Jay McInerney’s Latest Book Deal

Jay McInerney’s Latest Book Deal

Back in July, Nashville lawyer Larry Woods–who, with his wife, owns Book Man, the largest used bookstore in Tennessee–got an odd message that novelist Jay McInerney had called and wanted to sell a few books. Mr. Woods made an appointment to visit Mr. McInerney at his home in Franklin, Tenn., where he then lived. (Though Mr. McInerney explained that the family was moving to Nashville and didn’t want to haul the books, the New York Post had reported on May 16 that after eight years of marriage, he and his wife Helen Bransford were separating.)

Mr. McInerney, it turned out, was liquidating. Said Mr. Woods, “We get down there and he wants to sell every book in the house and every book in the barn where he works.” Mr. Woods said that Mr. McInerney, who did not return a call from The Transom, pulled about a few dozen books from the shelves and offered to part with the rest–about 3,000 tomes, including books with the author’s name written on the fly leaf that appeared to be from his high school reading list, a nearly complete set of the 1920′s juvenile series The Rover Boys , some crappy paperbacks, every major American novel of the last 30 years and hundreds of copies of his own books.

Mr. McInerney–who will be in New York Nov. 9 to celebrate the publication of Bacchus & Me , his new book on the pleasures of wine–can sleep well knowing that his reputation remains intact in Tennessee. “We paid dearly for them, but he’s a major American literary figure,” Mr. Woods said. “We were pleased to be able to pay dearly for them.” (After all, who wouldn’t run down his own grandmother for 100 copies of Model Behavior ?)

According to Mr. Woods, the writer’s taste didn’t meander too far from the mainstream. “There was absolutely no pornography, no channeling New Age kind of stuff,” he said. “Nothing that jumped out and said, ‘Gee, why would an intelligent writer have something like that?’”

Priestley’s Piece of the Lock

On Oct. 19, Jason Priestley was at Eugene, a supper club on West 24th Street, to celebrate the premiere of Beverly Hills 90210 creator Darren Starr’s new Fox show, The Street . In his heyday, Mr. Priestley played the floppy-haired Brandon Walsh on 90210. Lately, he’s done things like narrate a National Rifle Association gun-safety cartoon starring a character named Eddie Eagle. What with Michael Ovitz milling about and the evening’s Wall Street theme, The Transom thought it might be a good opportunity to talk business with Mr. Priestley.

Not long ago, The Transom heard that Mr. Priestley had attached his name to a product. Word was that Mr. Priestley, who is roughly Dustin Hoffman’s size, had thrown himself into the rough and tumble world of … plastics. George Foreman has that fat-draining pan, Suzanne Somers has her Thighmaster, and Jason Priestley?

“I’ve got the Lock & Surface Saver,” he said, looking only a little embarrassed. “It’s true.” As if by reflex, he rattled off the Web address, http://www.padlockcover.com. Mr. Priestley described the product as a pleasantly colored piece of polyurethane that fits over the body of a Master Lock and prevents it from chipping surfaces. They’re sold online and at Ace Hardware for $1.29 each. Apparently, people buy them.

It all started a few years ago, Mr. Priestley explained, after his friend, retired stuntman Lance Turner, told him about the item that he had invented in a moment of almost divine inspiration. “His mother had just passed away, and one night he just sat up in bed and he was like, ‘Oh my God.’ For some reason, the idea for this product came into his head.” Mr. Priestley noted that the invention was especially odd since Mr. Turner had never been a regular user of padlocks. “But it seemed to make a ton of sense to me,” the actor said. “I mean, how many Master Locks do they sell around the world every year?”

Not many, The Transom ventured.

“Hundreds of millions of ‘em!” Mr. Priestley said, throwing his arms in the air. “Hundreds of millions!”

So Mr. Priestley promised to endorse the Lock & Surface Saver in exchange for a small equity portion of the company … called LanTurn Productions.

Who gives a rat’s ass about lock-chipped paint? The Transom asked.

Mr. Priestley swung into salesman mode. “Who cares?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, like, the military cares. Or, like, school districts. We have a lot of school districts around the country who’ve ordered the lock cover from us so that they don’t have to repaint the lockers every year, because they don’t get chipped anymore.”

The Transom said we still didn’t get it.

“It’s really much more for industrial use than personal use, you know what I mean?” he said. “Trucking companies buy them to put on all the locks on all trucks. You ever see the semis driving down the street and the paint’s all chipped off from where the lock clicks? With the Lock & Surface Saver, it doesn’t happen.”

Oh, said The Transom. But at $1.29, you would have to sell, like, two million of them to make a million dollars.

Mr. Priestley looked friendly, but exasperated. “But what’s the overhead ?” he asked. “It’s not like we have a store on Madison Avenue.”

