Beware of islands! Two weeks ago, the film press corps was terrorized by both Roosevelt Island (the dank, depressing setting of Dark Water) and Liberty Island (the soggy site of Fantastic Four‘s rainy premiere). Still, a few days later, we bravely trekked to The Island, the futuristic popcorn movie that turned out to be perfectly dry except for the giant pools of moist flesh known as SCARLETT JOHANSSON‘s lips. (And she has two pairs; she plays . . . no, never mind. The commercial may give it away, but damned if I will!) The scariest thing about the movie, actually, is its artillery of product placements, climaxing with an intriguing scene where lippy Scarlett looks in amazement at her own Calvin Klein commercial. (“I guess it’ll still be running in 2019!” laughed Camp director TODD GRAFF at the after-party.)
Anyway, while the stars pout and run a lot, STEVE BUSCEMI steals the whole thing as a token human, but it was Steve’s dad who hijacked the party, telling me he hates reading that his son is “frog-eyed and snaggle-toothed.” I do too; he’s totally hot (and more basset-eyed anyway). Whatever he is, amiable Steve is not exactly a soundbite machine, so to prompt him, I found myself turning into BAIRD JONES and asking him what’s the craziest thing he ever did to make money. “I once sold newspapers on the Triborough Bridge—in the truck lane,” Steve obliged. Now that’s scary. That bridge connects outer boroughs to the island!
People were running for the suburbs at a screening of ROB ZOMBIE‘s The Devil’s Rejects—in fact, several attendees ended up holding their stomachs and fleeing for the truck lane. (“That’s a good review!” Zombie exulted when I related this to him over drinks the next night, followed by taxidermy shopping at the Evolution store.) But for all its reveling in gore and meanness, I found the film a richly riveting redneck cesspool, studded with fun dialogue like “Death’s not an option” and “Do I stutter, bitch?”
And Zombie—the metal rocker turned grunge filmmaker—was quite affable in person, not a dead-rat-eating serial killer at all. The only child carny who ended up studying fine art at Parsons, Zombie told me he based a lot of the film—about a homicidal clan’s showdown with a vengeful sheriff—on his experiences with his own wacky family and its carnival cohorts. “In the ’70s that’s what the carnies looked like,” he said, “with long, greasy hair and bad teeth. You know, the guy who’s out on parole but is somehow running the Tilt-a-Whirl at the local fair.” Yeah—that’s my uncle too!
Is Zombie—who last did the related House of 1000 Corpses—making a comment on sadism or just joining in the fun? “Just joining in the fun,” he said, smiling. “I’m not making a comment on anything. Clearly, the bad people in the movie are disgusting and have no redeeming characteristics—except that they’re charismatic. I play off Charles Manson. When GERALDO RIVERA—who’s pretty charismatic himself—interviewed Manson, he used to come off like a piece of wood in comparison.” Well, I’d rather be sane wood than charismatic cuckoo droppings.
Anyway, will The Devil’s Rejects warp young minds? “Nah,” said Zombie. “I’ve been watching all kinds of stuff since I was a little kid and it didn’t affect me.” Pause. Big grin. “Not a good example.”
ROOS WITH A VIEW
My tummy settled at the premiere party for Happy Endings—nausea is not an option—especially when writer-director DON ROOS told me he’s still together with his boyfriend of 12 years, DAN BUCATINSKY. “All our friends are in long relationships too,” Roos said, bemusedly. “Boring people know boring people!” But Roos is the opposite of boring. His The Opposite of Sex was such a deft sexual satire they even made it into a toe-tapping out-of-town musical. And Happy Endings—with LISA KUDROW as an abortion counselor who gave a baby up for adoption—has gem-like performances, if a self-conscious, overloaded style that’s truly dividing folks. (“But people only tell me they like it,” Roos grinned.)
The topic is certainly scary enough. “Every human being feels they have some ownership over the process of birth,” Roos explained to me. His feelings? “Please, I’m gay,” he declared. “I’ve got to be pro-choice!” Well, would he and the boyfriend ever choose to un-boring up their lives and have a child? “We have a daughter,” he revealed, blithely. “Ugh,” I moaned. “I just showed my utter presumptuousness and internalized homophobia.” “That’s the best kind! It’s the strongest!” Roos laughed.
