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Swiss Miss Susanne Bartsch really turned it out for her effusive Halloween bash at the Maritime Hotel, which climaxed in a topless costume contest won by Gisele Extravaganza as creepy, blue Mystique from X-Men. There was bottomless action too. Around 3:30 a.m., the endlessly accommodating Bartsch cooed, “Miss Musto, come here,” so I obediently crawled over and found that she wanted me to check out a guy in glitter makeup and angel wings, his giant schlong hanging like an arrow. “Touch it! I’ll close my eyes,” the gent generously invited, legs akimbo. Naturally, I scampered away in horror—I’m a lady—only to find writer George Wayne taking the stud up on it, with a grateful grin. I hope the guy never opened his eyes.

Angels and private parts still hovered when HBO premiered its version of Tony Kushner‘s Angels in America—a sweeping, allegorical ride through Reagan-era AIDS denial, and well worth the long sit. Amazingly, Al Pacino—in the potentially scenery-chewing role of slimy Roy Cohn—is subtle and almost seductive, director Mike Nichols no doubt having lorded over him with a stun gun. Also amazingly, at the Cipriani after-party, Pacino wouldn’t even give me a “hoo ha” because his PMK flacks apparently dislike any press they can’t control. (Who knew that the upshot of 20 years of AIDS would be that a gay journalist who rolled around in the streets for ACT UP and writes for Poz would get dissed at a fancy-buffet bash by an Oscar winner pretending to be sick in a movie? Actually three Oscar winners; Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson were off-limits too.)

But Justin Kirk, who plays the pivotal role of abandoned PWA Prior Walter, was willing—and charming—when I asked him if taking on such a legendary part was daunting. “It was fucking daunting,” Kirk admitted. “It was a daily struggle, and I never got over it till the last day of shooting. But now I just show up, people come up to me, I drink, and it’s all good!” He even got a congratulatory message from the original Prior Walter, Stephen Spinella. But when I made the inevitable leap from Angels to CBS’s scuttled Reagan TV movie, Kirk balked, “I don’t like to talk politics. The more you identify yourself, the more you become a person people know, and you don’t get as many jobs. That’s all I care about—getting more jobs!” Still, after a few more cocktail sips, Kirk did say, “It’s becoming more and more the red states versus the blue states. I live in California and I’m upset I didn’t vote for Gallagher. This is how smart the people of California are: A guy named Schwartzman finished seventh! He insisted it was because of his heavy campaigning.” (Please—it was because his name is so similar to Gallagher’s.)

Looming nearby, the Food Network’s Bobby Rivers spotted Kirk and murmured, “Wasn’t he in Love! Valour! Compassion!? I recognized the dick.” (Touch it! I’ll close my eyes.) I also recognized author Kushner, who seemed thrilled that, after he spent years trying to drastically reinvent Angels for the screen, it got there so faithfully. But what about that Reagan thingy? Well, Kushner said, if CBS dumped it to cable because of the HIV-remark controversy, “shame on them, because the man behaved abominably and there’s no way to erase that. His administration was barbarically callous to people with AIDS.” (Sidebar: Reagan daughter Patti Davis, who’s now ecstatic that the “idiotic” movie was pulled, once wrote a book about the hideous cruelty that plagued her unhealthy family. Furthermore, Ronnie also said, “Liars get cancer.” No wait, that was Rosie O’Donnell.) On a lighter note, is Caroline, or Change—Kushner’s new musical, written with Jeanine Tesori—basically Thoroughly Modern Millie with AIDS? “No, it has nothing to do with AIDS or flappers,” he said, laughing. I’ll go see it anyway.

And so much else too. The over-the-top revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has characters running around a shuttered bedroom, yelling “mendacity!” “sodomy!” “poontang!” and “spastic colons!” (if not “love! valour! compassion!”). Still, I enjoyed Ashley Judd‘s frustrated shrew and loved Margo Martindale‘s Big Mama, who’s like a drag queen out of Greater Tuna, but with suitable pathos. Not so great, as you’ve heard, was Mayor Bloomberg, who misquoted Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire to the opening night crowd of theater fanatics. Maybe he is straight.

Another three-hour throwback, The Caretaker, has a self-conscious opaqueness that seems fucking daunting to the three straining actors, until Patrick Stewart‘s feisty old codger rallies and gives us (Pinteresque) pause. But if you prefer the Felicity guy to the Star Trek man, The Violet Hour is the fascinating misfire for you. The play’s about a printer that cranks out journalism from the future, and in a weirdly parallel twist, the Newsday review of the play was readable online a day early! But I couldn’t have predicted that at the opening-night party at Supper Club, scene stealer Mario Cantone would be admiring Patricia Clarkson‘s figure and she’d be complimenting his nice ass. “I run,” Catone explained, “so I can drink!”

