It’s pilot season—in my mind, at least—which doesn’t require you to don your hottest look and hang out in airport lounges. It means it’s time for extroverts, any extroverts, to appear in sample TV projects, all sample TV projects, even if they make Jackass look like Antiques Roadshow. If you do enough pilots, the thinking goes, you might eventually land something that actually airs—and honey, I’ve been busting my SAG-ing ass trying! With a date book as empty as my Vicodin container, I’ve unwittingly become the king of the kooky cable pilots—and I relay this not to brag (in fact, it’s sad and desperate), but to generously reveal some of the inner workings of this nutty biz.
The best pilots, one learns, offer something different, or at least something familiar, with newish packaging and attitude. The worst are equally easy to spot, and are mainly distinguished by their sheer pointlessness and utter lack of urgency. Not long ago, I cameo’d on a pilot hosted by a skinny model who asked pretend-partyers what their favorite band was, then volunteered, “My favorite band is Courtney Love!” The show’s a major network hit right now—not. But just weeks ago, I did something called The Movie Show with Al Roker, and industry experts—well, my folks—say this one could make people forget Ebert and whatshisname. (But only if it’s chosen, mind you. Like whores, pilots are useless unless they’re picked up.)
Even more recently, I—still available—joined the panel on a Richard Belzer-hosted Sci-Fi Network pilot called The Belzer Connection, which examines conspiracy theories surrounding famous tragedies. (Maybe it’ll address that model.) The episode they taped looked into Princess Di’s death, a situation that left the world with an empty feeling, deep suspicions, and that awful Elton John song. Everyone on the show voiced wonderfully paranoid opinions, culminating with fellow panelist Ice-T poignantly admitting, “I think I’m gonna die violently. I won’t have the luxury of old age”—a statement that made even John Lydon wince a little.
Oh yeah, Lydon was on the panel too—seated next to Third Watch‘s Amy Carlson—and he spent the afternoon doing his entertainingly bratty “I hate royalty” routine, if more soberly than in the ’70s. (He was cheerily guzzling a Tropicana.) Asked to say something for a mic check, the ex-Sex Pistol chose to drone, “Hello, my name is John. I’ve got no knickers on.” During a break, he blew his nose and told Belzer, “We’re bored—and you’re the chairman of the bored. . . . I can autograph [the snot] for you.” (Belzer declined.) And when someone stumbled on some words and had to do it again, Lydon smirked and said, “Who cares?”
By the end of the taping, it was clear that Lydon felt Di was extremely overrated as an icon and shouldn’t be missed at all. When I told him, off-camera, that it was starting to sound like he’s the one who did it to the Lady, he gigglingly responded, “I’d love to re-do it.” Just then, a peek at Lydon’s doodle pad revealed that the cutie had drawn a picture of Di’s death car, filled with screaming faces. God save the queen.
While we’re debunking Myth Things, here are some tatty gossip tidbits for the chairmen of the bored: I loved catching Elizabeth Hurley slipping on a chat show (a real one, not a pilot) and calling her boss, Estée Lauder, “scary.” . . . I got shudders of my own watching the Mrs. America Pageant (again, a real show) on the Pax channel, especially when Mrs. Alabama chirped that she hails from the “Confederacy.” Excuse me, but didn’t that fall some years ago? Isn’t it a bit like saying, “I hail from the Third Reich?” Even creepier, the woman won.
I forget who won the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards—I was too busy wondering which winners would even know what to do with a trophy shaped like an upside-down figure with legs spread—but I do know that if you put together Pink‘s pelvis, Tyra‘s tits, Gaultier‘s accent, the two Donatellas, and the way Stephen Tyler thanked “Norman [sic] Kamali,” you’d have one terrifying fashion creature. You had to love the procession of “gorgeous,” “edgy,” “enfant terrible” designers who make millions selling $7000 dresses. Add to the mix a few ill-spoken models and some pop stars thanking the people who do their nails, and you got a compelling car-wreck-style entertainment—though I did enjoy Pink’s performing, J.Lo‘s relative dignity, and Lenny Kravitz‘s drop earring. The sheer tunnel vision of the fashion crowd became clear when the Hairspray finale was greeted with stony stares; a number celebrating fat people who aren’t label slaves but look fabulous anyway thanks to Mr. Pinky’s Hefty Hideaway was not exactly what the bulimia doctor ordered. But the most shocking moment of all may have been that Penélope Cruz‘s entire announced “appearance” consisted of her saying four words—”always a new thing”—in the pre-taped Ralph Lauren segment. No wait, it was the commercial with Michael Jackson in whiteface! He’s finally completed his transformation! (Always a new thing.)
The worst restaurant opening last week promised Pink and Lenny Kravitz and delivered a model, relentless ’80s music, and some pass-along cheeseballs. Who cares? . . . A notch above was the bash for Pedro Almodóvar at Man Ray, where a young lady cornered me to say, “Everyone wants to fuck me, and since I’m an artist, they steal my ideas, and I get fucked twice!” Richard Belzer was there too—it all comes together—telling me how chilling he thought G. Gordon Liddy was on his pilot, especially when he talked about what governments are capable of. (Oh yeah, Liddy was on the panel!)
The best recent celebrity-family sighting had one of superchef Mario Batali‘s kids needing to be comforted near a McDonald’s, Batali explaining, “But Daddy and Mommy don’t eat at places like that!” Whether it’s a matter of snobbery or just plain survival I have no idea. . . . Does Hollywood ever say, “We don’t go there”? Yeah, if the director wants a more lenient rating (i.e., a bigger audience). Case in point: To nab an R, I hear, the no-knickers epic The Rules of Attraction sacrificed some of the suicide footage and also the way someone’s vomit spewed onto the virgin character’s back. (NC must stand for “non-restricted chunks.”) Alas, the movie’s bombed anyway, so they got fucked twice.
The reopening Limelight has been streamlined too, though the place’s name seems to be getting longer. It was going to be called Empire, then Escape, and now it’s been dubbed Republic@ Limelight. That’s the bizarre result of a compromise between the managers who want to preserve the Limelight name and those who want to run for their lives from it. Republic@Limelight will open late November, says promoter John Blair, who’ll do a Sunday gay night there—”and I’m calling it Limelight!”
Back in the limelight, Flower Drum Song is a middle-range Rodgers and Hammerstein tuner that doesn’t rate a total (moo goo gai) pan; it has too much pizzazz. But it’s weird that, though the revisers have conscientiously pared away some of the racial stereotypes, they’ve added a selfish, nervous-Nellie Bobby Trendy type who’s deemed too flaming to play a sailor at the Club Chop Suey—a plot innovation that sets gays back 20 years. Still, if it becomes a TV pilot, count me in.