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Her ta daa! means it’s time to clap

THIS, I THOUGHT, cannot be Kathy Griffin’s house. I sat in the driveway of a Hollywood Hills mansion bigger than George Clooney’s, checking the address against my Palm pilot, an e-mail, the mailbox and, eventually, my soul. As the gate swung open, I started to wonder how Kathy Griffin’s parents made their money.

Every week, Kathy and her gay friends gather at her house to watch reality shows. And now that she has her own reality show, “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,” they gather to watch themselves. Fearing this wasn’t meta enough, I decided to watch them watch themselves. Somewhere, Werner Heisenberg’s head exploded.

Traditionally, the group invites one guest to the meetings. The week before I showed up, they welcomed a group of bears, which are gay men who are hairy, heavy and bearded. I felt the kind of pressure that Ellen Degeneres must have felt after taking the Hollywood Square over from Bruce Vilanch.

As Kathy showed me around the house -- which has four kitchens, a waterfall, an elevator and Imelda Marcos’ shoe closet -- I was brought into a room with six well-groomed men. Kathy introduced me with the line: “Joel, meet my gays.” Not knowing how to respond, I decided to stick to the traditional, “Hi, gays!”

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Kathy and six of her closest gay friends were gathered to do what they do every week: eat pizza and drink Diet Coke and review their upcoming plans. The following night, they would be taking a bus to Irvine to see the Backstreet Boys. The week after, they were going to Janice Dickinson’s one-woman show. There was also a board game a night in between. Being gay, I learned, is a lot of work.

The biggest argument of the meeting splits the group in two: Kelly Clarkson is performing in Las Vegas the same weekend as the annual Shannon Elizabeth scavenger hunt, which they organize with the “Showgirls” actress for her birthday. The winner is the first one to find Elizabeth’s career. This Kathy Griffin schtick rubs off quick.

After the meeting, we sat down to watch television, during which a no-talking rule was invoked. I quickly learned that with gay men, “no talking” means not laughing too loudly after you say something.

Kathy Griffin’s TiVo is jammed with a year’s worth of Kathy Griffin TV appearances. After checking out her profile as E!'s “24th Most Wicked Woman of Primetime,” we settled down to Dr. Phil’s interview of Clay Aiken, an episode of “Being Bobby Brown” and the Animal Planet’s brilliantly uneventful “Puppy Bowl.” Oddly, “Being Bobby Brown” had more biting.

Then we watched Kathy’s show, which she had not yet seen any part of. It was hard to tell if she was horrified or pleased because of the botox and brow lifts. There is even a slim chance she was unintentionally flirting with me.

Kathy made fun of the show the way people at home might. She couldn’t believe her parents tried to hide their drinking from her, “like I’m not going to see that on the show.” And she marveled that, on the Grammy’s red carpet, she was surprised that the Blind Boys of Alabama couldn’t see.

She seemed a little tense, from the little I could tell, as we watched a stylist tell her that she is “matronly” and “no Uma Thurman.” We watched her homecoming party in Chicago, where almost no guests showed up.

After the episode, we all clapped because Kathy Griffin clearly wanted us to. We could sense that from the fact that she yelled “ta daa!” Then she ushered us out of her house so she could get some sleep for her “Days of Our Lives” shoot.

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Driving home, dizzy from the narcissism and the smell of grooming products, I thought that Kathy Griffin is actually healthier than the rest of us.

I’m sure it hurt to watch the stylist be harsh on her body, but by being so open about it -- both in front of her friends and with Bravo viewers -- she was able to make the pain go away faster than if it were a secret.

She’s just ripping off the emotional bandages that we, if we’re lucky, slowly peel off throughout our life.

The problem with most reality stars, like most people, is that they make excuses instead of admitting that things that happen to them are real.

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Then again, it’s easy to avoid crying yourself to sleep when you sleep in a house that big. And your tear ducts have been numbed.


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