Every so often, the culture throws out an inspired gem of comedy or drama that The New York Times adopts as if it had done more than just discover it. Weeks pass, and pretty soon the readers of the newspaper of record start to believe that without The Times , the thing would never have existed; in a short time, there shows up-as with The Sopranos , the Florida Presidential results, other entertaining events-one of those paperback Correspondents of The New York Times books without which Barnes & Noble shelves would forever be hungry.
One of those poor cultural waifs, adopted, nurtured and nearly suffocated by the big loving arms of The New York Times , has been The Producers .
According to Nexis and the Times Web site, in the six weeks since it opened, Mel Brooks’ musical has generated around 20 stories in The New York Times -and that doesn’t count the two-story drum roll in the Arts and Leisure section immediately before it opened, or the Times Magazine interview with Susan Stroman, the show’s director-choreographer, on April 15. We just mean stories since April 20 in which a substantial number of column inches were devoted to the musical and its success, and not the onslaught of clever references to Bialystock & Bloom in the foreign pages, the sports pages, the business pages (“But, Max … that’s 150,000 percent!”), Dining Out (“Let’s eat al fresco , Leo!”), etc.
April 20: Ben Brantley reviews The Producers . A rave. A separate story reports Producers tickets are so expensive!
April 21: The Producers is breaking box-office records, despite those expensive tickets!
April 23: Joyce Purnick examines Producers “mania.”
April 25: Every Broadway producer wanted a piece of The Producers!
May 8: The Producers sets a record for Tony nominations!
May 12: Frank Rich on the Producers juggernaut, an “unexpected hit!” (Although there’s a faint implication that it’s not quite as shatteringly good-revolution!-as the critic who succeeded him said it was.)
May 13: Margo Jefferson’s review of The Producers . It’s a rave!
May 20: Why are Tony TV ratings so low despite … The Producers ?
Also: Mel Brooks, the man behind The Producers , is … really quite funny in person! Also: The Producers’ Gary Beach and Roger Bart … have the roles of a lifetime! Also: the score of … The Producers is hummable! Also: the costumes in … The Producers are really funny! Also: William Safire’s On Language column explores the derivation of the name Max Bialystock, main character in … The Producers!
May 21: The Producers … dominates the Drama Desk Awards with 11!
May 28: The Full Monty would have hit it big at the Tonys this year … except for The Producers !
By the way, this doesn’t count Private Lives items, including one about Anne Bancroft, Mrs. Mel Brooks, and how she had fought for and purchased Barry Blitt’s cover art in The New Yorker , which had somehow itself tried to get in on writing about … The Producers .
The Times’ coverage has been about twice as voluminous as the tabloids’. A Nexis search for the same period showed that the Post ran 11 stories about The Producers, while the News published 13. A spokesman for The Times declined to comment on whether Arthur Sulzberger Jr. himself had bought … 100 percent of the show! (That’s a joke about … The Producers !)
-Carmen Ghia (He’s in … The Producers! )
A Damn Handsome Dress
X-Files star Gillian Anderson is parting company with the Eduardo Lucera dress that caused her and her ass so much trouble at the Vanity Fair Oscar party last March.
Ms. Anderson was selling the peekaboo number-which showed off her flanks, portions of her stomach, her black thong underwear and its white garment-care tag-on one of her fan sites as part of an auction to raise funds for the treatment of neurofibromatosis, a neurological disorder that struck her 20-year-old brother, Aaron. At press time, bidding on the dress had reached $910, with three days to go. (But that’s peanuts compared to the $10,000 bid by one serious conspiracy theorist to visit the David Duchovny–less X-Files set next season.)
A spokeswoman for the press-wary Ms. Anderson told The Transom that the actress was “not doing any press right now” and had no comment. But it was Ms. Anderson who revealed that she was ridding herself of the frock. “There was a dress that I wore to a Vanity Fair party that got a little bit of attention,” Ms. Anderson wrote to fans during a scheduled Yahoo chat on Wednesday, May 16. “I decided to auction it off …. I figure I’m never going to wear the damn thing again, might as well make some money with it!!!”
