William Morris co-president Jim Wiatt has been at the talent agency for barely two years, but already he seems to know what he wants to do next. Film-industry sources familiar with the situation said that Mr. Wiatt has been making a strong push for Sony Pictures Entertainment chief John Calley’s job, and he’s been taking his case straight to the top: Sony Corporation of America chief executive Howard Stringer. Apparently, Mr. Wiatt even buttonholed Mr. Stringer at writer-director Nora Ephron’s weekend-long birthday celebration in Las Vegas. (Ms. Ephron is Mr. Wiatt’s client.) Mr. Calley, who’s 70 years old, is expected to retire when his contract expires in November, and though Sony has already reportedly spoken to former Disney studio chief Joe Roth (in whose Revolution Pictures Sony is an investor) about succeeding him, Mr. Wiatt is apparently among the many other movie-industry players who covets the job. “He wants it,” said one source familiar with the situation, adding: “There are certain people in Hollywood who think that if you say something loud enough, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Mr. Stringer’s office declined to comment on the matter, but William Morris spokesman Don DeMesquita denied the story. “Rumors about Sony are completely bogus. Jim’s not leaving for Sony or anywhere.”
Television producer Robert Morton picked Independence Day to change the state of his union. Mr. Morton, the longtime bachelor, executive producer of You Don’t Know Jack and former producer of The Late Show with David Letterman, quietly tied the knot with his fiancée, the Santa Monica, Calif., restaurateur Jenny Rush, on July 4 at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton.
The couple, who met three years ago at the Coffee Bean in Malibu, where they currently live, was married by Rabbi David Gelfand in the presence of the couple’s parents. Private investor Stuart Kreisler and his wife, Tracy Bonbreast, served as the couple’s official witnesses. Mr. Morton told The Transom that he and Ms. Rush had come to the Hamptons, where he keeps a home, expecting to tie the knot, but without a firm date in mind. It was Rabbi Gelfand who suggested the date. “He said, ‘What about July fourth? That’s a good anniversary to have,'” Mr. Morton recounted.
The following Sunday, Mr. Kreisler and Late Night with Conan O’Brien producer Jeff Ross celebrated the next phase of their buddy’s familial evolution: Mr. Morton and Ms. Rush are infanticipating (as Walter Winchell used to put it) a daughter in September, and so the two men threw Mr. Morton a “boys-only” baby shower at Mr. Kreisler’s Bridgehampton restaurant, 95 School Street. Guests included Greater Talent Network president Don Epstein, restaurateur Steve Hanson, attorney Gerald Lefcourt, Gil Morton, hotelier Jon Tisch and his producer brother Steve Tisch, attorney Andrew Fox, Lulu Guinness handbag company chief Michael Schultz, screenwriter Kevin Wade, former Leslie Fay chief Alan Golub and design executive Alan Kerner. Martha Stewart enjoyed the distinction of being the only woman invited to the party, but she never showed.
Ms. Rush, who owns the Blue Plate restaurant in Santa Monica, arrived in time to watch her husband open the gifts. One of the first ones out of the box was a man-sized pink tutu, from Mr. Epstein, which the black-clad Mr. Morton donned for the remainder of the party. Mr. Golub gave the gift of several DVD’s that, he said, needed to be watched in a specific order. The first one was Snatch ; the last, Panic . Mr. Lefcourt bestowed earplugs.
Diapers were also prevalent. Jon Tisch brought a case of Huggies. And as part of his gift package, Mr. Hanson–who recently became a father–included what appeared to be a used diaper. After Mr. Morton showed it to the crowd, Mr. Hanson instructed him in the ways of Pamper analysis. “First you smell it,” Mr. Hanson said, burying his nose in the presumably fragrant item. Then, applying his finger to the diaper’s sweet spot, he added, “If you’re not sure, you taste it.” In this particular case, Mr. Hanson tasted some pretty convincing-looking peanut butter.
Mr. Kreisler also gave Mr. Morton diapers. But they were the adult kind, Depends. “What do you get a 48-year-old father-to-be?” Mr. Kreisler said.
Polly Jean Harvey’s pummeling, acid-etched songs have jump-started the hearts of many an emotionally damaged man. But who knew that actor, musician and Buffalo 66 director Vincent Gallo would be among them?
