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Thanks to all those tawdry gossip columns—don’t look at me—you know Tara Reid better than you know yourself; her life has seemingly been played out in the town square in daylight, from her broken-off romance with Carson Daly to her palship with Hamptons hurricane Lizzie Grubman and beyond. You forget that she’s an actress, but here she comes in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, a softhearted gross-out comedy that might make her other campus cootie epic, American Pie, look like a pricey soufflé by comparison, though Tara wisely underplays amid all the frat boys squeezing out dog jizz for éclairs or crapping into a wastebasket.

Over steak and potatoes at Heartbeat the other day, the 26-year-old veteran of The Big Lebowski and Josie and the Pussycats came off as a doll, and not an insipid Barbie, either. “It kind of sucks,” she said about all the scandal press. “I’ve become a big target lately. All they talk about is me partying, partying, partying. Yeah, when I go out, I like to have a good time like everyone else, but people forget that I work, too—and when I work, I work my butt off. I’m not this hell-kitten, badass party girl! But what do I do—lock myself in a room?”

Nah, they’ll just say the badass is playing with the minibar—or maybe throwing dog-jizz éclairs at the TV. The pert blond insisted that, despite reports, she and her family weren’t tossed out of a restaurant after an altercation recently—she decided they should leave—”and that thing about me throwing cakes and partying with Britney Spears is not even true.” Did the relentless media—you know, them—have a lot to do with her breakup with the doughy Daly? “Absolutely,” responded the un-hell kitten. “They’d say, ‘He cheated on her; she cheated on him’—stuff that wasn’t even true, but then you’d get suspicious and all of a sudden you’re fighting.” That happened with me and my last boyfriend, except it was all true.

As for Grubman, “She’s my friend and I feel sorry for the situation she got herself into. But I was never in the car with her that night—not even at the club. I don’t want to be in the story all the time. I don’t know what happened, and that’s the truth!”

Anyway, the movie. She loved the chance to play a journalist (for a college paper) and be on the other side of the fame game for a change. Even better, when her character realizes that a profile she wrote is too harsh, she actually adjusts it. “You never see that happen in real life!” exclaimed Reid. How would she like to adjust her own career profile? “I’d like to do something that means something,” she moaned. “Something that makes people think. I don’t want to play the sexy girl all the time. I want to surprise people. Believe me, I know it’s gonna take a lot of work. I need a lot of backtracking right now!” But expert money’s on her eventually getting all that pie, cake, and éclair out of her eyes and laughing last.

As long as we’re by the proverbial buffet table, let’s go partying, partying, partying with my mouth at the Jimmy’s Uptown Sunday gospel brunch, a joyous meeting ground for the devout and the ravenous. There I praised the Lord for collard greens as the New York Harlem Gospel Singers rocked the place with “My God Is a Washing Machine,” then Shirley Murdock served up even more hallelujah choruses over cookies (not éclairs). Later on, the badass party crowd sucked in some barbecued chicken at Bar K’s Patsy Cline contest, where MC Brenda Bergman said she’s lost 30 pounds by cutting out carbs and sugar. Isn’t it easier to just vomit? “No,” she said. “Usually, all that comes up is the salad.”

At Beige, over bar nuts, co-host Edwige told me she’s developed a fear of laundry ever since 9-11 happened while she was moving her load to the dryer. Honey, I was terrified of laundry way before that—though that all changed when I realized my God is a washing machine.

Theater, alas, has been throwing up a little too much light salad lately. The Smell of the Kill is a screechy, retro, kitchen-sink sitcom, and though the dish breaking and the golf ball up the cat’s ass may evoke elements of The Goat, this one’s actually about deer in a meat locker, not to mention three Jell-O-moldy suburban gals whose piggish hubbies sleep with the fishes. Don’t ask—just be glad a working clock is part of the set.

But time flies at the new Forbidden Broadway show, which retains a lot of old numbers (you can never get tired of Little Orphan Annie singing, “I’m 30 years old . . . tomorrow”) mixed in with new spoofs, all served with the malicious glee that can only come from a true love of the theater. It’s fabulous—only the Producers jokes don’t come off; singing gay Nazis defy zinging.

