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Obama’s Encounter With a Pop Diva

President Obama loves to reference Lady Gaga to show how hip he is.

I’m hearing that the other day, after he made a speech about the importance of the hate crimes legislation he signed, the Prez was greeted by ’80s singer and LGBT supporter Cyndi Lauper, who told him, “It’s about time!”

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In response, Obama told Cyndi he loved her music and, with a twinkle in his eye, he added, “Lady Gaga stole your act!”

I happen to think they’re both complete originals.

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GAGA FOR EQUALITY!

Before Lady Gaga embarks on the “Fame Kills” tour with sir Kanye West, the “prodigy” raised out of Yonkers is giving back to the community that she obviously takes so much from. Bootleg: Get On the Bus Equality, a dance-a-thon to raise money for a LGBT rally in Washington, will be hosted by the Gaga herself and will feature music by Peter Raufofer, Honey Dijon, Larry Tee, and Lina. And just an FYI: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, the 1985 film starring Sarah Jessica Parker, is a great dance-a-thon reference—in case you need booty-shaking tips.

Sat., Oct. 3, 10 p.m., 2009

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Chelsea Handler Interview! Brace Yourselves!

I’m a Chelsea queen! What I mean is I enjoy Chelsea Handler, the chatty host of E!’s Chelsea Lately who is advertised on every remaining phone booth in town as “the sharpest tongue in late night.” Leno with bigger boobs, she happens to pooh-pooh a lot of the things I hate, too, and she expresses her distaste far more articulately, such as tidily dubbing Heidi and Spencer “Herpes Simplex I and II” and asking Jesse Metcalfe what it was like to go “cameltoe hunting.”

So I called Chelsea’s handlers and set up a phoner, anxious for the piercing tongue.

Me: Hi, Chelsea. Are you a gay man in a woman’s body or just a gay man?

Chelsea: Sometimes I feel like I’m a gay man, sometimes I’m a gay man in a woman’s body, and sometimes I’m a gay woman. It depends on the time of day.

Me: Well, you’re doing an event with Wanda Sykes on October 24—a benefit for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. That’s your chance to be a gay woman and dive on her.

Chelsea: Yeah! White-on-black crime!

Me: But I’d imagine a take-charge gal like Wanda has a girlfriend.

Chelsea: She’s getting a late-night talk show, so she’s got to have somebody living with her. I can’t get rid of my boyfriend! He’s good right now. We’ll see how he behaves himself this week.

Me: Seeing as he happens to be Ted Harbert—the CEO of the company that oversees E!—if you dumped him, couldn’t he nullify your TV contract?

Chelsea: I don’t think that’s legal at this juncture. But if anybody gets thrown to the curb, it’d be me. I’m a nightmare. I’m annoyed in general, especially with him, and when you remodel your condo, everything’s annoying. That’s why I’m at work at six in the morning right now, trying to do interviews!

Me: Well, since you do still have the show, let’s talk about it. Has there been any guest that just didn’t get you?

Chelsea: They don’t say to my face, “I don’t get you.” But I definitely don’t get some of them. I had Tila Tequila on because everyone made such a big deal about this girl from MTV who’s bi-curious. [Laughs.] I almost fell asleep during the interview. So boring! The girls from The Hills are cute, but I like people who have energy and have something fun to say. But luckily, the interviews are so quick, and it’s on to the next.

Me: Wait, don’t hang up! Are you still all panty-twisted over the Herpes Simplexes?

Chelsea: I don’t want to discuss them because they don’t deserve to be talked about.

Me: No problem—I don’t even know who they are. What about Tori Spelling, whom you’ve generously ragged on?

Chelsea: I like Tori. I actually think she’s done very well considering what she’s been through. And she looks better.

Me: They made her eyes closer together.

Chelsea: Well, I think she had her boobies and eyes done on the same day. Two for one!

Me: Hello. Why are there so many tart-tongued female comics today, like you, Kathy Griffin, and Sarah Silverman? (Not that I’m complaining, mind you.) Is being catty and cutting the only way the girls are let into the boys’ comedy club?

