A Mild and Crazy Guy
“Comedy is not pretty,” Steve Martin said a long, long time ago.
On March 3, the comedian Martin Mull revised that maxim as he surveyed the black-tie crowd that had gathered in the Waldorf-Astoria’s Basildon Room for the cocktail portion of the American Museum of the Moving Image’s tribute to Mr. Martin, the comedian, actor, director and New Yorker writer. “Tonight, comedy is not only pretty, it’s well dressed, but extremely uncomfortable,” said Mr. Mull.
The discomfort to which Mr. Mull was referring was strictly fashion-oriented. For the kind of comedy that was being celebrated at the Waldorf was not the angry, cigar-and-spittle kind that can be found at the annual Friars Club roast. AMMI’s tribute to Mr. Martin was a recognition of the cool, cerebral, slightly distant brand of comedy that, if it were depicted on a timeline, would feature Nichols & May at one end, Jerry Seinfeld at the other, and Mr. Martin somewhere between them, in close proximity to Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels. Save for Mr. Seinfeld and Elaine May, all of the above were on hand to fete Mr. Martin with their own particular brands of tamped-down humor.
“Comedians are seldom the first choice for anything,” Mr. Michaels said when he was up at the podium. “Not for the Oscars, not for the Nobel Prize, not for the Presidency, until recently.
“It’s been that way since the beginning. It’s like when you take a child to the zoo,” said the SNL producer. “First you want to see the lion because the lion is the king of the jungle.”
Bears were next. “And then you want to see the monkeys because the monkeys are funny and occasionally they jerk off,” said Mr. Michaels, who added: “I work with the monkeys. Sometimes a lion comes by, but mostly it’s monkeys. And trust me, I know a great monkey when I see one.
“The lion in his majesty reminds us of who we want to be,” Mr. Michaels continued. “The monkeys remind us of who we really are. Which is why they are seldom chosen.”
Mr. Martin was the exception to this rule, said Mr. Michaels. He was a “monkey you can take to the Waldorf.” A guy who, no matter how big a star he became, “never turned his back on his monkey roots.”
Like Mr. Michaels’ joke, there was a kind of technical perfection to the evening. The jokes were crisp, funny and oblique in all the right places, and, although no one seemed particularly warm–except maybe Glenne Headly, who recited a poem that dealt with the hypnotic effects of Mr. Martin’s banjo playing–no one got sloppy over Mr. Martin. Even Robin Williams seemed to be operating with his mute button on. (He did not use the word “flanken” once.)
The atmosphere of ironic detachment seemed to extend to Mr. Martin’s date for the evening: Ellen Ladowsky, a writer who had co-authored a 1998 book called How to Dump a Guy (A Coward’s Manual) for which Mr. Martin had contributed a jacket blurb that said: “This is a hilarious book that will teach women how to dump guys like me.” Mr. Martin had appeared with Ms. Ladowsky at a book party for Malcolm Gladwell the previous evening, but his spokesman Michelle Bega declined to comment on the nature of their relationship. Ms. Ladowsky, on the other hand, was heard telling people that the two are just friends.
The evening was not without its hot flashes, however, although not all of them occurred during the tribute. The Transom particularly liked the subtle game of grab-ass that SNL comedian Darrell Hammond and Regan Books president Judith Regan were playing as they made their way to the Grand Ballroom for the dinner and the program.
The Transom asked Mr. Hammond, who made his bones portraying President Clinton on the show, whether his imitation of the Horndog-in-Chief has made him popular with the ladies.
Mr. Hammond began to exhibit a number of Clintonesque mannerisms as he explained that, indeed, his portrayal of the President has resulted in his being approached by a number of “extremely dangerous women” (here, The Transom shot a glance at Ms. Regan) who are interested in “theme sex” that might include him talking like Mr. Clinton.
The theme of sex was broached by SCTV alumnus Rick Moranis, who cited Mr. Martin’s generosity by mentioning “the number of times you asked me if I wanted to have sex with Victoria” [Tennant, Mr. Martin's ex-wife], and his consistency by noting: “I don’t think we ever had a meal where your hand didn’t end up on my thigh.”
Mr. Moranis then offered a poetic tribute:
“S is for cerebral and a guy that I call Steve.
“T is for Tom Arnold, who has a lot less tricks up his sleeve.
“E is for Elvis and those CD’s in your car.
“V is for vagina, which you think about far too much.
“E is for Elvis,” Mr. Moranis said. Then:
“M is for Manchurian Candidate . Now, there’s some moving images, huh?