That tall drink of running water, Carol Channing, inaugurated the Village Theatre’s Singular Sensations series, which consists of a diva Q&A with occasional musical outbursts. (By the way, if you’re under 75, please skip ahead to the next graph.) An iron-willed trouper who won’t stop bejeweling us with wide-eyed showstoppers, Carol was a delight and even danced with her feisty new husband for an encore. At the after-party at Lips, I told Carol that since she wrote in her memoirs that she’s part African American, wasn’t it she—and not Pearl Bailey—who was the first black Dolly? Carol grinned and said, “No! I’d like to say I was black, but I’m not.” (Hmm, maybe the cutie didn’t read her own book.) I awkwardly changed the subject to Skidoo, the insane ’68 movie she made about gangsters on LSD and a real ski-don’t. What did she remember about it? “Not much!” Carol said emphatically and tottered off, but not until cooing, “It was an honor to be interviewed by The Village Voice!”

But, like, back to current-event TV movies. Whose fascinating idea was it to cast the gay pedophile from Happiness as Elizabeth Smart‘s father? In movieland, a less controversial brainstorm was having the eternally dignified Walter Cronkite speak at the Master and Commander premiere. But Cronky’s remarks about the late Patrick O’Brian (whose novels the flick’s based on) were so gleefully honest, they almost had people mutinying. Cronkite said the guy was “dour,” deeply critical, and intensely demanding, though he did add that after a few drinkie-poos, O’Brian loosened up and was terrif. Apparently the same goes for everyone in this column.

But one movie that made me tenser than a Pacino flack at an AIDS premiere was Love Actually, a mushy puff pastry that makes you want to run through a wedding chapel with a meat cleaver. The movie encompasses every imaginable kind of love—interracial, intergenerational, even romance between children—but not anything remotely gay and hardly anything that isn’t pantingly looksist (a model-like love object’s fat sister is studiously made fun of). Worse, it starts with an exploitative reference to 9-11 and climaxes with a character being heroized for running past airport security in the name of l’amour. This, after I practically had to submit to an anal probe just to get into the screening. Mendacity! Sodomy! Poontang! Spastic colons!


musto@villagevoice.com

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If Brooklyn is the new Manhattan, then Williamsburg is the new Berlin. Makes no sense? Who cares. Just take the amazingly short trip there, to Luxx, the wildly publicized medium-sized club where a refreshing batch of bohos and just plain ‘hos have forged a concentrated world of drink and dance. Ah, the irony! After spending my entire early life trying to get out of Brooklyn, now I’m a bridge-and-tunnel person who’s kicking and scrounging to get back in. Mutants—Luxx’s gayish Friday night event—is particularly worth descending on, except for the fact that every single person goes up to everyone else and says, “What are you doing here?” I’ll tell you what I was doing there. Amid the boppy music, there were cute guys, one very good female-to-male transsexual, some straight people, and a riveting queen saying about his ex-boyfriend’s emotional problems, “He told me he was a Mariah, but he was really a Whitney!”

Onstage, Sophia Lamar—who’s really something—MC’d with such well-oiled attitude that she made promoter Larry Tee keep introducing her until she got the desired response from the audience. Come showtime, the gay-lesbian rap duo Morplay projected a playful anger that seemed kind of sweet, and then Tobell Von Cartier snarled through a dissy song (“You are useless . . . “), and even she seemed a little lemon-scented about it. Finally, I saw some real hate when a drunk in the audience started bitching about Tobell, then turned to me and screamed, “She’s almost as bad as your writing!” I’d be hurt except for the fact that he’d been reading the ingredients on his beer bottle all night like they wuz Dostoyevsky.

Magnum, the Sunday-night gayathon at the Park, continues to pump, and though the go-go hard-ons are still raging, after a few double takes they become secondary to the more exalted task of getting someone to go home with you and be your personal bitch. Meanwhile, the cruise bar Urge has an ambiguous downstairs room where two guys were self-consciously groping each other in the chiaroscuro lighting the other night. When I walked in to take a peek, the two trollops looked horrified, as if I’d destroyed the sanctity of their private moment in public. Sor-fucking-ry!

Sex talk prevailed at Out editor Brendan Lemon‘s Food Bar party for his novel, Last Night, thanks to my own pervy prompting. I asked author Edmund White if he really had sex with a grown-up when he was 12, and White said, “What people always leave out of the story is that I did the seducing. I went with my father to Acapulco, and I used to do a pianist at the bar. He wasn’t coming on to me at all, though. I felt I had to do all the work!” Here’s where I’d normally inject some uproarious “pianist envy” joke, but for once I’ll rise above the opportunity.