After having been spotted hanging out together at the Park restaurant and at one of U2’s Madison Square Garden shows (where Ms. Harvey was the opening act), Mr. Gallo told The Transom that he and Ms. Harvey plan to consummate their professional relationship by recording a duet for an album featuring the work of the late Texas singer-songwriter Lee Hazlewood, a cult hero of the Sonic Youth crowd best known for penning “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” for Nancy Sinatra.
But even Mr. Gallo–whose politics recall Republican cloth coats and Spiro Agnew–seemed surprised by Ms. Harvey’s beguiling ways. “I always just thought her appeal was to a feminist sensibility,” he said. “I mean, I thought she was cute. But I’d just sort of detach from her, because I’m not interested in the artistic work of any woman.” Mr. Gallo added, “I don’t think there was a woman in history who had any kind of impact in any way.”
But then he saw Ms. Harvey perform. “I caught the last two songs. I was blown away. But I blocked it out and just forgot about her,” he said. Two years later, he saw her again. “I saw she was … special,” he said. “But I was so focused on what I was doing, I didn’t take the time to listen.”
Three months ago, however, Mr. Gallo broke up with his longtime girlfriend (“She lied about everything “), which left him feeling lonely. He tried to play the field but, he said, every time he got someone into bed, he’d get repulsed–”It’s almost like Polanski’s film with Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion ,” he said. “Or a horror movie.”
Enter Ms. Harvey–actually, her albums. Mr. Gallo found himself listening to Ms. Harvey’s oeuvre for weeks on end. When he got to meet the artist through some friends, she was nice to him. Now they go to concerts together, they have dinner and they talk about Mr. Gallo’s tortured inner life, which probably means that Ms. Harvey spends a lot of time listening.
Mr. Gallo said that the Hazlewood song they’re singing together–”Come on Home to Me”–pretty much sums up his last breakup. “It’s about pretending you don’t have feelings for somebody anymore,” he said. “It’s one of the greatest songs of all time.”
After a little prurient prodding about the extent of his relationship with Ms. Harvey, Mr. Gallo–who’s readying his own album for release in the fall–said he’s too broken up about being broken up to want to get Ms. Harvey into the sack. “I don’t think I’d like to lift up her skirt–which is weird, because I’m sort of compulsive sexually. I don’t even know if she likes me,” he said with a teenage quaver. “I guess I’m sort of in love with her as a person. She smells nice. Real girly. Real, real nice. Like a milky flower. A girly, milky flower.”
Rue Sticks It Out
“Everyone always asks me, am I really like Blanche Devereaux?” actress Rue McClanahan, best known for her slutty Golden Girls character, was telling the mob at Chelsea’s Blu bar the other night. “I always say, ‘Puh- leeeze ! Just look at the facts! Blanche Devereaux was a mad, crazy, glamorous, oversexed Southern belle from Atlanta, and … well, I’m not from Atlanta!'”
Ms. McClanahan, though she was busy rehearsing for her upcoming Broadway appearance in The Women , and though she was being sued by a former friend for allegedly abandoning her geriatric German shepherd, Ginger, somehow found time to host a few episodes of “Faggot Feud,”apseudo-game show that plays at the gay bar Wednesdays at midnight.
Dressed like a Boca retirement-home dominatrix in a sheer zebra-print top, black gloves and an ostrich feather sprouting from her head, Ms. McClanahan flitted about the stage assisted by Dick Dawson, a leather-underpants-and-dog-collar-clad beefcake.
“We got all these answers from a hundred faggots surveyed,” Ms. McClanahan assured the Master and Slave families from her podium, which was decorated with a large, glittery silver phallus. “So this is all legitimate–you know what I mean?
“Name something,” Ms. McClanahan continued, “that, although painful, provides much pleasure.”
One of the Masters hit his button and a blue police light started flashing.
“Anal sex!” he shouted.
“I think everybody heard that,” Ms. McClanahan said as a buzzer blared, indicating a wrong answer.
“Anal sex! I’m surprised!” she murmured.
Suddenly the judge up in the D.J. booth changed his mind, and the correct-answer bell dinged as the words “getting fucked” appeared on a screen.
“Aha!” said Ms. McClanahan. “Where’s the next contestant?”
“Biting!” guessed another Master.
“I bet it’s up there!” Ms. McClanahan sang. The buzzer buzzed again.
“I can’t believe that biting isn’t on there! Well, let’s see what it is , for God’s sake!” she declared.
The correct answers were revealed.
