Curse of the Fat Necks: Hanks, Travolta, Baldwin Brothers

The Actress

Forget satire. The erotic monologue is what closes on Saturday night. That’s what happened–on Jan. 16, after a limited run–to a play called Cunning Stunts at Joe’s Pub, a lounge in the Public Theater.

Cunning Stunts , put on by the Erotica Project, was one hour and five minutes of filthy stuff. Eight actresses talked about vibrators, dildoes, zucchinis, men. They used the p-word and the c-word. They made obscene remarks that weren’t surprising (e.g., “He slid his fingers into my ass”) and surprising remarks that weren’t obscene (e.g., “I like being slapped across the face”).

This is the kind of show it is: At one point, a woman playing Mary Magdalene talks about receiving cunnilingus from Jesus Christ. “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” she said. The audience roared with approval and delight.

The critic from The New York Times , Anita Gates, raved about the Mary Magdalene bit in her Jan. 12 review, but she slammed a monologue called “Soapbox,” which begins like this: “My vagina is not your soapbox, my vagina is not a place for you to spout your feminism, my vagina is not a sea shell passed around a circle of women. My cunt is my pussy and it has something to say.” Christen Clifford, 27, was the actress who spoke those lines. She finished with the following call to arms: “Let’s bring an end to the anti-phallic campaign, take our pussies out of the political arena, and go home and screw!”

After the show, she was sitting at a table in Joe’s Pub, chowing down on a plate full of fries and ketchup. She said she was “kind of sad” it was all over, but she’ll be working again soon in an Off Off Broadway work-in-progress called Taverns of Desire .

When she was about halfway through the fries, she lit a Merit Ultra Light. “I agree with some of the things I say in the piece,” she said. “Not everything. I agree that I can fuck whoever I want to fuck, and do whatever I want to do, and nobody has a right to say anything about it.”

Ms. Clifford, who lives with a roommate in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said she collects unemployment checks for roughly $200 a week. She grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., the youngest of eight. She went to a prep school where the girls wore kilts as part of the uniform. She liked her own skirts extra-short and the other girls called her a slut. “I was a bad girl,” Ms. Clifford said. “I used to stay out all night long and my parents were older, so they didn’t have control of me.” After prep school, it was New York University for her. And since then–acting and waitressing.

“Last night,” she said, “a bunch of us stayed here–this is one of the hot spots in town, fabulous people come in around 11 o’clock with their boas and their, whatever, funny outfits. We sat here and we drank way too much. So much . And have you seen the poster? It’s me naked on it. It’s tastefully done, but it’s me naked. So I have this lover from Australia who’s in town, great guy, and I was drunk, walking down the street, and I’m like, ‘Look! There I am! That’s me, my naked body!’ And Ken’s like, ‘I have a camera!’ So I stripped off all my clothes in front of the poster, and he was taking my picture and here was this homeless guy, and he’s like, ‘All right, baby! This is why I like this corner!’ I flashed two women my tits last night, too. I was drinking. They were with their boyfriends and were like, ‘We wanted to see you naked, this is false advertising!’ And they’re like, ‘We want to see your tits!’ So I flashed them my breasts in here.”

The Australian boyfriend brought her a Scotch.

“I agree with the gist of this show,” she continued. “I’m proud of being a sexual woman. I’m proud of my cunt.”

She was wearing a long black slip dress and she had glitter on her arms. After a little while, we finished our drinks.

“What did you think of the show?” she said. “Were you ever aroused, personally?”

“No,” I said. “What are you enthusiastic about, besides sex?”

“I love my cat,” she said. “I walk in the house and I go, ‘Hello, J.J.! Come here! Come to Mommy!'”

