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Peeping Toms, Abercrombie Twins, and The Forbidden…Rice

Out with the old and in with the new! Or is it?

We caught what was supposed to be closing night of the Public Theater’s gut-punching revival of “The Normal Heart,” but the run was extended until August 8. That means a whole lot more primal screaming for the excellent, if sore-throated, RAUL ESPARZA as author LARRY KRAMER’s alter-ego, Ned Weeks.

Available following the performance were copies of a May 14 letter Kramer fired off to New York Times publisher ARTHUR O. SULZBERGER, JR. lambasting the recent reappointment of former science editor RICK FLASTE, “who served with such ignominy as your science editor in the 80s, bringing to your paper everlasting disgrace for your lack of reporting what has become the world wide plague of AIDS.”

Go, Larry, go!

It’s debatable whether beloved U.K. comedy troupe Monty Python’s late GRAHAM CHAPMAN was another casualty of AIDS—he officially died of cancer—but his life is being made into a feature film called “Gin and Tonic.” Chapman was openly gay, which drew great ire in the U.K. during the 1960/70s, and struggled with alcoholism. We hear the film is to be shot in London in late 2004 with a $10 million dollar budget and a mostly unknown cast.

The producers held open auditions in Theater Row Studios, drawing tons of Python fans and costumed lunatics. While many dressed as characters like knights from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” SHANE SNIPES, of the zingy indie film cable show “Indieville,” tells us that one hopeful wore a Josephine Baker-esque banana belt, and later flashed his own rather ample “banana” to the crowd.

New York’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the NewFest, launched with ANGELA ROBINSON’s Sapphic, comedic secret agent romp, “D.E.B.S.,” and a party at the roomy Chelsea spot Spirit. Festival director BASIL TSIOKOS looking suave, but easily upstaged by “Anonymous” director TODD VEROW, who was wearing torn jeans, the rump of which read “FUCK HERE.”

“They’re church-going pants!” Verow grinned.

JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL would probably prefer the words “Fund Here”—producer HOWARD GERTLER told us that Mitchell was taking meetings with foreign financiers in Cannes for his “Sex Film Project.” Another of Gertler’s projects, openly gay “54” director MARK CHRISTOPHER’s “Pizza,” bows June 21st the Los Angeles Film Festival.

“Trembling Before G-d” director SANDI DUBOWSKI is mixing sexuality and spirituality again as producer of the upcoming gay documentary, “In The Name of Allah.” The differences in how Muslim and Orthodox Jewish communities treat homosexuality? “Physical violence versus psychological violence,” Dubowski said. “Guilt factor versus the guillotine factor.”

Some queerness got guillotined from “The Stepford Wives,” we hear: a funny cameo by LANE and KYLE CARSON, the Abercrombie Twins, who appear as the adopted sons of a Stepford-ized gay couple played by ROGER BART and DAVID MARSHALL GRANT. In the scene, Bart’s character announces his campaign for the state senate and, affirming his belief in family, introduces their adopted boys—the Carsons, who bolt out of the town hall! Hopefully this gem will make it to DVD.

We made it uptown to Gabriel’s, an entertainment industry haunt, for a reception in honor of “Facing Windows,” which closed the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Open Roads: New Italian Cinema” series and opens theatrically on June 18.

“Facing Windows”’s openly gay director FERZAN OZPETEK, sitting with his boyfriend of two years, had on a pair of fetching “Troy”-esque leather sandals.

“I’m wearing them four to five years,” Ozpetek insisted, trumping Brad Pitt and company.

In “Windows,” a frustrated young married woman, who bakes cakes for a hobby, becomes enchanted with a hunky next door neighbor she spies from across the way. Is Ozpetek a peeping Tom?

“It’s happened to ME!” he admitted. Years ago, a neighbor called to inform him that someone was on a balcony looking into his window. Ozpetek investigated, but the voyeur had fled.

“There have been other occasions where I was looking out from my building and found people looking at me. It’s very weird!”

We’d love to peek in the bedroom of “Facing Windows” co-star FILIPPO NIGRO, who briefly appeared as half of a gay couple in Ozpetek’s “His Secret Life.” (There’s a big gay twist in “Windows,” too.) The actor, who recently appeared in an Italian TV show described as a mix of “24” and “CSI,” told us that “Windows”’ amazing cakes were mostly fake. Added Ozpetek, “for lighting purposes, but it was better this way, otherwise everyone would have eaten them.”

Between eating superb reception grub—lamb ravioli, fresh mozzarella, and tuna steaks—we chatted with Sony Picture Classics’ CARMELO PIRRONE, Falco Ink’s STEVE BEEMAN, and “The Sopranos”’ KATHERINE NARDUCCI, whose character appears in this season’s much-balyhooed erotic dream episode having sex with JAMES GANDOLFINI.

“It should have been me and EDIE FALCO—they’ve never had lesboes on the show!” she said.

Besides lesbo sex, any hopes for next—and the final—season? “Now that they’re killing people off, I’d like to whack somebody or get whacked. Right behind the head.”

Anyone she prefers to get whacked by?

“Tony—then he could talk about it in therapy.”

As for whose window she’d like to peek into: “BENICIO DEL TORO. He’s ooooh.”

Call us receptionists: it was on to another at 21st Street’s Vela, a romantic enclave with a Japanese-influenced menu of food, unusual cocktails—the crisply herbal Velatini with fresh Cilantro had us endlessly sniffing its fragrance rather than sipping—and slick décor of jungle bamboo reeds, slate, and African fabric in the back room. Their sushi boasts an Atkins-friendly twist, thanks to Forbidden Rice, a slightly chewy black/purple strain containing 60 percent less carbs than white.

We ran into ANTHONY HADEN GUEST, whose “pals,” when he turned to talk to us, took the opportunity to flee. Clearly that guest had worn out his welcome.

If you want to propose (or at least get lucky that night), 21st Street is the restaurant row to hit. Across the street from Vela is Taj, a breathtakingly sumptuous, airy, comfortable space fit for both romance and commerce—what starts out as a business dinner may end up as pure pleasure. The food and cute staff are great too! Indian/New American fusion cuisine with a Euro style of presentation by former Jean George chef JONATHAN LINDENAUER, ranking high was succulent butter-poached lobster, a caramelized mushroom tart, and the light, yet dense chocolate soufflé. Jerri Banks’ cocktails were also superb—the Candied Ginger Cooler had a refreshing bite, and the Budina, with muddled cucumber, was addictively aromatic. In you’d prefer to forgo the alcohol, savor the mango lassi.

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