May 19, 2003 01:00 PM

Just like the 1969 Oscars, when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn were both named Best Actress, Sunday night’s 48th annual Drama Desk Awards shared the love between two performers.

During the ceremony — honoring Broadway and Off Broadway and decided by 120 theater journalists — presenter Bebe Neuwirth, in announcing the hotly contested category of outstanding leading actor in a musical, opened the envelope and declared to everyone’s surprise: “It’s a tie.”

The winners: Antonio Banderas for “Nine” and Harvey Fierstein for “Hairspray.”

Then, in a sidesplitting moment, both actors dashed toward the stage from separate ends of the auditorium. Fierstein, 48, flamboyant and openly gay, opened his arms wide to embrace the hunky Banderas, 42, who leapt right into Fierstein’s catch.

Fierstein then attempted to carry Banderas right off the stage and into the night.

Ultimately regaining their composure, Banderas kissed Fierstein on the lips, leaving the graying, corpulent “Hairspray” star love-drunk but still able to quip when he did reach the podium, “I’m glad it wasn’t a beauty contest.”

All told, “Hairspray” — based on John Waters’s 1988 movie comedy about a determined Baltimore teen’s attempt to integrate a local “American Bandstand”-type TV show in the ’60s — won 10 awards, just shy of a record. (Two years ago, “The Producers” won 11.)

Besides the award to Fierstein, who dresses in drag to play the teen’s mother, honors included top musical, leading actress Marissa Jaret Winokur (who beat chief rival Bernadette Peters in “Gypsy”) and score.

“Nine,” loosely based on Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s autobiographical 1963 movie about a director’s creative block, won three. Besides Banderas’s victory, the show was named outstanding revival and its featured actress, former “Ally McBeal” costar Jane Krakowski, was honored for a role that features her delivering an entire musical number wearing nothing but a bedsheet — suspended from the ceiling.

Baz Luhrmann’s take on Puccini’s “La Boheme” took three technical awards, while Richard Greenberg’s “Take Me Out,” about the repercussions of a major league baseball player’s coming out, was named outstanding play and its Denis O’Hare, best actor.

This season’s all-star production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” took awards for best revival and for its leading lady, Vanessa Redgrave. Her sister, Lynn Redgrave, won as featured actress for the Off-Broadway “Talking Heads,” a series of monologues by British playwright Alan Bennett.

Eddie Izzard was named outstanding leading actor for the revival of “A Day in the Life of Joe Egg.” He said it was his first award for anything since high school.

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