No preteen shopping-mall Madonna wannabe from back in the day ever came close to perfecting the art of MADONNA impersonation quite like our country’s greatest drag queens. M. herself proclaimed, after the all-male tribute during last year’s MTV Video Awards, that “it takes a real man to fill my shoes.” And lord knows they tried last week in honor of her 42nd birthday at the 11th ANNUAL MADONNA LOOK-ALIKE AND LIP-SYNCH COMPETITION, which, we were amused to learn, actually originated in a Black Angus in Ontario. In sweltering heat, hostess and M. “illusionist” VIVA SEX (pictured) got the shirtless masses at THE FACTORY going with “Music,” the current club single that sounds like one long bum note. Seven contestants, surrounded by screens showing the entire “Blonde Ambition” concert, thankfully took us back to ye olde Boytoyland with renditions of “Vogue,” “Dress You Up” and “Erotica.” Contestant No. 4 and her backups — a goth kid and a vacant-looking G-stringed blond — quick-changed through half a dozen songs and just as many construction-paper costumes that stank worse than all of M.’s movies combined. The top prize went to ADRIAN, a second-time winner, who did “Nothing Really Matters” and “Shanti/Ashtangi” with its Sanskrit mantra. We, however, were rooting for either of the two “Vogue” vixens (props for getting the Vincent Paterson choreography right). Singing along to “strike a pose” and “gave good face” just sounded more fun than “Vunde gurunam caranaravinde sandarsita . . .”

—Siran Babayan


Don’t expect a break from politics now that we’ve run the DNC out of town, because it’s a never-ending Gore fest until November. RAISE THE BAR, the national nonprofit organization that holds fund-raisers and voter-registration drives at queer clubs, knows that getting John Q. to pull the lever is tricky, so they bumped the grind of getting the vote out at ARENA by hosting “Latin Night” there recently. Soon-to-be-shirtless sweathogs were greeted at the door by sexy solicitors enticing virgin voters to join in the ballot-box orgy come November, before they even made their way to the open bar or free buffet. (Note to Raise the Bar: Set up shop at the bar. Fat and happy drunks always give it up more easily than sober and starving freeloaders.) Event hosts included club kings and queens (you choose who’s who) JOSH WELLS, APRIL LA RUE and BILLY ERB, as well as Bar founders H. AARON ARONOW, M.D., activist ORION MARTINEZ, writer/
producer DAVID A. NEWMAN, and writer and event coordinator KEITH MERRYMAN. The lines were blurred from the start outside, with a mishmash of VIP and regular-entry queues to Arena and CIRCUS, its parking lot–adjacent “sister” club, where GIANT, a heavily hetero affair, was also pumping. Cross these party lines and you’ll find yourself playing with the other team. Hey, if it worked for David Bowie, it can work for you.

—J.V. McAuley


Something refreshing was in the air last week when London DJ extraordinaire GILLES PETERSON brought his worldwide styles to Los Angeles at the jam-packed EL REY. His renowned eclecticism and romantica jazz-infused sounds kept the ultracosmopolitan crowd bouncing for hours as he deftly mixed cut after cut of soulful house, rare groove, bubbly drum ’n’ bass and everything in between. By the time Deniece Williams’ honey-dipped soul classic “Free” flowed out of the speakers way past midnight, hundreds of steamy, shimmering bodies had melted into one giant, undulating wave, and the cavernous El Rey was magically transformed into an intimate back-alley club. We were disappointed that garage-soul-beat maestro MJ COLE wasn’t present to open the show as scheduled, but Bossa Nova resident DJ JUN stepped up to electrify the house with his own signature style of funky-but-sleek mixes. Sharing the night’s good cheer were urban-beat poet SAUL WILLIAMS, Viper Room favorite NIK FROST, Ritual Events’ JED WEXLER, Urb’s RAYMOND ROKER and Chocolate City’s GARTH TRINIDAD. One awestruck fan, taking a moment to dwell on the magnificent cityscape of lights that drenched the stage, sighed, “There really needs to be more of this in L.A.”

—Lisa Yu


Despite the scheduled appearance of their idol LEIF GARRETT GODSPEED, the Leifettes were not out in force on the first night of the heavily hyped RETRO SHOW at the SANTA MONICA CIVIC AUDITORIUM, which was more Carnival of Souls than VH1’s Behind the Music, with event staff, vendors and “volunteers” outnumbering the patrons in a desolate amusement-park milieu. Carnies, none of whom resembled GARY BUSEY in the 1980 film, lolled in front of sun-bleached prizes and deserted rides. Vendors hawked schlock and kitsch to the uninterested few. One of the celebs on display, Rhoda hubby DAVID GROH, expressed dismay with the turnout — right before the electricity cut out on the minuscule audience. Former teen heartthrob Garrett also seemed taken aback by the small crowd, but the barefoot songbird (wearing a long-sleeved shirt despite the heat) maintained his sense of humor. When a heckler shouted, “I Feel Like Dancin’” (an attempt at “I Was Made For Dancin’,” the title of one of Garrett’s bubble-gum hits), the pop icon quipped, “Actually, I really don’t.” (Local thespian SEAN E. LOVE, wearing a bejeweled Dokken T-shirt, appeared to be auditioning for a solo spot with the Leif Garrett Dancers.) A handful of middle-aged female fans (and a haggard Rod Stewart look-alike) tapped their feet to Godspeed’s metal dirges, which one wit characterized as “music to rehab by” after Leif asked for “a big round of applause for ROBERT DOWNEY JR. for getting out of jail.” Feigning amnesia when heckled about his Tiger Beat days, the aging singer did briefly doff his hat to mop a sweaty brow, treating the assembled to a tantalizing glimpse of his bald spot. Rock on, Tiger.

—Sandra Ross

Edited by Kateri Butler

LA Weekly