Springtime for Lewis
“I need 1,000 words to say hello,” Martin N. Lewis said by phone from his home in Los Angeles. He wasn’t exaggerating. In a 40-minute phone conversation, the 48-year-old Mr. Lewis managed to recount his entire personal history-most of which was too weird to be believed-in dense detail.
Let’s start with the name: Mr. Lewis said it was given to him at birth. (His middle name is Neil.) Fortunately, he works in comedy. Mr. Lewis bills himself as “the only British Jewish humorist living in the 323 area code who detests cilantro,” which is probably true, albeit belabored. On June 6, he’ll import his act to the 212 area code-where funny Jews are plentiful-when he performs Great Exploitations! , an autobiographical one-man show at P.S. 122, as part of the Toyota Comedy Festival.
Mr. Lewis may be funny-or not-but his life, as he recounted it, has been interesting. Before becoming a performer, he studied at the knee of the former Beatles publicist Derek Taylor and, he said, had taught Harvey and Bob Weinstein a thing or two about movie-marketing. Mr. Lewis also showed a remarkable prescience about the durability of Mel Brooks’ The Producers . In 1977, several years after seeing the film, he registered the names Bialystock & Bloom and Springtime! as his own production corporations, “in case he ever did a stage show.”
His friendship with Mr. Taylor fueled an ongoing fascination with the Beatles and led to his becoming, as he put it modestly, “one of the world’s leading Beatles’ historians.” He wrote, hosted and produced the Re-Meet the Beatles! special for E! and put Hard Day’s Night producer Walter Shenson in touch with the Weinsteins, who re-released the film in 2000 with Mr. Lewis’ marketing assistance. He has also been waging a campaign to get the Beatles’ late manager, Brian Epstein, into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and has written a 15,000-word “companion narrative” to go with the republication of Mr. Epstein’s autobiography.
Mr. Lewis’ relationship with the Weinsteins goes back to the early 80′s. In 1976, he teamed with the Monty Python crew to produce A Poke in the Eye (With a Sharp Stick), as well as The Secret Policeman’s Ball (1979) and The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball (1981). A year later, he moved to New York and finally knew the relief of feeling “like a loud, pushy Jew amongst millions of loud, pushy Jews.”
About that time, Mr. Lewis was introduced to a young film distributor named Harvey Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein, who had just founded Miramax Films with his brother Bob, made an impression on Mr. Lewis. “I’d never met anybody who wore only polyester,” he remembered. That, and Harvey “seemed like a mirror image of my energy,” Mr. Lewis said.
The Weinsteins were just carving out their niche in the film industry, and were eager to release the Secret Policeman’s Ball films in the states. They spent three months re-editing the two films together, but when it came to marketing, Mr. Lewis was unimpressed. “They had never really done straightforward publicity before,” he explained, adding that one of their biggest projects at that point had been 1977′s White Rock , a documentary about the Innsbruck Winter Olympics with a soundtrack by Yes’ cosmic keyboard-noodler, Rick Wakeman.
Mr. Lewis voiced his Derek Taylor–schooled concerns to the Weinsteins, and was given free reign over the marketing campaign. He enlisted Monty Python’s Graham Chapman to tape an ad and trailer in which he posed as a grim member of the Oral Majority, lambasting the Pythons-until he stood up, revealing that he was wearing fishnet stockings and a pink tutu. WNBC banned the ad, and soon the controversy was in the New York Post ‘s Page Six column, and Mr. Chapman was performing a similar skit during Saturday Night Live . “Harvey came up to me and gave me this big bear hug and said, ‘What a genius you are!’” Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Lewis began performing himself in the early 1990′s, because he “wasn’t feeling enough insecurity as a producer.” Great Exploitations! premiered in Los Angeles in 1999; June 6 will mark its New York debut. In the span of just two hours, Mr. Lewis will recount his whole life’s history, from Bialystock & Bloom to Bob Weinstein, from anti-Semitism to the time he made Susan Carpenter McMillan cry by comparing her to Joseph Goebbels on MSNBC’s Equal Time . Most impressively, he’ll recount how, as a young journalist in 1971, he needed to fill space, and so invented the titles of four Beatles songs, all of which have since been (mistakenly) included in serious histories of the Fab Four.
