Pool par-tay! It’s not boding well for August …. The execrably unfunny Joel Stein is back on the Times Op-Ed page; select members of New York’s Finest have lost all dignity, tootling around on motorized pogo sticks ; and Manhattan women-whose fashion consciousness apparently sinks to zero the second the mercury hits 90 -are padding around the streets in those cheap-ass glittery mesh slippers from Chinatown …. Can you blame a gal for wanting to throw her hands up and plunge into a pool , per the old Nestea ads? But since a Hamptons manse ain’t exactly forthcoming (hel- lo !), we’re resorting to the naughty-sounding “Swim Shorts II: Wetter and Wilder” – not a special edition of Maxim , but an aquatic theater festival at the rooftop pool of a Holiday Inn . (When our big-cheese editor heard the phrase “aquatic theater festival,” he got sort of wild-eyed and muttered something about Ethel Merman, and we said: “Sorry, bub, we’re too young to know who the heck that is”) …. Anyway, tonight’s play, Tugboat Love , is about a shy little tugboat named Li’l Toot, who’s trying to work up the courage to confess that he wants to rock the boat with the Statue of Liberty. “She’s this bodacious bronze babe, and she’s all that!” said director Robin Rice Lichtig from the Upper West Side, where she has the perfect marital arrangement (i.e., her husband lives in New Jersey ). “The seats are all around the pool, which will be my New York Harbor. The actor who plays the tugboat will probably be in a big fat inner tube .” Audience members can pay five bucks extra to go swimming after the performance, which seems too gross to contemplate, but we’ll bring our favorite tawny cabana boy just in case ….
[The Holiday Inn Rooftop Pool, 440 West 57th Street, 7:30 p.m., 917-509-7531.]
Do-si-do, girlfriends: It’s the inevitable collision of American Idol with Queer Eye for the Straigh t G uy : a forthcoming reality series called American Pride , wherein pretty cowboys compete to be declared America’s first openly gay country-music superstar …. That’s “openly” …. Creator, Grammy nominee and N.Y.U. songwriting instructor Larry Dvoskin told us he drew inspiration from a strip club he visited in Dallas. “I walked into this club where people were two-stepping, and it was like putting my hand in an electric socket!” he said. Bzzzz . “It was alive! It was turning the stereotype of a gay man upside-down. Outside there were gun racks on pickup trucks, and inside were a bunch of gay men and women having a hoot .” But why no butch dykes in this contest? “Cowboy is the last macho stereotype,” Mr. Dvoskin said. (Cue Village People flashback.) “In the Southern Bible Belt culture, it’s the Howard Stern mentality, where two women together is a fantasy but two guys banging boots is like: ‘No freaking way!'” There will be a woman, a “drag king” named Murray Hill clad in a little mustache and polyester suit, helping host the program. “She looks a little bit like Ralph Kramden,” Mr. Dvoskin said. Alternatively, there’s a screening of Guys and Dolls out in the lesbian-and-Frisbee part of Brooklyn- check it out before those d*mn brothers Weinstein remake and ruin it!
[ American Pride auditions, SIR Studios, 312 West 52nd Street, noon to 3 p.m.; Guys and Dolls , Prospect Park Bandshell, Ninth Street and Prospect Park West, Park Slope 8:30 p.m., 718-855-7882, ext. 45.]
Remember how, when you were little and Daddy was at work, Mommy used to plop you down in front of the television to watch Mr. Wizard while she went out and “met with clients” even though she didn’t actually have a job? Or is that between you and your therapist? Meet Steve Cohen, 32, whose show Chamber Magic -“a big mishmash of psychology, hypnotism and trickery,” he calls it- is basically Mr. Wizard minus the science cr*p , or perhaps David Copperfield minus the Claudia Schiffer cr*p. “I’m probably one of the most expensive people in the business,” Mr. Cohen told us from Steamboat Springs, Colo., where he was performing for some anonymous business magnate (Ron Galotti?). “I didn’t go to Hogwartz! I studied with my uncle, who was a student of Harry Houdini. I’m a trained hypnotist. I majored in psychology at Cornell”- oooh -“so now I can utilize mind games and psychological techniques to get audience members to subconsciously give up information about themselves.” Jeez, be careful! Mr. Cohen, who clearly hasn’t discovered the secret to a happy marriage (see Ms. Lichtig, above) lives on the Upper West Side with his wife, a writer, and their 3-year-old tyke, Alex. “My son thinks that all the papas can do magic,” he said. “He’ll have a play date with another kid and he’ll take a quarter over to their fathers and say, ‘Make this disappear!'” Watch your $52 disappear tonight as this freaky dude performs in some fancy suite at the Waldorf.
[ Chamber Magic: A Demonstration of Modern Conjuring , the Waldorf Towers, 100 East 50th Street, 7 p.m. or 9 p.m., 917-361-8751.]
