The call came inviting me to a Plaza Hotel tea party hosted by Dame Julie Andrews to promote the TV movie Eloise at Christmastime, and before they could even say when, I started running there with my bloomers half off. After all, it was The Sound of Music that made me gay, Thoroughly Modern Millie that made me a music hall queen, and Victor/Victoria that made me a drag queen.
Nobody does well-accessorized decency like Julie Andrews, and I was determined to pounce on her milky bones and see if the stuff rubs off.
When I arrived for the event, Julie (who played the nanny, of course) and the girl who played Eloise had been assigned to stand in a corner and pose for souvenir photos with anyone who wanted. I was horrified, appalled, and dismayed, and waited on line for 20 minutes! Julie posed delightfully, of course, and took the news that she changed my life by sweetly responding, “Oh, really?” (And no, it didn’t rub off.)
At my table, Tony winner Debra Monk—who played the hansom cab lady—said the horse ran away on the first day of shooting and had to be tracked down. (Sounds like the horse should be in Taboo.) After 10 finger sandwiches, I tracked down the original illustrator, Hilary Knight, to ask if Eloise is a big old brat. “She’s an exuberant, inquisitive child,” he said, looking pained, “but not a brat!” At this point, an exuberant, inquisitive little bitch stormed up to my table, grabbed the Eloise doll at the center, and ran away with it. Rather than have the li’l darling seized and made into kiddie kebab, I decided to finally grow up—but next time I see that petite monster, I’ll shave her head and make her watch The Cat in the Hat 20 times. (By the way, Mike Myers uses his Linda Richman voice for a very verklempt feline.)
The Eloise movie? Very cute, though having one of its two very supporting black characters be a maid—oh, really?—wasn’t.
With a maid and a nanny guarding over my empty house, I went out to see the muy strong Anna in the Tropics, which is very Arthur Miller meets telenovela and starts with some overplayed dialogue right out of “I like to be in Ame-ree-ka.” But the actors settle into their parts and the themes—tradition versus progress, life imitating long novels—gorgeously come alive through florid writing and the most seductive lector since Hannibal.
In a case of life imitating the Catskills, Laughing Room Only has ancient references (escargot jokes!), feeble songs (Starbucks satires!), and cheaper sets than an Encores rehearsal, but at least Jackie Mason‘s observations are so borderline appalling they sometimes amuse. (Don’t come late, though; he’ll call you “a Nazi bastard.” In fact, don’t come at all; if this thing is still running, then Bobbi Boland‘s just been optioned for a series of movies.)
Meanwhile, American Nazi bastards have been mean to Frenchies for not joining in the gruesome liberation of Iraq, but French Canadian writer-director Denys Arcand told me that’ll be resolved faster than you can boil some escargots, ha-ha! At a Plaza Athenée dinner for his film The Barbarian Invasions, poetically enough, Arcand said the rift “is just a minor blotch, and I’m sure I’m right!” I was so happy, I almost didn’t tell Arcand that Invasions—about a dying father and his estranged son—is not the only such flick coming out. “It’s in the air,” he said. “Twelve years ago, I did Jesus of Montreal and people said, ‘Don’t you know that as we speak, Scorsese is shooting The Last Temptation of Christ? What are you thinking?’ ” The guy was scaring me now, so I grabbed the doll on the table and ran home to mommy.
Also in the air, movie-wise, is some tragic news for froufrou queens. After last year’s spate of girlie-girl flicks like Chicago, The Hours, and Far From Heaven, the straight-male brutes have regained control of Hollywood to crank out sweaty Oscar fare like Mystic River, Master and Commander, Cold Mountain, The Missing (the brownest movie ever made), 21 Grams, and The Lord of Mo’ Better Rings. I’m staying home with dolly. (By the way, the studios are battling the no-screener insanity with more screenings than my prostate’s been through. Fox is showing Master and Commander every single weeknight at seven, plus Tuesdays and Sundays at two, from now till the Oscar ballots are in. If you haven’t seen it by then, you’re probably Jack Valenti.)
Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging the other way on TV, with more girl-talk-filled gossip shows than ever. Not only are E! and VH1 constantly one-upping each other with It’s Good to Be . . . and The Fabulous Life of . . . extravaganzas, but now Bravo and A&E are developing gabby, gossipy specials of their own. How do I know this? Because my phone’s been ringing with requests, and it’s good to be . . . me!
In the meantime, you want some actual gossip? I hear that PR consultant Dan Klores recently bagged $50,000 from the Hilton family, mainly for advising their controversial daughter Paris Hilton, “Whenever you see a camera, cry.” Hey, it worked for Klores’s other advisee, Lizzie Grubman; she’s eating escargots again!
Practically welling with tears of joy, Tom Cruise started preaching about Scientology at the Last Samurai junket, pretty much from the first question. If someone asked about the cause of his success, Tom would answer, “Scientology.” If someone said, “Pass the salt,” he’d say, “No, pass the Scientology.” To which I say, er . . . Tom’s terrific and Scientology’s absolutely, unbelievably fabulous! Don’t kill me, guys!
And don’t hate me if I reveal that a casting call for a West Coast Last Samurai premiere party asked for “beautiful Asian women” to “dress as village women . . . and mingle ‘in character,’ helping to create the ambience of ancient Japan circa 1870s.” For no money! This caused a ruckus, some Asian Americans wondering if a movie studio would liven up a bash for an antebellum flick by having black people running around in chains (or maybe as maids from Eloise).
With its own exclusive bent, the last chozzerai, Avalon, finally opened its separate Spider Club, aiming for a crowd of aching fabulosity. But on opening night, I saw six publicists from four different firms and no celebrities, though I’ll admit it was early. (I’m sure there were more publicists later.) And the attempt to make the old library room into a clubbie answer to Soho House wasn’t painful—the joint’s “relaxing,” according to co-owner Steve Adelman—either despite or because of the glitzy-barn ambience, complete with dozens of hanging disco balls, scores of mini-mirrors on the walls, and endless ’80s music in your noggin. Alas, the pale lighting smooths out everyone’s skin, so there are gonna be a lot of people hooking up for sex, then screaming when they get into a cab together.
The next night, Avalon feted photog Patrick McMullan‘s So80s book, the tome having already been celebrated at a department store bash, two gallery openings, a dinner, and everything short of Patrick standing in a corner with Julie Andrews for souvenir photos. The net effect was like the world’s biggest high school reunion, with touching moments like James St. James running into restaurateur Hayne Suthon and exclaiming, “Swamp Pussy!” I wanted to cry—but was waiting for the cameras.