Of course, any seminar that advertises singer Michael Jackson along with the phrase “Love, Work and Parenting” has got to be an impulse buy. But those who paid up to $65 for tickets to the Feb. 14 panel discussion at Carnegie Hall may be wondering just exactly what’s in store for them.
According to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Mr. Jackson’s friend, spiritual guide and co-founder of his organization Heal the Kids, the Valentine’s Day seminar will actually serve as a “warm-up” for a March 6 presentation at Britain’s Oxford Union, where Rabbi Boteach promised that Mr. Jackson will make an “earth-shattering” speech. Rabbi Boteach, 34, the author of Kosher Sex and The Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandment s, added that the text of that lecture must remain a secret.
As for the Carnegie Hall event, he said that Mr. Jackson will speak only for a few minutes before introducing a panel of “relationship experts” and celebrities scheduled to include publisher Judith Regan; child-psychiatrist and Oprah cohort Stanley Greenspan; “the irrepressible Mother Love”; Loveline’s Dr. Drew Pinsky and–a real coup for any panel on relationships–former Love Connection host Chuck Woolery. “I don’t expect it to be a raunchy evening, but who knows?” Rabbi Boteach said ominously.
The rabbi acknowledged that Valentine’s Day is traditionally viewed as a day for singles, but he said that he and Mr. Jackson believe that “romantic love should be a more inclusive love,” enveloping parents, spouses and children.
That seemed as good a time as any to ask the rabbi if he’d ever had any reservations about embarking on a child-centric project with a guy who, in 1993, was accused of, but never formally charged with, child molestation. (The criminal suit was eventually dropped, and Mr. Jackson settled a civil suit brought by the boy’s family for a reported $10 million.)
“Not at all,” the rabbi said emphatically, adding that he has looked deeply into the matter and found “not a shred of truth” to the accusations. “Studies show that pedophiles are repeat offenders. Where are the other kids?” Rabbi Boteach told The Transom. “If Michael likes little boys, where are they? Why haven’t they come forward for this pot of gold waiting for them?” He concluded: “They don’t exist.”
Rabbi Boteach maintained that the accusations leveled at Mr. Jackson are a sign of our culture’s sickness, not the King of Pop’s. “Everyone thought Michael was guilty because anyone who spends that much time around children must be weird,” he said. “If [he] had 40 tattoos and bedded a different woman every night, he’d be normal, right? But when he loves something innocent and pure, he’s a sicko.
“I’m an Orthodox Jew,” Rabbi Boteach continued, “and our Bible says that the most humble man who walked the earth is Moses; and Michael is near being the most humble man I’ve ever met.”
“He’s a completely normal guy,” insisted Rabbi Boteach. “He wears one glove and white socks … okay. But I was a rabbi at Oxford for 11 years, where all geniuses are somewhat eccentric. He comes to our house on Friday nights for [Shabbat] dinner and there are ordinary people there.”
Whoa there. So has Mr. Jackson converted to Judaism? “No,” Rabbi Boteach replied, then added: “He does love bagels and lox and chicken soup, if that counts.”
Curry & Smith: Camisole Mates
Former Morgan Stanley junior analyst Christian Curry had never met Anna Nicole Smith, but he sure sounded like he understood her.
“She put her feet down and dug down deep,” the 27-year-old Mr. Curry told The Transom, as he sipped white wine from a plastic stemmed glass at the Lane Bryant “Big Girls Do It Again” intimates fashion show on Feb. 5 at Studio 54, where the 33-year-old Ms. Smith was about to walk the runway. “I respect her immensely because she was trashed and she was ripped hard by that family. I’m all behind her.”
No wonder. Though Mr. Curry, who was wearing a black mock turtleneck and a peanut-sized diamond stud in his left ear, is considerably more svelte than Ms. Smith, the two have a few things in common. For one, both have come to realize that posing nude–Ms. Smith for Playboy , Mr. Curry for Playguy –can be a helluva career move.
Ms. Smith’s ecdysiastical pursuits helped her snag Howard Marshall II, an extremely wealthy, wheelchair-bound husband some 63 years her senior. (The couple met in 1991, when the Amazonian Ms. Smith was a dancer at Gigi’s Cabaret in Houston.) Mr. Marshall died in 1995 at the age of 90, just 14 months after Ms. Smith married him, which gave the 1993 Playmate of the Year a shot at half his estate. In September, a federal bankruptcy court judge in Los Angeles awarded Ms. Smith nearly $450 million of her late husband’s fortune, but Mr. Marshall’s son has appealed that ruling, and a probate case is still underway in Texas.
Meanwhile, Mr. Curry’s former employer allegedly paid him a hefty settlement to end a wrongful-dismissal suit that he had filed against Morgan Stanley. In the suit, Mr. Curry claimed that one of the reasons he had been fired was because of the Playguy spread. The bank said that Mr. Curry was terminated for expense-account fraud. It has also denied paying any money to him to settle the lawsuit.
Not surprisingly, both Mr. Curry and Ms. Smith share a publicist, David Granoff, who has long known how to turn controversial cheesecake into headlines.
Given all of these similarities, The Transom asked Mr. Curry if he would ever consider modeling lingerie in a fashion show.
“If I was me or her?” he replied. “If I was her? Would I ever do a lingerie show? I don’t know.” He hesitated, then chuckled, perhaps thinking of his pre-Morgan Stanley days. “What else … hell … fuck, yeah! Oh, yeah!” he pronounced triumphantly.
“Anything but a thong. I never wear a thong.”
