Requiem for a Scheme … Paparazzo Bites Publicists

Requiem for a Scheme

If you went to see Requiem for a Dream when it opened over Columbus Day weekend and happened to be sitting next to a bleary-eyed film-school type who looked as though he’d already sat through the film a dozen times, chances are it was director Darren Aronofsky himself, doing his small part to make sure his film will get wide distribution. It seems that Mr. Aronofsky, the 31-year-old Brooklyn-born filmmaker who had an art-house hit with 1998′s Pi and was recently chosen to follow in the steps of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher as the director of Warner Bros.’ newest Batman sequel, wasn’t content to let the marketing department from Artisan, the company distributing his film, do its Blair Witch craft on Requiem , which opens nationally on November 3.

It seems that you can take the kid out of film school, but you can’t stop him from stacking his screenings with friends and second cousins twice removed. A few days before the film opened in Manhattan, Mr. Aronofsky zapped out a chain e-mail of sorts that he encouraged friends to forward, Amway style, to other friends. “Dear Friends,” the e-mail began, “My new movie, Requiem for a Dream , opens in Manhattan on Friday and I am terrified. So in order to stir the grass roots I am writing to you dear friends and hopefully because this has been forwarded to dear friends of dear friends to your dear friends of dear friends. Does that make sense?” Mr. Aronofsky then demonstrated a real Billy Friedkin-style burst of humility. “Anyway,” he wrote, ” Requiem for a Dream stars Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans and even though I am very biased I think IT ROCKS!!! I would love you all to come and see it.” (To be fair, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times agreed that Mr. Aronofsky’s drug-addiction opus ROCKS!!!, though neither Owen Gleiberman nor Elvis Mitchell phrased it quite that way.)

Then Mr. Aronofsky got down to brass tacks, explaining that behind his entreaties was some real Hollywood bidness : “Please bring all your friends, families, enemies and random strangers on Friday, Saturday or Sunday (Oct. 6-8) since the opening weekend box-office returns will effect the entire release pattern of the movie around the world.”

Mr. Aronofsky’s audience stacking seemed to pay off. Variety reported that over the weekend , Requiem brought in $64,770 on just two screens, which is nearly three times the per-screen take of the number one movie in the country, Meet the Parents . After Mr. Aronofsky finishes the fifth Batman, perhaps Warner Bros. will set him up with a T1 line and a Hotmail account and hand him the keys to the studio

Paparazzo Bites Publicists

Decades of getting booted off of movie sets by burly union guys and escorted from celebrity parties by publicists has left Steve Sands a very indignant paparazzo. Mr. Sands, a gangly sort who Esquire magazine once uncharitably dubbed “Ratso Rizzo with a camera,” is a fixture among the corralled photographers who wait outside of movie premieres and clubs where the famous are expected to be. As a freelance paparazzo, Mr. Sands has what might be called a complicated relationship with publicists, a number of whom would rather eat a light bulb than let him into their exclusive parties.

“Off the top of my head, I can think of three PR people who I’d like to see dead because I think they are a bunch of scummy egomaniacs,” Mr. Sands said. He paused, perhaps thinking that a few relationships with publicists are worth salvaging. “[Lizzie Grubman PR partner] Peggy Siegal is not one of them,” he added.

Now Mr. Sands, who for so long has been an unwelcome guest at so many places, has a room of his own from which no clipboard-toting publicist can toss him. Last month, he started a chat room called “Publicyst” (get it?), found at http://www.dreamwater.net/publicyst, where he can dole out his own brand of justice. And he’s encouraging other photographers to join him. Recently, Mr. Sands said, Ken Katz, the paparazzo best known for shooting John Kennedy, Jr. and his wife engaged in various arguments, recently logged on and left a friendly message.

Lara Shriftman, a partner in the PR firm Harrison & Shriftman, doesn’t rate as highly as Ms. Siegal on the Sands-o-Meter. Mr. Sands has been booted from quite a few Harrison & Shriftman events, notably a recent Hugo Boss party from which Mr. Sands readily admits he left screaming. “I certainly used Lara as my muse for the site,” Mr. Sands said. On September 22, Mr. Sands decided to put his money where his mouth is and posted a $20-to-$75 bounty for “any information on the lies, dirty dealings and scandals involving the Harrison & Shriftman PR firm,” ending it with the ominous sounding, “Their time has come.” (Ms. Shriftman said she had no comment on Mr. Sands’ site.)

So far, traffic hasn’t exactly threatened to crash AOL. At press time, the site had been logged on to 184 times. And though Mr. Sands invites people to post anonymously, he has been acting as something of a cop to those who don’t share his disaffections. After someone who identified himself as a photographer named Frank posted a positive message about one of Mr. Sands’ least favorite PR companies, Network, Mr. Sands struck back, “What is your last name. I don’t know ANY photographer (sic) named ‘Frank’ that covers network partys (sic) . Are you sure that you’re not a shill for the firm?”

But Mr. Sands said there will be no censorship on his site, pointing out that he left a posting from someone who wrote, “Steve, everyone knows that you are the ONLY ONE posting these ridiculous, badly misspelled e-mails…[A]re you that starving for attention? I thought you were a photographer!! Where are your pictures ever published? I suggest you take that twitch to a doctor!!!!”

“I mean, how fucking nasty can you be?” Mr. Sands asked The Transom. “I have a twitch because I’ve been carrying 30 pounds of camera equipment for 30 years.” Bruised ego and all, Mr. Sands said he will press on. “I think this site is something that is going to serve the public interest.”

