Betcha Think This Col Is About You:
Column Inches #5 in Martha's Vineyard

by Tony Phillips

Welcome back. Column Inches is transmitting from balmy Martha’s Vineyard as we stay just within an inch of the law in our relentless pursuit of island resident Carly Simon. So far, all we’ve garnered from tight-lipped locals is the Simon family owns a property up-island. When asked what the hell that means, we got a bunch of gibberish about longitudes and latitudes, before some NYC attitude unearthed the town of Chilmark as the New England residence of Ms. Simon. Hopefully we’ll have more from Chez Simon as we’re staking out her favorite restaurant this evening.

Before we jetted out of Gotham, we took in a screening of the latest Batman franchise seated directly behind uber-feminist Gloria Steinem. We wish we could tell you more about the film — all we were able to glean between glances at Ms. Steinem’s immaculate flip were Christian Bale’s smoking shirtless scenes and poor Katie Holmes inability to act her way out of a wet paper bag — but while we didn’t see much of Batman Begins, ask us anything about Ms. Steinem head. Anything! After the screening, we asked her if Wonder Woman could kick the new Batman’s ass. Looking both shocked and puzzled, she explained as step-mother to Bale she’s a tad biased before replying, “Absolutely.” Girl power!

Another caped crusader sweeping big screens this month is Tommy the Clown, subject of fashion photographer ‘come filmmaker David LaChapelle’s Rize. The dance craze krumping, originated by "ghetto celebrity" Tommy, is here in all its rainbow fro-ed glory. The movement derives its vocabulary from equal parts clown, stripper and burn victim. It doesn't hurt if your face is painted up in clown white. We caught up with LaChapelle after his Sundance premiere and party tore the roof off Park City. "This is not just a film for people who like hip-hop," the Connecticut native explained in the blacked-out, Heineken Lounge reminding us of our old Fire Island house/drug den, "this is a crossover film for the cineplex as well as the art house.”

LaChapelle had good reason for the blackout shades. His party saw not only 11 dancers from the film, but Nicky and Paris Hilton on the red carpet and his muse Pamela Anderson eventually pulled on-stage to krump and clown with the rest of the cast. The Los Angeles transplant is fairly cocky in his baggy jeans and askew trucker hat. When asked about his pitch for the film, he replied, "I’m done pitching." And sure enough he was. Just after our chat, Lions Gate picked up worldwide rights on Rize paying an undisclosed amount rumored to be one of the big cha-chings of this year’s Sundance, an irony not lost on his South Central Los Angeles cast.

But before you start bracing for images of urban squalor, realize this is the same photographer whose idea of ghetto is Britney Spears dripping banjee gold and blowing bubbles in front of a gushing, Sirk-red fire hydrant while barrio children splash at her feet. He's the man who put cyber-tranny Amanda Lepore on a Swatch, Gwen Stefani on death row and douses his muscle men in a cocktail of baby oil and blue eye-shadow. And Rize is no exception. "It's a musical and a documentary," LaChapelle explains, "and as a musical you have to have a finale. You tell a story and the musical numbers push the story along. That's the classic idea of a musical, but this is a documentary too.”

Just don't call it a trend. "I feel that their lives are not trends," he corrects, "they are a marginalized group of kids, but for them hip-hop is not a trend, it's their lifestyle. They are the next generation of hip-hop. They are the alternative to commercialized bling-bling. They treat their women well. They're not bitches and hos. They're sisters. Equals. The Kurt Cobain of hip-hop. What Nirvana was to hair bands, they are to hip-hop at this moment."

The Angry Inch: While we’re on the subject of ghetto fabulous, which star of race relations soap Crash recently whined “being white ain’t all that great” to Vogue? Try nabbing a Vogue cover if you ain’t white, honey! Which 40-year-old femme fatale exhibits the nerve of Jesse James ruling her love life off limits, yet tooling around with a tattooed mechanic whose last marriage was to a porn star? Which Speed freek signed on for a minor part in Doug McGrath’s big screen bio-pic of Truman Capote, then railroaded the entire production of this very New York story to her adopted Texas hometown, banning journalists from its one day of shooting in Manhattan? If you guessed Miss Congeniality Sandra Bullock for any of the above, you’re half-right.