Getting Shaft ed
At a party at Centro-Fly on West 21st Street the evening of June 12, following the premiere of the film Shaft , TV sitcom star Kelsey Grammer sat among the hoi polloi on a banquette, one hand firmly on the leg of his wife, Camille Donatacci. He was looking around the crowd somewhat warily, as though some superfly Shaft manqué was about to sweep down and scoop his bee-sting-lipped wife away from him. There were go-go dancers in cages, there was house music thumping, fog machines blowing and women with flat-screened televisions hung over them like sandwich boards, showing scenes of the film’s star, Samuel L. Jackson, blowing gangsters away. Mr. Grammer and Ms. Donatacci did not look particularly comfortable. At the next table, several young men in loose-fitting jeans were passing around a joint, and the couple found their heads enveloped in a cloud of marijuana smoke. The Transom asked Mr. Grammer if it was his dope that the young men were smoking. “Oh, no. No, no!” said Mr. Grammer, soberly. “We can’t get away from them!” chimed in Ms. Donatacci.
“Are you going to be nice?” asked Jessica, the Paramount Pictures publicity “escort” who was assigned to The Transom immediately after walking through the door, apparently to make sure we did not ask former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry if he still was smoking crack. The most important task, though, seemed to be making sure that no reporter asked Shaft producer Scott Rudin, star Samuel L. Jackson or director John Singleton why they continually baited each other in the press when the movie was being shot in New York. Their behavior assured that their movie would get the worst spate of press from a movie set since The Twilight Zone . In other words, yes, the Paramount publicity girls were in triage mode.
Jessica informed The Transom that there was no way that Mr. Rudin was going to talk, but she gamely tried to find Mr. Jackson. No luck. “There’s Ashford & Simpson,” said Jessica consolingly. “And Kool from Kool & the Gang.”
The Transom did find the smooth-headed Mr. Singleton and asked him about the rumored troubles on the set. “Everybody’s pretty much happy now,” he said. “Everybody’s kissed and made up.”
The Transom went up to the V.I.P. room where Mr. Rudin, Paramount chairman Sumner Redstone and the rest of the Paramount executives were supposedly seated. Paramount vice president of national publicity Susan Ciccone was standing sentry. No press. When The Transom started to ask Ms. Ciccone questions about the party, a large man wearing an earpiece transmitter pushed The Transom away from the entrance.
But luck intervened: There was Mr. Barry walking across the dance floor. We asked him for a quick interview and he invited us to join him in that same V.I.P. inner sanctum. When Ms. Ciccone saw The Transom walking in with Mr. Barry, she flashed a horrified look and immediately began gesturing and pointing frenetically. She yelled for security, who took only a minute to physically pick up The Transom and dump us outside the room.
A kindhearted publicist, Lizzie Grubman, heard about the trouble and tried to secure The Transom an interview with Mr. Jackson, who was in a different room with his own set of posted guards. She asked Marvette Britto, a friend of Mr. Jackson, if the star would do an interview. Mr. Jackson looked down at Ms. Britto. “I was up at 5-o’-fuckin’-clock,” he said, in a loud tone of voice. ” Hel-lo ? What part of ‘I’m tired of talking about this motherfucking movie’ don’t you understand?”
“He’s really tired,” Ms. Britto said.
The Internet has given a voice to everyone. This may or may not be a good thing. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, who has hair like Albert Einstein’s, thinks that jazz saxophonist Kenny G, who has hair like Amy Irving’s, “plays the dumbest music on the planet.” Mr. Metheny wrote that on June 5 and posted it on his Web site, http://www.patmethenygroup.com.
Mr. Metheny writes that although he was never a fan of Mr. G, he really started loathing him when he listened to Mr. G toodling along to Louis Armstrong’s recording of “What A Wonderful World” on Mr. G’s 1999 release, Classics In The Key Of G . “Musical necrophilia,” Mr. Metheny called it, and continues: “… When Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of … Louis’ tracks …, he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He … shit all over the graves of all the musicians … who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played.…”
Perhaps Mr. G. should think twice before he decides to record any “virtual duets” with Charlie Parker.
Bernstein’s Web Woes
Movie producer Howard Rosenman said he didn’t have a clue as to why somebody logged on to an Internet movie site and downgraded his status as the onetime young lover of Leonard Bernstein to “one-time great friend.”
The Transom brought the change to the attention of Mr. Rosenman, who as well as producing mainstream fare such as Melanie Griffith’s horny Hasidic film A Stranger Among Us and (next Christmas) Nicolas Cage’s three-hanky star vehicle Family Man , has been a proponent of gay-themed cinema. He produced the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet . And it’s not as though Mr. Rosenman is in any way closeted: At the 1994 Oscars, Mr. Rosenman was overheard shouting a line no doubt heard spoken by scores of producers daily on every movie lot in town: “What a great night to be gay and Jewish in Hollywood!”
