It was enough to make a mother proud–and we don’t mean a member of Frank Zappa’s original lineup. At the 16th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria–under chandeliers and TV lighting, with a wall-sized teleprompter towering in the back–everyone gave it up for Mama, even the baddest of the bad boys.
Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry thanked his for letting him play as loud as he wanted in the basement, and bassist Tom Hamilton promised, “Mom, when I finally get this out of my system, I’ll go to college.” Michael Jackson and Paul Simon each made sure they credited theirs.
For those inductees who have passed on–Queen’s flamboyant front man Freddie Mercury and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Richie Valens–their respective mothers jetted in, hiked their long dresses and climbed to the stage to claim their sons’ svelte metallic trophies.
“I think I probably wouldn’t have come unless my mother, my father and my friends were very excited about it,” admitted Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, seated with parents and wife Libby Titus at Table 42. For the often cynical songwriter, singer and keyboardist, the proceedings aren’t what they used to be. “In the early days, I used to go with [former Warner Bros. Records head] Mo Ostin and it was lot of fun,” Mr. Fagen told The Transom. “Then when they started broadcasting [the ceremony], it drained it of pleasure.”
How did this compare to the more glitzy world of the Grammys, where Steely Dan just last month clinched its first three awards?
“The Grammys are essentially an alien landscape for me now,” Mr. Fagen said. “It’s not that really concerned with music any more–it’s much more about grabbing your crotch and singing a lot of rococo ornaments instead of soul music. At least the people who go to the Hall of Fame are connected to the community of people who are my age.”
The age caveat for Hall of Fame entry–25 years from an artist’s debut album–ensures the respectability and predictability that have become as common at the annual event as gray-haired ponytails cascading over tuxedo collars.
The Hall of Fame acknowledges the age gulf. Earlier in the evening, the Hall’s president and chief executive, Terry Stewart–alluding to Aerosmith’s current best-selling album, Just Push Play –said: “I think this is the first time we’re inducting someone who’s currently in the Top 20.”
Though a relative youngster, Moby, who’s 35, was chosen to induct Steely Dan. Mr. Fagen had professed a preference for another “who’s connected stylistically to what we do…. I certainly wouldn’t have minded if Frank Zappa had done it.” But alas, Mr. Zappa was hanging with Mr. Mercury and Mr. Valens.
Fellow Steely Dan member Walter Becker echoed his partner later onstage. “We’re not going to say much–we said it all on our Web site,” he said, referring to a series of humorous diatribes the two had posted when the Hall overlooked them in past years. Instead, he queried the audience with rock trivia: “Does anybody know the name of Frank Zappa’s original drummer?” Pause. “Jimmy Carl Black” came the correct reply.
Now there was a Mother.
Design for Living It Up
On the evening of March 15, a gaggle of celebrities and “theater people” were finding their seats at the American Airlines Theatre for the opening of Design for Living . Regis Philbin seemed agitated as he sat silently next to his wife, Joy, looking as though he wished the show–a revival of the Noël Coward comedy about a boy-girl-boy affair in the 1930’s–would hurry up and start already. Monica Lewinsky had also forgone the chitchat and the ” Ménage à Trois ” drink special in the lobby and had settled into her seat early. Clutching her program and one of her namesake purses–this one splattered with cheery red flowers–Ms. Lewinsky sat patiently with her mother and stepfather, Marcia Lewis and R. Peter Strauss. “Hope you don’t mind our name-dropping!” Mr. Strauss said, ribbing his stepdaughter. “Hope you don’t mind we used your name to get these seats!” he whispered loudly, looking pleased with his view from the fourth row.
“Do you know who you’re sitting next to?” one busybody asked The Transom, who was seated next to the portly pepperpot turned “it” girl. “I just thought I should warn you, if you weren’t aware,” she hissed, as those around her tittered like ruthless schoolgirls. She then pointed at the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host and whispered to her companion, “That’s Regis Philbin, the big TV star. He has better seats than us!”
After the show, Ms. Lewinsky made her way over to the party at Laura Belle on 43rd Street, but she disappeared before the rumpus began. The D.J. kicked things off with Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again,” and Design star Alan Cumming took the (jail)bait, stomping his biker-booted feet as he got down with a Baby Spice look-alike. Meanwhile, the hunky Dominic West, who plays Leo–the character who’s in love with Jennifer Ehle’s Gilda and Alan Cumming’s Otto (who, in turn, also loves Gilda)–was pounding cosmopolitans and whooping it up as boisterously as his co-star.
The biggest challenge of playing Leo, Mr. West told The Transom in a booming, British-accented stage voice, “was kissing Alan!” The play’s passionate kissing scene was so hard, he said, “because we had to stop and couldn’t go any further. Oh, I wanted to take him! I wanted to take him there and then on the sofa !” Mr. West bellowed over “Night Fever.” Mr. West’s desires were thwarted even during dress rehearsal. “The director called ‘Cut!’ and we just couldn’t go any further,” Mr. West lamented.
– Beth Broome
I See Bobby Z
It’s a New York obsession, to look up at the window of an apartment building and wonder: Who lives there? On March 16, actress Michele Lee and publicist Bobby Zarem played a version of that game that left the wild-haired P.R. man with some very cold shinbones.
Mr. Zarem and Ms. Lee have become fast friends since the actress came to town to star in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at the Barrymore Theater. On this particular Friday, they were talking on the phone when Ms. Lee asked Mr. Zarem where he lived. When the publicist said that he lived on the 24th floor of an apartment building on First Avenue between 57th and 56th streets, she said, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Ms. Lee, it turns out, lives 19 floors up in a high-rise rental on the same avenue a number of blocks north.
