When Christie’s auctions off Barbra Streisand’s collection of Arts & Crafts furniture, lamps and ceramics on Nov. 29, one of the more significant lots of Stickley furniture to be offered comes with a controversial history.
The pieces in question are a pair of oak Stickley corner cabinets with copper hardware that were custom-made for the dining room of a 1911 log house in Craftsman Farms, the Utopian community farm-and-workshop Gustav Stickley tried to build in Parsippany, N.J.
Craftsman Farms is now a national historic landmark, and for a number of years the foundation behind it has been working to restore the original interior of Stickley’s log house. Sources close to the situation have said that for at least a year, Craftsman Farms officials and allies have been quietly trying to convince Ms. Streisand to donate the cabinets back to the house for which they were built. Ms. Streisand bought them in 1989 at Christie’s for $68,200.
But either Ms. Streisand has never gotten the message or she has decided against becoming a Craftsman Farms angel, because, at press time, the Stickley cabinets were still destined for the block.
According to Ms. Streisand’s spokesman, Dick Gutman: “If they’re doing it quietly, they’ve done it too quietly. They’ve never conveyed to her that there was such an interest. And [the cabinets are] now contracted for sale with Christie’s.” Mr. Gutman also noted that a portion of the Christie’s sales from several auctions of Ms. Streisand’s property will be going to the singer-actress’ charity, the Streisand Foundation.
Sources familiar with the situation accuse Mr. Gutman of shielding Ms. Streisand from criticism by claiming she has no knowledge of the appeals. “If she felt the cabinets were good enough to pay $63,000 for them, but not good enough to return them to the place where they originated, then I think that’s where the fault lies, in her collecting,” said one Stickley dealer, who requested anonymity.
Interestingly, however, few affiliated with Craftsman Farms seem to have much concrete knowledge of how Ms. Streisand was approached.
“I don’t have any direct knowledge,” said David Cathers, a Stickley expert who is a trustee of the Craftsman Farms Foundation and has published a number of books on Stickley, “but my understanding is that at some point several years ago, before I joined the foundation, people on the board at Craftsman Farms handed a package about the farms to one of Streisand’s representatives.” Mr. Cathers said he did not know what was contained in the package.
“I don’t know personally, but I believe several people have approached Ms. Streisand with an appeal to replace the cabinets,” said Beth Cathers, a co-owner of the antique dealership Cathers & Dembrosky, which specializes in Stickley furniture. (She is also Mr. Cathers’ ex-wife.)
Another source familiar with the situation said Ms. Streisand was supposed to have been approached discreetly via some major museums and even Christie’s.
Nancy McClelland, who is international head of 20th-Century Decorative Arts at Christie’s, said, “I did not make an approach to Barbra Streisand, nor to anyone in her camp.” It was her impression that, back when Ms. Streisand bought the cabinets at Christie’s, Craftsman Farms had approached the diva about donating them and that Ms. Streisand had “generously offered” to let Craftsman Farms copy the cabinets.
But Mr. Gutman told The Transom that he suspected that Craftsman Farms Foundation executive Tommy McPherson was behind the whispering campaign. “He’s spreading this,” said Mr. Gutman. Mr. McPherson was not exactly forthcoming, however. When The Transom asked him whether he knew about any attempts to get Ms. Streisand to donate back the cabinets, he declined comment. Mr. McPherson would only say that the foundation “hopes to purchase the two corner cabinets” at the Christie’s auction and has launched a “cabinet appeal” to raise enough money and pledges to do so. The cabinets carry a sale estimate of $26,000 to $34,000 apiece, and Mr. McPherson said the foundation hoped to come to the auction with at least $75,000 in contributions and pledges. “We suspect it will be somewhat of a challenge to raise the funds we need,” he said.
Time Warner Testosterone
Anyone looking for signs of how the entertainment industry’s food chain has evolved should have been present for the cocktail portion of the American Museum of the Moving Image’s black-tie dinner on Oct. 6 at the St. Regis Hotel.
