Spin, Spin Sugar:
Column Inches #3 at The Tony Awards

by Tony Phillips

You again! What do you want from us already? Welcome back to Column Inches, your weekly dose of goings on about town. As the spring Broadway season draws to a close and we plow headlong into Sunday night’s Tony ceremony, we’re turning things over to the only other prize that spins: the 59th Annual Antoinette Perry Awards. But don’t thank us yet; it’s an act of atonement as Column Inches is a notorious Tony jinx. The curse started last year when we did a profile of a big, blonde pal of ours in advance of the nominations, and then, natch, she wasn’t nominated. This year, we continued the grand tradition of zotzing the hell out of a hopeful’s shot at winning by running smack into best choreography double-nominee Jerry Mitchell right on the Broadway.

“How great to bump into you,” we said, “we’ve been meaning to give you a call before the big show.” And before we could stop it, the following tumbled out: “You’re our big Tony prediction!” The genius hoofer who started the upcoming Broadway Bares by shaking his moneymaker on the bar at Splash and grew it into a more than half a million dollar AIDS fundraising enterprise annually stared back at us blankly. He then cocked his gorgeous mug as if to ask, “Did you just say that out loud?” Hearing it, we were also deeply mortified. Why not just drag the poor guy into the nearest theater and start screaming “MacBeth!” at the top of our lungs?

“It’s okay,” says Jerry, lLots of people have been saying that to me.” Yeah, lots of people who don’t know folks on the Broadway are just slightly less superstitious than Stevie Wonder. We stared down, shamefacedly, at Jerry’s pink-tied trainers. Hmmm, maybe he really is helming the Legally Blonde musical? But we couldn’t face him, even if he was being a total trooper, not after a flub that ungainly. But hell, we told ourselves after wishing the tall drink of water a broken leg, this guy really is going to win. He’s up twice in the same category and against Christina Applegate movement that really did break a leg and, well, did Spamalot even have choreography? So if flipping drag queens over open pits onstage in La Cage Aux Follies or putting dancers on that spinning whirligig in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels doesn’t bring him home an award, and the Hairspray honcho still really wants a Tony that spins for his mantle, he need look no further. Just don’t put us in the bathroom.

After killing audiences at last week’s Fifth Annual Trevor Project benefit at Crobar, another Hairspray alum, Jackie Hoffman, weighed in via email, trying to allay our Tony-killing angst and plug her new show simultaneously. “I am so out of the Tony loop,” the comedienne slash chanteuse next up as Dyan Cannon in a swinging homage to Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice wrote, “I didn’t even know it was bad luck. All I can contribute is the Hairspray dance I did years ago on two Ambien.” Another boozy broad coming out swinging at Helen’s Hideaway Room in Chelsea is Flotilla DeBarge. Flo is our future jinx for the 2006 awards when her turn as Eddie in The Threepenny Opera opposite Alan Cumming’s Macheath and Nellie McKay’s Polly is sure to be up for something. We can only hope it’s parole. Meantime, her great aunt Mamie took us on a bifocaled, gin and juice tour of the Harlem Renaissance with schooling on how Josephine Baker’s grass skirt got burnt up and who was on-hand with some bananas for the new one. Mamie’s not superstitious at all. In fact, she’ll even reveal archrival Lena Horne’s actual age includes the number thirteen: 113!

Still on the gala trail trying to lift simultaneously lift our party dress and Tony curse, we cornered Best Actress nom Cherry Jones after she gallantly hosted last week’s Fourth Annual Live Out Loud benefit at the Chelsea Art Museum. Handing college scholarships to cute trailblazers, Cherry fought against the cocktailing din to extol our next generation of leadership. We told the Paris, Tennessee, native we wanted to see her doling out higher schooling coin in character as Doubt’s crotchety Sister Aloysius. “Then at least I could have gotten the room to shut the fuck up,” Cherry laughed, but said her intro as “the next best actress Tony winner” didn’t bother her in the least. “I get superstitious about other things,” she added mysteriously, before bee-lining over to a man she shouted out as “half as tall as the column he stands in front of” during her hostess greeting. As we paid our own respects to Tommy Tune, the nine-time Tony-winning Texan told us how to lift any skirt or jinx. “Say ‘toy, toy, toy’ and touch your balls,” Broadway’s original tall drink of water instructed, “everything will be fine.” We think we’ll give Jackie Hoffman the last word here: “Tommy Tune just wants you to touch his balls?” Anytime, Mr. Tune, but we’re spinning on Mr. Mitchell’s mantle Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s.

The Angry Inch: Jessica Lange.

Which potty-mouthed King Kong star cursed like a sailor on a recent American Theatre Wing televised panel sending Tony voters scrambling for their Janet Jackson bleeper, but not their nomination ballots? Which billboard-foreheaded Oscar-winner further fucked the Broadway food chain by having her up-and-coming Glass Menagerie co-star yanked last minute and replaced by another Hollywood go-to guy. Which wed-locked rasta had her reps begging for ink because “the show needs all the help it can get,” then, after rousing us at the crack of dawn, postponed a barely Warholian five-minute chat for hours before ditching it entirely to go home and take a pre-lunch nap? If you guessed Jessica Lange for any of the above, you guessed this week’s Angry Inch.