Chelsea: I’ve always been this way. You don’t want to get into a tussle with me! But I’m probably a lot less edgy than when I started out. I was very angry, probably because I spent so much time waiting tables that I was spent emotionally. And you don’t know if you’re ever going to get a break—it’s really hard. I was a lot crasser and more violent-minded than I am now. This is the softer side of me. It’s less angry and more jocular. That’s what I love about doing the show—you get to make fun of everything E! represents and the attention we all pay to celebrities.

Me: So, in mocking the E! ethic, you’ve become their biggest star. [Significant pause.] You have Jennifer Aniston scheduled as a guest. I hope she doesn’t play the victim.

Chelsea: She’s not playing the victim! The press plays the victim for her. All the stories about her—”She’s so lonely.” Please! She’s having the time of her life! She goes to Mexico every other weekend with her girlfriends, while Angelina and Brad shuffle their kids across country. Would you rather wake up with a margarita or eight children?

Me: Eight margaritas, actually.

Chelsea: And you can make them all different colors!

Bi-ambic Pentameter

The next day, I woke up with eight invitations, so I set to work engulfing various creative artists with my own less angry, more jocular side. At an Oak Room lunch for Jane Campion‘s sensual Bright Star, I asked Campion if John Keats’s remark that he was uncomfortable with women meant the poet was as bi-curious as Tila Tequila. Au contraire, she said: “It means they meant so much to him. In the company of men, he feels at ease, but with women present, he’s tongue-tied and can’t be natural.” So the effusive Romantic poet was straight? That’s really putting the per back in verse.

Same place, same digging for subtext when I learned what was bubbling under the surface of the Ricky Gervais comedy The Invention of Lying, mainly because it was sliced right out. “There was a caveman scene,” co-writer/co-director Matthew Robinson volunteered. “It was a parable for the entire film, with Patrick Stewart narrating. But we couldn’t get it into fighting shape in seven minutes. It cost three and a half million dollars, so it’s the most expensive DVD extra in history!” The CG wild boar alone cost more than an entire season of The Hills.

The subtext of The Damned United—the new bio-drama about a charmingly loony British football coach—was laid out for us by its bright star Michael Sheen at a whole other event. The high-minded Sheen said that in pretty much every Peter Morgan–written film, “one character is Theseus going through the labyrinth and the other is the Minotaur, waiting for him in the center of it.” Are you with me, Heidi and Spencer?

I spent the rest of the week caught in the labyrinth while running from Lindsay Lohan at about a dozen parties and waiting for Lady Gaga at 15 or 20 other ones. (By the way, Gaga might drop her poker face when she finds out that a children’s book accompanied by a CD that she recorded a song for, pre-fame, will actually be coming out soon. They might even use her real name!)

The Warholesque creature would have been spewing blood with delight at an event last Friday—an Andy-related art show in a storefront at the Chelsea Hotel, with a big “Prime Real Estate Available” sign posted outside. Inside, the place was coated with tin foil, so I felt like a giant turkey, especially as people came at me wielding 30-year-old press clippings about their most recent achievements. Onstage entertainment was provided by the dashing duo Whore’s Mascara, who’ve added a female singer and two dancers they picked up on the subway, all cavorting to lyrics like, “There’s a dance party up my butt tonight.” And there’s even room for a VIP area.

But the gay nightlife event of the year was the grand opening of Club 57, the new Saturday-night thingie at Providence via the Rockit/Key Klub team, Tony Fornabaio and Brandon Voss. The three-floor club—which is very Gothic-church-meets-upstate-pancake-house—was filled with swarms of well-groomed men prancing, dancing, and downing eight margaritas. And suddenly, I’m an HK queen!

musto@villagevoice.com

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Lady Gaga and Kanye Rumors

Today’s hot rumor is that Lady Gaga might perform at Out magazine’s bash at the LES club the Box tonight. It could happen, seeing as she’s on the mag’s cover and she’s in town, having just done the VMAs and Marc Jacobs‘s after party last night. If she doesn’t materalize, that’s OK, seeing as I was going to go anyway to ogle all the fashion boys and their latest designer espadrilles.

