Ugly George was calling from a pay phone. “I’m outside right now, cruising,” he told The Transom. A third voice came on the phone. His latest conquest? No, it was the recorded voice of an operator saying that the pay phone needed another nickel. Ugly George–his real name is George Urban–patiently complied, as he would six or seven more times for the duration of the phone call. Being that this was one of those drug-dealer-deterring phones, it did not accept incoming calls. Ugly George did not complain, though. The phone lines had freed him from the tyranny of another utility: the cable company.
At a time when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has got the city’s purveyors of pornography stocking up on Zantac, Ugly George says he’s fixing for a comeback. More than three decades have passed since Mr. Urban donned a silver lamé jumpsuit and a video camera and sallied forth into the streets of Manhattan, looking for and finding women who would either doff their clothes, or more, on camera. In the late 70’s and sporadically through the late 80’s, Mr. Urban aired clips of both his successes and his rejections (count actress Dana Delany in the latter category) on Manhattan Cable Television Inc.’s public access channel.
In the process he became a fringe-dwelling urban “folk antihero,” as author D. Keith Mano called Mr. Urban in a 1988 article he wrote for the National Review . Not only had Mr. Urban demonstrated that any man can get what he wants if he tries hard enough–he also made a bigger, more institutional point. Mr. Urban has claimed that Ugly George attracted some 600,000 viewers at his height and said, “I was someone who challenged the broadcasting viewing establishment and came away with all the viewers and no money.” Or as he said to The Transom, “What good are sitcoms, drama or variety versus tits?”
After developing a rather contentious relationship with Manhattan Cable (he said he was booted off the cable operator five times; in 1986, he sued Manhattan Cable, charging conspiracy, and lost; the cable company charged him with not paying his bills), Mr. Urban has been without a regular outlet. (He said that he still provides clips to other public-access shows and that he has experimented with direct-to-satellite broadcasting.) His last lamé suit has fallen into disrepair (“I have to get a new one for ceremonial occasions,” he said). But the relatively new, less regulated medium of the Internet has given him reason to be optimistic.
For about two months now, Mr. Urban’s Web site, uglygeorge.com, has been up and running on the World Wide Web. There are action graphics of various sexual acts and ad copy boasting, “In 10 years, Ugly George has undressed 30,000 women–maybe even the girl next door!” In one shot, Mr. Urban, looking like Benny Hill and sporting a gold lamé headband, plays “Emperor Zero, who’s having an orgy in 69 A.D.” He noted that the aforementioned program would soon be available in a pay-per-view format. There’s not much else to the Web site besides a bunch of videos for sale, many of them featuring Mr. Urban, for either $19.95 or $29.95. Mr. Urban even claimed to have a niche that distinguishes him from the countless other sex sites on the Web. He’s the equivalent of an organic porn purveyor: “No silicone girls with teased hair,” he said.
Despite the public-access-TV look of his Web site, Mr. Urban claimed to have good reason to be happy. “We just got our first two orders from Europe,” he said. That may not sound like much, but for Mr. Urban, it’s a sign that he’s getting international exposure. “I always liked the expression ‘Around the world with Ugly George,'” he said.
Mr. Urban declined to discuss how many video sales he might be making, but he said that if international orders do take off, profits will help him realize his dream to open a nightclub that he calls “the Po-
lish Penthouse.” He talked about “secret well-heeled people” who have inquired about investing in his dream, which, he envisions, will utilize the latest in interactive technology to allow V.I.P. patrons and other Web heads to check out the action from the comfort of their PC’s.
But isn’t Mr. Giuliani trying to crack down on just the thing that Mr. Urban wants to erect in lower Manhattan? Mr. Urban argued that “what Giuliani mostly objects to is that lower class” of porn joint. He said that he knew this because “I know some of his people.” But Mr. Urban explained that the Polish Penthouse will be “mostly members, but high class,” some of the ” Wall Street Journal -reading crowd.” He insisted his establishment would feature only natural beauties. “I will have to personally check them out,” he said.
Mr. Urban added: “If you could say you had the Ford Center of porn and strippers, he,” as in Mayor Giuliani, “would not be unhappy with that.”
In and Out With Jerry Goldfeder
On July 20, the Democratic district leader for Manhattan’s West Side, Jerry Goldfeder, announced that he was withdrawing from the race for the State Senate seat being vacated by Franz Leichter. Mr. Goldfeder cited a lack of funds as the reason. Too bad. Political races are more fun when there are more than two contenders because the candidates must fulminate all the more in order to make an impression.
