name of pure escapism—which we all can probably use right now—I’ll recount some of the vacuous whimsy.
Let’s start, as all things do, with Jacko, the self-proclaimed king of plop. For months, the publicist for his all-star concerts bombarded the press with e-mails detailing every inane development in the lineup, making this by far the most hyped, guaranteed fiasco since the Gary Condit interview. But the hoopla hit its limit when I asked for review tickets and was met with resounding silence, the flacks no doubt hoping to ward off comment on the parade of dysfunctional stars being made to pay homage to their loony leader in the guise of pseudo-charity. They probably also wanted to avert trenchant observations like “They just did an autopsy on Rock Hudson and found Michael’s other glove.” That’s OK—even though I was forced to stay home and “Beat It,” the critics snuck in and had their say. (“Slow going,” ventured the Times, while the Daily News called the show “odd, awful.” But Highlights raved.)
By the way, here’s a PR nugget no one’s offering: Wade Robson, the teen wiz who choreographs Britney Spears and those kings of “Pop,” ‘N Sync, has worked closely with Jacko—in fact, he’s the one who was questioned in ’94 because he said he’d slept in the same bed with the guy! (Nothing happened, he assured authorities.) Well, Wade may have grown up a little, because he’s now saying he wasn’t that thrilled with the recent concerts either.
Fashion Week (which lasted four days before the tragedy stopped the sashays) brings out strange bedfellows, but the mix of victims, garmentos, and photogs has always compelled me to look on, if with goggles. At least Paper magazine weighed in with the iconoclastic Paper Project, an all-day “fashion implosion” featuring fashionista wrestling, “free crazy haircuts,” and a performance by designer Elisa Jimenez and Hole‘s Melissa Auf Der Maur. Before the show, minxy Melissa explained to me, “I’m the noisescaper and documentarian. I push it along with noise. Does that sound too abstract?” Yeah, well, what did she think of those darned MTV Awards? “I didn’t even know who the host was,” said Melissa, “let alone the performers and presenters. I don’t get it. I’m from the turn of the century.” But that was only a year ago!
Bringing us up to date with the future, nice-guy designers John Bartlett and Gene Meyer cohosted a party at Glass, which looks like a cross between xl and the Park and even has the de rigueur gimmicky bathroom (you relieve yourself onto a mirror—talk about self-loathing). I never know what to ask designers, except maybe what they’ve designed, so I pushed that along with noise. Meyer said his show was a look back at the ’60s and ’70s, “when there were a lot of athletes in my neighborhood. It was little sissy me and all these gorgeous hunks.” Surveying the room with half-cocked eyes, I could truly relate. And Bartlett? “My show was inspired by Jean Genet and Giuliani. There was a prison scene because Giuliani has created a police state.” (Since then, of course, Rudy’s performed admirably, uniting the city with a straightforward candor and compassion. Did I just write that?)
The bohos bonded for the Heatherette show, put on by Traver Rains and skater-turned-Zoolander player Richie Rich, at Twirl, especially since it was hosted by uptown lady Diandra Douglas and noise- scaped by her son, Cameron Douglas. (In fashion, contrast is everything.) The highlight was the David LaChapelle-directed preshow video, which had trannie extraordinaire Amanda Lepore smearing her naked body in pink lipstick and running through the heartland before emerging in person to walk the runway in the same watercolored nudity. It made sense, seeing as the theme of the show was “Look at me!” Afterward, I asked LaChapelle about famed fashion implosion Mariah Carey, whose “Loverboy” video he directed before she sadly lost her marbles (around the same time Anne Heche says she regained hers). “She really needs a rest,” he said. “She needs to sleep and eat. I’ve gone crazy myself and had to be put away! Sometimes the best place to get a rest is a hospital.” I was so stunned by his honesty that I considered checking myself in, but then I wouldn’t get gossip—like the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker didn’t want to wear that “Carrie” shirt in those omnipresent Sex and the City ads, but was coerced at the end of a long shoot, which might explain her appealingly petulant look. Richie (who made the shirt) told me.
Editors looked mildly annoyed at the Imitation of Christ show, which tapped into our fantasies and peeves. (Yes, a mixed review.) On entering, you were greeted with signs telling you how to behave—”Attitude! No pauses!”—and handlers screaming directions—”No smiling!”—as you started to feel what poor Gisele Bundchen must go through. All the seats were filled with costumed models, and as I was prodded past them on the runway—look at me!—I brilliantly figured out that we were the show and the models were the audience, a reversal right out of Sondheim‘s Anyone Can Whistle. (The actors playing mental patients sat in theater seats and hooted at the cuckoo patrons. A clinical rest was needed by all.) It was an audacious idea—anything besides just strutting, zombified models is appreciated—and even those who were offended were a little thrilled with the ego boost.
The audience became the stars once again at the House of Xavier’s Bootylicious Ball at Asseteria, appropriately enough, when all available divas were encouraged to shake their large heinies down the catwalk for a category called “J.Lo Realness.” A 400-pound man in overalls promptly took the stage, shaking and wiggling like a tornado, until being thrown off when he admitted he thought it was “Jell-O Realness.”
Then came the horror, and all attempts at buoyancy ended—though last Wednesday, high-school-aged patrons were lined up for miles outside the UA Union Square Theater, which was generously offering that old healing escapism in the form of free movies and popcorn. The moviegoing experience gave the kids a chance to tap into their newfound sense of communality, and there were no rules; you could walk into any flick you liked, which resulted in 12-year-olds turning up at L.I.E., the heartwarming NC-17 tale of a pedophile who empowers a troubled boy. Even more controversially, they showed a trailer for Collateral Damage, an Arnold Schwarzenegger opus (since postponed) about a terrorist attack on an American city. Funny how trash imitates life before it even happens.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 18, 2001