Ever since Being John Malkovich, everyone’s been dying to climb into Malkovich’s mind in order to appreciate the extremely rarefied air up there. But Malky himself has been busy climbing into other people’s noggins—like that of Alan Conway, the con artist who tried to crawl into the head of Stanley Kubrick and in the process convince everyone he really was Kubrick. (End of climbing-into-head motif here. It’s just not working.)
In the candy-colored Colour Me Kubrick, opening next week, Malkovich romps around as Conway, a gutsy gay who aggressively deceived people so he could be feted and ass-kissed without ever having to set up a single camera shot. “I really enjoyed it,” Malkovich told me by phone from South Africa, where he’s filming the post-apartheid drama Disgrace. “I liked the character and the people on the movie.” Wait, he actually felt for sleazy Alan Conman, I mean Conway? “Yeah,” he said, “because he’s just pretending to be someone he’s not, which is the definition of showbiz people, no? He has fun and he’s quite pitiful and pathetic. I like that—that reminds me of life.”
The pathetically fun guy, Malkovich added, was a failed travel agent and pretty much a loser at everything—”except he dresses very glam. You gotta give him that! He had no aspirations whatsoever. He’d never even seen a Kubrick film. He tried to watch Lolita and got very bored after a few minutes. He knew nothing about Kubrick at all!”
Perhaps to compensate, Conway laid on all kinds of crazy accents, figuring the zanier he came off, the more people would buy him as an eccentric auteur. “I wanted a sort of fake American kind of Yiddish South African Korean thing,” explained Malkovich, “with either some Irish or Danish thrown in. That’s harder than it sounds!” And it sounds pretty hard.
Well, cons are definitely in the air, I noted in my adorable Brooklyn twang. There were those two big literary scandals last year, and there’s a RICHARD GERE movie coming out about hoaxer CLIFFORD IRVING. Isn’t it all—I opined brilliantly—a reflection of our shady administration? “No,” Malkovich shot back. “I doubt this is the first administration that has conned someone. And this was written before this administration was even elected. People just like con men.” Before he took off into just South African accents, my man Malkovich tried to con me that he’s not a big weird, fabulous icon. Don’t people think of him as a fascinatingly loopy intellectual? “I don’t know,” he swore. “I never think about it and I never ask them. Sometimes you might find someone in a mall who says, ‘You’re scary,’ but generally I don’t think people think about me, period, and for good reason. They have a lot on their minds!” But not that much in their minds—which is why we’re all trying to climb elsewhere.
As long as we’re angling for a view into bizarre cinematic thought processes, let me note that now is the time when movie moguls scramble to throw together disparate Oscar winners into seemingly can’t-fail projects. Well, I’ll give them a free one. Let’s put JENNIFER HUDSON and
ALAN ARKIN into a sort of a reverse Driving Miss Daisy—now! See, she’d play an r&b singer being driven by a racist chauffeur to shoot a reality show. They’re at odds from the first moment, but since Arkin’s character survived the Holocaust, where his parents were ripped out of his arms, at least he knows the importance of family. As he warms up to Hudson and realizes not all black people are bad, Arkin convinces her to skip the cheesy career gig and instead go look for her mother, who abandoned her when she was a kid. On their road trip, the two find they’re way more similar than they’d thought, sharing alternately wacky and poignant experiences tracking down Mom, who turns out to be JENNIFER HOLLIDAY and who ?—this not being a clichéd movie—still has no use for her daughter whatsoever. Hudson is shattered, but Arkin shrugs and says, “So what?” “What do you mean ‘so what’?” responds Hudson. “You said family is everything!” “It is,” he replies, grabbing her hand with paternal love and deep significance. It all ends with Hudson sobbing her way through three future-Oscar-nominated songs.
By the way, I have a script for HELEN MIRREN and FOREST WHITAKER too, but it’s even more pitiful and pathetic.