“A is for Big Apple where we …
“R is for right now.
“T, a drink with jam and bread.
“I is for Iditarod. Your career never went to the dogs.
“N is for November and Thanksgiving. Steve, you deserve your own balloon.”
Mr. Martin did not get his own balloon, but he did get his own black vinyl Kenneth Cole tote bag. In fact, all of the tribute-goers got a tote bag, silk-screened with an image of Mr. Martin’s face, looking like a smartly dressed man who does not sweat.
So Luongo to Sapore, Pt. II
Restaurateur Pino Luongo seems to have finally washed the Hamptons out of his hair.
The Transom has learned that film producer Michael Tadross and New York restaurateur Robert Silvestri have purchased the 1910 Tudor mansion and property in Wainscott, L.I., that housed Mr. Luongo’s Sapore di Mare restaurant for 11 years. (It was also home to Randy and Maya Gurley’s restaurant Maya’s for a single summer.)
Mr. Tadross, who keeps a house in Southampton, served as the executive producer of last year’s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair as well as of Jack Frost , a movie about a father reincarnated as a fun-loving snowman, and of Devil’s Advocate . He was also the producer of Die Hard: With a Vengeance and former senior vice president of feature productions at Paramount Pictures. Through an assistant at his production company, Mr. Tadross confirmed the purchase but declined to comment further.
Mr. Silvestri is a partner in Donald Sacks, which he termed “an American bistro,” located in the World Financial Center, and in Areo, an Italian restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. His family owns Angelo’s of Mulberry Street, one of the oldest restaurants in Little Italy.
Mr. Silvestri told The Transom that he will serve as executive chef of the restaurant, which he and Mr. Tadross plan to open by Memorial Day weekend, considered the start of the Hamptons summer season. He said the restaurant has yet to be named, but that it will be an Italian eatery with Mediterranean influences. This is his first collaboration with Mr. Tadross and his first foray into the very competitive, seasonal Hamptons culinary scene.
Sources familiar with the situation said that Mr. Luongo was looking for between $1.3 million and $1.4 million for the house and the property, which sits on Georgica Pond and abuts billionaire Ronald Perelman’s Hamptons estate, the Creeks. Among those Mr. Tadross and Mr. Silvestri apparently beat out for the site was the co-owner of Nick & Toni’s, Jeff Salaway.
Last season, the restaurant was the site of the Hamptons branch of the Gurleys’ St. Barts-based Maya’s restaurant. The Gurleys had leased the Sapore space with the intention of ultimately buying. But as of late November, Mr. Luongo claimed they had not exercised that option to buy by the Dec. 1 deadline and that he was putting the property back on the market. At the time, a friend of the Gurleys told The Transom that the couple was trying to get Mr. Luongo to be a little more flexible with his terms. Attempts to reach Mr. Gurley by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful.
Square at Whitney Gala
They were oohing and aahing the borderline-fascist orange motif created by event producer and designer Colin Cowie for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s annual gala dinner. (Mr. Cowie even got the apartment building across the street to change its lobby lights to orange for the evening.) But what floated The Transom’s boat was the real stroke of brilliance: the inadvertent social hierarchy created by the three types of geometric tables that Mr. Cowie had set up for the dinner in the museum’s Peter Norton Family Galleries. At the center of the room around a circular bandstand was a ring of round tables. Arranged around this inner circle was a grouping of triangular tables, perhaps the first ever seen at a swanky benefit. And finally, around the elevated perimeter of the room were more conventional rectangular tables. Among those stationed at round tables were Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Kate Betts, CBS The Early Show host Bryant Gumbel, gallery owner Arne Glimcher, artist Chuck Close and, naturally, Mr. Cowie. Another round table held TriBeCa Productions president Jane Rosenthal, her husband, investment banker Craig Hatkoff; hotelier Ian Schrager and his wife, Rita; actor Robert De Niro; Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and his wife, Eve; and Empire State Development boss Charles Gargano.
At the triangular tables were artist Jeff Koons, writer Wendy Wasserstein and photographer-philanthropist Henry Buhl. The rectangular tables included Historic Landmarks Preservation Center chairman Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and her husband, former advertising executive Carl Spielvogel.
Mr. Cowie insisted to The Transom, “There was no class distinction between the different shapes”; the shapes were rather “an expression of art” and “an attempt to make sure that all 450 people there felt special.” If there was any message being sent, Mr. Cowie said, it was “a celebration of orange.” Why orange? “It’s one of my new favorite colors,” he said. “I saw this as my opportunity to use my favorite color. It was pretty groovy.”