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Published Sep. 17, 2009

So I'm hanging with Joe Perry, lead guitarist for Aerosmith. (Wow, I've never had more fun writing a lead sentence in my life.) We're lounging on his tour bus, a rock-nirvana-on-wheels idling almighty outside a St. Pete radio station. The 59-year-old has been driving around the country, chatting up critics about his new solo album, Have Guitar, Will Travel, out Oct. 6.A few weeks ago, his PR rep asked if I wanted to "informally hang" with Joe. I informally answered, "Are you (bleepin') kidding me?" - The man who has ripped solos on Walk This Way, Love in an Elevatorand all those classics ingrained in our DNA is long and thin, with a skunk stripe of white blazing through the middle of his black mane. He has myriad necklaces hanging from his tan, leathered neck; his black belt should be sporting six-shooters. The interior of the bus is all high-roller suite; the color schemes are leopard-print and badass. Joe Perry rolls down the blinds. - "Can I get you a drink?" he asks. In my mind: Askforbourbonaskforbourbon. Instead: "I'd love a water." Gutless. - I was told I'd have 30 minutes; Joe gives me 90. Here are excerpts from our chat, complete with notebook scribblings as I tried to look smooth sitting knee-to-knee with rock royalty:

On the vibe of his new album, especially the great blues track Slingshot:

I wanted the feel of driving into Las Vegas at 6 in the morning with the top down after being up for three straight days. I've had nights like those.

As I sip my water, Joe is cradling what looks to be a very expensive brown bottle. I casually try and scope out the label. Finally, across the bottom: ROOT BEER.

On the fate of Aerosmith after singer Steven Tyler fell off the stage during an August show, causing the band to scrap a summer tour, including a Tampa date:

There are plenty of tweets, Twitters, blogs saying the band broke up and that's bulls---. It's just not true. People can be so bitter and cruel. Just because you're anonymous doesn't mean you can lose your manners or your etiquette. . . . Aerosmith is not broken up. We're going to take a good healthy sabbatical.

(Perry was born in Lawrence, Mass., and there are still hearty remnants of a Boston accent. Case in point: He loves Ray "Chahhhles.")

On the whispers that Tyler is addicted to painkillers, brought on by the stage fall:

As far as I know, he was doing what his doctor said. The hardest thing for him to do is try and sit still. That guy is permanently on.

(Apparently falling off the stage is a common occurrence in Aerosmith lore. Perry said he himself plunged from a stage 25 years ago. "What goes up must come down," he says.)

On the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, the thrill ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios:

Steven and I rode it 49 times the first day, to check all the music. The ride was already built when we saw it; that's their thing. But the music they left up to us.

Joe is all about the kids. The art for 2008's Guitar Hero: Aerosmith video game adorns the outside of his tour bus. "I'm not a gamer," he says. "But I have 6- and 7-year-olds coming up to me talking about Aerosmith songs I had forgotten about."

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The Drag Queen Playlist

For the past few months, I've been featured on billboards hyping I look like a fat Colonel Sanders, and I'm sporting an evil-clown grin, but hey, it's been fun. So when my mom came to town, I decided to take her on a tour. As we headed for the first one, she was beaming. "Okay, Mom, look to your right. It's coming up!" But alas, I had vanished from Ulmerton Road! In my place was a slick, stylish billboard for Club Nautico, where all the hottest women are . . . men. Yep, I had been dumped for dudes in drag. Sure, the Nautico crew looked hot. Plus, I once modeled mantyhose in this very newspaper, so I have little wiggle room (ahem). The problem was that my mother - very silent now - kept staring at the billboard as if I had a major announcement. After I glumly explained that (1) No, Mom, I do not moonlight at Club Nautico, and (2) the billboard contract had expired, she said, "At least I saw where your billboard WAS." Oh well. If there's a positive, it's that my mantyhosed legs are much hotter than the Nautico gang's. So with that, let's strut ...

1 Man! I Feel Like a Woman!, Shania Twain

2 Three Times a Lady, the Commodores

3 Ladies Night, Kool & the Gang

4 The Crying Game, Boy George

5 Dude (Looks Like a Lady), Aerosmith

6 Let's Hear It for the Boy, Deniece Williams

7 Supermodel (You Better Work!), RuPaul

8 Lola, the Kinks

9 My Humps, Black Eyed Peas

10 She Hangs Out, the Monkees

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Bebel Gilberto

Album: All in One (Verve)

In stores: Sept. 29

Let's get it on: Here it is, the best make-out album of the year. This 12-track backseat special is by Bebel Gilberto, daughter of Brazil's bossa nova king Joao Gilberto. The 43-year-old singer has the rich, Latin-rhythmic gifts of her papa, plus she's so vocally similar to stepmom Astrud Gilberto, you'll swear you're falling for that girl from Ipanema all over. Gilberto is a modern seductress, tapping hipster producers Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse) and the Dust Brothers' John King (Beastie Boys) to mix cool beats and ocean breezes as she purrs covers of Stevie Wonder's The Real Thing and Bob Marley's Sun Is Shining.

Reminds us of: Because I'm such a ladies man (no, no, baby, don't pay attention to my two daughters and crappy car - just gaze into my bloodshot eyes), I take make-out music seriously. So along with Bebel Gilberto, set your next romantic dinner toStan Getz, Marvin Gaye and Mazzy Star. You'll thank me in the morning.

Download these:The Real Thing and Bim Bom

Grade: A