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Celebrating the Late Karen Black at BAM

With those off-kilter features and that bold, confident carriage, she might have stepped out of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon: Karen Black was one of the most striking and strange character actresses of the 1970s, though she became relegated to lesser roles—and, sometimes, uncharitable jokes about her failed career—in the years after. But Black at her best was really too idiosyncratic to be a huge star. Instead, the actress, who died in August after a battle with cancer, came to represent the kind of oddball beauty and cubist grace that could find a home in American movies of the ’70s. No one else looked or acted like Karen Black; no one could if they tried.

It’s time to reconsider Black, and BAMcinématek’s eight-film retrospective, which runs October 18 to 24, is a good place to start. The series includes some of the pictures for which Black was best known, like Dennis Hopper’s 1969 Easy Rider, in which she plays an acid-tripping prostitute, as well as Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces (1970): Her depiction of Rayette, the waitress girlfriend of oil-rig worker Jack Nicholson, earned her an Academy Award nomination.

Even when Black wasn’t flashy, she was memorable, and arguably, she gave even better performances in less acclaimed movies. In Bill L. Norton’s marvelous Cisco Pike (1972), Black plays the self-possessed hippie girlfriend of Kris Kristofferson’s down-and-out drug-dealing Venice Beach musician; she hits the perfect balance between spaciness and shrewdness, two qualities you almost wouldn’t believe could exist in one character.

But Robert Altman may have known how to use her best. In Nashville, she plays a megastar country singer with shellacked hair and an equally lacquered demeanor. (Black also wrote and performed her own numbers for the movie.) Black’s features could look hard or soft depending on the role or the moment. In Nashville, as Connie White, she tilts heavily toward an angular, almost masculine determination, despite her sultry, country-sexy gowns. Connie doesn’t seduce her audience; she takes charge of them. When she performs at the Grand Ole Opry, she beams down at some eager little boys who have gathered at the front of the stage, bathing them in her klieg-light sex appeal. “What’s your name, honey?” she asks one of them with sugary faux benevolence. It’s as if she’s about to change them into gingerbread boys.

Altman gave Black an even more challenging role in 1982’s Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, his film version of Ed Graczyk’s play. Altman had directed the play on Broadway earlier that year, but it failed miserably. Thankfully, he committed it to film, even though it wilted at the box office, too, and in the years since its release, has been difficult to track down in any format. (BAM will be bringing a restored 35mm print, courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.)

The material is stiff and stagey. But what Altman’s actresses, Black in particular, do with it is remarkable. Five members of the James Dean fan club—played by Black, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Kathy Bates, and Marta Heflin—reunite at a Texas Woolworth’s 20 years after Dean’s death, each bringing along emotional baggage that apparently has grown heavier with each passing year. Black’s character, the tall, cool, sophisticated Joanne, may carry the most pain of all. She drives into town in a sleek sports car, and stalks into the diner in a look-but-don’t-touch white suit, appraising her old friends before she’ll allow herself to warm up to them.

As it turns out, Joanne used to be Joe, a sweet, fragile kid who hung out with the girls and who was as in love with James Dean as they were (in addition to being in a kind of love with one of them). Altman’s casting of Black is perfect, considering the somewhat androgynous angles of her face. But it’s Joanne’s vulnerability that Black brings to the fore. This is a character who left her small town because she had to; there was no possibility of acceptance there. Now, she’s imperious and aloof, like an Amazon from a tony cigarette ad. But when she confronts her friends and begins reeling out the story of what happened to her before she fully became Joanne, she reveals all the bruises beneath that marble surface, without overplaying a millisecond. Graczyk’s dialogue is overwrought, but Black wills it into submission with the skill of a snake charmer. Like the demoiselles in the painting, she appears to be all hard edges and angles; unlike them, she’s soft where it counts.

Credit: Images courtesy bam.org

Cutline: 1. Burnt Offerings; 2. Five Easy Pieces; 3. The Outfit

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Songwriter Cass McCombs Offers His Best Work to Date With Big Wheel and Others

Art can often be a constant process of refinement, but Cass McCombs has finally perfected his approach. This week, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter is set to release his most ambitious project to date, a sprawling two-disc album titled Big Wheel and Others. On none of his previous albums has the California-born, Brooklyn-based drifter so finely honed his songwriting talent.

