Four Seasons in Hell
When he’s in a good mood, Julian Niccolini wields a tongue sharp enough to slice a tough rump roast. But, Madon ‘, when he’s angry, look out. The Transom hears that Mr. Niccolini, a managing partner of the Four Seasons restaurant, was beside himself at a celebratory dinner the American Automobile Association threw in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 10 for the winners of its annual Five Diamond Award.
The Transom had to know: Did Mr. Niccolini get physical? “I was really livid, but the guy was too big. And he was too important,” said Mr. Niccolini. “If it had been [in] my own restaurant, maybe I would have struck him.”
The restaurant had won its 10th consecutive Five Diamond award, which is bestowed upon restaurants and hotels that pay painstaking attention to detail. Still, Mr. Niccolini said, he felt conflicted about taking two days off to attend the award ceremony. “I almost didn’t want to go down there,” he said. Perhaps Mr. Niccolini’s uneasiness had something to do with the fact that the honors would be given out this year at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palm Beach, and that the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan had also picked up the prestigious service-industry honor.
See, ever since the hotel opened on East 57th Street in 1993, Mr. Niccolini and his partner, Alex von Bidder, have had a recurring problem with people confusing the hotel and its eateries with their restaurant, which has been open since 1959.
As soon as he got to Palm Beach, Mr. Niccolini said that he sensed trouble. “Everything’s ‘Four Seasons, Four Seasons, Four Seasons,’” he said, adding that he had to constantly point out to his fellow award-winners that the restaurant was not affiliated in any way with the hotel chain. “I said, ‘Please, we’re a small chicken here. We’re trying to make a better life for all New Yorkers and Americans. So please give us a break.’”
The actual ceremony went fine, but then came the dinner. Mr. Niccolini and his wife, Lisa Niccolini, were seated with the owner of Le Cirque 2000, Sirio Maccioni, who had also picked up an award. The room had been decorated in the theme of an old movie theater, and the names and pictures of winners were being projected onto a screen. And there it was. The Four Seasons restaurant and the Four Seasons Hotel had been grouped together in one image, using, according to Mr. Niccolini, the hotel’s corporate logo.
Mr. Niccolini got up from his table and went to the control booth in the rear of the room, where Chris Carr, director of A.A.A. Conference Services, was monitoring the evening. Mr. Niccolini started sputtering even as he recounted the event, but he recalled saying: “We’re back in the trenches” and “I’m not mad. I’m livid.” Mr. Niccolini also said that he expressed anger that an organization that gives out awards based on fastidiousness in restaurateuring would make such an error, especially as there had been no confusion the first nine times the restaurant won the award.
Mr. Carr declined to discuss what Mr. Niccolini had said to him in the control booth and called the incident a nonstory. Mr. Carr explained that because there were 750 visuals involved in the video portion of the program, “there was going to be a mistake. It was obviously one of those things that ran together.”
He added that at the end of the evening, he did announce the mistake to the dinner crowd. (Images of the Four Seasons restaurant were then projected onto the big screen.) “Nothing was distributed to the media. Only the award recipients and their guests knew. It’s a minor mistake,” concluded Mr. Carr.
“I know that mistakes can be made,” said Mr. Niccolini. “But you know what, I don’t like too many mistakes.”
She Worships God
And All Supermodels
Sandra Bernhard apparently picked up more than apparel during New York’s fashion week earlier this month. On Nov. 12, at the opening-night celebration of her new performance piece, I’m Still Here … Damn It!, she was traipsing around with an 18-year-old model, Angela Lindvall, whom she met at Marc Jacobs’ show a week earlier at the New York State Armory. “I just ran into her backstage, and we started talking,” said Ms. Lindvall. “She’s just a really cool person. She’s got a lot of great things to say that make me laugh.” Although Ms. Lindvall said the two are not dating, Ms. Bernhard was not shy about pulling the girl close, running her fingers through her blond hair and throwing her lascivious looks from across the room. She even added the Rolling Stones’ song “Angie” to her repertoire at the last minute in honor of her latest friend.