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The other burning buzz is that the VMAs incident where Kanye West dissed Taylor Swift might have been completely staged. Again, that’s totally credible, considering the Bruno/Eminem stunt from the MTV Movie Awards. Besides, this was a win-win situation: Swift got tons of love and sympathy, Beyonce ended up looking super gracious, and West cemented his bad-boy image, then used subsequent TV appearances–covneniently lined up–to apologize. God, what next? That wasn’t real blood oozing out of Gaga?

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Grace Jones: The Devil Wears Zebra-Striped Catsuits

At the start, there’s a two-minute ovation just for her posture. Grace Jones is a former model—though we’re all a model of something, aren’t we?—and the fashion-daft crowd at the Hammerstein Showroom Ballroom celebrates her for maintaining a regal mien at age 61, for returning after two absent decades, for being stepmother to Rihanna, Björk, and Lady Gaga. They also like her zebra-striped Eiko Ishioka catsuit with the matching white-wig headdress.

The set design bisects the stage lengthwise. In the rear, there’s a sunken moat for the band, who play loud enough to make the dub-style echo effects carry and pierce. Upstage is a kind of catwalk. “I said, Kill it,” Jones snaps at her lighting man in the midst of “Love Is the Drug,” while wearing a bodiced rhinestone pantsuit with Michelin-poufed legs and a matching bowler hat that reflects the overhead laser like a disco ball. (Costume descriptions are somewhat imprecise—your correspondent is straight.)

The music rampages from Jamaican funk to British chill-out, with bass swagger and drum spasms creating dynamics and theater; it’s a spot where slumming and jet-setting collide. “Just get the fucking shoes on,” she reprimands a dresser, chatting on a wireless mic while out of sight to change into another outlandish outfit from Oscar-winning costume designer Ishioka. Jones, who was raised by severe Pentecostal parents, emerges in an oversized A-line autumn-pageant dress the color of the Devil’s tail, with a matching headdress, gliding laterally on tiptoes as she sings. Eventually, she pirouettes: The frock appears to be backless, and the crowd—gay as a lottery winner—roars at this risqué glimpse of her sextegenarian haunches. (Though it spoils the illusion, some excellent photos published on DListed.com show she was wearing a bronze leotard.)

Jones growls orders to the staff—her stage manager (“Turn the fan down”), her soundman (“Take my voice up”), her stage manager again (“Bring me a glass of red wine”), and her crowd (“Welcome me to New York”)—enacting a role of privilege and entitlement. And also of sexuality: In animal-print costumes, waving a prosthetic snake-whip tail like a cock, making unsubtle allusions to intercourse and oral sex, she teases primitivist fantasies of black voraciousness. But her haughtiest move is musical: She plays all nine songs from Hurricane, a reflective, humanizing, half-good album that came out last year but was not released in the U.S. That leaves only eight familiar songs, not including “Warm Leatherette,” “Walking in the Rain,” and other ’80s pinnacles that surpass most of her new songs. How plebeian to think a concert should be about songs. We’re here to be dazzled by size, to revere magnitude, to chuckle at innuendo, to recall what New York was like before downsizing scalped our budgets and expectations and portfolios. Grace Jones is as big as a September issue of Vogue, pre-recession.

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Who’s The Biggest Pop Diva of All?

Which glorious singer with female private parts do you feel reigns over all the other pretenders (and no, this has nothing to do with “Now that Jacko’s gone…”)

The top diva choices are:

Lady Gaga. Her three songs are fee-eerce. Will her future be so bright she still has to wear shades?

Rihanna. Bad taste in men, but great taste in producers. Please don’t stop her music.

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Taylor Swift. Pretty face, pretty voice–but is there much there there?

Kelly Clarkson. She successfully went from schlock to rock, with a whole lotta rollercoastering in between.

Beyonce. Still shimmying and delivering, but will her robot controls ultimately wear out?

Britney. She went from a walking punchline back to a superstar. Inspiring, sort of!

Madonna The mother of us all. Don’t evah write the bitch off!

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Is Lady Gaga The New Madonna?