Getting the 411 on Woody

When Diane Gottlieb called directory assistance and found that there was an Alvy Singer listed in Manhattan, she thought she’d unearthed New York’s best-kept secret: that Woody Allen might actually list his home number under the name of his Annie Hall alter ego. And it just so happened that Ms. Gottlieb, a 64-year-old guidance counselor on sabbatical from her job at the New York City Board of Education, was taking a class called “Film and New York City History” at La Guardia Community College. So when Ms. Gottlieb found out that she had to give a presentation on the film clip of her choice in class, she gave old Alvy– wink, wink –Singer a ring. Who better than the auteur himself to take a little time off from his fall project to explain cinematography to a nice mother of three from Brooklyn?

He wasn’t home, so she left a message . “If that’s who you are, you’re very great, Woody–uh, Alvy ,” Ms. Gottlieb said into the machine. “I’m not a crook or a murderer. I’m just a plain lady who is taking a sabbatical and has a wonderful film class.”

(As it turns out, the number belonged to Andrew Stengel, the Miramax acquisitions executive and Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s de facto political director. Rather than pay the fee to unlist his number, Mr. Stengel listed himself under the name of a character from his favorite movie.)

“I have to talk about lighting, direction and angles,” Ms. Gottlieb explained of her class, set to take place on Nov. 2. “I guess I’m not too swift on that part.”

Ms. Gottlieb didn’t sound too surprised when The Transom told her that she’d struck out on her Woody hunt. “Well,” she sighed, “I tried.”

It turns out that Ms. Gottlieb is something of a serial 411 user. Before she discovered Alvy Singer, Ms. Gottlieb called information to get a number for Neil Simon, even though he’s not technically a film director. She left her name on Private Reach, the service that allows callers to leave a message for those with unlisted numbers. Not long after, Mr. Simon called back, an experience that seemed to have scarred Ms. Gottlieb in some small way.

“He wasn’t very nice,” said Ms. Gottlieb, who told The Transom all about her three grown children (doctor, lawyer, social worker), her husband’s dialysis and her desire to lose 50 pounds. “My son says you can’t blame [Neil Simon]. But he did say he thought he was being nice by calling me back. I was so thrilled. I kept saying, ‘The Neil Simon?’ He wasn’t a happy camper.”

Mr. Stengel was indifferent to getting the long, misdirected message from Ms. Gottlieb, though he did say that he’s decided to change his listing to another pseudonym. If he tries Danny Rose, Ms. Gottlieb’s sure to find him.

Beauty and the B-Side

French writer-director Tonie Marshall was standing before a grand window at the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue. In her right hand, she had a flute of champagne. In her bright blue left eye, she had a stray bit of fluff from her pink mohair sweater. Ms. Marshall had come, along with two movie stars and a fleet of stodgy admirers, to fête the Oct. 27 New York release of her most recent feature, Venus Beauty Institute . As soon as she had rid herself of the annoyance and slid her hand mirror back into her purse, Ms. Marshall turned to tell The Transom about the inspiration for the setting of the film she wrote for French screen sensation Nathalie Baye.

“One night I was driving not far from my home, and I pass in front of a beauty parlor,” she began from behind a pleasant little cloud of J’Adore perfume. “It was at night and the light was all pink, and there was a very young beautician, very lazy, fixing everything before they close the shop, and she was, like, dancing without music, and it was really an image of a movie. And I said, ‘I must shoot that!’ And then I went to that beauty parlor, just to see what it was like, because I’m not used to those kind of place.” The Transom was intrigued to hear that Ms. Marshall–handsome and well-groomed at 48–was not intimately acquainted with the beauty industry beyond her research forays. “You don’t go to beauty parlors yourself?” The Transom inquired. “No!” she replied, and then lowered her voice, “Now I go … not often.”

If there was ever any illusion that what goes on behind closed doors at the local beauty parlor is all fun and games–soothing seaweed wraps and whatnot–the movie sets the record straight. At one point, Mme. Nadine, the matron of the Vénus Beauté Institut (played by Bulle Ogier), recounts to her employees an anecdote about a woman who gets down on her hands and knees in order to have her anus waxed and then starts “leaking all over.”

“The story about the epilation, the hair removal of the anus, is also true,” a wide-eyed Audrey Tautou told The Transom with the help of a translator. The Transom was somewhat taken aback to hear this delicate ingénue, who plays a naïve young salon employee who falls for a geriatric client, breezily utter the A-word through her tastefully rouged lips; and again when the more matronly Ms. Marshall confirmed the tale of woe. “Yes. Yes. True!” she said, gesturing to emphasize the veracity of the story. “I couldn’t invent that! You know? For the … the … the anus … it’s the owner of the place who told me the story. When she was a young beautician she did that!”

Mon dieu ! But the conversation did not deteriorate further. Instead, convivial banter bounced off the polished floors and trompe l’oeil walls, and white-gloved waiters passed around foie gras and savory tarts on silver trays. It was going on 9 o’clock. The party and its stars–no doubt grateful that their beautician careers had never progressed beyond a dramatized massage or two–made their way into the heavy-draped ballroom to delve into a civilized French repast.

– Beth Broome