On Sunday, Aug. 12, the A-list was caught in the rain. They’d made it through the press gauntlet and settled into the just-dried plastic seats for the opening-night performance of The Seagull , in Central Park’s open-air Delacorte Theater, when a voice came on the P.A. asking them to put away their umbrellas, since “the actors don’t have them.” Getting misty in the Public Theater’s production of the 1895 Anton Chekhov play, directed by Mike Nichols, were Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, John Goodman, Christopher Walken, Marcia Gay Harden and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
After several breaks for rain, Public producer George C. Wolfe took to the stage and announced that both the show and the after-party would be rescheduled. The rush to the exits was followed by the realization that the damp luminaries–among them Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis, and Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller–were trapped with the photographers, press and about 1,900 civilians in the thin, circular strip of shelter between the Delacorte and one hell of a rainstorm. There were no velvet ropes, no assistants; no one even had sunglasses. There were all those soggy stars, stuck in the middle of Central Park–a long, wet walk away from limos or even cabs.
Warren Beatty and Annette Bening made a run for it. Ms. Bening’s soaked yellow suit complemented her husband’s tan outfit, which was now almost transparent. They came out of the theater into the fearsome crowd of gawkers and paparazzi, melted through the crowd and ambled off, seemingly unperturbed by their attempts to share a useless black umbrella.
The Public’s publicity staff sprinted round the ring, keeping press and photographers off of the emerging stars. “Please, no more photos! We are done! We are wet!” shouted one of the manic flacks.
But some stars, like the waxen Macaulay Culkin, weren’t in a rush. Mr. Culkin looked typically dissolute as he faced local television-news cameras in the middle of the dry strip. He sucked lazily at a cigarette as his wet, pallid locks fell in his eyes.
Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher had beaten the crowd not only out of the seats, but into the detached ladies’ room, which had meant a brief sprint through the downpour. There, the When Harry Met Sally castmates attracted the attention of a group of teenage girls, who came out of the bathroom screaming about their cornered prey. A small band of fans suddenly “had to pee.” Witnesses said later that by the time the onslaught got to the stalls, the actresses had beaten a hasty retreat.
Carly Simon had given up and handed her high-heeled sandals to a companion. The singer, who wrote and performed the appropriately entitled “Let the River Run” for Mr. Nichols’ 1988 film Working Girl, sloshed around on her cell phone, checking the progress of the car that would meet her at the edge of the park.
Mayor Giuliani and his bodyguards came to the gate to give their best to the cast. The Mayor promised to return on a better night. Liev Schreiber paid his respects as well.
In the midst of all the hand- and towel-wringing came a young woman in a crisp sundress and precise up-do. She chewed gum and smiled a huge, toothy grin at her companions as she quickly headed out into the rain beneath her apparently magic umbrella. This person’s name, however, was not on the guest list.
“Is that Julia Roberts?” shouted a drenched onlooker at the dead ringer for the star. “Tell me that’s not Julia Roberts. How did she stay dry? I mean, she looks as fresh as a fucking daisy!”
– Rebecca Traister
Spalding Gray’s Irish Luck
Think your summer was bad? You’ve got nothing on monologuist Spalding Gray, whose late-June sojourn to Ireland with an eclectic band of friends ended in a fractured skull, a $27,000 car-rental bill and the possible ingestion of cow vaccine.
Tara Newman, a Sotheby’s broker who runs the American Hotel in Sag Harbor with her husband, Ted Conklin, came up with the idea for the ill-starred trip. Last summer, her friend, publicist John Scanlon, offered her the use of his sprawling Victorian home in County Westmeath, about an hour and a half outside of Dublin.
Ms. Newman in turn suggested the vacation to her friend, talent agent Kathy Russo, who decided to surprise her longtime partner, Mr. Gray, with the trip for his 60th birthday, which was to take place during their Celtic holiday. The women added Timothy Leary’s widow, Barbara, and her boyfriend, the Brazilian art collector Kim Esteve, to the list, and asked Carolyn Beegan, Billy Joel’s ex-girlfriend, to join them; she brought her new man, a ship captain named Jake O’Boyle. Ms. Russo invited her baby-sitter, which meant that they could bring the three Russo-Gray children, one niece and Ms. Newman’s 6-year-old son.
