Drop your “God Hates Me” T-shirts and brace yourselves, kids: Chelsea has peaked—it’s overinvaded, overpriced, and maybe just plain over. (And so am i for being the last one to say so.) Even the Chelsea boys themselves are starting to seek out other neighborhoods that won’t clash with their designer fragrances and mazelike facial hair. As a result, Hell’s Kitchen has stepped in with some cheap, young gay nightlife that’s unpretentiously fun, if not exactly innovative. The two most popular bars up there are Barrage, a sleek, personable hangout (despite the words “NO SMOKING” on the wall five times in large letters), and Therapy, which has lines forming around the block for the two floors of snappy socializing over Freudian Sips and Psychotic Episodes. (Relax, they’re drinks.) Therapy’s lower level is a sardine-packed meat market (that works for me), while upstairs has a high school cafeteria feel, all the cliques and claques crammed into tiny tables in twinkie heaven. The place draws happy, diverse gays who don’t make fun of the occasional oldies; after all, 40 is the new 30, and 18 is the new 35. But the most up-to-the-moment-dotcom thing about these new bars is how very basically clean, wholesome, and sock-hop-ish they all feel. Eeeew!
There’s shiny, giddy theater in the area too, replete with after-parties. A bash at the Ars Nova Theater brought out fresh faces of TV comedy like The Daily Show‘s Mo Rocca, who gets more play on VH1’s I Love the ’80s than I’ve gotten in a whore’s lifetime of sound bites. What’s that like? “I feel like one of the main purveyors of what can only be described as television crack,” said sardonic Mo. “When people of any social stratum start watching it, they can’t stop. It’s the New York magazine of television shows. No one wants to admit they read New York, but they do.” (I’ll admit it. I’m even the proud owner of a “student” subscription—for two decades now!)
Mo’s background? He worked on a PBS show “about a dog that dresses up in various classic roles.” Then he joined the world of dress-down by editing Perfect 10, “the only magazine that features models without breast implants.” Are there such things? “Yes,” he said, “but you have to import them from former Warsaw Pact countries.” He was serious.
My Freudian Sip all over my Freudian slip, I implanted myself on the “Boathouse Rocks” amfAR benefit at Tavern on the Green—even farther away from Chelsea—which had so many food stations that I spent the night pushing past secretarial types to grab yet one more ceviche. En route, drag star Coco LaChine told me she just directed her first porno film, called The Bachelor, and it puts the sin back in single. By the crab cakes, bachelor Liev Schreiber told me about the fully clothed Henry V he’s doing in the park. “It’s clunky,” he said, “but it’s supposed to be. It’s a really big play. It’s one of those plays that, every time there’s a war, it suddenly becomes much more intense.” And since Henry attacks France, the “freedom fries” crowd will probably come out in droves, right? Nah, said Liev, “the theater is full of liberals, and we’ve got a socialist English director.” “Oh good,” I said through a mouthful of bouillabaisse.
That inevitably led me to Chloë Sevigny, who’s in Vincent Gallo‘s The Brown Bunny, which reportedly just terrorized France via the Cannes Film Festival. I asked Chloë if she’s dating Gallo again, and she moaned, “Let’s not talk about that,” and ran for her life. I chased her down and asked her, more generally, about her career. “It’s picking up,” she said. “I made a movie in South Africa about AIDS. I play a novice.” “Oh good,” I said through a mouthful of new potatoes.
The next thing I knew, I was dabbing my lips with K-Y at a W Hotel party for the liquid’s other uses, hosted by costumer Patricia Field, who takes the can’t out of lubricant. The place was decked out as an exhibit of helpful suggestions, from “use it to slide rings on” (that came from a jeweler, naturally) to “use it to remove adhesive price tags.” (No, that wasn’t from Winona; they meant after you buy something.) By the way, Field has slid into doing a book for HarperCollins, co-written with club empress Chi Chi Valenti. “It’s a complete inversion of a style book,” Chi Chi informs me, “telling you how to find your own natural beauty—how to be more like Pat.” No title yet, but I suggest either Field of Dreams, Playing Field, or just It’s Pat.
As for the show Pat dresses—Sex and the City—HBO aptly screened its final season’s premiere at the American Museum of Natural History, where the display animals are undoubtedly all male. The first episode was a little too rote, though I did love Kim Cattrall having to un-handcuff her insider-trading stud from the bed so the FBI could use their own cuffs. But episode two brought back the old zing, especially when Cattrall says her motto is “Fuck me badly once, shame on you. Fuck me badly twice, shame on me.”
Jason Lewis, who plays the raw-food waiter who screws Cattrall—very well—was there, but he had to take me across the room to get his publicist’s approval before saying a word. She agreed to unlock his verbal cuffs—otherwise, shame on her—so the comely Lewis told me he and Cattrall used one of those 1,000 Sexual Positions-type books for research, “and I mostly sat there and blushed.” (You can see it on the show—from head to toe.) Why not use Cattrall’s own sex book? “Well, the author was there,” he said, sensibly.
And why was Mayflower Madam Sydney Biddle Barrows there (at the premiere, that is)? “I’m the original Sex and the City!” Sydney said. As for another Sex freak, out comic Judy Gold, she told me she’s been getting a crack at television crack these days. Judy’s face recently turned up on the screen at the gym, prompting a fellow treadmill bunny to shriek with excitement. The show? VH1’s I Love the ’80s!
I love ’em too, which is why I’m thrilled to hear the annual drag festival Wigstock might come back in a big burst of hairspray. Rocker-promoter Dean Johnson says that Howl!—an East Village arts fest—hopes to revive the poufy assemblage this September by staging it in Tompkins Square Park, where it all began. That’s too perfect for today’s kooky social landscape, considering that Hell’s Kitchen is a scaled-down, primordial version of Chelsea. We’re all going back to our roots, as it were, and it helps that they’re showing!
Over in the West Village, I spotted that charmed transvestite Eddie Izzard eating alone at an outdoor café two days after losing, I mean not winning, the Tony. So that old saw—”Being nominated is everything”—is a total lie. (Sidebar: I’m torn between two new drag names—Angie O’Plasty and Amber Alert. Which do you think will advance my career quicker?)
And now, I would also like to be alone—I just thought of another use for K-Y—but not until revealing that The Hulk turned me into the Skulk; I walked out after an hour of ponderous introspection mixed with screechy-weechy special effects. That shade of green would never make it in Hell’s Kitchen.