The next thing you know, Mr. Zarem and Ms. Lee were trying to locate each other across the rooftops. Mr. Zarem ventured out onto his terrace, which faces the East River, “the only person crazy enough,” he said, “to be the fuck out on his terrace, much less in workout trunks and a polo shirt,” at this time of the year. He also took a pair of binoculars with him.
Ms. Lee grabbed a brightly colored scarf and a pair of antique 19th-century opera glasses that she had bought at a flea market. She opened her window as wide as it would go, which was about six inches, stuck the scarf outside and began to wave it, all the while scanning the East Side cityscape for a wildly gesticulating man in gym clothes.
About 10 minutes elapsed. “He was screaming at me that he was freezing,” Ms. Lee said. But then, Mr. Zarem spotted the scarf. This time, Ms. Lee said, “he screamed so loud [over the phone] that my assistant, Lynnette Marrer, heard it.”
“He was adorable,” Ms. Lee said, laughing at the memory of Mr. Zarem on his terrace. “He was in shorts and a little T-shirt. Thank God he wasn’t nude.”
– Frank DiGiacomo
The Taste of Oscars
It felt like a cross between Planet Hollywood and Old Hollywood at the tasting breakfast for the Academy’s New York Oscar Night bash at Le Cirque on March 15. Host Arlene Dahl, glamour queen and former MGM contract player, was encouraging her table mates–including Broadway and screen legend Rosemary Harris, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers star Jane Powell, Oscar historian Robert Osborne and Arthur Manson, chair of the New York events committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences–to tuck into their seaweed salad, topped with “Crouching Shrimp and Hidden Scallops.” It was 10:30 in the morning.
The group was there to confirm the menu for New York Oscar Night, the annual right-coast viewing of the Oscar telecast for Academy members. Ms. Dahl, who has organized the New York party for six years, explained that each course was based on one of the Best Picture nominees. All aglitter in a black frock set with multicolored stones and beads, Ms. Dahl reassured the table, “It’s like a wine tasting: You just eat a little bit of everything.” Ms. Powell wrung her hands and said, “Oh, I hate wasting the food.”
She explained that she had been in bed for 10 days after being thrown off a treadmill. Oscar votes were due the next day, and she was concerned that she hadn’t seen the nominated Chocolat . Ms. Dahl and Mr. Manson were horrified, and made arrangements to get a copy of it to her that afternoon. Mr. Manson later explained that Chocolat ‘s producer, David Brown, is a New York Academy committee member, which explained why “we’re all a little partial” to the film.
Ms. Dahl asked Ms. Harris, who’d just flown in from the Los Angeles set of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man , in which she plays Spidey’s (Tobey Maguire) Aunt May, whether she was in town for the opening of Noël Coward’s Design for Living , which stars Ms. Harris’ daughter, Jennifer Ehle. “Oh, we don’t go to each other’s openings,” she said. “It’s hard enough, you see, without doing all that.” Ms. Harris lost a Tony Award to her daughter last spring.
The second course was a roasted filet of “Maximus” beef with red-wine sauce served with a leek, foie gras and potato tart. “It’s a hunk of beef,” clarified Ms. Dahl, “because there are so many hunks nominated. And we’re going to have a man in a gladiator costume serve it.” The dish will be accompanied by two overstuffed tomatoes, ” Erin -style.”
When dessert–a ” Chocolat ” panna cotta with vanilla, walnuts and chocolate cream with ginger and lime–arrived, the conversation turned to gossip. Ms. Dahl explained that her son, actor Lorenzo Lamas, was in town for the week with his wife. In addition, Outlaw star Jane Russell was a guest, and the crowd had forced her out of her apartment.
Across the table, Ms. Powell was aghast over something she’d read in a “rag magazine” while recovering from her treadmill toss. “Did you know that Jane Fonda was bulimic for 25 years ?” she asked Mr. Osborne. “She was a fraud that whole time!” she said, referring to Ms. Fonda’s leg-warmer phase.
Finally, a thin sheet of dark chocolate was served, upon which a chocolate straw was propped up next to a tidy line of powdered sugar. It was meant to evoke the coke-fueled giddiness of Traffic . Ms. Dahl mimed the snorting of the confectioner’s sugar, just in case anyone missed the point.
– Rebecca Traister
Alec Baldwin’s Shooting Pains
Need help with your maintenance payments? Call Alec Baldwin. Last month, the ex-Mr. Basinger rented apartment 43A at 360 East 88th Street for one day for $7,500. He was shooting a scene for the remake of The Devil and Daniel Webster , which he directed and also stars in. If co-star Dan Aykroyd seemed particularly at home in his scene, it’s because he lives in the building. Coincidence? The four-bedroom unit is currently on the market for $2.75 million, according to broker Danielle Englebardt of Gumley Haft Kleier.
Mr. Baldwin also used $60,000 of the film’s $25 million budget to rent a 15th-floor apartment with a 1,700-square-foot terrace at 515 Park Avenue, a new condo development, for 10 days in late February. The apartment had recently been sold, but the new owner hadn’t moved in yet when Mr. Baldwin gave it a cameo. The condo board stipulated that the crew could only use the service entrance and had to stay out of the lobby, so residents like theater scion James Nederlander wouldn’t be bothered–perhaps by the disturbing sight of Mr. Baldwin holding hands with his co-star, Ms. Hewitt.
– Deborah Schoeneman