With his 2008 breakthrough, Catacombs, McCombs found a balance between two of his strongest abilities: haunting love ballads like “Dreams-Come-True Girl,” and poignant character studies like “Jonesy Boy” and “Lionkiller Got Married.” Big Wheel and Others is a more focused culmination of these abilities, but it also marks a new chapter in his career.

In the past, McCombs’s songs have, more often than not, been a reflection of the artist and society at large. But new songs like “Big Wheel” are strikingly direct. McCombs has a unique talent for inhabiting characters, but on Big Wheel and Others, the voice is usually his own, the lyrics bolder and more sincere.

McCombs has been painted as a misanthrope in the media, mainly because of his reticence toward interviews and social media. But in conversation after a surprise performance at Bar4 in Brooklyn, there’s no smoke screen, no façade. He has the air of an artist comfortable in his own skin, unencumbered by the Internet’s mix of nasty comments and empty back-patting.

Considering his stance on social media, you would think he’d be up for trashing it a little bit. But weeks later, over the phone from LA, he simply says it’s not for him.

“To each his own,” McCombs explains. “I play music. That’s how I communicate with people.”

While clearly dodging the question, he’s also got a point. When you make music as intensely revealing as his, there’s really no need for constant elucidation. In a perfect world, most artists would share this view, but we live an age of oversharing where the curtain is always up, which makes McCombs one of very few artists to save all of his bleeding for the music.

This can make navigating an interview with him somewhat tricky. (His publicist once told a Nashville publication that McCombs would only conduct interviews with female journalists because it allowed him to open up more and speak more freely.)

It’s a bit of a coup to even get him on the phone.

There are rules, though. No questions about who played on the album or where he lives. He wants to talk “ideas in music on a universal level.”

Fine.

McCombs recently injured his hand skateboarding, and he explains he doesn’t believe in Western medicine. He’s been visiting shamans who have recommended herbs and a strict diet of hot food. He’s toyed around with meditation as well, but playing music, he says, is already quite meditative.

Onstage, it’s clear what he means. Even while wincing through a six-song set at Bar4, he locked into the hard-stomping groove on “Big Wheel” with eyes closed, head bobbing side to side.

“That’s really where it happens for me,” he says. “I don’t really feel like I can totally express myself in a studio. I’d rather be onstage.”

As the opener on his new album, “Big Wheel” is at once its centerpiece and also something of a mission statement. Hearkening back to McCombs’s early 20s, when he worked brief stints as a construction worker and a truck driver, the lyrics consist of shout-outs to steamrollers, bulldozers, and “driving far alone” intertwined with a peacenik ideology that has colored much of his recent work, including a tribute to jailed folk hero Chelsea Manning.

Since the early 2000s, McCombs’s creativity has thrived on his penchant for traveling. Though he divides most of his time between LA and New York, when he isn’t touring he often sets out driving cross-country, crashing on couches, visiting friends and writing songs along the way.

“Traveling and continuing to travel and listening to people’s stories has truly affected the way I write songs, because I’m able to directly put people’s stories into a song,” he says. “It’s very direct.”

In his lyrics, McCombs adopts the voices of people he meets on the road: outcasts, rejects, those relegated to the fringe of society, whose existence says something about where we are or might be heading. On another new song , “Joe Murder,” he sings about a drug dealer who cuts his product with milk sugar. “Such a frugal drifter,” he sings. “But not all who wander are lost.”

McCombs says one of the most inspiring people he met while traveling was cult actress Karen Black, with whom he collaborated on Catacombs for “Dreams-Come-True-Girl.” In the late stages of the ampullary cancer that took her life in August, Black contributed vocals to “Brighter!” on Big Wheel and Others, casually ad-libbing the line “brighter my ass.”

“Every person she met, she instilled in them a sense of dignity,” McCombs reflects. “She didn’t project any amount of hatred, although we had once talked about writing a ‘Fuck You’ song. She was just so open to feeling things and expressing herself that the idea of writing a ‘Fuck You’ song probably sounded fun and light to her.”

Producer Ariel Rechtshaid was on hand to record Black’s vocals. He explains the process as difficult, considering the rapid deterioration of her health.

“She just taught me so much,” McCombs adds. “Karen was probably the most interesting and caring person I ever met.”

Black lives on in his music among an assortment of colorful characters. Considering her influence on McCombs, it feels appropriate for her last recording to appear on his best work to date.