–George Gurley

Fat Neck Syndrome

For too long, the press has known something about Tom Hanks without reporting it to the public. Maybe he got some slack because he cries at awards shows, or because he hasn’t dumped his wife for, say, the Barbie Twins. Or maybe it was just another publicity machine cover-up, like Rock Hudson’s homosexuality or F.D.R.’s wheelchair. Either way, the charade is over. Because here it comes …

Tom Hanks has got a fat neck. A really fat one, in fact.

I called Leslee Dart, Mr. Hanks’ publicist at PMK, to tell her what I was about to report.

“Did you say neck ?” said Ms. Dart. “A large neck? I don’t know what you’re talking about. A large neck? In what film?”

In fairness, Mr. Hanks is not alone. Lawyer Bruce Cutler has a fat neck, as do novelist Jay McInerney, fitness guy Richard Simmons and singers George Michael and Marilyn Manson. Actress Neve Campbell and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto have fat necks. Fat-necked Bill Bradley is running for President. So is Al Gore, who also has a fat neck–although a member of the Clinton Administration denied this. (“Al Gore does not have a fat neck,” the official said. “He has a small head.”)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has one, as does fellow Brit Kenneth Branagh, although it is now a toothpick compared to the ham neck he sported in Henry V . Most of the acting Baldwins have fat necks. Daniel Baldwin, who also had a nasty crack habit, has the fattest one of all. Baldwins without fat necks–notably Stephen–have screwy mouths instead.

Singer David Lee Roth and former teen idol Leif Garrett have fat necks, as does every artist featured on VH1’s Where Are They Now? program. Gary Shandling’s got one. Courtney Love had one–but then had a surgical defatneckification.

Park Avenue plastic surgeon David Rapaport has an at-home exam for early detection of fat neck syndrome. “Pinch that spot just right under the chin and above the larynx,” he instructed. “If that’s a fat-necked person, you’re pinching a big wad of fat.”

The necks of James Coburn and Nick Nolte both delivered Oscar-caliber performances in Affliction , but these necks are, respectively, hangy-gobbly and foldy-flappy, not fat. John Travolta has perhaps the fattest neck in Hollywood, but Mr. Travolta also has a fat belly and fatty man-breasts, which qualifies him as a fat person. Fat people don’t really count.

Jabba the Hutt and character actor Paul Giammatti have proven that stars don’t need necks at all–but a no-neck must not be confused with a fat neck.

Fat necks of the past: Japanese film great Akira Kurosawa, Ernest Hemingway (in his Papa Hemingway years) and George Washington. Fat necks of the future: actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck are at high risk, and Matt Damon’s thick neck will turn merely fat if he stops working out.

Custom shirt maker Atah Sahmanian, a co-proprietor of Paris Custom Shirtmakers Inc. on West 32nd Street, said he has seen an inordinate number of fat-necked actors lately. “Yes, sir!” he said. “We do a lot for the Broadway shows and the movie industry. And it is true.”

Mr. Sahmanian made shirts for the Great Fat-Necked One himself, Jackie Gleason. President Reagan, though not fat-necked, presented the shirt maker with certain challenges. “He had those two chins hanging,” he said. “We had to take that into consideration.” At the time of our interview, Mr. Sahmanian was busy cutting a shirt for his fattest-necked customer–a man with a 24-inch neck. “He’s got a pretty big head, too,” Mr. Sahmanian added.

As for neck weight loss? Forget it. “You can’t spot-reduce,” said Charlie Morris, a personal trainer at the Lafayette Street Crunch. “You could do shrugs, I guess, but as far as lengthening and straightening the neck, you just can’t. I mean, the neck is what it’s going to be.”

Dr. Rapaport, the plastic surgeon, said that, besides encouraging the fat-necked to lose weight, he had the best solution. “Liposuction is really the only way to definitively and permanently recontour fatty excesses,” he said. He added that many fat-necked people are young enough to have liposuction without an accompanying face lift necessary to pull up slack skin.

“Tom Hanks is in that right age group that responds to the liposuction,” Dr. Rapaport said. “It’s wonderful news!”

–Andrew Goldman