Comedians talk about their first time and their worst time (which was one and the same for us) … and take turns signing How to Do It Standing Up , a collection of stories by comics published by the Friars Club. On hand for a panel discussion will be Curb Your Enthusiasm ‘s Susie Essman , who plays the potty-mouthed wife of newly-Golden-Globed Larry Kramer’s pal Jeff, and Pat Cooper , who plays himself. ( Carrot Top had a conflict?) Meanwhile, in midtown, the Village People, the B-52’s, Patti LaBelle and Montel Williams walk into a bar and …. No, this is not the beginning of a joke : They’re hustling on over to the China Club, where, in some wise counterprogramming to the police tape of Diana Ross wobbling after being busted for drunk driving, they honor the pop diva with a big basheroo. The concert will feature the disco group Chic and others performing the songstress’ greatest hits. Chic member Nile Rodgers picked up the phone and rang our bell. “Montel is going to sing!” he said giddily. “Not many people know he can sing. He’s incredible!” He then told us what made him write the Chic hit, ” Freak Out “: “Bernard Edwards and I wrote that song one night when we were supposed to go to Studio 54. We couldn’t get in, because we weren’t big enough stars at that point. There we were, in our Giorgio Armani suits on New Year’s Eve, and they wouldn’t let us in. So we went home, and one of us cued up a riff and, for fun, we started singing ‘Aaaahhhh, f*ck off!’ over and over, and Bernard looked at me and said, ‘You know this is happenin’ , right?’ We knew they wouldn’t play it on mainstream radio, so we changed it to ‘Freak Off,’ which just sounded corny, so it evolved into ‘Freak Out.'”
[ How to Do It Standing Up book-signing, Barnes & Noble, 66th Street at Broadway, 7 p.m.; We Are Family Foundation benefit and after-party, China Club, 268 West 47th Street, 7 p.m., 397-4333.]
Poets guzzle Moët: British poetry evangelist Daisy (“I’m not the new Nigella”) Goodwin clinks flutes on the Upper East Side to celebrate her latest anthology, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life . Ms. Goodwin called us from a “telestudio” in London where actors are re-enacting poems from the book into mini-dramas for the BBC. “Poetry is sexy, but people’s idea of it isn’t sexy,” she lamented, erotically. “They think it’s All-Bran, but it’s not All-Bran. It’s caviar- chocolate and caviar.” Tonight’s cocktail reception is hosted by Ed and Nadia Sopher, whom Ms. Goodwin knew “while at university” (Cambridge). “There are poems for everyone: people on diets, people whose pets have died, people who’ve failed their driving tests. I failed my test 13 times in England! I passed it in the States, though. In the States, it was a breeze .” Yikes ! Does she have a favorite? “There’s a very funny two-line poem called ‘Money Talks,’ which says: ‘Money talks I can’t deny. / I heard it once, it said ‘goodbye’! The story of my life .” We hear that.
[ 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life , the Sopher residence, somewhere on the Upper East Side, 6:30 p.m., 207-7468.]
E- NOUGH with the cold already! And the static electricity! Every time we touch our doorknob, it’s like being sent to the chair. This weekend, 40-plus magazine editors get a break from the tundra when Coty Beauty bribes-excuse us, flies -them to Las Vegas for the unveiling of Celine Dion’s new fragrance ( note to Ms. Dion and other Canadians : We’re sensing that Ms. Dion is, err, a bit overexposed these days, as witnessed by the universal groans which greeted her profoundly annoying TV ads for Chrysler during the Golden Globes. So you might want to chill for a while, toots .) Meanwhile we hole up in our warm apartments with HBO-on-demand, avoiding doorknobs like Ben Affleck avoids good scripts. While we can’t wear enough layers, they’re peeling ‘em off downtown at the ManhattanVintage Clothing Show . Don’t miss the exhibitionof corsetsby “Corset King” Dean Sonnenberg of the Corsetiere Studio. According to sources, these are “the originals that inspired Madonna’s ‘virgin/harlot’ look.” Does Celine Dion know about this?
[Celine Dion fragrance unveiling,
398-7618, by invitation only; Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, 1 p.m.,
Now that the Upright Citizens Brigade, the city’s top improv troupe, has been bounced from their Chelsea theater, is there anything worth laughing at? Maybe tonight at the Big Apple Improv Festival, where some of New York’s top improvisers square off in comedic combat-kind of like the rap “battles” in 8 Mile (minus the race issue and Oscar buzz -a buzz which reduced to a hum in the face of Chicago .) We caught up with Rob Webber of the comedy troupe Johnny Lunchpail, who told us he also has “a real job in a real office in a private-equity firm.” Worst part of improv? “The worst is when we ask the crowd for a suggestion, and someone screams out, ‘Go home!'” Favorite part? “When you get to be inanimate objects -those are my favorite. Like if you’re a refrigerator, and you get to make your face light up whenever the door opens. I mean, what’s it like to be a fridge?” Ask Lara Flynn Boyle … me- OW!! Speaking of psycho ballerina outfits, in our opinion, dating is a lot like shopping at H&M: You absolutely dread going. You have to get in there early, before all the good stuff is taken. It’s completely draining and yet you always go back, because the potential for finding something great is too overwhelming not to. Today, the Learning Annex gets hopped up on “Coffee Dating: Connecting Through Circulating and Percolating,” finally proving, perhaps, the widely held suspicion that New Yorkers prefer drinking coffee to ever having sex again. Today, musical chairs meets elimiDATE as singles have 10-minute one-on-one coffee chats before moving on to the next prospect. At the end of the rounds, everyone hands over their “hottie lists” to a hostess, who then sets up the matching couples. Nice idea in theory, but the potential for that last-kid-picked-for-dodgeball feeling is sky-high.
