The last time John Travolta elicited the kind of gasps that have greeted his image on the cover of July’s Good Housekeeping was, well, a few weeks ago. Mr. Travolta was playing a dreadlocked, scenery-chewing alien with elevator boots named Terl in Battlefield Earth , a movie that The New York Times film critic proclaimed a stinker for the ages.
This time, paid admission is not required to see Mr. Travolta looking like he’s not of this earth. His rather unusual image can be found everywhere that Good Housekeeping is sold, which means that thousands of people will soon be skidding to a halt in front of newsstands all around the city and saying, “Sweet Mother of God, what happened? “
Let’s start with the hair. Mr. Travolta, who appears on the cover of the magazine wearing a black suit and holding his 8-year-old son Jett on his lap, is sporting a pointy combed-down hairstyle that could only be described as Eddie Munster-meets- Planet of the Apes ‘ Dr. Zira.
In addition, Mr. Travolta looks to have been treated to a makeover by a Beverly Hills mortician. His skin is waxy, and he appears to be wearing an abundance of orange foundation and lip gloss. His eyes are preternaturally blue, and the three teeth peeking out from his rosy lips are whiter than human teeth should be.
So is Mr. Travolta calling for the heads of Good Housekeeping ‘s editorial and productions staffs?
On the contrary!
“Unfortunately, [Mr. Travolta] had us use his photographer,” said Gina Davis, Good Housekeeping ‘s art director, who didn’t seem thrilled that somebody had noticed that Mr. Travolta looked like Liberace as envisioned by Pierre Boulle. “We were given the film, and that’s what he looked like.”
Mr. Travolta used a photographer named Evan MacKenzie, who seems to be a family photographer of sorts. He shot a photograph of Mr. Travolta’s wife, Kelly Preston, in maternity clothes, which appeared in USA Today . Mr. Travolta’s publicist, Paul Bloch, did not return a call seeking comment.
The Transom asked Good Housekeeping editor in chief Ellen Levine whether the apparent digital manipulation of the photograph took place while the photo was in Mr. Travolta’s or Hearst’s custody. “We did not airbrush anything!” said Ms. Levine, who, like Ms. Davis, didn’t seem in any rush to defend the image of Mr. Travolta. “It was a photographer of his choice. Very often celebrities weigh in on who they want to use. In this case, I don’t think the photographer had a whole lot of time. “
Still, as the magazine’s entertainment editor, Kate Coyne, explained: “Just getting a cover with John and Jett together was an absolute coup. We were delighted just to get the two of them together.”
A half hour before the art auction began, model Frankie Rayder excitedly clasped her hands in a high-ceilinged Chelsea art gallery. Even though hipster couple Clair Danes and Ben Lee and fashion designer Todd Oldham were milling about, Ms. Rayder couldn’t be bothered to mingle. She could only talk about a young artist named Jeffrey Hall. “He paints like Basquiat!” she cooed and pointed at a self-portrait that Mr. Hall had painted, titled The Best Man , in which Mr. Hall had endowed himself with one green eye, one blue eye and a big mane of white hair.
Mr. Hall’s work is not representational: He is 7 years old, about three feet tall, and his hair is shorn down to a couple of nubby millimeters.
Mr. Hall and Ms. Rayder met when she began volunteering to help out at the Monday and Wednesday classes put on by a new non-profit organization called ECHO Prosocial Gallery, which sponsors art classes for kids, then auctions their works off to make charitable donations.
Ms. Rayder–who reportedly makes approximately $10,000 per catwalk appearance–was invited to help out by the vice president of the program, Kate Dillon. The two women shared a place in New York about six years ago when they were both starting their modeling careers. Back then, Ms. Dillon was anorexic. After that troubled year with Ms. Rayder, as Ms. Dillon tells it, she “hit a brick wall,” returned home to California, gained some weight, and came back to New York where she reinvented herself as a plus-size model. Ms. Rayder is still very skinny, but she and Ms. Dillon seemed to get along nonetheless.