For a while there on Feb. 5, the main hall of the New York Public Library looked like Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. The celebrity crowd, which had just seen the extremely brainy (and we mean that literally) Hannibal at the Ziegfeld Theater, seemed to stumble around trying to decide whether they should hazard the buffet line or head straight for the loo. Preternaturally ruddy TV personality Regis Philbin looked a little ashen as he sat with his wife in the V.I.P. room. Actress Ellen Barkin headed straight for the bar with her husband Ron Perelman in tow. Chloë Sevigny looked a little faint.
The only person who didn’t seem unnerved by the gory sequel to The Silence of the Lambs was the actress Lauren Bacall, who was desperately seeking an audience with Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini. “He is ravishing, ” Ms. Bacall said throatily, even though, in the film, Mr. Giannini met a fate that would put even Jimmy Dean off sausage for a while. Had Ms. Bacall spied the Italian heartthrob yet? “Oh, I’ll see him!” Ms. Bacall said with gusto.
She glanced at the empty glass in her hand and said, “I think I’m actually going to eat.” What part of Hannibal made her doubt her digestive capabilities? The Transom asked. Ms. Bacall leaned in close. “The pigs,” she growled, with a laugh that stopped short when she turned around and came face to face with a grinning Mr. Hopkins. He grabbed her hand and, after a brief pause, Ms. Bacall grinned back.
“Is this hokey or what?” a hefty young woman mused. “I brought my Mead Composition Notebook!” On the gray afternoon of Feb. 4, the woman sat in one of several rows of wooden chairs that had been arranged on the sticky dance floor of S.O.B.’s nightclub on Varick Street. In one hand, she clutched a pen; in the other, a hand-grenade-shaped bottle of Red Stripe beer. The notebook sat open on her corduroy-clad lap. She was waiting to be enlightened.
Around her, a racially mixed collection of B-boys, fly-girls, graduate students and weirdoes, each of whom had coughed up $25, were also finding their seats. KRS-One, the hip-hop artist and philosopher whose real name is Lawrence Parker, was going to rap without the benefit of turntables, crew or dancers. His only props were a fiberglass rostrum flanked by vaguely African bundles of sticks and a table behind it, on which rested copies of the Bible, The Oxford English Dictionary and Hip Hop America by Nelson George. Old-school was in session.
After a quick introduction from a doctoral student, it was time for the man behind such hits as “My Philosophy” and “You Must Learn” to teach. KRS-One shuffled onto the stage. With his massive cranium and short dreadlocks, he cut the figure of an overgrown Jumpin’ Jack Flash -era Whoopi Goldberg. He grinned nervously. “I’m feeling like telling y’all to throw your hands in the air,” he stammered. “Word.”
Instead, KRS-One set about expounding, without notes, on a number of subjects. Although in a telephone interview conducted a few days before the lecture, KRS-One told The Transom that, in terms of his personal politics, “I tend to dabble around the Republican view,” at one point during his lecture he told the S.O.B.’s audience: “Unless a miracle happens, Pharaoh–the government, George Bush–are going to push us into the ocean.”
KRS-One did offer a potential survival strategy. “Maybe we could put together a fund of $80 million and buy Hackensack, N.J., and make that a hip-hop city,” he said. “This is possible in your lifetime!”
For now, though, KRS-One’s solution is just a little more pragmatic. Having already written a book called The Science of Rap , he’s now attempting to codify hip-hop. The rapper told the audience that he was hosting a closed-door musicians’ summit in May, where discussion will include a document called “The Refinitions” that lists the essential elements of hip-hop.
An assistant passed out copies of “The Refinitions,” which begins with an official-sounding preamble: “For the purpose of uniting and establishing our common identity we, the architects of Hiphop’s Kulture … make manifest the ‘Refinitions.'” These include “Breakin’ (the study of Martial Arts),” “Emceein’ (the study of Divine Speech)” and “Beatboxin’ (the study of Mind and Body Health.)” Each element is rendered in sterile textbook prose: “Beatboxin’ is about seeing the body as an instrument. … It is the act of imitating early electronic drum machines.”
As KRS-One expounded at great length on the Refinitions, some in the audience began to fall asleep. Some drifted over to the bar. A few people grabbed their coats and left. But the rapper was undeterred. He held up the copy of Mr. George’s Hip Hop America . “This is a book, by definition,” he said. “But it’s also a fan.” He fanned himself with the book. He was really sweating. “This is a book. But I can rip the pages out and blow my nose with it. That’s hip-hop. You find the same idea in the Bible.” While the remaining audience members digested this nugget, he scanned the room. “That’s a pole,” he said, pointing to a support beam. “But it’s also art.”
An hour dragged by. Then another. And another. KRS-One plugged his new album. He plugged his old book. He noticed that it was dark outside, which prompted him to unveil what he called a “new spiritual law: a concept called ‘endarkenment.'” KRS-One then told the crowd: “Before you get to enlightenment, you have to go through endarkenment.'” But he didn’t explain the law any further.
By this time, almost half the crowd was gone. It didn’t matter. KRS-One still had an anecdote in him: “My son Chris, he was writing on the wall. Instead of yelling at him, like most parents would have done, I broke out the spray paint and graffiti’d along with him,” he said. “And [Chris] never wanted to write on his wall again. It’s strange, you know?” But after three hours of KRS-One’s teaching, it didn’t seem strange at all.
The Transom Also Hears …
Surprise guest Liza Minnelli got the biggest round of applause at the Drama League’s Feb. 5 gala dinner in honor of Chita Rivera at the Pierre Hotel. Dressed in a loose black tunic and tight black trousers, Ms. Minnelli explained that she had arrived unexpectedly because she had “escaped from a hospital in Florida.” She was unable to sing, but she read a telegram she had prepared for her friend and colleague. “You changed my life. I promise you you did, Chita,” she declared in a hoarse, vibrant voice. Then Ms. Minnelli walked slowly off the stage, leaning on the arm of a young man.