McCombs lets it slip that his secret to better songs lies in sharpening his focus on writing. “I’m spending more time on it,” he says. The more he talks about songwriting, the more it sounds like he’s actually talking about his life. “I want to test boundaries in myself, and I want to challenge my own pillars of morality. I’m not satisfied with any kind of structure.”

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Karen Black Thanks You For Helping Her Try To Beat Cancer

Yesterday, I sent out a notice that Karen Black‘s husband was asking people for money to help Karen get to Europe for some treatments that could save her life.

Karen–Oscar nominated for Five Easy Pieces and the star of many other films–has cancer, and is down to 96 pounds after having part of her pancreas removed, plus going through chemo and radiation.

Karen has a modest pension and some insurance, but hubby says they’ve basically gone through their savings fighting the disease and needed help.

And they made the money! Her fans remembered and came through! As of yesterday, they made their goal. (Though I see they’ve now made the goal higher than it was. Hubby says that anything extra will go towards him going to Europe as well.)

]

And I’m heartened because we love Karen for a lot of things:

Easy Rider. Five Easy Pieces (She was Rayette, and unforgettable.)

Helping land the plane with eyes crosed in Airport ’75.

Her immortal performance as bristling country diva Connie White in Nashville.

Playing four oppressed women in Trilogy of Terror.

Myrtle in Gatsby.

Playing the transsexual Joanne in Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

Bringing glamour and pathos to one of my favorite films, The Day of the Locust.

Holding her own against Bette Davis (Burnt Offerings) and Hitchcock (Family Plot). In the latter, she seemed very transsexual-esque all over again. See above photo.

And then the period where she became the queen of indie movies, many of them going straight to DVD, but all of them graced with the presence of a supremely unique being.

Since Scientology doesn’t seem to be stepping in and saving Karen’s ass, I’m glad her fans did. Karen’s always been way out there–never earthbound–as I found when I tried to interview her years ago and couldn’t quite get a grasp on her, she was that evasive and elusive.

But that’s her charm. She’s a sprite, a waif, a naif, a kook, a spirit.

Thank you everyone for giving her this trip.

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Five Easy Pieces

Dir. Bob Rafelson (1970) Chopin-playing, privileged son Jack Nicholson, after slumming with diner waitress Karen Black and oil-rig buddies in California, heads back to his Puget Sound home in this essential 1970 Rafelson–directed, Carole Eastman–scripted look at bad behavior.

Sat., June 16, 9 p.m., 2012

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Out of the Blue

Dir. Dennis Hopper (1980).
A miasma of misplaced sexuality and rock’n’roll fetishism, Dennis Hopper’s most brutal and accomplished movie is a punk sequel to Easy Rider or perhaps Five Easy Pieces with Hopper and Sharon Farrell as degenerate travesties of Jack Nicholson and Karen Black, and Linda Manz as the child whom Nicholson lights off for Alaska to escape.

Fri., June 3, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Sat., June 4, 5:15, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Sun., June 5, 5:15, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Mon., June 6, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Tue., June 7, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m., 2011

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KISSING ASS

If you checked out last year’s Art Parade or the stage performances at this year’s Whitney Biennial, surely the band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black was seared into your memory like a really bad nightmare. (If the name doesn’t ring a bell, think of an all-female KISS dipped in neon colors.) Aside from performing with her lady horrors, lead band member Kembra Pfahler keeps herself busy by sitting on her ass: Sit-Ins, her latest project at Deitch, is, basically, her butt prints on paper. Using the same body paint as worn in her band, she presses her bootay thrice—one on top of the other—to form a “V” shape, which is supposed to resemble a vagina. (Way to double your pleasure.) Her exploration in “body work” was inspired by the 1960s Vienna Actionists, forceful artists who used the body as the surface of their art. Deitch’s Beautalism, a book based on Pfahler’s recent works, will also be available.

Oct. 23-Nov. 1, 2008

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‘Hollywood Dreams’

The 15th film in 35 years written and directed by Henry Jaglom, that love-him-or-hate-him iconoclast of American independent filmmaking, is also one of his warmest, despite the potential for cynicism inherent in its premise—that old saw about a would-be starlet (newcomer Tanna Frederick) living out of her car and scrounging for a gig. The movie buzzes with the quirky rhythms of Jaglom’s patented improvisational shooting style, and those of Frederick herself, whose go-for-broke zaniness recalls that of a former Jaglom ingenue, Karen Black. By the time Black appears here, as an actress musing with a mix of melancholy and acceptance about her former stardom, it’s clear that Hollywood Dreams is something of a walk down memory lane for its own maker. Consider it a wistful contemplation of the fickle nature of movie success.

