Move over, Pollock. Get out of the way, Frida. The really wacky artists have come to town in shows that sing, dance, and pour a little seltzer down your pants. On Broadway, Vincent in Brixton actually has a character telling the young Van Gogh, “If there’s something you want in life, you’ve got to grab it!” Suddenly you feel as though impressionism has met Oprah in a very dark alley, but fortunately the play isn’t all on that level or I would have cut off part of my face. At the Public, the Radiant Baby musical about Keith Haring is also half spunky, half banal, and all bizarre. Dubiously starting like a ZOOM episode, the show recovers when it takes off on the Paradise Garage and Andy Warhol in sequences with inspiration to match the energy. But when Keith is turned into the Man of La Mancha—when he sings, “Gotta find a place where I belong,” or a friend croons to the artist, “You gave me focus/You showed me wonder”—the show sprays graffiti on your mind that you can’t wait to wash off. Picture Rent meets Charlie Brown in a manic, impossible dream.
Alas, I can’t even get much satisfaction out of actual artwork these days. The da Vinci show at the Met is a nightmare, with hundreds of magnifying-glass-wielding people gathered around every little drawing of a baby’s head. I prefer something splashier and less populated, thank you—and no, that’s not your cue to mount a bomb musical called Hello, Mona!: The Life and Times of That Other Leo, with an opening-night party at a Renaissance fair.
Speaking of babies’ heads: With R. Kelly topping the charts, R. Polanski up for Oscars, and Michael Jackson more famous than ever, pedophilia charges are starting to become really good career moves, thanks to our society which forgives, forgets, or simply disbelieves. In fact, now that Mr. Rogers is living in the big neighborhood in the sky, maybe one of those three can be the one to take over Mr. R’s TV hosting duties and heartwarmingly sing, “Will you be mine?” Perhaps not.
Among adults, the hottest new party trends in the gay neighborhood are “booty bumping” and “disco dumping.” No, they’re not funky new dances—booty bumping has the jaded set getting drugs blown up their butts through a straw, while disco dumping has wasted, often booty-bumped queens making a poopy in their pants, usually trying to flush their dirty underwear later (which explains why club toilets are so often stopped up). Aren’t you proud to be gay?
Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake is obviously proud to make distinctive solo career choices. The sinewy heartthrob—who’s done a homoerotic spread in Arena Hommes Plus, played both a swishy hairdresser and young poofter Elton John, and longed to star in the movie of Rent—will reportedly now play gay on a Will & Grace episode. (He’ll be a homosexual con artist. I wonder what the con is.) I guess Justin loves running around exclaiming that *NSync song title: “Girlfriend”!
Straight TV veered off course when some of the bachelors courting Anna Nicole Smith on her season premiere set off my gaydar alert so insistently that only queer dogs could hear it. In fact, several of the suitors seemed like actors, and the whole “live” episode built around them came off so scripted—not to mention laden with pretaped segments—that it should have been narrated by the phlegmy woman from those Gevalia commercials.
Things got spontaneous again at Paper magazine’s party for Pianist star Adrien Brody at théo where I was privy to a lot of glib gab that gave me focus and showed me wonder. Jeremy Renner, who played the title role in Dahmer, told me he just shot S.W.A.T. with Colin Farrell, “and Colin parties like no one. His trailer was full of beer. But I love him—and when he comes on the set, even after one hour’s sleep, he’s very professional.” (I guess he flushes his underwear.) An on-screen partier like no one, Jason Schwartzman plays a speed freak in Spun, and told me, “I had dinner with my mom [Talia Shire] when I still had makeup on from stage three of my character’s sleep deprivation. She was like, ‘What the fuck happened? Have I lost my son?’ ” Nearby, not even wearing stage-one drag makeup, John Cameron Mitchell told me Schwartzman auditioned for a part in his Hedwig movie, “but he was a top—he wanted things his way at the audition, but in a nice way. He was a friendly top, and I think I needed a friendly bottom.”
At the same table, The Hours‘ friendly author Michael Cunningham assured me it’s rough at the top. “There are never enough prizes,” deadpanned the Scripter’s Award winner. “No one loses interest in them no matter how debased or obscure. But it’s always important to remember as a prize winner that you’re up there with Pia Zadora.” (I wish!) Still, campaigning’s mandatory, so Cunningham admits he “had to perform like an accordion grinder’s monkey for Academy voters at the Four Seasons. God forbid there’s a voter unseduced. Meryl was sitting at my table with the medal of honor from France around her neck. She said she was wearing it with irony. Then you should have quote marks around your chest!”
A few entrées away, the sensational Adrien Brody wasn’t carrying around his Oscar nomination plaque, even with punctuation. I asked the rising star about Iraq and he started to answer—he’s anti-war—but his publicist promptly shrieked, “Party questions!” All right, something lighter: What about Polanski’s statutory rape conviction? “It’s constantly discussed,” said Brody, “and it’s a distraction from how magnificent the film is. I never chose to get involved with that. It’s not my place. I feel the film is amazing, and it’s so far in the past.” Well, I feel Polanski should win just for having done—I mean directed—Rosemary’s Baby.
There was no Pianist envy at Nothing Like a Dame 2003, benefiting the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative—the entertaining all-star revue reveled in its own big ovaries. Columnist Liz Smith and ex-Texas governor Ann Richards were very cute duetting on “I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande),” and afterward, Liz told Ann, “You are a handsome piece of horseflesh—or I mean woman flesh, whatever you are.” Another highlight had Kathleen Turner emerging with her woman flesh covered for a change, but her mic not working, as a certain tension took over the room. A frantic stagehand raced out with a second mic, which also didn’t work, and by time he ran out with a third one, the understandably peeved Turner threw him a look that so clearly said “shove it,” it sent chills. (She simply projected, sans electronics, and was fine.)
Alas, there’s one less belle to answer—Sarah Pettit, the Out co-founder turned Newsweek senior editor who tragically died of lymphoma recently. The Quaker memorial service for Pettit brought out a gorgeous bunch of gay literati who eloquently summed up her brilliance, rage, recipes, impatience, and lust for life. It was all so trenchant that I sat there wondering how I could book these people to spice up my own memorial or at least my musical. Among other tidbits, we learned that a writer who was late with a rewrite once explained to Pettit, “My boyfriend with AIDS is getting a shunt put in his head,” to which she memorably replied, “That excuse might work in Boston, but it won’t fly in New York!” God, I miss the bitch.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 11, 2003