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The Sound of the City

While it wasn’t raining men, it was raining inside the HENRY FONDA MUSIC BOX THEATER during the CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC SING-ALONG. The raucous fund-raiser for Common Ground, a provider of HIV-related services, was hosted by E!’s TED CASABLANCA and Girls Will Be Girls’ star EVIE HARRIS (JACK PLOTNICK in drag). During the screening of Can’t Stop the Music, MOMMA and a flock of dancers were on hand to distract guests from the improbable plot, and original cast member RANDY JONES (the Village People’s “Cowboy”) helped judge the costume contest. Many guests donned vintage disco gear, which was hard to distinguish in a sea of last season’s ’70s-inspired fashions. Wearing a fabulous floral pantsuit, MR. DAN performed as Nancy Walker, the film’s deceased director, offering a running commentary including instructions on when to use the interactive props in the gift bags. Also in the gift bags were squirt guns, which audience members were supposed to fire at certain moments during the film à la Rocky Horror. Some rambunctious guests, however, began firing the toy guns before the movie rolled, and actor EZRA BUZZINGTON and author JEFF SOLOMON were spotted in a rooftop squirt-gun fight. (The trigger-happy Solomon was later ambushed in the lobby by a posse of gun-toting partygoers.) Also in the gift bags were drink tickets, which could only be redeemed for mojitos. As the evening wore on (“Somebody stop this film!” was overheard more than once), guests began filling the squirt guns with the free rum drink, making for a very sticky evening. Thankfully, guests refrained from filling the toy guns with any other liquids.

—Sandra Ross

Liza With a Lawsuit

“This is show business, we all dress in the wings,” noted LIZA MINNELLI backstage at the ACTORS’ FUND OF AMERICA benefit “SING HAPPY: THE MUSIC & WORDS OF JOHN KANDER AND FRED EBB” at Cal State L.A.’s LUCKMAN FINE ARTS COMPLEX. Minnelli was talking to WILSON CRUZ, who covered his eyes as a wardrobe woman sewed up Liza’s blouse in the press room. The event, which honored Chicago executive producers CRAIG ZADAN and NEIL MERON, featured more than 30 Kander-and-Ebb songs warbled by the likes of BONNIE FRANKLIN, VICTOR GARBER, CAROLE COOK, NANCY DUSSAULT, CHARLOTTE RAE, STEPHANIE POWERS and ROD McKUEN. Wilson led a group of male chorines through a gender-bending version of Chicago’s cellblock tango, while FLORENCE HENDERSON took “When You’re Good to Mama” and gave it an S&M spin, complete with dominatrix outfit, leather whip and six submissive backup dancers. BEN VEREEN killed with his version of Cabaret’s “Maybe This Time,” while JOHN C. REILLY reprised his “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago with emotional oomph. Newlywed CAROL CHANNING took on “Razzle Dazzle” with the help of her silver-sequined minidress and a pair of gams that made even the most supple chorus girls envious. One entertainment-news bunny asked Liza if it had been a difficult week, what with David Gest’s lawsuit and all. “It’s been a wonderful week for me, because I’m here with you,” she said before going out onstage and driving the crowd nuts with “Cabaret,” “New York, New York” and “Liza With a Z.” Liza read a letter from the no-show Kander and Ebb, who thanked all the performers. And with a sly aside to her ex-Gest, Liza announced Kander and Ebb’s promise that she was the kind of gal for whom “they would gladly post bail.” We’ve got our checkbooks ready, too.

—Christopher Lisotta

It’s a G-String Thing

The biggest draw at the third annual TEASE-O-RAMA burlesque convention at the HENRY FONDA MUSIC BOX THEATER was recent Playboy cover girl DITA VON TEESE, whose act substituted her usual martini-glass sponge bath with bubbles and a tub. Rub-a-dub-dub! By day, would-be bump ’n’ grinders could learn the fine art of “Pasty Making” or work up a sweat to “Go-Go-robics” (featuring NYC’s THE WORLD-FAMOUS PONTANI SISTERS). By night, it was all about the razzle-dazzle as a bevy of beauties from all over the world tarted it up and took it off: San Francisco’s THE DEVIL-ETTES, Australia’s LOLA THE VAMP, Oakland’s HARLEM SHAKE (the only African-American troupe) and L.A.’s GINGER GOLDMINE (who threw real bling bling out into the crowd during a money-themed vignette). Getting an eyeful were Dita’s dude MARILYN MANSON (front and center), CSI actress JORJA FOX, Russ Meyers’ muse KITTEN NATIVIDAD, tattoo artist ENGLISH CRAIG, photographer CAROL SHERIDAN and girl-about-town HEIDI RICHMAN. Though a flick about local faves the Velvet Hammer was screened, the troupe was noticeably absent. Word is V.H. suffered a not-too-amicable split, with co-producer
URSULINA (who took the stage at Tease) forming her own troupe called Buxotica Burlesque: The Girls of Lucha Va Voom. Meanwhile V.H.’s remaining members will provide a harem-scare-’em Halloween night at the Derby. The battle of bodaciousness continues.

—Lina Lecaro

VIPpity Doo-dah

From deluxe movie theater to burlesque stage to television studio to rock & roll nightclub, the-venue- formerly-known-as-the-Palace has weathered eight decades of change and, in the best H-wood tradition, is back with a face-lift (but the old air-conditioning system was running, as always, at full blast) as well as a new name. The AVALON (investors include DAN AYKROYD and BRENT BOLTHOUSE) claimed its place in the new Hollywood with an opening bash that brought out the usual assortment of A-, B- and C-listers, and the usual hordes of MAWs (model-actress-waitresses) who took over the dance floor, gyrating to the heady sounds of DJ AM and Z-TRIP. One chandelier-earringed party girl in pointy shoes remarked to her similarly attired friend, “Now that I’m in, I just want to find the VIP room!” And some just wanted to find the VIPs, who included DONOVAN LEITCH, AIMEE OSBORNE, LAURA PREPON and CHRIS MASTERSON, TARA REID, CRIS JUDD, SHANE WEST, RICK YUNE, LUCAS HAAS, TONY CANAL, JESSICA ALBA, ANDY DICK, KYLIE BAX, PARIS HILTON, ALEXIS ARQUETTE and, for a fleeting moment, CAMERON DIAZ. The upstairs bar now looks a bit more Moroccan than Moorish, and the new Townhouse evokes a Las Vegas penthouse as re-imagined by a modernist designer, but the more things change . . .

—Jade Chang