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Suck This

I love Cock. I mean, the Cock, the notorious gay bar on Avenue A. It has a special place in my cold heart, especially since I have gotten naked on its small semen-stained stage—in front of a roomful of gay men who couldn’t care less—for its talentless talent contest, Foxy. Did I mention that I was naked? And that I lost? Twice? Did I also mention that I was very, very drunk? And so it is with great sadness that I report on this week’s closing of the Cock, which is moving into the Hole, a joke that is so easy, I can’t resist the urge to poke at it over and over and over.

I’ve seen some of the city’s best performers there—many of whom have gone on to bigger things. I watched JUSTIN BOND and JACKIE BEAT, I hung out with MARIO DIAZ, the former owner and my old homey from Seattle, who made the Cock a legendary sleaze palace. I saw the WORLD FAMOUS *BOB* do her famous “Cheeseburger Aerobics” on that little stage way before people were talking about burlesque. SHERRY VINE hosted many nights, potty-mouthed yet ever the lady. You’d find G-SPOT behind the bar, pouring cheap, strong drinks and fondling the go-go boys.

The bathroom line always had a wait that seemed to last forever when you actually had to pee, because everyone else was using the loo for other activities. There’s the one seriously unpleasant memory—when I ventured in the scary “back room” looking for Mario and a large mean man started screaming at me, “This is the Cock! For people who like cocks! Go away!” so I had him thrown out, because, hey, I fucking like cocks too. Asshole.

I remember the totally sleazy, sexy go-go boys, like SEAN from the TOILET BOYS and the Latino studs who started forgoing dancing altogether, taking their members out in full view of the crowd and gazing at them lovingly. (Sometimes they stroked them too.) And then there was the time I managed to convince one straight, impossibly beautiful go-go boy to take me home. Ah, the memories. The triple-X-rated, drug-fueled, alcohol-induced, totally perverted memories. I will miss my Cock. And even if it’s just moving into the Hole, the other place where I’ve often lost all my dignity, it may not be the same.

In honor of its closing week, during which the trashy venue saw performances by some of its famous alumni, I asked some old-school Cock regulars to tell me their favorite memories. Almost everyone had one that involved performance artist KRYLON SUPERSTAR pulling something out of his bum. It seems the man could fit entire cities in his ass.

Owner ALLAN PERSIFLAGE: “When Krylon came onstage in painter’s pants, dropped them to reveal a sphincterically held roller, and dipped it into a tray, spelling Foxy.”

The World Famous *BOB*: “When Krylon Superstar took the stage wrapped in Saran Wrap with horns on top of his head, the VOLUPTUOUS HORROR OF KAREN BLACK was blaring, and he unwrapped himself. He shucked an ear of corn, shoved the ear of corn up his butt, and spit out fresh-popped corn from his mouth onto the crowd!”

Mario Diaz: “When a sweet little Southern girl queefed the melody of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.’ It was in perfect tune. It made me cry tears of joy.”

DJ ADAM: “The girl that pulled a turkey leg out of her vagina on Thanksgiving.”

Jackie Beat: “I was doing a show and I noticed that everyone was looking past me and to the left. I turned to see that the curtain to the back room had been pulled away, revealing a blowjob in progress. I was livid! There’s also the time Mario and I almost got in a fistfight, and the night I started that nasty race riot, but I’m trying to put all that behind me.”

MISSTRESS FORMIKA: “My favorite memory is the closing!”


tromano@villagevoice.com

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Unbuttoned genes: Clones and their creator come of age

Predating demonlover‘s hypertext narrative with her now two-year-old camp-cult sci-fi gem Teknolust, Lynn Hershman-Leeson took up some of the same issues: Can an ambitious woman protect her power? Is technology moral? Is body-on-body sex outmoded? Both movies explore the dynamics of cyber-sexuality. But instead of moving like a cool surveillance camera over the shiny surfaces of lupine, globe-trotting fantasists, and positing the female condition as a torture-porn swirl, Teknolust‘s close-quarter humanism explores the fragments of female identity. Its nerdy scientist protagonist wrestles with the emerging selfhood of the three website-sequestered clones she has fabricated from her own DNA.

