One of TV’s Desperate Housewives is moonlighting as a desperate father turned desperate mother. Explain please, Michael. OK, well, DUNCAN TUCKER‘s Transamerica—which pops up in the Tribeca Film Festival—has the esteemed FELICITY HUFFMAN as Bree, a conservative pre-op transsexual who learns that while she was living as a man, she fathered a son, and whoopsy, he’s currently a hustler who needs to be bailed out of jail. The result is a surprisingly conventional road movie, despite its offbeat exchanges. (Bree: “Jesus made me like this so I could suffer and be reborn like he was.” Son: “So you’re cutting your dick off for Jesus?”)
As the would-be holy/holey/wholly girl, Huffman looks a bit like the adorable KATHY GRIFFIN, which means she truly captures tranny realness. “I’m so glad,” Huffman gushed in a phoner when I said she looked the part. “That’s what I did all the work for—to not only make the emotional journey true, but also be true to that world.”
At first, though, she didn’t want the job at all and begged Tucker to get a man instead. “I thought casting a woman would rob it of its inherent drama,” Huffman explained. “I felt the drama lies in the sexual assignment, that you hate what’s between your legs. But the drama actually comes from feelings that everyone can relate to—alienation, isolation, and self-consciousness. That’s what the movie’s about, not what’s under my dress.” Which is a penis, right? “Yeah!” she deadpanned. “Don’t tell anyone on Desperate Housewives. That’s the third-season mystery!”
The second season’s will no doubt be TERI HATCHER‘s giant, two-headed schlong. But back to the movie: As a woman playing a man who’s really a woman, Huffman had to practically chop off her regular voice and body language. “I take my femininity for granted,” she said. “I can wear pants and stand like a man and it doesn’t jeopardize who I am in the world. But when you’re a transsexual, you don’t want to show that. It’s all about sucking it in and taking up less space.” (Hey, I try to do that all the time. I must be a transsexual!)
All right, enough with the sad jokes. In fact, Huffman’s hubby, WILLIAM H. MACY, was glad the movie didn’t treat her tranny essence like a gag. And Huff herself was so moved that a week after wrapping, when she started shooting Housewives, she still felt the role’s pseudo-hormonal effects. “My voice was about four octaves lower,” she told me, “and my mannerisms were different. I said, ‘I think I’m bad in this series. Or maybe I’m transitioning!’ ”
This seemed like a good cue for me to lower my voice and transition to the Housewives divas’ Vanity Fair cover shoot, supposedly the most tempestuous bitchfest since the last Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “It’s a lot of fury over nothing,” swore Huffman (who, as even straights know, plays the ex-career lady Lynette). “The truth is, everybody’s been waiting for us to fight from the first press we did.” But they fucking don’t!
As always, I saved the most potentially dial-tone-inducing question for last: When those now legendary false reports said that one of the show’s cast was coming out as a lesbian, did anyone think it was Huffman? “I don’t know,” she said, then laughingly added, “Maybe after this movie!”
MEANWHILE, ON HYSTERIA LANE . . .
Apparently, TINA BROWN thinks Desperate Housewives is already post-peak—you know, it’s not necessarily her hot pick of the week anymore. I learned this at an event for the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room from a gung ho producer for Tina’s struggling cable program, who insisted, “You should write about how great the show is. We have an amazing audience. JOHN MCCAIN, WARREN BEATTY, and the CLINTONS watch it!” “Are you daft? You’ve booked every media person on earth except me,” I snarled. “And they won’t write about it!” she said.
I was beyond heartbroken, until running into MIKE WALLACE, who graciously blurted, “Hello, young man.” Sometimes there’s God so quickly.
An even further-from-death human got a retrospective with MOMA’s tribute to MARC FORSTER, who’s only directed five films, but managed to talk onstage with moderator WILL FERRELL for close to two and a half hours. That’s partly because he and Ferrell both had phlegmy colds and kept stopping to blow their noses, but it’s also because Forster’s canon is diverse enough to draw nonlinear miles of commentary. He’s spanned everything from sudden infant death syndrome (Everything Put Together) to capital punishment (Monster’s Ball) to icky-wicky flying children (Finding Neverland, which Forster admitted fudged some facts because “I didn’t think of it as a biopic”). Also stretching out the conversation were guest stars like SEAN COMBS, who dropped by to praise Forster and ask him for another job, and MEGAN MULLALLY, who ambled onstage admitting, “Yeah, I was in the dead-baby movie.”
This is probably not the right time to bring up that Broadway star who mowed over a child in an unfortunate accident and now has to sit onstage every night and listen to the line, “You’re in a good mood. Did you run over a child today?”
KIDDIE KIDDIE BANG BANG
But while we’re on the subject of theater and unfortunate youth: Just like Doubt, Broadway’s other best new play, The Pillowman, is about someone who’s accused of harming children by finger pointers who verge on oppressive. Just like in Doubt, responsibility, suspicion, storytelling, and persecution come up as themes. But Doubt is tight, old-fashioned drama, while The Pillowman is a long slab of Kafka-meets-Grimm darkness that goes to extra-twisted places, biting off too many themes, but with dazzle to spare. So this year’s Tony voters will be faced with a difficult choice: a creepy child-killing tragicomedy or a relatively nice pedophilia play? (Though they can always agree on a lifetime achievement award for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘s Childcatcher.)
In other offbeat awards news, Lincoln Center has a shocker coming, and it’s even wilder than when the character of Gustav III entered disguised as a fisherman in Un Ballo in Maschera! You see, on June 20, the HX Awards—hosted by the gay-bar magazine also known as Homo Xtra—will take place, honoring potty-mouthed drag queens, half-dressed bartenders, steamy club nights, and gay-gay-gay entertainment. And this year, instead of being held in some dark West Side club populated mainly by the nominees and presenters, the ceremony will take over the plaza of Lincoln Center! And the Lincoln Center folks know about it! I feel the drama lies in the sexual assignment.
CHECK OUT THE ROAST BEEF CURTAINS
Comeback queen JANE FONDA doesn’t hate what’s between her legs. In fact, she’s telling interviewers she designed the atrium of her gigantic Atlanta loft just like a vagina. And vice versa, I presume . . . Sources tell me another aesthetic goddess, DOLLY PARTON, has tattoos of butterflies around her nipples. She once showed them to JENNIFER SAUNDERS. No, I have no idea . . . I saw Glass Menagerie‘s Sarah Paulson holding hands with longtime pal AMANDA PEET at a recent party—in a totally cute, friendly way. The next night I spotted Paulson at another event with girlfriend CHERRY JONES, and the body language was more intimate and meaningful. I hope ELLEN DEGENERES never gets near either one of them.
Speaking of Peet, a talkinbroadway.com regular swears she (or maybe MICHELLE WILLIAMS) and PATRICK WILSON will be holding hands in a Barefoot in the Park revival. This is how it goes. But my own man paws are applauding gossip lady JEANNETTE WALLS, who’s triumphed with her poignant memoir The Glass Castle. Well, I hear this Castle is being looked at by all manner of major stars. It will inevitably be a movie . . . Finally, an ass castle goes to the Us Weekly ding-dong who gushed on TV that BRITNEY‘s “a wonderful role model for all these young fans because she did things in the traditional way. She got married, then she planned a baby, and now she’s actually having a baby.” Yeah, with a man she stole away from his girlfriend, with whom he’s had two babies! Now kindly cut off your dicks for Jesus and leave this column via the uterine canal. M.M.