Monica Lewinsky   | Rosie O'Donnell   | Rhythm and Blues Casino 

Monica Makes a Night of It

Just as we were absorbing Rosie O'Donnell's defense of her, Monica Lewinsky made a return appearance to the limelight. 

The occasion was Entertainment Weekly's mostly celebrity-free "It" party at a huge warehouse space on the western edge of lower Manhattan Monday night.

Thousands of young people crowded into something called the Milk Bar to see Macy Gray perform and to catch a glimpse of the few nearly famous faces. 

It was like being in Grand Central Terminal during an evacuation. You couldn't move in any direction and when you tried you ran into soap opera actors or gate crashers. 

There was a rumor of Hayden Christensen, the kid from Attack of the Clones. Luckily we didn't run into him. We were nervous about falling asleep in mid-conversation. (Rimshot!) 

But oh yes, there she was, Miss Lewinsky. She is It, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Of course, people wanted to see Martha Stewart, since the publicity company that ran this party also represents the scandal-plagued home-and-garden queen. But with her stock dropping 20 percent yesterday, Stewart must have been home muttering, "It's not a good thing." 

Escaping the ferocious rat-fest of high-cheekboned young things in black, we made our way to the nearby trendy eatery Pastis, only to find … Monica!

It was only two nights ago that Rosie O'Donnell defended her at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut, saying former President Bill Clinton had put a "scarlet letter" on the young woman after their encounter. 

Clinton, it was noted, cleared out of the Mohegan before O'Donnell and her posse arrived. 

Lewinsky did not look much put-upon at Pastis. A bit tipsy and having some difficulty, it seemed, walking (it was thought that her shoes were causing some discomfort), Lewinsky and a female pal took a corner table and held court.

After a bit, she jumped up and made her way across the room to visit another table that sported former Saturday Night Live comedian Molly Shannon, writer Nelson George and actress Heather Graham

Shannon, unfailingly nice to everyone she meets, chatted up Monica without leaving her seat. Graham, on the other hand, looked as though she wanted to be just about anywhere else in the world. After Monica left she told me, "No, no. She seemed nice. I'm just very tired."  

How Rosie Got Her Groove Back 

The local papers are full of stories about Rosie O'Donnell's show on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun. It was the first time she's performed her standup routine since leaving her syndicated talk show, and she had a take-no-prisoners attitude. 

I told you about some of this yesterday. 

What you don't know is O'Donnell told me later is that her rough comments about Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson, Sharon Stone and others are long overdue. 

"This is what my act was like before the talk show," she said. "On the show I had to be nice to everyone, sit there and nod my head and tell them I hope they came back soon. Not anymore. My HBO special and my tour are going back to what I was." 

A big part of that is being herself and not hiding her lifestyle. When Rosie came out on the stage Saturday night, the first thing she said was: "My girlfriend is pregnant." 

She told a long story about meeting domestic partner Kelli Carpenter's mother and announcing they were a couple.

"When Kelli went to the bathroom, her mother asked me, 'Couldn't you just be best friends? You could get married and live next to each other and go to the country club.' 'The only problem with that,' I wanted to tell her, 'is that I want to have sex with your daughter!'" 

I've been imagining this woman with smelling salts ever since. 

Rosie told me later, as Aretha Franklin, Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford performed an amazing, rocking gospel set on the main stage: "How could anyone have looked at me on that show and not known I was gay? Were they blind? Look at the people who were on there with me!" 

You have to give Rosie credit. She is unflinching about herself now that her contract with Warner Bros. Television is over. She could have gone on into personal limbo for years and raked in hundreds of millions of dollars. But she couldn't do it. And despite all her ranting and raving, she's still like a piece of cake made with Valrhona chocolate — all gooey inside and not very scary.

One very conservative woman at our table said during the show: "She loves her children, doesn't she? It always comes back to being a good mother." 

It's true. Rosie's other big rant is that she had to stop being a daily celebrity before her kids really got nuts. She told one story about her son Parker complaining about traveling on small private planes.

"We never get to go on a big plane like everyone else!" he cried. "We never have any fun!"

Casino Royale: Aretha, Ray Charles and More 

After Friday night's bash at the Mohegan Sun with the Blues Brothers, Sam Moore, and Wilson Pickett, you wouldn't think there was much more to do. But Rosie aside, there was plenty. 

Blues legend Ray Charles opened the music portion of the night and put on an emotional set that featured "Rainy Night in Georgia." His "Rae-lettes" were dressed in red sequined gowns and bouffant wigs that gave his show an early '60s Vegas look. Very kitschy and fun. 

Then Aretha Franklin took the stage. Dressed a little more conservatively than usual, the always fashionable Queen of Soul knocked the audience of 2,000 people out with her rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" accompanied by an 18-piece band. Sitting at the piano, Franklin was just mesmerizing as she steered the band through the songs.

She was also mesmerized, playing as if she was receiving the information from another place. Her hands hit the keys with a ferocity.

But what's really weird about it is that she didn't even move the cord attached to her microphone, but let the cord dangle in front of her so it cut the piano keyboard in two. Aretha just played around the cord instead of pinning it back. Nothing, not anything can stop her. 

Ashford and Simpson, who were not scheduled to perform, nevertheless joined Franklin at her request for a rousing finale. Nick Ashford hit a couple of notes he will never see again. But even though Aretha has sung many of the couple's hits like "You're All I Need to Get By" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," the three had never performed together on stage. It was a magic moment, and a bit of important rock 'n' roll history.

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