It’s a quiet tour de force for Tilda Swinton, who plays researcher Rosetta Stone and her feisty but fragile alter egos. As Stone, she’s a patient, platitudinous Prospero to her “children,” designing cozy, primary-colored environments in which they lounge, robe-clad, like Star Trek drag queens. Dark-haired Ruby, star of a lucrative web portal promising soulful intimacy, is allowed to venture out to harvest the requisite male sperm the clones brew as used-condom tea. Problems begin when the gals get bored with their diet of jizz and pulp flicks. One of them invents her own language. They steal Rosetta’s credit card to cybershop and discuss hacking the code for cloning. Worse, Ruby’s male partners begin to evidence bar code rashes and impotence. Two low-key investigators (James Urbaniak and trannie-mode Karen Black) try to crack the epidemic.

Of course, this is all a setup for existential rumination. On alienation: Adorably self-effacing copy-shop guy Sandy (Jeremy Davies) tells his mother before he meets dream girl Ruby, “I meet many, many women, and they all get upset with me.” On motherhood: Rosetta replies to her distressed clones, “Ashamed of you? I couldn’t be prouder of you. You’re the work of my life.” On the miracle of intimacy: When Sandy discovers Ruby’s ability to flicker the lights with her electromagnetic fields, he gently plays orchestra conductor to her movements.

Creative urges and beautiful flaws define the film. Its palette, which recalls Dick Tracy‘s comic frames, is blunted by ’70s B-movie earth tones, as in Rosetta’s wood-paneled kitchen cabinets and her own luminous beige blandness. Sandy’s Kinko-drone copies swoop and blur with outsider-art panache as he sways to the din of the scanner motors. The music of his copy room fades into a tribal disco-diva number, to which the three (now ochre-clad) Tildas perform an outré dance for their Tildan creator. And in a camp throwback to Splash-style fish out of water-ism, Ruby says of the ingredients in Sandy’s mom’s mixing bowl, “It’s a beautiful color.” Ma replies, “Yes, it’s borscht. I’ll give you the recipe.” Recalling the recipe for making human replicants, Ruby replies, “I’ve got a recipe too,” and after pausing a moment, adds, “It’s a different kind of borscht.”

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NY Mirror

The mother of us all, Rona Barrett, helped put a face—and frosted hair—on gossip as a pioneering entertainment journalist in the ’60s and ’70s. A yenta to beat all yentas, she came across like your glamorous Aunt Sadie who just happened to have all sorts of big-name stars in the palm of her manicured hand. After stints on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and Entertainment Tonight, Rona jumped the dish treadmill and moved with her husband to Santa Barbara County, where their ranch is filled with horses, buffalo, and cows in lieu of models and movie stars. Was she burnt out? “You can say that,” she told me by phone last week. “I needed to take a rest and smell the roses—although this time I smelled the lavender!”

See, lavender has unexpectedly provided a comeback for the onetime gossip queen, giving me—the current scuttlebutt goddess—more conviction in my plan to market parsley in my twilight years. Barrett’s been cranking out the light purple plant for Lavender by Rona, a line of skin care and food products that benefits SIN (Seniors in Need)—pretty much the same thing I’ll be benefiting. Can the food products also be used as skin care and vice versa? “No,” she said, “unless you’re one of those people who like to put mayonnaise on your hair to give it a shine. It’s a lot better on a great sandwich or potato salad.”

Not mentioning the BLT in my bonnet, I asked Barrett how the response to mayonnaise—I mean gossip—has changed since her hotsy-totsy heyday. She said dish was so second-class back then that when she reported the first divorce in the royal family, it was virtually ignored, “but when Cronkite said it six months later, it was big-time.” Today, gossip’s more worshiped and adored, but so are all those yucky publicists—though on the bright side, flacks have helped Rona hawk her stuff at food shows from San Francisco to the Javits Center. “When people tasted the products,” said our lady of the lavender, “it was yum, yum, yum, and then it was order, order, order!” Just wait till they smell my parsley.

The rest of my week in mayhem smelled of armpits, champagne, and me giving lots of orders, orders, orders. The fake fur was flying over at Crouching Bitches, the sort-of-monthly Tuesday-night event hosted by a woman known as Call Me Audrey at Fun, the mod little club in a picturesque spot under the Manhattan Bridge. The uniquely nutty bash encourages fashionistas to wrestle each other before a screaming throng, their tangles underlining the potential viciousness involved in being gorgeous and the fact that something as simple as the right pants set could truly be something to kill over.

