The mother of us all, Joan Rivers, has been in the columns even more than Bin Laden lately, so I wasn’t surprised that the kvetch extraordinaire was busy when I called. “I just made a Cipro omelette,” she cracked. “I’ve got Eau de Cipro behind my ears and I’m ready to face the world. And I travel with Bacon Bits now. I can’t overpower them from getting those 70 virgins, but I’m gonna hit ’em with bacon. I may be going to hell, honey, but so are they!”
I was thrilled that the woman was still making funny, since her take-no-prisoners comedy style is such a great healer they should stock it at Duane Reade. Like everyone, she’s been through the wringer. “I lost a lot of people,” she said. “And my dog Spike died September 9. It was a shitty month. I waited a month to perform again, and the audiences exploded with laughter. People want to laugh so they can face it. We’re all scared!”
But don’t cower away from Joan’s new material (which she’ll showcase at Madison Square Garden November 7 and 14). It’s about being a single granny in wartime, “and about how people don’t respect you when your dog dies. They say, ‘He was only an animal.’ ‘Please, your husband’s only an animal. I don’t see you fucking a hamster.’ ” (Speak for yourself, honey.)
Her thoughts on the rodentlike Bin Laden? “Ugh,” she moaned. “Just think what’s in his beard, foodwise.” Yeah, but I wanted to throw bacon at the E! tyrants who dropped Joan and daughter Melissa‘s preshow commentary from the Emmy Awards—though the event was then rescheduled for November 4 and the gabby gals are on again. “The only thing I got out of it was four outfits,” Joan told me. “They kept changing—red, then black, then cocktail, then business. With all the outfits, I’m dressed till 2004, and don’t even mention returning them!”
In another switcheroo, Joan dropped out of the all-star charity recording of “We Are Family” and told me, “I have it in writing that the money was going to the families of the policemen and firemen!” When she found out the dough was heading elsewhere—including to a project promoting racial tolerance—she bolted, and, according to Joan, so did another style icon, Susan Lucci. “Racial tolerance is very important,” said Joan. “I’m Jewish. I’m a minority! But it was a bait and switch, and one of the other charities was to show the diverse reasons the tragedy happened. This wasn’t the time to give lectures and blame America when we’re still sending flowers to fire stations!” The lesson learned? “Don’t ever work for the Puce Cross, the Salvation Navy, or Hooked on Phonics Rehab!”
Or the Gray Panthers. Joan recently broke up with her octogenarian fiancé, banking heir Orin Lehman, and publicly blasted his new lady friends. “I didn’t mention names,” Joan explained to me, “but I said ‘two old European hookers.’ You know how many women have come forward and said, ‘That’s me!’? These old, old women who haven’t seen a tampon in 50 years, groping for green cards—it’s so distasteful.” Is she talking about singer-actress Monique van Vooren? “I don’t even know her. Trust me, this isn’t my group. I’ve never been a felon. When was the last time you came to dinner at my house and I had Eurotrash hookers?” Never, and it’s too bad, because those ladies love bacon!
On Broadway, the foofy By Jeeves has a song called “It’s a Pig!” and all the happy hamming that goes with it. And Thou Shalt Not serves a porky gumbo in its musical updating of the Zola story about a wanton woman who’s married to her pneumatic cousin but wants Craig Bierko. Not is refreshingly ambitious, but there’s an underlying variety-show sensibility to the thing, an overemphasis on unsexy fornication, and no fewer than three camp-classic miniballets: the laundry one, the fucking one, and (believe me) the gang-rape one. The inert Act I so reeks of floperetta that during intermission, the crowd went berserk cheering break-dancers on the street. But the second half comes together more artfully—though the best feature remains the precurtain announcement: “Thou shalt not use video cameras. . . . ”
Thou shalt believe me that at least the show broke Times critic (and my idol) Ben Brantley‘s nicey-nice streak. Massive devastation had turned him into Mother Teresa, and though I know we’re supposed to boost Broadway, leading innocent people to things like Mamma Mia! will only provoke mass mayhem! Speaking of that disco shlockfest, the Chelsea type who plays the groom was just announced in a gay bar rag as being straight, and this has prompted more screaming in the gossip chat rooms than there’s been since I was called an old Euro hooker!
Openly gay and festive, Dragapella! Starring the Kinsey Sicks is the Upstairs at 54 revue in which the “beauty-shop quartet” puts dirty lyrics to classic songs as if concocting their own Cipro omelettes. “Fever” becomes a lesbian ode to “Beaver.” A Christmas carol ends with, “O little town of meth mayhem.” And there’s even a crisply sung madrigal about water sports. Loved it—this is the kookiest cross-dress combo since, I don’t know, O-Town.
To the delight of female drag queens everywhere, Comedy Central premiered segment two of the upcoming Absolutely Fabulous season (the first episode has a terrorist reference they’re still futzing with). At the event, creator-star Jennifer Saunders said she resurrected the beloved series because “no one will hire me but me, and [costar] Joanna Lumley hasn’t worked much either. There are no roles for women our age—and she’s older than I am!”
The very young Ananda Lewis Show is already in an employment crisis; I hear it’s being sleazed up for ratings and some staffers are jumping ship before the strippers hit. But jump on this: In a gang-phoner with the press, old hoofer Britney Spears was asked why she covered “I Love Rock-n-Roll.” “I love Pat Benatar!” she responded, gleefully. (Try Joan Jett, cutie.) Britney was also nervily asked, “Since you’re a virgin, how do you and Justin Timberlake work things out?” The answer? “I think we can move on to the next question.”
And that question is: Now that Justin may appear on Friends, reprising his role from the ‘N Sync movie, shouldn’t someone point out that it’s the part of a limp-wristed, lithping hairdresser?
But moving on to my own plea for racial tolerance: Focus is about a couple who are victimized because they’re wrongly thought to be Jewish, right? So what did the bacon-throwing reviewers say? “But William H. Macy and Laura Dern don’t even look Jewish!” Oy! Even Macy admits he told the director, “You got the wrong guy,” and was assured, “No—it’s important that . . . you don’t remotely look Jewish.” Triple oy! I never thought I’d be lecturing the preachers, but hey, folks, there’s no one way to “look Jewish,” OK? It’s a faith, not a nose style.
And now, goy toy Anne Heche got mad at The Advocate for asking if her hubby’s ever had a gay experience? This from the open-booked sexpot who says love is fluid and who breaks her bi back to insist it’s OK to sleep with either gender! But I guess I’m sounding like a mental patient who thinks he’s from the planet K-Y. Maybe Richard Gere can take my energy and turn it into compassion.