Early in the evening, Mike DeLuca, the president and chief operating officer of New Line’s movie studio, and the director Brett ( Rush Hour ) Ratner were standing around making small talk with a stunning young brunette when former HBO chief executive Michael Fuchs approached the group. Silently, the goateed Mr. Fuchs grabbed the woman by the arm and pretty much dragged her away to the group of people with whom he had been having a conversation. The abruptness of Mr. Fuchs’ move took a number of people by surprise, including Mr. DeLuca.
“That was a big grab,” he said.
A middle-aged woman standing nearby turned to Mr. DeLuca. “You’re outranked,” she said loudly.
Perhaps the woman had not recognized Mr. DeLuca, whose status as the future of the Time Warner-owned New Line (and some would say the movie industry), would certainly seem to trump Mr. Fuchs’ standing as a relic of HBO’s past.
But Mr. DeLuca merely smiled and said, “Not necessarily.”
There were a lot of confident Time Warner men milling around on that evening, but none so ebullient as the media giant’s chief stockholder, Ted Turner. A few months ago, Mr. Turner had shown up at a Wildlife Conservation Society benefit at the Bronx Zoo looking drawn and testy, but on this night, he seemed in a particularly energetic mood, even as he told one fellow reveler, “I’m being underutilized.”
Whether Mr. Turner was referring to his job or his marriage is unclear, although there were moments when the entertainment mogul sure seemed to be acting like he was playing the field. Mr. Turner looked entranced when he met Sarah Jessica Parker, even though he didn’t know that she is the star of the HBO series Sex and the City until New Line chairman Robert Shaye told him. Later in the evening, Mr. Turner had buxom songwriter Denise Rich in tow when he ran into Time Warner Inc. president Richard Parsons. “Dick, I’m signing her up!” Mr. Turner said, referring to Ms. Rich and Time Warner’s music division. The look in Mr. Parsons’ eyes suggested he’d been down that road before.
The coup de grâce came when The Transom filed in behind Mr. Turner and actor Ron Silver as they headed for the dinner tables. The two men seemed to be having a discussion about Mr. Silver’s paramour for about a year, Catherine de Castelbajac, when Mr. Turner, whose voice tends to boom, said: “Call me if you decide to dump her.” Mr. Silver asked Mr. Turner to repeat himself. The Transom called Caroline Harkleroad, Mr. Turner’s assistant in Atlanta, to see if he wanted to clarify his statement, but Ms. Harkleroad would only say that Mr. Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda, remain “totally inseparable.”
Mr. Turner was there because the museum was honoring New Line’s top two corporate executives, the chairman, Mr. Shaye, and president and chief operating officer Michael Lynne. During the presentation, Mr. Turner toasted the duo by saying, “We haven’t had a cross word even though we had two or three losers in a row.”
Mr. Turner was almost as funny as Conan O’Brien, who emceed the event. Mr. O’Brien said that when Herb Schlosser, the former NBC president who is chairman of the museum’s board, asked him to serve as master of ceremonies, Mr. Schlosser said, “If you do it this year, maybe in a few years the museum will honor you. And then he laughed for 20 minutes.”
The Late Night host also told the crowd that a recent survey determined that the American Museum of the Moving Image was the No. 2 attraction in Queens, “second only to the Museum of Missing Luggage.”
Not so funny was comedian Adam Sandler, who also came to honor the New Line men, but spent a long time reading a letter in a Stepin Fetchit voice that essentially was a request to give the night’s other honoree, Jane Pauley, a foot massage. But judging from the response of the audience of media executives and their wives, there is nothing funnier than a man with a $50 million, three-picture deal.
Ovitz Goes Bulworth
When Warren Beatty gave a speech about American politics on Sept. 29 to a group that included lefties from the Americans for Democratic Action organization and Courtney Love in a sequined evening gown, the 200 reporters who covered the event published and broadcast his remarks in depth. But the press corps faltered at depicting just how influential Mr. Beatty’s political role-playing has been to other members of the West Coast elite.