Meanwhile, real-life conflicts have been better than any movie I could dream up. Seeing as I like to kick up some literary trouble, I asked KEVIN SESSUMS, whose Mississippi Sissy memoir is getting good reviews, how he felt about NORAH VINCENT‘s petulant pan in the Times. (She said he failed to make his personal heartbreaks compelling and he exhibits no voice.) Bingo. “Well, she’s a right-wing lesbian polemicist,” shot back Sessums, “who doesn’t seem to have a lyrical bone in her body. She hates memoirs and, according to some mutual friends (yes, we have mutual friends, believe it or not), hates Southern gothic literature as well. Just my demographic. Plus, she’s so myopically Caucasian she never even acknowledges that there are African Americans in my book. It’s about race in the South in the 1960s as much as it is a coming-of-age story about a gay boy. But she only focused on the sensational aspects of the story—none of the strands that were about maternal love or the sweet tension of the longing all little gay boys have for female companionship.
“She seems also to be jealous of the traumas I suffered and to wish she could have suffered a few of them herself in order to be able to explain her obvious anger. And she goes out of her way to ridicule my mentioning that I have a big dick. I mention that I did for a sixth-grader in one paragraph in a book of 305 pages! She obviously doesn’t like people with dicks of any size!” I’ll stop this right there. I don’t want violence!
I tucked my giant cheesesteak and sought refuge in the brotherly love of Philadelphia, where the illustrious Strikes bowling alley beckoned with some chicken wings and ice cream as ROSIE O’DONNELL and her wife KELLI hosted an event for their R Family Vacations. Rosie and I long ago buried the hatchet—in DONALD TRUMP. In fact, when I told her I was really in town to judge Mr. Gay Philadelphia and I felt bad because I’d defended her in the war against pageant meister Trump and felt hypocritical objectifying men in Philly, she assured me, “It’s OK with gay guys. It’s not OK with Donald, with his awful hair, torturing pretty young girls!” Besides, we weren’t going to chastise the Mr. Gay Philly guys if they partied or kissed members of the same sex!
And the pageant brought so much more than mere triumphs of the flesh. Contestants had to sport evening wear, show off fancy lingerie, and even answer challenging questions in between zingy performances by local drag stars BRITTANY LYNN and AREYANNA VON MOI. Dimpled co-host REICHEN LEHMKUHL supposedly was paid $2,500, which basically nabbed him standing there and looking good, though he defiantly refused to take off any clothes except for his hanging sweater. When a contestant was asked my penetrating question—Was Anna Nicole the new Marilyn, Di, or
SUZANNE SOMERS?—righteous Reichen seemed a little offended (he probably wasn’t the only one) and told the crowd, “I got to confront DREW BARRYMORE about playing Anna Nicole Smith on Saturday Night Live. She felt really bad about it!” On an even less feel-good note, Reichen ended by begging the audience to think about how out gays aren’t welcome to die in Iraq. No, but at least we’re allowed to cheat on boy-band members!
The rest of the time in fab Philly was spent catching the sprawling flower show, where I was far from the only pansy on display. Sadly, we didn’t get to take in the “Scoop on Poop” exhibit at the natural history museum, but I’ve been crawling into people’s rears ever since to make up for it.
Web extra: The long running club the Roxy just closed, even though I once wrote, “After the apocalypse, there will be only CHER, cockroaches, and the Roxy.” The place where I spent every single Saturday night in the ’90s—I became such a regular that my face was literally on the drink tickets—was a pulsing playground for big chested Chelsea guys and even larger titted drag queens—all cartoon creatures with fake bosoms and a burning need to party. As time went on, the drag queens became less welcome, and the room became filled only with the shirtless studs sweating to alienating techno with the help of various narcotics du jour. I went anyway, but was more excited when Madonna and Cher dropped by to give special “surprise” performances that had been announced months in advance. Well, Cher is still around and so are those cockroaches, but Roxy passed on—and I know that must be true because the Times just noticed the place and ran an article.
Dancing to her own beat, Screamin’ Rachael is a music biz presence who leaps forward whenever there’s some crazed scandal seizing the headlines. She generally knows something. This time, she’s telling me she knows about documents that will surface that will grant JAMES BROWN‘s ex, TOMIE RAE HYNIE, 17% of the estate. God, I just can’t seem to get my mind off happy Hynies.
Speaking of holes, did last week’s column (in the actual paper) seem to have one? That’s because the new, writer-unfriendly layout allows for fewer words, so a sentence was zanily plucked out of the middle because it had “gone over.” I’d explain further but I . . .