To get a sense of the capaciousness of Mr. Lewis’ act, one need only examine the poster for Great Exploitations . On it is a picture of a 14-year-old Martin Lewis, Führer mustache penciled in. It reads: “From The Producers who brought you ‘Springtime for Hitler’! Bialystock & Bloom.” Beneath the photograph, the poster reads: “If Adolf Hitler had been a 14 year old Beatles fan named Martin Lewis-growing up in London during the Swingin’ Sixties-whose grandfather was a Rabbi-this would have been his story.” Mr. Lewis said the organizers of the show, which starts at 8 p.m., have shown “some mercy for the audience by scheduling another act to go on at 10 p.m. sharp.”
When Kenny Kramer, the man who inspired Michael Richards’ character on Seinfeld , enlisted Doug Friedline, the man behind Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura’s political juggernaut, for his latest Mayoral campaign, he looked like a candidate with some smarts. Then he reached out to Ivy Supersonic.
Mr. Kramer, the 57-year-old tour guide and Libertarian, wanted Ms. Supersonic (née Silberstein), his friend and possibly the most ambitious milliner in New York, to use her connections ( Liam Gallagher! ) to organize a Kramer-for-Mayor event and help him gather the 7,500 signatures necessary to get on the ballot. “I have a feeling that I would be the candidate you would most want to lead the city,” he e-mailed Ms. Supersonic. “If I don’t win I will definitely scare the shit out of the politicians that are running and I will effect [sic] the outcome of the election.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Kramer, Ms. Supersonic’s promotional services were already taken-by herself. She e-mailed back to Mr. Kramer to say that she, too, is running for Mayor.
Mr. Kramer did not react well to the e-mail. “You’re not really running,” he fired back. “You are doing a publicity stunt. I’m in it to win it.”
Ms. Supersonic wrote back, indicating she had some legitimate gripes with Mr. Kramer’s platform-drug legalization, for one. “You legalizing marajuana [sic] is not helping NY it’s only hurting the kids and your campaign,” she wrote.
Mr. Kramer disagreed. “To take the resources of the police, the courts and the prison system and spend all that money criminalizing productive, nonviolent people because the recreational drug they choose is not alcohol is wrong!” he wrote back. Mr. Kramer told The Transom that Ms. Supersonic’s position was “pretty funny, coming from her. Every event of hers I go to, everyone is whacked out of their mind.” (Ms. Supersonic replied: “I would highly doubt that. But I’m very busy putting these shows together, so it would be hard to actually follow what everybody’s doing.”)
But what especially pissed Mr. Kramer off was Ms. Supersonic’s upbeat attitude. “Don’t hate,” she told him. “Congratulate!”
“What does that mean???” he e-mailed back. “What do you stand for??? Who are you trying to kid? Do you think anyone can take you seriously? You want to be mayor based on the clear issue … DON’T HATE- CONGRATULATE … C’mon Ivy, don’t bullshit a bullshitter.” Mr. Kramer added, for The Transom, “She doesn’t have a party or a platform.”
But Ms. Supersonic certainly seems to think she has a platform. ” It’s all good ,” she told The Transom. “‘It’s all good right now’ is a saying that the youth is using right now. If everybody truly understood what ‘it’s all good’ meant, I think that this could really revolutionize the way people think.”
Ms. Supersonic’s positivity seemed to end with her Mayoral opponent. In her last e-mail, she said, she wrote that Mr. Kramer suffered from a “twisted” mind. “I think he’s got no chance in hell,” she said. “I think I have a better chance of winning.”
It was unclear whether Ms. Supersonic was also referring to her chances in hell.