Oklahoma! (which gets creamed in Forbidden Broadway) is mercifully not so revisionist that Curly is now one of the Three Stooges. It’s pretty brown and faithful, and though the shady, lecherous (and overplayed) Middle Eastern character couldn’t come at a worse time and both the leading lady and the slut are charmless, I worshiped Andrea Martin‘s Edith Prickley-ish Aunt Eller, and by Act II, there’s enough other quality stuff poking through the corn husks to make things OK (l-a-h-o-m-a).

Fortune’s Fool is alternately foofy and frustrating, with one brilliant monologue in search of an éclair shell. But let’s hold on to our Playbills and belly up to the intermission bar for some gossip gimlets, shall we? I hear Kissing Jessica Stein‘s Jackie Hoffman has landed a part in Broadway’s Hairspray (a/k/a Kissing Harvey Fierstein). And a bevy of names is up for Party Monster (the movie about clubbie/killer Michael Alig). Spies say Marilyn Manson is negotiating to play the insane drag queen Christina, Chloë Sevigny will be the daft druggie Gitsie, and Wilson Cruz will portray victim Angel Melendez. Wackier and wackier.

Another kooky trio—author J.T. Leroy, Gus Van Sant, and John Cameron Mitchell—is headed to a gay porn convention in California, according to Leroy. Whaddya say we all join them there? . . . As for ex-gay conventions, it’s too bad the controversial Artists & Orphans didn’t win the documentary short subject Oscar. The director screaming, “We are not a cult!” in between trying to recruit Sir Ian McKellen and the boyfriend would have been great television. And what about that gay-December romance? Everyone’s so agog about it, but don’t all older straight people, when they’re finally in a position of power, go for a piece of pretty young tail? Why shouldn’t the queers, huh?

More pressingly, I’m a little concerned about Halle Berry‘s marriage. She’s probably still onstage thanking people for her glorious triumph, and meanwhile he was in Glitter! And by the way, for those who think Halle’s gushing was specific to that occasion, may I remind you that when she won a Golden Globe for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, she was so nuttily effusive she’d still be thanking people there if she didn’t have to go to the Oscars two years later.

Meanwhile, poor Robert Altman was snubbed, but he can take solace in the fact that the Best Foreign Film, No Man’s Land, has a TV interviewer character who’s a total rip from—I mean homage to—Opal in Nashville (via Christiane Amanpour). A pointed dark comedy with more English spoken than any foreign film I’ve ever seen, Land has a throwaway gay moment that’s a killer—and that’s coming from the hell-kitten, badass art-house whore of all time.

Extra Musings: Cracklin’ Rosie O’Donnell‘s at it again, railing against the supposed gay Nazis who were onto her sexual subterfuge all those years. The TV diva tells PlanetOut.com that outing pioneer Michelangelo Signorile is a “moron” who made her stay in the closet longer because she didn’t want to be associated with him, and she adds, “same goes for Musto.” Well, I didn’t expect Rosie to like me after years of my pestering her to be sexually honest in public, but to say she didn’t come out sooner because of the likes of me is just bad chronology. The reason I had to write all that critical stuff about her is that she wasn’t coming out—she was lying and hiding and putting forth that Tom Cruise bull day ater closety day. If a guest ever brought up something even remotely gay on her show, she’d usually freak and change the subject, making sure homo talk didn’t soil her apple-cheeked reputation as America’s most sexless single mom. Does that sound like a woman about to bust down the closet door, but who was driven back in by openly gay people’s complaints?

Rosie should stop attacking the folks who’ve always been brave enough to be out and should realize that gay players like Signorile changed media and public perceptions forever and helped create the world she’s able to be honest in (even if it’s only as her talk show’s going off the air and she has a book to promote). Meanwhile, the equally conflicted Andrew Sullivan‘s gloating on his Web site that the Rosie quote proves that certain “gay leftists” keep other gays in the closet—as if outing moved things backwards, not forward, and as if before outing, stars were shoving and pushing their way to the gay community center. I bet Sean Hayes would be jumping onto a Gay Pride float if it only weren’t for me and Signorile. I guess Sullivan’s forgetting that not that long ago, he wrote a piece for the Times in which he criticized celebs like Rosie for being so ambiguous and refusing to use specific pronouns when talking about their love partners!

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