I’m pro-Fatal Attraction—the big-haired ’80s classic that demonized single working women and casual sex encounters while celebrating hollow family values—especially since it’s ripe for a raucous satirical revival. So here comes Off-Broadway’s diverting Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy, which puts distance upon distance from the material, with lots of stylized, self-referential shtick, plus a Greek chorus interrupting it all. It’s often too removed, but the fight scenes and the bunny are swell, and COREY FELDMAN, clearly having recovered from MICHAEL JACKSON once showing him a book about venereal diseases, does a perfectly preening MICHAEL DOUGLAS impression.
Feldman informed me that he’s a longtime Douglas fan, “and I contrived my characterization based on all of his characters wrapped into one. But it’s all about the lips.” I know—Scarlett Johansson told me. As for Corey’s hot bod—displayed to excellent effect in the show—he said he doesn’t work out per se, but he’s a vegetarian, he doesn’t drink, and he’s always dancing. Hey, me too—except for the vegetarian thing and the not drinking and the dancing!
There’s no chorus and in fact there are no accoutrements at all in Primo, another of those no-overhead evenings that, rather than dramatize events, have a solitary actor tell you what happened, in this case by reciting passages adapted from a memoir. (Imagine a Hamlet with one guy standing there saying, “Hi! My mother and my uncle, whom she’s dating, killed my father, and . . . “). Fortunately, Primo Levi’s detailed descriptions of his Holocaust horror are eternally worth hearing and the deeply committed ANTONY SHER barely pauses lest you start wanting someone else onstage. But don’t look in the Playbill or you’ll be less stirred by the survival-against-the-odds theme when you learn that the brilliant Primo apparently ended up offing himself.
A survivor of JOYCE DEWITT, spunky SUZANNE SOMERS is also doing the solo thing with The Blonde in the Thunderbird, which is described as “a one-woman musical joyride”—a subtitle that scared the bejesus out of me because Joy Ride, you’ll recall, was a horror film second only to The Devil’s Rejects. Actually, to us jaded city critics, Thunderbird is not far from that, though Home Shopping types might be riveted by its synthesizer-accompanied parade of personal psychodramas and upbeat resolutions. (“My cup runneth over!”) The show is a weird mix of self-help and self-congratulation, in which you learn everything imaginable about Somers as she talks back to prerecorded voices representing everyone from her alcoholic father to her cautious breast doctor, and gamely conquers unemployment, fear, cancer, and low self-esteem. Lightening up the crying jags, birth simulation, and flashback voices from her abusive childhood (“Who’s gonna be it tonight . . . it tonight . . . it tonight?”), is a really neat montage of Somers’s glamorous magazine covers. It all leads to our star finding release as a bestselling advice dealer who decides that everything’s a gift—even her son’s life-threatening accident, because as a result she got a really good therapist! I worship Suzanne’s stellar presence and radiant spirit, but a really good script doctor might have been better.
FIRE BURN AND CAULDRON BUBBLE
At a recent high-profile event, two long-famous African American stars were heard chatting about that Motown legend. Star one, a singing diva, volunteered, “I made up with her and buried the hatchet.” Star two, an award-laden movie-TV actress, reportedly chimed in, “Not me! I still think she’s a fucking bitch!” . . . As for more current fucking legends, WHITNEY HOUSTON has reached a whole new level on the mesmerizingly messy Being Bobby Brown reality show. If you were smart enough to read the captions recently (the Browns talk in such inimitably incomprehensible tones that they often require them), you saw Bobby reveal that Whitney once had a “doody bubble”—i.e., a turd—so big he had to manually pull it out. “That’s love!” observed someone else in the room. Whitney’s butt runneth over.
I hear the folks at A&E were in a tizzy recently when ZSA ZSA GABOR had a stroke. They must have thought she was a goner, dahling, because spies say they were trying to whip up a Biography about the lady faster than you can slap a petulant cop. Alas—I mean thank God—Zsa Zsa survived.
And how about Gabor’s ex-husband’s great granddaughter, PARIS HILTON? Well, she certainly lives, and so does her music CD, though Hilton is telling people it’s been delayed because three tracks were stolen and released online. (Gee, I wonder if they’re pornographic.) One of the surviving tunes is Paris’s cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” and DEBORAH HARRY, I hear, is surprisingly cool with the idea. And that’s the end of my blonde gossip, unless you wanted me to tell more about Suzanne Somers’ show. I didn’t think so.