Perhaps the most astonishing transformation witnessed by the crowd at the Beverly Hilton was that of Michael Ovitz. Mr. Ovitz, who turned heads last year when the former agent and failed Walt Disney Company executive recast himself as a talent manager, caused some jaw-dropping on the night of the A.D.A. event.
Mr. Ovitz was in the audience dressed in traditional macher garb, but then he appeared via videotape dressed as a Bulworth -esque white rapper in a black watch cap and wraparound shades. Any hope that Mr. Ovitz–perhaps inspired by Mr. Beatty–had spent the last few weeks undercover seeking to determine just what that young, hip 18-to-34 demographic wanted from this country (besides another movie starring his client Leonardo DiCaprio) was dashed when Mr. Ovitz opened his mouth to rap in black patois. Some attendees reported hearing laughter in reaction to Mr. Ovitz’s taped performance. Some remembered only a kind of stunned silence. Most agreed that Mr. Ovitz is no Eminem Sr. or even Vanilla Ice.
Amazingly, there was little reportage of his performance and, sadly, Mr. Ovitz’s lyrics seem to have been lost to time. Mr. Ovitz’s office did not respond to a call requesting them. When a similar request was made to the woman who answered Mr. Beatty’s phone, she replied: “How did you hear about that ?”
Meanwhile, Mr. Beatty’s asshole buddy Jack Nicholson seemed to be exploring the tension-fraught world of hotel management as he sought to get the air-conditioning cranked up a notch at the Hilton for the sweaty mass of some 800 people who had gathered to see Mr. Beatty. Mission accomplished and happy that he had made a difference, however small, in the world, Mr. Nicholson returned to his friend’s table brimming with excitement. “Pro,” Mr. Nicholson said, addressing Mr. Beatty by the nickname he long ago bestowed upon him, “you’re going to be happy about the AC.”
Mr. Nicholson seemed to be more effective on the air-conditioning issue than on the subject of whether Mr. Beatty would run. First, he told one reporter that he had talked to Mr. Beatty recently and that he was sure Mr. Beatty intended to run. But when pressed on his statement, Mr. Nicholson backed away. “I’m not being coy with you about that,” he said. “I’ve had minimal conversations based on my instigating conversations. We’ve worked together in this area before. So I know when to probe and when not to.”
And finally, there was this little vignette. Before Mr. Beatty’s speech, The Transom’s stringer was interviewing political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. Standing within earshot was ABC consultant George Stephanopoulos.
Suddenly, attorney Gloria Allred rushed up to Mr. Stephanopoulos. In one hell of an inspired moment, Ms. Allred seemed to have assumed the role of campaign adviser. She told Mr. Stephanopoulos that she had come on the behalf of another celebrity Presidential candidate, Cybill Shepherd, to find out what Mr. Beatty’s “intentions are.”
Did this mean, Mr. Stephanopoulos asked, that Ms. Shepherd was still interested in running for President?
“Oh, yes,” Ms. Allred replied. “She confirmed that last week on Oprah .”
Reporting by David Houston.
The Transom Also Hears …
Actor Hugh Grant not only didn’t have any problem with the controversial nature of the Rudy Giuliani-excoriated Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, he seemed intent on making one of the artworks even spicier. On the evening of the exhibit’s Oct. 2 opening, one eyewitness saw Mr. Grant and an unidentified woman climbing inside “Brit Packer” Tracey Emin’s piece, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, 1963-1995 , which consists of a tent appliquéd on the inside with 102 names and other personal bits of information. Perhaps Mr. Grant was seeing if he made the cut.
… Well, Warner LeRoy wants his new Russian Tea Room to attract the young hipster crowd and, on Oct. 11, he got his wish. Paper magazine held a party on the restaurant’s third floor to celebrate the publication of its new Ab Fab to Zero book and among the guests were musician Moby and night life impresario Erich Conrad, one of the men behind Bowery Bar’s weekly Beige party. When someone described the Tea Room’s shiny ursine-themed décor as over the top, Mr. Conrad replied, in a line that could refer to sexual politics as well as restaurants, “I’d rather be over the top than a bottom.”
Follow Frank DiGiacomo via RSS.