So The Transom was surprised when it checked the Internet Movie Database and noted that, in the last six months, Mr. Rosenman’s biography had been changed: the one blunt line stating that he had once been the lover of Leonard Bernstein was now a much longer paragraph consisting of much less dishy Judaica, such as “his family was known as ‘Vatikei Yerushalayim,’ or ‘The Ancients of Jerusalem.’” And as far as l’affaire Bernstein, the site now chastely reads: “Long ago, onetime great friend of maestro Leonard Bernstein.” (The original Bernstein tidbit no doubt originated with Mr. Rosenman himself, who, when interviewed for Charles Kaiser’s book The Gay Metropolis , said that in 1967 he went to help Israel during the Six Day War, and during the victory celebrations, met and bedded the conductor).
So did Mr. Rosenman suddenly get a little shy, and appeal to the site to change his bio? “I don’t know where they got that,” Mr. Rosenman said from his Los Angeles office. “I haven’t even been [to the site].”
Mr. Rosenman theorized that perhaps a friend had made the changes. He did, however, say that he liked the bio better now. “I didn’t think [Leonard Bernstein] should have been on my list of credits,” he said. “You know, his children are still alive, and I don’t think it’s cool to talk about those things.”
At the Boathouse Rock 2000 party benefiting the American Foundation for AIDS Research on the night of Monday, June 12, the rain was falling, the lake held a thin layer of fog and the guests were talking about the event they were not attending-Bruce Springsteen’s controversial opening night at Madison Square Garden.
Donald Trump made a seven-minute lap around the party, his girlfriend, model Melania Knauss, on his arm. He paused at the celebrity kiss auction booth, where he bid $1,000 on a white piece of paper freshly smooched by Ms. Knauss. The bidding for Britney Spears’ pout was at $30.
Jason Sehorn, who plays football for the New York Giants in New Jersey, turned up with fiancée Angie Harmon, who dresses much duller on NBC’s Law & Order than she does for charity functions. She was poured into a physics-defying Dolce & Gabbana dress, which, she said, “weighed a ton.” “We’re going to see the Boss tomorrow night,” she said. “I’ve heard about him all my life, but I’ve never seen him. So I finally meet my soul mate”-here she looked at Mr. Sehorn-”and I’m like, ‘Now we can go see Springsteen! Sweet!’” Mr. Sehorn wasn’t as pumped. “I’m not really a Jersey boy. I was raised in California. Not that the Boss is regional, but it’s like Jimmy Buffett. If you are from Florida, you love Buffett.”
A young actor named David Moscow was introduced to the press pen as “the kid from Big .” “I’m at Columbia and I have a four-page paper due on a painting of Joan of Arc,” he said. “It’s of Joan when she first heard the angels. It’s in the European Art Section of the museum. I don’t know who painted it, though. I guess I’m going to fail my class.”
Monica Lewinsky’s entrance was met with a chorus of “Mo-ni-ca! Mo-ni-ca!” from the paparazzi. She wasn’t allowed to talk much though; when The Transom stopped her on her way out and asked if the bag she held was of her own design, she nodded and said, smiling over her shoulder, “You can get them at Bendel’s or on the Internet!”
-Rebecca Traister and Jason Horowitz
The Transom Also Hears …
… Ralph Lauren may have gotten cold feet about cooperating with George senior editor Michael Gross’ biography of the designer for HarperCollins imprint Cliff Street Books. According to Mr. Gross, back in September Mr. Lauren approached him at Harry Cipriani restaurant and told him that just that very morning, the designer and Hamilton South, then head of marketing for Polo Ralph Lauren, had been talking about letting Mr. Gross pen an authorized biography. Mr. Lauren’s choice was rather odd to begin with, given that in the summer of 1988, Mr. Gross wrote a dishy New York magazine profile of Calvin Klein that so infuriated the designer that he pulled Calvin Klein ads from New York for nearly a year. In any case, on April 1, when Mr. South left Polo, the biography may have lost its main proponent, especially as Mr. Lauren and Mr. South did not stay real chummy. Wary of the publicity debacle that befell David Geffen when he stopped cooperating with Tom King’s once-authorized biography, Mr. Lauren is said to be exploring how much damage could be caused by not having Mr. Gross back for tea.
“I can certainly understand if he’s uncomfortable in the abstract, ” the chatty Mr. Gross told The Transom. “Anybody dealing with a journalist is uneasy if they’re smart. And Ralph’s very smart.” Mr. Gross said that he has not heard anything from Mr. Lauren to suggest that he’s trying to bow out, though for the last couple of months he has been researching the book and has had no direct contact with the designer. He did say, there will be a book, with or without Mr. Lauren’s cooperation. Neither Mr. South nor Mr. Lauren returned calls.