Worlds collided at the Strip’s last cock-rock redoubt, the RAINBOW, where the loft bar hosted a listening junket for the debut album from rock-royalty supa-dupa group/rehab reunion VELVET REVOLVER (a combustible combo of Stone Temple Pilots’ SCOTT WEILAND and Guns N’ Roses’ SLASH, DUFF McKAGAN and MATT SORUM), titled Contraband (uhh . . . geddit?). A herd of nerdy international journalists trooped upstairs to soak up soggy pizza, free booze and a vibe that was about as rock & roll as a chess-club mingler. The “seasoned” band members suddenly looked superglam again amid the anoraks, but there was barely a female to impress (déjà vu for most of these scribblers) save for token all-access charmers. Perennial Peter Pan–on–smack Weiland arrived fashionably late, only to stumble into a Spinal Tap–shaming cameo as the Grecian Formula bouncer on the door refused him admission — to his own party. After a minor, incredulous tantrum, the ever-affable Duff intervened, but even then Weiland had to succumb to being the first hand of the evening to be stamped. Oh, the music? Well, as one admirably frank German scribe put it (cartoon Teutonic accent here): “Vy didn’t zey just hire Sebastian Bach and make it tortally ’80s?” (VR did consider former Skid Row screecher Bach, but apparently no dealer or pharmacist would give him the necessary reference.) If you liked GN’R or STP, you’ll like VR well enough. Then again, if you liked GN’R or STP, you’re probably only buying “Best Ofs” these days.

—Paul Rogers


Dress Coda

Torn jeans and a top hat? What exactly does one wear to a “black tie” event about bohemians? The AHMANSON opening for BAZ LUHRMANN’s Puccini-lite LA BOHÈME elicited some creative interpretations of the concept. Tuxes rubbed shoulders with “Members Only” jackets at the sold-out spectacle, enthusiastically applauded by the likes of actors HENRY WINKLER, DAVID HYDE PIERCE, MICHAEL YORK, SALLY KELLERMAN, BONNIE FRANKLIN, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, CAROL COOK, CYD CHARISSE, BLYTHE DANNER, REBECCA DE MORNAY, DANA DELANY, NANCY DUSSAULT, DENNIS FRANZ, CRISPIN GLOVER, ROBERT GUILLAUME, LUCY LAWLESS, LORNA LUFT, CHRISTINA PICKLES, LINDA PURL, EVA MARIE SAINT, REX SMITH, BETTY THOMAS, MARISSA JARET WINOKUR, writer/director CARL REINER, playwright NEIL SIMON and wife ELAINE JOYCE, and director DAVID GALLIGAN. But bow tie or bolo tie, spectators formed an oddly somber-looking crowd: “Black tie” translated as all black for many. However, a few opera buffs showed off more colorful plumage, modeled, perhaps, on Luhrmann’s working girls in Moulin Rouge. They were greatly outnumbered, though, by theatergoers seemingly dressed in castoffs from Luhrmann’s film Strictly Ballroom, about competitive dancing, that featured scores of shiny taffeta costumes (heavy on the bows, spangles and epaulets). After the final curtain, Luhrmann joined the cast onstage for a bow, accompanied by his Academy Award–winning costume-designer wife, CATHERINE MARTIN. Causing as much buzz as Martin’s sequined fashion faux pas was a gesticulating theatergoer who looked a whole lot like VIGGO MORTENSEN. Ring-a-ding king.

—Sandra Ross


Surreality Bites

A new season, a new onslaught of guilty small-screen pleasures. Hollywood and Highland was the host of two TV launch parties on the same night: LUCKY STRIKE LANES was raided by the stiletto-heeled beauties of TYRA BANKS’ compulsively watchable America’s Next Top Model. Trays of snacky foods were in sight, though last year’s winner, ADRIANNE CURRY, and legendary loudmouthed supermodel turned author turned reality-TV-show judge JANICE DICKENSON were apparently enough to sate partygoers’ appetites. Scene queen MICHELE MILLS and burlesque performer SELENE LUNA were among the attendees, as was actor BOB COSTANZO, who somehow missed the episode’s premiere despite the venue’s eight TV screens, but he seemed to enjoy the post-show projections of tattooed hotties from the SUICIDEGIRLS nonetheless. Up five flights in THE ANNEX was a kickoff fete for the second season of The Surreal Life — and the extensively catered party was most surreal, indeed. The roll call included comedian ANTHONY ANDERSON; actress HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE; teen dreamboy JOEY LAWRENCE; and heartthrob actor CHRIS KLEIN as well as cast members RON JEREMY, who’s famous for throbbing elsewhere; the artist formerly known as VANILLA ICE, who’s traded in his M.C. Hammer gear for heavily inked arms and punk-rock piercings; and The Real World’s TRISHELLE CANATELLA, making her transition into the surreal world. LYNSEY “Grounded for Life” BARTILSON threw boas on unsuspecting male co-stars and pulled them onstage to join in her cover of the Weather Girls’ oh-so-gay anthem “It’s Raining Men.” Where are the cameras when we need them?

—Clint Catalyst


Boob Tube Job

Taking over ASTRA WEST at the PACIFIC DESIGN CENTER, ABC networkers mixed it up with newspaper and magazine writers who cover the TV biz at a party for the TELEVISION CRITICS ASSOCIATION winter press tour. Since it was all about promoting midseason replacements, ABC went with a medical theme, invoking its new Stephen King thriller, Kingdom Hospital. Its stars DIANE LADD, ED BEGLEY JR. and ’80s heartthrob ANDREW McCARTHY were all working the room, but the press really responded to the cater-waiters wearing surgical scrubs and handing out M&Ms in little prescription cups. Former D.A. turned Disney Hall photographer turned TV-series consultant GIL GARCETTI seemed to be enjoying his latest gig, working for the new series The D.A., but plenty of ABC old hats, including single-camera talent CAMRYN MANHEIM, STEVE HARRIS, DENNIS FRANZ and the statuesque HENRY SIMMONS, as well as sitcom stars BONNIE HUNT, SARA RUE and KATEY SAGAL, chatted up eager newspaper writers brandishing microcassette recorders. One cub reporter barged into a conversation between ABC entertainment president SUSAN LYNE and Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist GAIL SHISTER. “Do you have anything to say?” Shister asked. The poor thing didn’t. Others, with more finesse, were waiting their turn to get a moment with the ascot-bedecked PETER BOGDANOVICH, who was plugging his biopic about Natalie Wood. The fashion win of the evening was network flack KEVIN BROCKMAN, who sported an eye patch. Conjunctivitis kept his peeper covered and prevented him from shaking hands, tough for a PR guy to do. The press actually seemed sympathetic. “I’ll have to think about what to do next year,” he quipped. A full body cast, maybe?

—Christopher Lisotta

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