Lemon (who wisely hires me) told me his book’s “dirty enough to hold your interest, but not so dirty to shock your grandmother. It’s full of baseball, but it’s still fiction.” Hey, I got that one—Lemon famously dates a ballplayer, though he still won’t say which goddamned one. All he’d tell me is that the guy’s with an East Coast team “and he’s probably going to start coming to these things.” I won’t blow his cover, mainly because I don’t know who any athletes are except Cathy Rigby!

New York magazine brought out some heavy hitters for the Beige bash promoting their “Gay Life Now” issue, which observed that gay culture’s gotten so big it’s become massively appropriated. (True—though the day the issue came out, the Daily News front-page headline was “Priest Blasts Gays—Links Abuse Scandal to Homosexuality,” so I guess there’s still some crap left to fight for.) In more good news/bad news, the mag’s cover boy, Queer as Folk‘s Randy Harrison, is openly gay, but costar Robert Gant—when Larry King kookily called him straight the next night—would only go so far as to mutter that “the jury’s still out.” If only everyone was. Anyway, at the party, the ever-chickeny Harrison—who’s living in the East Village now—told me he broke up with his boyfriend some time ago and minimally added, “Life happens.” How Zen. How not like me.

Jack Wetherall—the show’s beleaguered yet dignified HIV patient, Uncle Vic—was more gabby, telling me that people always gush to him about how good he looks in person. “I’m shocked that they recognize me,” he said, “because I think I look hideous on the show. They make me up to look older and sick. Sometimes, depending on the lighting, you can see all the makeup caked on me. But I really like Vic. He’s touched me very closely. He was somewhat lost in the shuffle this year, but they promise this coming year will be different. He needs some companionship!”

Lea DeLaria has no such problems, honey. The life-loving singer-comic was carousing nearby, so I asked for her take on Queer as Folk and braced myself. “If I knew Pittsburgh was such a hip town,” she smirked, “I would have moved there years ago. The last time I went there, the only gay area was a rest stop on I-80. But if that lesbian couple is ready for a three-way, I’d volunteer. Those bitches are hot!” So is DeLaria; suddenly, she was being accosted by a panting queen exclaiming, “You’re Lea . . . Lea . . . ” We watched in bemused horror as the guy tried to finish his foofy thought. “Lea . . . Lea . . . ” he whinnied, repeating even more than my last meal was doing. By now, we were woefully embarrassed, yet still held captive by his Obie performance. “Lea . . . ” he screeched, turning pink in delight. “Lea Salonga!” he finally concluded. Oh yeah, this fabulous big dyke debuted as a Vietnamese waif in Miss Saigon and now sings “Chop Suey,” with lots of hand gestures, in Flower Drum Song. This guy must be friends with that beer-bottle cretin.

The crazies all came out for Susanne Bartsch‘s first weekly Wednesday bash at BK’s in the West Thirties, but they knew their ass from their shoulder pads. Drag queens, trannies, studs, and sirens poured into the two-level place—a seedy marvel of wood paneling and mirrors—and it was refreshing to have even the most annoyingly aggressive have-you-listened-to-my-CD-yet? ones back. These people crawled under a rock when Rudy cracked his whip, but now they’re all flouncing again, and they’re nuttier and more desperate than ever. In fact, there were so many clowns at this party that Puffy would have been scared! From the downstairs tableaux of living, big-titted glamazons to the posing and networking wackos upstairs, the nabe’s threatening slogan, “I’ll cut you!” morphed into the much friendlier “I’ll cut your hair!” (Thank you, Flotilla.) The result was reminiscent of Bartsch’s old Savage parties, and in fact I love that she, Larry Tee, and Dean Johnson (Magnum)—the class of ’86—are the hot promoters of the new millennium. One of the bouncers at the door, though, has got to be sedated. He’s a Mariah and a Whitney.

In really sad diva news, can you stand the way all the press are saying that Robert Blake‘s shot-dead wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was a complete nightmare, then they add, “not that she deserved to be murdered or anything”? Gee, how generous!

Meanwhile, Diana Ross may be a ‘mare, but she’s still a living legend in her own behind. I hear that at the Democratic event at the Apollo last week, the super-duperstar sat (I’m sure inadvertently) in Bill Clinton‘s seat and, when told of that, said, “I’ll move if I have to,” but simply didn’t. Oh, well, she’s way more important than any president—no, really. In fact, she’s the new Williamsburg.