Take the letter that Mr. Goldfeder sent to members of the Democratic club Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, or G.L.I.D., in May. Mr. Goldfeder’s two opponents in the State Senate race are attorney Eric Schneiderman, who had been endorsed early that month by State Assembly member Deborah Glick–who is openly gay–and Daniel O’Donnell, an openly gay candidate and brother of talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell to boot.
In his letter to G.L.I.D., Mr. Goldfeder seemed intent on demonstrating his supreme sensitivity to gay issues. “I have a long history with G.L.I.D., and with the lesbian and gay community,” Mr. Goldfeder wrote, in boldface type. As part of his argument, he included a two-sided sheet of “highlights” of his involvement. At the very end of this list, Mr. Goldfeder included in a list of “Gay and Lesbian Candidates Actively Supported” by him the names of former Representative Elizabeth Holtzman and former City Council president Carol Bellamy. Since neither Ms. Holtzman nor Ms. Bellamy has ever said she was gay, the perception was certainly that Mr. Goldfeder had either (a) outed the women or (b) bought into the stereotype that single, plain-jane policy-wonk women must be lesbians. Mr. Goldfeder explained that actually that portion of his letter was an “error” that occurred when a list of gay candidates was accidentally merged with a list of women candidates.
Mr. Goldfeder said that he called both Ms. Holtzman and Ms. Bellamy up to explain what had happened. A follow-up letter was also sent to G.L.I.D. “Mistakes happen,” Mr. Goldfeder told The Transom. (Ms. Bellamy, who was traveling in the Sudan on behalf of Unicef, could not be reached for comment. Ms. Holtzman said she had no comment on the matter.)
G.L.I.D. president Kevin Finnegan said that Mr. Goldfeder’s letter didn’t create that much of a stir, anyway. “I only got two phone calls from it,” he said. “One was from Jerry. One was from another member, who was laughing about it.” Mr. Finnegan added: “I think people recognized that it was a pretty amusing mistake.”
The Transom Also Hears
… Producer Robert Evans’ wedding to Catherine Oxenberg seemed to catch everybody off guard (except Cindy Adams). The Transom hears that Mr. Evans’ two good friends, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, were not at the wedding, and that Mr. Beatty did not learn of Mr. Evans’ nuptials until after the fact. Mr. Beatty did not return calls.
… If he only had hair, Ronald Perelman could be another Carmine Appice. The billionaire owner of Revlon Inc. spent a lot of time with rocker Rod Stewart over the weekend. On July 19, Mr. Perelman, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Stewart’s model wife, Rachel Hunter, dined together at Nick & Toni’s. (By coincidence, Mr. Stewart’s manager, Arnold Stiefel, who is summering in the Hamptons, was also in the room.) The following evening, Mr. Perelman guest-drummed on Mr. Stewart’s encore cover of “We’re Havin’ a Party” at a concert that Mr. Stewart gave to benefit Southampton College.
… Hamptons social slaves will have to hit the Long Island Expressway early on the weekend beginning Aug. 14. After sitting out the Hamptons premiere circuit for three years, Home Box Office Inc. returns this year with its film about Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, The Rat Pack . But this year, HBO has decided to do its premiere on a Friday at the East Hampton Cinema, followed by dinner at Sapore Di Mare. Realizing that those who will be driving between the screening and the supper, including actors Ray Liotta (Frank), Don Cheadle (Sammy) and Bobby Slayton (Joey Bishop) and HBO chief executive Jeff Bewkes, will have to make a left on Montauk Highway–a virtual impossibility on a Friday evening when everybody is driving to their homes–the pay-cable channel has enlisted the local police force to handle traffic. The following evening, another rat pack–the crusty literary kind–will gather when October Films hosts a premiere of Ishmael Merchant’s A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries , which is an adaptation of Kaylie Jones’ semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Paris and New York with her writer father, James Jones ( From Here to Eternity ). Those gathering in honor of the late James Jones include Hamptonite writers E.L. Doctorow, Peter Mathiessen and George Plimpton, as well as non-Hamptons scribes, Arthur Miller, William Styron and Norman Mailer, who are being flown in by October Films. Mr. Mailer isn’t even staying the night. Peggy Siegal is handling publicity for both events, but her regulars shouldn’t expect invites to both nights. The Transom hears they’re trying to keep the two crowds different so the same people don’t see each other at both events. Hey, Peggy–why should things be different than any other weekend?