[The Big Apple Improv Festival, the Little Theater at the West Side YMCA, 5 West 63rd Street, east of Lincoln Center, 8 p.m., 353-7716; Coffee Dating, 1 p.m., 371-0280.]
O.K., is 2003 the Year of the Sheep, or the Year of the Goat? Because we’re getting conflicting answers, and our fact-checkers are starting to get grouchy . So today’s the second day of the Chinese New Year, and apparently there’s more to Chinatown than fake Rolies and “I § New York” baby T’s. Who knew? The Chinese New Year in Chinatown tour explores the area, including Quong Yeun Shing, the oldest store in Chinatown, which now sells tchotchkes and random goods. “They even sell bus tickets to Foxwoods!” said Seth Kamil of Big Onion Walking Tours. “My favorite is the open-air market on Mott Street between Hester and Grand, above Canal. That, for me, is the epitome of Chinatown-as opposed to two blocks down, where there’s a McDonald’s, Starbucks and Häagen-Dazs with faux Chinese fronts,” he added with smarty-pants disdain. “It’s the exact same fish you buy at Citarella, except the salmon is $4 a pound instead of $16. The only time I won’t buy it is in the heat of summer-I stay away from fish in general during July and August.” Glad to know that, bucko. After spending the day getting lost on the Lower East Side, head to the Ziegfeld for the premiere of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (a concept we seem to have mastered all on our own), starring the always-effervescent Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey , who was last seen (or not seen, in this case) in Reign of Fire . Cue the bongos!
[Chinese New Year in Chinatown, the southwest corner of Canal and Lafayette streets, 1 p.m., 439-1090; How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days premiere, Ziegfeld Theater, 141 West 54th Street, 6 p.m., by invitation only.]
When not busy being kidnapped, those hedge-fund guys can par-tay! Tonight, Hedge Funds Care holds its annual benefit to raise money for the prevention of child abuse. “Hedge funds are one of the most philanthropic industries in the country,” said the charity’s founder, Rob Davis . “Most of the world doesn’t realize it, because hedge-fund people tend to be quiet and not beat their chests about it.” ( Thump, thump, thump .) Mr. Davis and 800 of his closest friends will carry out an (unhostile) takeover of the Marriott for a night of dinner and dancing. Expect Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs and both Morgans (J.P. and Stanley), as well as sports figures like Walt Frazier. Tables start at $12,000. Note to hedge-funders: Don’t forget to save some money and invest in a panic room …. Meanwhile, down the road at Cipriani, the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) is honoring Anna Wintour, Richard (“Razzle-Dazzle”) Gere and Lorne Michaels at a gala hosted by bespectacled Saturday Night Live darling Tina Fey , with a list of fancy event chairs like Kenneth Cole, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. Question: How will Ms. Fey resist the temptation to poke fun at Ms. Wintour? And if she does resist that temptation, how can she ever again call herself a self-respecting cast member of a show whose lineage includes John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray and Chris Rock? Meanwhile, bespectacled lit-chick Joyce Carol Oates (one of the few celebrity scholars Princeton didn’t poach from Harvard) presides over the 92nd Street Y, where Lan Samantha Chang ( Hunger: A Novella and Stories ), Jonathan Safran Foer ( Everything Is Illuminated ) and Barry Raine ( Where the River Bends ) will read. Ms. Chang called us from her home in Cambridge, where she teaches fiction-writing to earnest Cantabs, and talked about the nomadic life of an academic. “Oh man, I think I moved five times to four different states,” she said. “I lived in New Jersey for a year and I loved it, which people think is so strange. I do love Cambridge. I also loved Iowa City-people should fly there to do their errands!” Ever commit academic masturbation (a.k.a. assign her own books) ? “No, but I’ll think about it now that you said that! Maybe after they get their grades!”
[Hedge Funds Care, Marriott Marquis Hotel, 1535 Broadway at 46th Street, 5:30 p.m., 967-0322, ext. 341; amfAR gala, Cipriani, 110 East 42nd Street, 6:30 p.m., 806-1753; New Voices in Fiction and Memoir, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, 8 p.m., 415-5500.]
Male feminists (menimists) head to the 92nd Street Y to cruise Nerve.com ladies at a lecture by intellectual pin-up/academic pit bull, Camille Paglia, who tries to recapture some of her 1990’s heat by setting her critical gaze upon the gals of Hollywood in contemporary culture. ( Anna Nicole, start running now. We’re giving you a head start.) Meanwhile, men who like their gals in a more supine state of mind bid on the celebrity-designed platinum heart pendants on public display at Sotheby’s for a “Women with Heart” charity auction. Designers include the indefatigable Christina Applegate , Gisele Bündchen (check to see if it has a Leo-induced crack down the middle), Penélope Cruz and everyone’s favorite political scientist, Barbra Streisand.
[Women with Heart, Sotheby’s, 1334 York Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets, 10 a.m., 606-7000; Camille Paglia: Images of Women in Hollywood, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, 8 p.m., 415-5500.]
One bad boy, two good girls: So Hunter S. Thompson has published a new book, Kingdom of Fear , which has received tepid reviews at best , so here’s our advice to Mr. Fear and Loathing- why not write a diet book, as an argument that if more Americans lived as you do, they’d live longer and look pretty darn good? Tonight, he signs copies of his latest tome at Barnes & Noble Union Square. If you prefer galas to gonzo , the Museum of Television and Radio is honoring Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett, who these days look eerily alike in a “Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda in Single White Female ” kind of a way.
[Hunter S. Thompson book-signing, Barnes & Noble/Union Square, 33 East 17th Street, 7 p.m., 253-0810; Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett Gala, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 301 Park Avenue, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only.]