Farrah Gets a Head of Herself

Actress Sylvia Miles tromped past the phalanx of journalists crowded around Farrah Fawcett at the new restaurant Brasserie 8 1/2. “Farrah!” she cried out. “Farrah!” Ms. Miles, who was wearing a big black bow in her hair, seemed to be on a mission.

Ms. Fawcett had just attended the premiere of her very serious TNT movie, Baby, in which she played a painter. (Unlike her 1997 Playboy video, this time Ms. Fawcett actually painted with her hands.) She was on her best behavior, drinking Coca-Cola and refusing to say anything controversial about Robert Altman, who directed her in Dr. T and the Women , or her former Charlie’s Angels costars.

Ms. Miles, on the other hand, seemed content to be as weird as she wanted to be. While Ms. Fawcett looked on, Ms. Miles, who later said she “knew Farrah in the 70′s when she was with Ryan,” fiddled with the top of a small gold cylindrical box. Once she got her ringed fingers inside, Ms. Miles slowly pulled out what appeared to be a large lock of flaxen hair attached to a chunk of flesh. An ear? A scalp? Ms. Fawcett looked concerned, as though perhaps Ms. Miles had become a practitioner of the black arts.

“It’s you!” Ms. Miles cackled as she pulled out a Barbie-sized head and waved it in front of Ms. Fawcett’s face. Ms. Fawcett examined the head, which, judging from the cheekbones, was indeed supposed to be her as Angel Jill Munroe. “I put sunglasses on it!” Ms. Miles pointed out. Ms. Fawcett nodded and smiled.

Afterwards, Ms. Miles said she had a few of the Farrah noggins lying around the house. She’d found a whole bin of them in a knickknack shop on Seventh Avenue and kept one stuck to a pen in her apartment. The Transom told her that the head looked a little evil. “It’s not that evil,” cackled Ms. Miles.

Soho Gets Godpia

On Oct. 5, as the city’s trend-devouring art crowd dragged from gallery opening to gallery opening, an unusual, ecstatic, raving joy was zinging about Soho’s Wooster Projects. At the center of the whirlwind was Manji Ryu, an unassuming middle-aged Japanese man wearing a tuxedo and a large pair of square, lavender-tinted glasses.

While insiders were heading to Sharon Lockhart’s show at Barbara Gladstone in Chelsea, Mr. Manji was presiding over his domain of fantastical paintings, titled “Manji Ryu World Godpia Exhibition 2000.” Nude, koala-hugging vixens writhed amid floral explosions. The babes’ long hair swam in paisley waves, flames leaping from betwixt their legs. Glowing planets sizzled by. A baby Buddha rode a horned dragon-fish like a bucking bronco, and an enormous rhinoceros beetle hovered alongside a white-leisure-suited, samurai-sword-wielding Adonis.

Mr. Manji’s paintings illustrate the journey to Godpia, a place envisioned by the artist. Through a translator, Mr. Manji told The Transom that Godpia is “happier than utopia. It’s superior to utopia. This is Godpia.” In the literature that accompanies his art, Mr. Manji instructs his disciples-collectors on how to access this mysterious mental realm. “Let your soul warp freely to Godpia,” he writes. “Let your Godpia free. Let us scream out of joy, ‘I wanna touch God!! I wanna touch God!!’”

As the sky spit mist outside, the gallery pumped with random onlookers and the temperature soared into the triple digits. Mr. Manji climbed onto a raised platform and grabbed a microphone. “Listen to me!” Mr. Manji demanded like a cake-high birthday boy. “I am it, okay?! Listen to me! Good evening! Ladies. And gentlemen! My name is Manji Ryu. I thank you very much for coming!” he announced, competing with the violin concerto that continued to whine over the sound system. He then broke into a lengthy address in halting English that was, for the most part, incomprehensible. Next, Mr. Manji’s young daughter had a turn and the mike, followed by his wife. Finally, special guest Rocky Aoki, the shaggy-mustached father of Benihana (as well as of Lenny Kravitz-dating model Devon), gave his take on the evening.

Then-bang!–the men attacked a keg of Sho Chiku Bai sake, smashing off its wooden lid with mallets. The alcohol sloshed about and gallery hoppers dove in. Benihana chefs kept the sushi coming. Paintings were knocked askew as the crowd attacked the free fish.

Suddenly, the classical music stopped and “Louie Louie” thundered through the speakers. Mr. Manji, now sporting a pair of what appeared to be white boxer shorts, matching socks and an abbreviated kimono, emerged on the makeshift stage. On his head he wore a kerchief that was knotted under his nose. With all the grace of an out-of-water crustacean, Mr. Manji pranced about, robotically waving two fans as he performed his rendition of the ancient “bubble dance.” “Too much sake!” someone yelled. “Sake overload!”

Despite the distractions, some people took the time to check out the art. “There’s some nice little mysticism about his paintings, but it’s not, how do you say…complacent mysticism,” observed a gentleman named Angelo, who looked like a direct descendant of Mr. Clean.

“When I first walked in, I was sort of turned off by the imagery,” a middle-aged woman admitted to The Transom. “Almost, like, in a kind of nauseous way. But the more I looked at the paintings,” she hesitated for a moment, searching inside the frame in front of her, “I’m…I’m getting into it the more I drink.”

–Beth Broome