“Nipple clamps! Oh, heavens–I hadn’t thought of that! These are hard questions!” Ms. McClanahan said.
“Other than lick,” she went on, “what is something else you can do with your tongue? Gee …. “
“Flick!” a Slave chirped.
“What the hell’s a flick ?” the judge demanded.
“I’ll show you later!” Ms. McClanahan said, looking over her shoulder toward the voice.
The buzzer buzzed.
“My guess would be ‘rim,'” a Slave said.
“Rim … rim …. ” Ms. McClanahan mused, pursing her lips. The bell dinged.
“What about that!” screamed Ms. McClanahan. Then, after giving the Masters a shot, she looked at the audience. “O.K., now I’m going to tell you what I would say. I would say ‘stick it out.'”
“Oh, Rue,” the judge lamented as the buzzer sounded again. “Any other ideas?”
“No, that was it,” Ms. McClanahan said.
There’s no question that performance artist, actor, writer, director, N.Y.U. professor and 1996 recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” award Anna Deavere Smith is a hard-working woman. But now she’s added even more diversity to her portfolio.
First came news of her involvement in The Seagull, a translation of Anton Chekhov’s 1895 play by Tom Stoppard that will be performed in late July and August in Central Park as part of the Public Theater’s free “Shakespeare in the Park” series. Though the cast includes Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, Marcia Gay Harden, John Goodman, Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the play’s director, Mike Nichols, apparently felt that his talent base wasn’t strong enough. So he asked Ms. Smith to serve as the production’s dramaturge. Ms. Smith will be responsible for providing “reflection on the text,” according to John Dias, a Public Theater producer and dramaturge for their Shakespeare productions.
“In Seagull , a question came up about a bingo game [the characters] play. And the director and actors needed to know how the game was played, who would have played it, did it have particular meaning, did it say anything about class?” Mr. Dias explained that Ms. Smith was researching the game and reporting back to the cast on its historical context, cultural significance, and rules and regulations.
After she’s brushed up on her late 19th-century Russian bingo, Ms. Smith will take on an entirely different task. Next spring, she will tackle teaching at New York University’s School of Law. At press time, Ms. Smith’s assistant was unable to track down her busy boss for comment, but Mary Schmidt Campbell, Dean of N.Y.U.’s Tisch School of the Arts, explained that in addition to her position in Tisch’s performance-studies department, Ms. Smith has an affiliate appointment at the law school, where she will participate in a “lawyers’ ring colloquium” designed for people who are “not necessarily lawyers” to discuss specific themes in broad cultural contexts.
When asked if Ms. Smith’s appointment might have something to do with her recurring role as District Attorney Kate Brunner on ABC’s The Practice , Dean Campbell said, “Oh, God, no!” But given Ms. Smith’s appearances as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on NBC’s The West Wing , all we can say is: Watch your back, Condoleezza Rice.
– Rebecca Traister
Watch Your Back, Anna Deavere Smith
For The Sopranos ‘ Robert Iler, the summer hiatus has been a study in method acting, what with the July 4 arrest of the 16-year-old, who plays Mafioso Tony Soprano’s son on the HBO series, on charges of robbery and drug possession. But it’s Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who plays his sister Meadow, who has really lived up to her role as the “perfect older sister” by spending her break diligently sticking her fingers into other career-opportunity pies.
First, the 20-year-old actress belted her way through the title role in the touring musical Cinderella . Then she began recording her first album, a solo affair that will be released this fall. “They are all original songs, and I wrote four of them,” Ms. Sigler said via e-mail. In June, she began peddling a “teen-survival” book–”part memoir, part inspirational”–to New York publishers. “Of course, it will mainly focus on my eating disorder, but it will have a lot of light subjects, too,” said Ms. Sigler.
But perhaps the most visible project is her rendition of the 1980 Diana Ross hit “I’m Coming Out,” which appears in the ubiquitous commercials for Levi’s Superlow jeans. But instead of featuring the cherubic multitasker, the song is lip-synched by a bunch of belly-buttons. “My friends that I didn’t get a chance to tell about it call me all the time telling me that the voice on the commercial sounds just like me … =),” wrote the enthusiastic Ms. Sigler.
Asked what else Ms. Sigler has her sights on, she replied, “I just want to do it all! I am so lucky and fortunate to be able to do film, Broadway, recording and writing and I never want to stop. This is in my heart and it will always be.” Well, it beats petty larceny.