Remember when Madonna joined the Britney bandwagon, championing her greatness and even duetting with the new star to signal the fact that she might become the new Madonna, so it was best to quickly embellish her with the old Madonna?

But now, it turns out that Lady Gaga is way more Madonna-like than Britney ever was. The girl is much more of a player in her own image-making and seems like the visually avant-garde chameleon type that Britney, who simply synchs and swivels as she’s told, is not overly interested in being. And naturally, Madonna has already put her stamp of approval on Gaga, going to her concert with the boy toy and the daughter, whose ipod she clearly raided to find out about this new phenomenon of artsy commercialism.

Madonna’s no dummy–and if Gaga turns out to be just a two-hit wonder, Madge will simply move on to the next emerging diva. But in the meantime, I give it a matter of minutes until we hear about a Madonna/Gaga duet. I’m not bluffin’ with my muffin!

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Lady Gaga

When the world finally ends, the detritus of humanity’s YouTube files, credit card slips, cellular ringback tones, and forgotten MySpace layouts will gather into a swirling, roaring gyre remixed by Pharrell Williams. Lady Gaga will be there, too, having waited out Armageddon in some gilded green room bathroom with Perez Hilton. And she will become our spirit mother in leopard skin, a Juliet in black jeans and a poker face, and she will tell us, “Just Dance.” And we will rise from the ooze and order more Veuve. Wait, has this already happened? With White Tie Affair and Chester French.

Sat., May 2, 7:15 & 11:15 p.m., 2009

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Katie Holmes Bristles with Rage!

Mark Indelicato, who plays the, um, flamboyant Justin on Ugly Betty, pranced onstage at Planet Hollywood to put his finely groomed hands in a pile of cement. But before he could do so, he was faced with an onstage MC asking him questions like, “Are you close to your character on the show?” “Not really,” obliged Indelicato. “I’m totally not fashion-obsessed. My closet is more filled with Target and places like that.” I couldn’t believe he was talking so openly about his closet! “But he’s cool, I’m cool,” added the young actor. “So that’s what we have in common.”

At that point, an assigned girl jumped onstage and started draping herself on Mark for the assembled paparazzi, who dutifully shot away as if it were a lunar landing. Was she a contest winner? A contest loser? I have no idea. All I know is that the show is supposed to be about being comfortable with yourself no matter what society says!

With Equus—a play about erasing a boy’s love for male creatures—there was only one question (“How big is it?”) and there’s just one for All My Sons, too: “How is she?” Well, Dianne Wiest is a little unusual, playing her denial-laden character as a traumatized drop-in from a Tennessee Williams play. Oh, Katie Holmes? She plays her part harder and angrier than expected, and she’s not magical about it, but like Sarah Palin on SNL, she hardly disgraces herself. By the way, the man next to me came an hour and 15 minutes late, irritably banged around in his seat through Act Two, then leapt to his feet and cheered before running to the stage door to get Katie’s autograph. And that’s the state of touristy theater appreciation today. (PS: The amazing John LithgowPatrick Wilson confrontation is the best father-son blowout about war since W.)

Speaking of battling menfolk, David Mamet‘s corrosive con artists now seem almost cutely quaint; with poisonous behavior having become everyday TV fare, he’s sort of become the new Neil Simon. So, the revival of Speed-the-Plow—about a producer who almost decides to make an important filmis wise to go for rat-tat-tat laughs and brisk bantering. It’s a zingy night out—not just when all the “maverick” remarks seem fresh as the headlines—and they speed the plow all right; the first and third acts romp so hard you almost forget that the second one is drearier than the radiation movie they talk about making.

Romping in a new medium, Richard Belzer has released I Am Not a Cop!, a novel about a character named Mark Indelicato. (Kidding. He’s named Richard Belzer. Why do I smell a Charlie Kaufman movie in the works?) At a publication party at the Time Hotel, the real Belzer told me, “I’m interested in the convergence of reality and celebrity.” As an example, Belzer said, a real-life shoplifter once came onto the Law & Order set and gave himself up to him. Quick, let’s get Caylee’s mother near a detective-show taping!

