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New York continues to lift itself out of the rubble with a mixture of spunky aggression, caring, comic relief, and shopping. (Shopping? Yes, it’s a deeply patriotic act these days, and we wouldn’t want to be accused of treachery, would we?)

Watching art films in a large theater is also sanctioned, so the New York Film Festival returned, the organizers feeling that the opening-night bash crucially brings together so many people (and buffets). The kickoff flick was Jacques Rivette‘s Va Savoir, an alternately enchanting and tiresome romantic romp that’s longer than the Seine. I’m not that well versed in Rivette—in fact, I always thought Céline and Julie went bowling—so I was grateful for the opportunity to expand my cinematic palette and nap some, too. But I was wide awake for the party, where—this being Tavern on the Green—even the most esteemed cineasts had to tip the bathroom attendant after relieving themselves. It’s Urinetown!

I peed myself on realizing that two new theater experiences—Rude Entertainment and Hedda Gabler—have characters defiantly aiming pistols at the audience. After our recent tragedies, it’s been hard for the legit theater to draw us in, let alone shock us in the slightest, but that managed to do it, honey. (A third show, Reefer Madness—a/k/a Pot Boy—tries to make intentional camp out of unintentional camp, which is like shooting yourself, except it almost works!)

As for Hedda—which is getting a too snide, surfacey spin—the play’s barrels now seem half-cocked, with the bored hausfrau greeting a parade of drop-ins proffering crucial pieces of information, one conveniently arriving as the previous one splits. Typically, the scholar character, who’s tragically lost his manuscript, comes over—hi, hon!—but Hedda’s hubby, who would have gladly told him he’s found it, has just left! That leaves the forlorn genius alone with Hedda, his bitter ex, not to mention a total cunt—and they called it the birth of the blues.

The birth of the blue—and the best spiritual release in years—was the Friars Club roast of geriatric genitalia-lover Hugh Hefner at the Hilton, a barrage of hilariously raunchy jokes that, when it airs in November on Comedy Central, will probably have more beeps and bleeps than a MedicAlert system. Naturally, I can offer you some unexpurgated highlights, so strap on your condoms and listen. Jeffrey Ross: “Hugh Hefner gets more young pussy than Paula Poundstone.” Alan King: “He’s smelled more beaver than a furrier.” Rob Schneider: “Hef’s got a daughter who’s so old even he wouldn’t fuck her.” (At this point, Ross jumped up and cracked, “Rob, hasn’t New York been bombed enough?”) And the jokes kept coming, generally involving either Viagra, vaginas, or Hef’s seven blond girlfriends, who bustily sat at a front table, pretending to understand the humor.

Of course, other targets were fair game, too—like the motley celebs on the dais (“There’s Dr. Joyce Brothers,” said Ross, “or as they call her on The Sopranos, Old Pussy”) and terrorists (“Osama bin Laden is a cunt,” snarled Drew Carey. “Cunt, cunt, cunt. He looks like a cunt with a turban on his head”). Gilbert Gottfried was beyond hilarious with bestiality jokes even I can’t repeat, and he went to that terrorism place too. (“I was just on a plane, and they made an announcement that first we’d be stopping at the Empire State Building.”) And, for a change of pace, Dick Gregory gave a deeply moving speech about how “fear and God do not occupy the same space”—but the mood switch left the comics stunned, frantically wondering how to restore the light tone. They did so by simply going right back to the blowjob jokes.

By the way, I hear Hef doesn’t want any mention of the tragedy to appear in the final telecast. It’s a real comedy killer.

Meanwhile, other cable channels will soon give us the chance to laugh our implanted tits off. Spies tell me that Bravo is doing a Bruce Vilanch talk show, and no less than Bob Mackie is designing Vilanch’s capacious T-shirts. To top that, HBO is coming up with another Shock Video, this time intriguingly narrated by Maureen McCormick of The Brady Bunch fame. As an insider put it to me, “Imagine Marcia Brady talking about cunnilingus, butt-sniffing competitions, dildo making, and ejaculation marathons.” Say no more—I’m getting HBO.

You want some more dangerous sex talk pointed at you? An upcoming book about Madonna goes into further detail about her bisexual exploits and also implies that a female manager was in love with her and Madonna sort of led her on. The trollop!

My secret crushes? They’re Seann William Scott (from American Pie and a million other movies) and Steve Zahn (from the terrifying Joy Ride and the upcoming Riding in Cars With Boys)—though I’m not fully convinced that they’re two separate people. With their eerily similar pesky demeanors and goofy grins, these two studpuppies were at the very least separated at birth, despite their nine-year age difference. (Call them dope-elgangers.) They are parallel everymen who triumph through sheer doofiness and great teeth, and, like Dubya and Giuliani, they might even grow up a little if forced to. Take it, Mariah: “There’s a hero . . . ”

The hero of many, Edward Cardinal Egan, just went out on a limb and said that America should search its soul for possible misdeeds that may have contributed to the current situation from hell. He was greeted by a round of amens. Well, imagine if Bill Maher had uttered the same pronouncement. Heads would have promptly rolled like those of Taliban women—all in the name of democracy.

Speaking of heads, my best wishes go out to Sharon Stone, whose brain is actually her strongest attribute. Alas, the poor thing had to suffer this write-up in the Post: “Stone’s hospital stint is not expected to dent her career, as she is not currently working on any projects.” I guess that sequel to Diabolique never materialized.

Oh, the folks who opened the club Daddy three weeks ago aren’t doing that project anymore—not because of the wartime crunch, but because “our silent partner became a lot less silent.” (Still, they feel the club’s run was “historically significant.”) But some changes are a direct result of the war, like how people are driving so recklessly, no doubt figuring we’ll all be killed by anthrax, not car accidents. Also, a lot of establishments are trying to gouge a little extra money to make up for losses, never quite handing over the correct change when I patriotically patronize them. I always fully understand—before blowing a fit that could curl Hedda’s pubic hair.

But what exact note do we strike these days, folks? The Emmys were dirged up, then canceled, but a commercial promoting Broadway is being criticized as too somber and depressing! Make up your minds, people. Pick a tone and stick to it!

But before you decide: In ’99, despite complaints—like how the building was a potential target and also happened to be owned by a political supporter—our mayor had an emergency bunker built at 7 World Trade Center. Legendarily enough, a 6000-gallon fuel tank was installed there to run the generators in case of a power outage. Well, when the planes hit the other two towers on September 11, flying debris fell on 7 WTC, which some insiders say ignited that very fuel. Still love Rudy?


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