I helped judge the proceedings as well-heeled pairs took to the mat to fight for their right to accessorize. First off was Tom Fraud—a leather-vested designer knockoff who claimed to represent Gucci Youth—versus Jonah, a shaved-headed guy in a zippered jumpsuit who said he’d go naked, but only with a female partner. It was a tie. “I don’t see any erections thus far except for my own,” announced the mildly dispirited MC, Mr. Mickey. Boners were more prevalent when a kook named the Reverend Jen, chicly sporting an American-flag bodysuit, lost to a scary if well-put-together lady named the Masked Scorpion, though I think it was rigged, since Jen came prepared with her own stretcher to be carried out on.

Next up, author Jennifer Blowdryer wore a fetching pink boa but was creamed by Girl Monday, a fashionable gal with a white lace-up bodice, nipple rings, and a deceptively smiley-faced aggression. And a seemingly wasted guy in his briefs was toppled by his casually dressed female friend, who yanked down those Calvins to provide a glimpse of a very special hidden dragon. Yum, yum, yum! And what have we learned? That no matter what you’re wearing, the only good look is on top!

Speaking of frightful looks, the National Enquirer had inquiring egg on its face last week when it ran a picture of Kembra Phaler, the dementedly masked and made-up star of the band the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black—she could easily wrestle—with a caption saying she’s Karen Black, the actress. I love them both, but Karen Black, the actress, hasn’t looked like that since Trilogy of Terror. . . . You want real terror? The most disingenuous television in years is the proliferation of shows proclaiming, “Is the media devoting too much attention to Chandra Levy? Tune in to our six-hour study and find out.”

Here’s a much quicker piece of insight from a music biz insider: Gay members of boy bands always have girlfriends. This way, they can easily explain why they never sleep with all those female groupies. (“Because Janie would get really upset!”) . . . I took my girlfriend to Christie’s to check out the Hollywood memorabilia but realized I can’t fit into Bette Davis’s gowns—I’m too big—nor can the golden calf from The Ten Commandments (no, not Charlton Heston) fit into my apartment, which is too small. There’s always Eddie Munster’s purple fright suit.

Wear Rona Barrett’s lavender products to Man Ray, the trendy new restaurant that’s very Tao crossed with Auntie Mame’s den, with lighting so bright that movie stars would have to be crazy to go there. (I guess that’s why the place is attracting crazy movie stars.) The food? Tomato sorbet, mint pea puree, and other stuff that would look great in your hair!

Sport a giant tease for Music From a Sparkling Planet and enjoy it, though the play has elements that are weary (the three central losers endlessly discuss old sitcoms), stereotypical (the gay character adores opera and decor), and heavy-handed. But J. Smith-Cameron is super as the “Delaware Valley Greta Garbo,” and there’s some poetry to be found in the play’s longing for the past’s vision of the future. Yes, a mixed review.

But my three thumbs are way up for the fact that drag queen humor has apparently infiltrated the hetero mainstream. You want proof? When I closed my eyes during Amanda Green‘s show at Second Stage Theatre last week, I could have sworn I was in one of my beloved drag clubs watching a naughty, bawdy trannie entertainer. But Amanda, the daughter of Adolph Green and Phyllis Newman, happens to be a biological female—a slinky urban blond with high heels and lofty (if raunchy) wit. With the help of guest stars, Green presented her song about gynecology (I swear the words meat curtain were worked into the lyrics), her version of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (“Who’s That Guy Sleeping in My Bed?”), and the plaintive lament of a gay sperm donor (“I always stayed away from minors/I thought we both agreed that I don’t care for vaginers”). But there were heartfelt ballads too, making for an evening so diversely fun, in a cabaret-y way, that I left humming the evening’s title tune, “Put a Little Love in Your Mouth!” And some mayo on your hair.

But the most surreal image of the week was at the premiere of Greenfingers, a Trudie Styler-coproduced Full Monty-type flick involving prisoners who garden. Before the movie, a Rikers Island inmate with a green thumb got up to beamingly announce, “A group of ex-offenders created this bouquet for Trudie Styler!” I grabbed it, to turn into skin care products.



musto@villagevoice.com. Musto can be heard weekdays at 3 and 7 p.m. on Voice Radio.