I must say I’ve always felt a certain disdain for that Ashleigh Banfield person. I mean, she’s just a little too self-dramatizing, don’t you think? Whether she’s in black Armani covered with dust from the World Trade Center or in the middle of a riot in Islamabad wearing her new green silk semi-burka and severe computer geek glasses, well, it always seems to be about her. Yes, that’s the south tower collapsing over her shoulder but the real story is her coverage-both kinds.
I only bring this up because I find myself in the middle of an Ashleigh Banfield moment. Here I am, one poor journalist operating under the most awful circumstances imaginable, yet doing it with style and aplomb. The awful circumstance is my index finger, which I sliced open last night with a kitchen knife. I had just been to Kash ‘n’ Karry where I admired, as I always do, the Entenmann’s display. As much as I like Entenmann’s I never buy any, because, let’s face it, those pastries are about the most fattening things on the planet. But something came over me. I hadn’t had one in such a long time and I had a little extra money from my night job (driving around Southgate tossing free newspapers on people’s lawns) so I decided . just this once.
I chose the Danish raspberry twist, finding one that had an extra amount of sugar topping, and took it home to nibble on during "Trading Spaces," my new favorite TV show. The problem was the box. As most of my readers undoubtedly know-for I tend to attract the stay-at-home losers for whom snacking is a way of life-an Entenmann’s box has a trick to opening it, and I had forgotten the trick. Hence the serrated kitchen knife, hence the deep slice into my finger.
Not knowing what to do, I hopped around the kitchen screaming, blood gushing from my finger. I finally thrust it into my mouth, which seemed to control both the bleeding and the screaming; but now here it is the next morning and the boss tells me, no, I cannot take the day off even though I can’t type. I’m now sitting at the computer, my poor finger swathed in paper towels, with orders to get my column about "The Vagina Monologues" finished and finished before noon.
"The Vagina Monologues" is, as I’m sure most of you know, a famous play by Eve Ensler in which the actresses perform a series of monologues about vaginas. It is now being done once a year in various cities (over 200 of them) as a way to increase awareness of violence against women and to benefit Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) and Planned Parenthood. Not surprisingly, Carolyn Michel is behind the whole thing. She did it two years ago at FST, where it had a sort of "girls’-night-out" type atmosphere, but this year the venue was switched to the Asolo and, more importantly, the girls brought their husbands.
"Good evening, vaginas and vagina lovers," Carolyn said by way of introduction, at which point Jay Handelman and I gave each other dispirited glances, but it turns out the play is quite marvelous. Fifteen of Sarasota’s best actresses each had a little vaginal moment-some humorous, some sexy, some sad, some profound. The vagina was examined from every possible point of view, and judging from the screams of laughter that punctuated the evening, there was much that hit home. I learned many interesting things. Did you realize, for instance, that you can’t sell a vibrator in the state of Texas? A gun, yes, but not a vibrator. It would be hard to single out any monologue, but I do feel a special mention is in order for Barbara Winters Pinto (she was here to play the 80-year-old mother in "The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife"). She looked sensational in a black Chanel suit, and her deadpan reminiscences of a date 50 years ago brought down the house. Artist Gale Fulton Ross was also wonderful, as was Monica Kennedy’s guide to various types of sexual moans.
Now, the big question is, how did Sarasota react to all this? Because everybody in town was there, or more specifically, all the pillars of the social community; and here they were, submitting to an hour and a half of sexual frankness unheard of around here, except for certain midnight pool parties on Lido Shores that I’m sure you’ve heard whispers about. Well, I must say everybody took it very well indeed. The women laughed ’til tears rolled down their cheeks. The men were in shock for the first portion, but after a while they got into the spirit of things. At one point Carolyn made the audience yell a certain word that begins with "c" and which is a vulgar synonym for vagina; and I must say, the sight of Sarasota society screaming this word back at her, over and over, is a moment I shall always cherish.
But enough about vaginas. Let’s wrap up that film festival. My favorite movie was Never Again, which starred Jill Clayburgh and Jeffrey Tambor as 50-something New York singles who finally find each other. Actually, come to think of it, it had a lot in common with "The Vagina Monologues," as it was sexually frank in a way most movies with people that age aren’t. Oddly enough, it was written and directed by a guy named Eric Schaeffer, who is only 34. But he certainly knows a lot about heartbreak. His girlfriend recently dumped him; then two months later she married Conan O’Brien. Eric still seems a little upset by this turn of events. During the Q and A after the screening he had his shirt buttoned all wrong. I think he needs a woman’s touch. At any rate, don’t miss Never Again when it opens at theaters in July. And you can see Jill as the mother on that new series, "Leap of Faith," that’s on right after "Friends."
And Sydney Pollack! It certainly was a thrill meeting that legendary director, here as the festival’s guest of honor. One night I saw him in the bar at the Ritz and he waved to me, so naturally I sat down next to him. This surprised him somewhat, as he thought I was the waiter, but, as Ashleigh Banfield would say, it’s not how you get the story but the story itself. We had a very interesting chat. He kept talking about some guy named Tom and I kept thinking Tom Maus? Tom Klauber? Tom McGuire? until I realized he was talking about Tom Cruise. So I immediately asked him if those rumors about Tom Cruise being gay were true and he turned to me and said-
Oh, my God! I just looked down at my keyboard and it’s covered with blood! I’m sorry, even Ashleigh Banfield knows when to fold. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on my way to Dr Feldbaum’s.