At the beginning of the evening, when Ms. Rayder walked into the room, Mr. Hall, who was wearing a very small blue suit with a white T-shirt underneath, took leave of his little colleagues, ran across the room and jumped into her arms. Then Mr. Hall just hung there with his head pressed against Ms. Rayder’s bosom–a move that he won’t be able to get away with for much longer– wearing the contented look of an explorer who has just discovered the New World.
The Transom asked Ms. Rayder if she thought the kids might like the program because, as well as getting an education in art, they got to get close to the models, albeit in an innocent, Blue Lagoon kind of way. Ms. Rayder’s feline mouth formed a smile. “Are you saying that I’m aesthetically pleasing to him?” she asked. “I don’t know. Kids do understand what beauty is at that age … But I mean, he’s only seven .”
Alex Broadbent, a 9-year-old bookish- looking boy with oval glasses who attends P.S. 41 with Mr. Hall, had his own particular take on the relationship.
“Jeffrey loves Frankie,” Mr. Broadbent intoned. “He already asked to marry her.” Mr. Broadbent paused, looking confused. “Well actually, she asked, and then Jeffrey said okay.” He paused again. “Actually, he said no, but I think that he has a crush on her.” Mr. Broadbent said that he was himself torn between the taut, wiry Ms. Rayder and the fleshier Ms. Dillon.
Then the ECHO kids were taken away so the auction could begin, most likely to spare them the disappointment if no one bid on their work. When Mr. Hall’s name came up, Ms. Rayder jumped up and down in her seat. She easily got the first work of Mr. Hall’s that was put on the block, for $600, and shouted, “It’s going to be worth millions!”
The second work–the self-portrait bearing Mr. Halls’ artist statement, “I was thinking too hard and then I just let my body be free and let myself go”–found another bidder in the form of one George Hall, a ruddy man in his early 40’s who described himself as “retired–you know, the Internet.” Though he was no relation to the artist, Mr. Hall seemed to be of the impression that he should have any kid’s work who shared a named with him. George Hall started the bidding at $5,000.
“No! Fuck you!” Ms. Rayder shouted. Mr. Hall did not hear her. After some back-and- forth between the two, Ms. Rayder ended up winning the painting for $5,500. She pumped her arm in victory, but then shot a dirty look at Mr. Hall. “He’s a pussy,” she hissed. “If you’re going to start a painting at $5,000, you should at least be willing to go up to six. That guy’s a dick.”
The Transom Also Hears …
… That Rosie O’Donnell, who gave her all in trying to save the Tony Awards telecast a few weeks back, has lately been pitching herself as the savior to another wobbly organization lousy with Judy Garland fans: the Democratic Party. At the May 14 Million Mom March against gun violence in Washington, D.C., Ms. O’Donnell was overheard pitching herself to Democratic leaders as a very willing speaker for the upcoming convention in Los Angeles in August. To Ms. O’Donnell’s credit, nothing could take viewers’ minds further from the issue of Bill Clinton’s rabbity sex life than the sight of Ms. O’Donnell in a dress. A spokeswoman for Ms. O’Donnell told The Transom she’d heard nothing about it.
… Was Lazard Frères & Company chairman Michel David-Weill looking for a little divine inspiration before his firm closed the Seagram-Vivendi deal? A New York Times cameraman captured a cigar-puffing Mr. David-Weill among the camera-toting hoi polloi who gathered on Fifth Avenue on June 19 to watch Archbishop Edward M. Egan’s inaugural procession into St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (For those who keep old newspapers lying around, he can be found on page B11, in the photo that appears on the upper left hand of the page.) When The Transom attempted to reach Mr. David-Weill about the photo, a woman who identified herself only as “his secretary” said that Mr. David-Weill was not seeking religion, but rather was “waiting to cross the street.”