What’s next for Belzer—a fragrance named Belzer? “How about underwear?” he suggested. “I once had dinner with Calvin Klein and told him, ‘You’re the first person I ever had dinner with whose name is on my underwear.’ His reaction was the opposite of laughing. He gave me a cold, hard stare.” Ah, you know how the gays are!

While we’re on designers—oy, what a segue—let me confess that I have a compulsive need to label everything. To me, I’ve Loved You So Long is basically a French SherryBaby. Adele is a healthy Amy Winehouse (unless she’s just a food binger instead of a drug abuser). And Roísín Murphy is the new Kylie Minogue—a dance-music chantoozie whose Saint at Large concert at Mansion last week brought the queens out in force, screaming their tits off on every syllable. Alas, after three sleek but rather bloodless songs, I was out of there, wondering if I’m really gay after all. (I mean, I’m not fashion-obsessed . . . )

Another reflecting-shade wearer, Lady Gaga is the new Roísín Murphy. She’s the high-tech singer of “Just Dance” (off the CD The Fame), not to mention a downtown regular who played clubs and wrote for the Pussycat Dolls while aiming to change the world “one sequin at a time.” She’s doing just that. Last week alone, Gaga appeared on Jimmy Kimmel‘s show, clinched a song on Britney‘s CD, and, most impressively of all, got to talk to my own iconic self. Our chat went like so:

Me: “Congrats on your success, darling.” Gaga: “Finally!” Me: “Huh? What are you, 21?” Gaga: “22. I’ve been doing this since I was little. I dropped out of college and at 18 lived on the Lower East Side and played every freakin’ club. I had to hustle so hard.” Me: “I’m still hustling. Were you disciplined way back then or did you party hardy?” Gaga: “I went through phases. There was a time where I’d do a lot of drugs and write music, and there were times when I locked myself in my studio and drank green tea.” Me: “Blech! Give me heroin any time. Anyway, your fame obsession. Is it tongue-in-cheek or for real?” Gaga: “It’s both. Sometimes I’m saying it’s poisonous; sometimes I’m saying it’s a dream. I was a 19-year-old trying to make music in an underground culture that thinks pop is lowbrow. So I ended up analyzing what we all have in common—that we’re all pretty star-struck. What we have as downtown New Yorkers is a sense of inner fame and a passion about our art that makes us feel famous even without having it. No one knows who I am in certain parts of the world, but I get followed by cameras. Everyone wants to know who I am.” Me: “Especially the gays. You worship us right back, don’tcha?” Gaga: “Of course. My gay fans are the reason I’m being played on the radio. . . . They’re the reason for everything.” Me: “You’re welcome! Have you ever dabbled in lesbianism?” Gaga: “Of course! I don’t have time to be straight every night. I don’t have time to be anything every night. I’m a free spirit. I fall in love with people.”

Hey, I don’t have time to be straight every night, either! But I do have time—another stinky segue—to go to freakin’ clubs every night, so let me uncork what I’ve learned there recently: At Barracuda, virtuoso drag queen Peppermint not only whooshed up a storm, she brought out elastic Brit rapper QBoy, showed a video of a dancing fat girl collapsing a table, and did a freestyle rap based on audience-chosen words like orgy, Oprah, and Obama. That song only ended when Peppermint couldn’t come up with a rhyme for disease.

At Marie’s Crisis—which doesn’t rhyme with anything either—a drunk was outrageously telling me she wants to put out Sarah Palin, “but I don’t know how to work a weapon. I’m a liberal!”

On Thursdays, I’ve been aiming for Mr. Black (which is “upgrading” to Club Rebel on November 7). That night has been extremely loosey-goosey, especially since Amanda Lepore‘s boyfriend runs around the place sweating buckets in a warm, clunky pig suit. I assumed he was getting paid to do so, but then I saw him at Hiro in the same outfit and realized—he just likes it!

In one last convergence of reality and celebrity, Moby came into Indochine, anxiously looking for some old high school friends. “I’m pretty sure they’ll recognize you,” I assured him. “I had hair then,” he explained. He’s changing New York one follicle at a time.

musto@villagevoice.com