Where’s Ashton Kutcher? Who, frankly, cares? But tonight his poor beleaguered ex, Brittany Murphy -who was perfectly darling in Clueless and then dropped a scary amount of weight and became “edgy,” which is Hollywoodese for “skanky”-premieres in Uptown Girls , a sort of Nanny Diaries –esque movie co-starring Dakota Fanning, who was perfectly darling in I Am Sam ; let’s hope she escapes Ms. Murphy’s fate …. At the after-party: Heather Graham look-alike Marley Shelton , sparkly designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka , twinkly hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai (can he do something about our recent chop, s’il vous-plait? ), socialite designer Alexandra Lind plus hubby, are-they-or-aren’t-they-a-couple Andre Balazs and Katie Ford and-anticlimax alert-Ralph Macchio. Meanwhile, over in Bridgehampton, people auction off plates designed by yoga-lovin’ designer Donna Karan , cartwheel-lovin’ designer Betsey Johnson and fair cosmetics exec Evelyn Lauder . This will somehow benefit Artists Against Abuse. Wanna talk abuse? The thing costs $100 and there will be some coffee or cocktails, but-despite the many plates present-there will be no dinner. That’s the crazy logic of dem Hamptons!
[ Uptown Girls premiere, United Artists Southampton Theater, 43 Hill Street, Southampton, 7 p.m., after-party at the Atlantic Hotel, 1655 County Road 39, Southampton, by invitation only; Artists Against Abuse, 1927 Scuttlehole Road, Bridgehampton, 5:30 to
8 p.m., 631-329-4398.]
We smell a rat: More proof Manhattan is going down the tubes: It’s 85 freaking degrees outside and Pottery Barn is already putting out earth-toned chenille throws?! Puh-leeze …. Playwright Julia Edwards, a Brown semiotics major, fights back against this kind of slick corporate hegemony with The Rats Are Getting Bigger , an Off Off Off Broadway musical set in a new Manhattan of pigeon-free streets, soy-based hot dogs and graffiti-less walls. The “kooky” plot: The heiress to the Bloomingdale’s empire, one Mrs. Bloomingdale, “spawns a half-rat/half-human baby” (El Raton) and flushes it down the toilet, where it rises up in the sewers as leader of a rat army. (Kind of like The Nutcracker meets Rosemary’s Baby .) Meanwhile, human paramours Ernest and Ariana start a revolution. Ms. Edwards, 33, elaborated: “At the beginning of the play, Ariana finds a pair of her panties that she swears have been eaten by a rat, but Ernest doesn’t believe her. Later she ends up being stolen away by El Raton, and eventually is seduced by the rat.” Hmmm …. Ms. Edwards added she “used all sorts of culture theory and applied those theories to the analytical side of the play.” Don’t say we didn’t warn you about August.
[Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, 10:15 p.m., 917-304-2857.]
Hope floats: Poor Bob Hope … first his obit gets written by a fellow dead guy, Vincent Canby (what’s next for The Times , d’ya think-reportagefrom Miss Cleo?), then Christopher Hitchens thunders in Slate that Mr. Hope was “a fool, and nearly a clown … but never even remotely a comedian.” Is nothing sacred? How about a nice, innocent film festival at Lincoln Center celebrating Mr. Hope’s 100th birthday? Tonight: Road to Utopia , Road to Morocco , My Favorite Brunette and our personal favorite, My Favorite Blonde . Just don’t bring popcorn, ’cause the middle-aged Lincoln Center crowd tends to consider itself above all that.
[Thanks for the Memories: Bob Hope’s 100th Birthday, Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, plaza level, call 212-875-5600 for showtimes.]
Fine feathers have their place, but let’s face it: sometimes paying good cash money to go to all these “benefits” filled with hydrangeas, 5-foot-9 guys trying to get laid and socialites with the same names as our childhood pets gets a little tedious, ya know? To the rescue is Elsa’s Ark , a worthy animal charity based in East Hampton, which is staging a super-low-maintenance Stay at Home Black Tie Ball ce soir . The best part? Nobody has to go to East Hampton! Instructions for attending “ball”: send a check, then remain in your apartment feeling smug, as though you’ve advanced two spaces on the Game of Life. Incidentally, we’re twittering with excitement over the prospect of spending an evening with our two new pet parakeets, Blue and Jesus , who in their short term of residence have already given us hours more pleasant conversation than our past five suitors, easy. (Just don’t tell Elsa’s Ark we actually had to trade in the original Jesus because she squawked a little too loudly …. )
[Stay at Home Black Tie Ball, Elsa’s Ark, East Hampton, 631-329-2900,
A fit of cotton pique? Aw, we take it back-benefits are the greatest! The New York Junior Tennis League ( thwock! ), bereft at the recent withdrawal of both defending champs from the imminent U.S. Open, throws a “Summer Gala with the Stars” with the Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS (the late Mr. Ashe hailed from an era when tennis nymphs were far too dignified to pose on the cover of Maxim or its 1960’s equivalent, Playboy -though they did occasionally wear cute little pom-pom socks) . Tonight’s stars: David Dinkins, Mr. Ashe’s widow Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe and Alec Baldwin -who, as you read this, is already lining up, anxious not to miss first pass at the buffet, not to mention first pass at Anna Kournikova ….
[The Boathouse in Central Park, 6:30 p.m., 718-786-7110, ext. 146.]