Surrounding herself with supermodel Bridget Hall, fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth and designer Isaac Mizrahi, Ms. Bernhard herself has become somewhat of an icon in the fashion world. During her show, she flaunted sparkles, feathers and patent-leather spiked heels, only to change later into a tight black dress, sheer down the back to reveal her black-lace G-string panties. She even delivered a bizarrely loving tribute to the late Gianni Versace in a song titled “On the Runway,” in which she imitated a self-obsessed Naomi Campbell saying the proceeds from the song would “benefit fashion victims around the world.” But fashion isn’t the only category Ms. Bernhard has added to her comedienne-singer-kvetcher-sexually ambiguous-performance artist status. Now she wants to be a cantor, too.
Ms. Bernhard has been studying cabala and has incorporated elements of Jewish mysticism into her act. Singing a soulful “God is good. God is great,” She turned the mood inside the Westbeth Theater Center into one of a religious institution. And while there’s no doubt Ms. Bernhard is still a diehard sex junkie, even her percussionist, Denise Frazier, who has worked with the comedienne since 1987, has noticed that parts of the show have become more religious than raunchy. “Her act has gotten a lot more spiritual,” said Ms. Frazier. “She’s known for trashing and being really funny about that, but she’s just not coming from a trashy place anymore. She’s coming from goodness and giving love and receiving love and wishing happiness to everybody.”
That may be, but Ms. Bernhard is still showering her affections on a pretty select crowd. When she was asked who her homies were these days, she replied, “all the supermodels.”
The Transom Also Hears
… On Nov. 12, NBC newscaster Perri Peltz and Today Show co-anchor Matt Lauer hosted a screening of Barry Levinson’s new film, Wag the Dog , for a number of local and national media executives. Among them were Elizabeth Vargas, correspondent for 20/20; Good Morning America film reviewer Joel Siegel (who brought along his high-school chum, attorney Robert Shapiro); Today Show executive producer Jeff Zucker; Time magazine managing editor Walter Isaacson and NBC weatherman Al Roker. The audience was apt, given that the film is about a disheveled spin doctor (Robert De Niro) who hires a producer (Dustin Hoffman) to fabricate a fake war with Albania to distract the media after the President is accused of molesting a Girl Scout. After seeing it, the group repaired to the “21″ Club for dinner, where they all proceeded to tell one another that such a thing could never happen in the world in which they work. Only Mr. Roker seemed to be interested in the whole truth. Asked if he was aware of any similar conspiracies in the weather racket, he whispered: “El Niño.”
… “Who are these people?” the security guard kvetched as he cast a sideways glance at the small group near the doors of the Whitney Museum of American Art. They had gathered around 9 P.M on Nov. 6, across the walkway from a line, half a block long, of people who were waiting to get into an after-party for the premiere of the museum’s exhibit The Warhol Look: Glamour Style Fashion. The guard did not recognize them, but they were some of Andy’s Kids, including filmmaker Don Munroe, whose films were playing in the exhibit inside; Pat Hackett, the keeper of The Warhol Diaries ; publicist Susan Blond; artist Richard Bernstein; and the Pope of Pop’s onetime assistant, artist Ronnie Cutrone. Eventually, security could take it no more and told the group that the only way they would get inside the museum was if they joined the official line. Wordlessly, they shuffled halfway down the block until their situation was pointed out to a publicist manning the door. Andy’s friends were retrieved and admitted. Mr. Munroe seemed to take the whole thing in stride. “There were many, many cooks involved in the evening. My reaction is, That’s the way it goes. What was I doing uptown, anyway?”
Nonetheless, while waiting in the cold, Mr. Munroe came up with a new take on Warhol’s remark about 15 minutes of fame. “Change that,” he said, “to ‘In the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of power.’”