Mr. Conklin was the first to back out, noting that it sounded like a bad Irish version of Survivor and that he’d just as soon “vote himself off the island” before it even started, remembered Ms. Newman.
Then, in May, Mr. Scanlon died. “That’s when I really should have known,” said Ms. Newman. Ms. Beegan agreed: “It was an omen that we shouldn’t have gone.” But Mr. Scanlon’s widow, Julienne, urged the party to take their trip, since she wasn’t planning to use the house.
Then Ms. Russo broke the surprise to Mr. Gray, who, according to Ms. Newman, “looked at her like she had 10 heads and said, ‘I don’t want to go to Ireland!’”
Sadly for Mr. Gray, he was convinced to go. (Mr. Gray was unavailable for comment.) Then the baby-sitter “threw out her back” and had to cancel.
Needless to say, the trip didn’t start smoothly. “Things went wrong in terms of meeting up and getting flights. Everything that could go wrong did,” said Ms. Beegan.
“The coffee machine didn’t work. The painters were still there. We had trouble with the keys and we locked ourselves out of the house,” Ms. Newman elaborated.
After two days, Ms. Beegan and Mr. O’Boyle took off for County Mayo. The remaining adults went to dinner nearby. According to Ms. Newman, the group had spent the day discussing reincarnation, and talked at dinner about how dreadful it would be to get in an accident in a foreign country.
After dinner, they piled into Mr. Esteve’s rental car with Ms. Russo at the wheel, since she hadn’t had anything to drink. On the thread-thin roads back to the Scanlon manse, the party was hit head-on by a veterinarian’s van.
Ms. Russo suffered bruises on the lining of her heart, a gash on the back of her head and burns from the engine, which came into the front seat. Mr. Gray, who was in the passenger seat, suffered a broken hip and leg. Ms. Newman, who was sitting in the middle of the back seat, emerged with only minor bruises thanks to Ms. Russo’s large Kate Spade bag, she said, which she was holding on her lap, and which prevented her from being thrown through the windshield.
It took the police and ambulances an hour to show up. During the terrifying wait, the conscious victims discovered that the vet’s van had been carrying a kind of bovine inoculation, which was now seeping all over the road.
Ms. Newman said that the hospital “was like out of Trainspotting, ” and that one of the nurses leaned her clipboard against Ms. Russo’s bruised chest while writing down her vitals. Ms. Newman had to return to the house to take care of the children while Ms. Leary and Mr. Esteve stayed at the hospital with Mr. Gray and Ms. Russo. She frantically called Ms. Beegan and Mr. O’Boyle and told them to come back from Mayo, and then “reached for the wine and cigarettes. It was me and five worried kids. They could have been watching porn and eating Kit Kat bars, and I didn’t even care.”
A European surgical convention that week meant there were no neurologists available to look at Mr. Gray. Ms. Newman said that his cracked skull wasn’t detected until nearly two and a half weeks after the accident. In the meantime, the writer shared a hospital room with “a bunch of old guys with no teeth,” many of whom were in traction, she said.
Ms. Newman recalled she had thought several times that she’d perished in the accident. “The hospital had to be the first circle of hell–I knew it.”
And it wasn’t over.
Because the rental car was being driven by Ms. Russo and not Mr. Esteve, whose name was on the contract, the rental insurance wouldn’t cover the costs, and the group has been handed a $27,000 bill.
Ms. Newman said that since she returned, she’s had such a bad case of bronchitis that she pulled a muscle in her back from coughing. She tripped and fell and “messed up my face.” Her 16-year-old nephew, visiting from Colorado, nearly severed his finger. Last week, Ms. Newman’s husband, Mr. Conklin–who, she said, “has never injured himself”–stood up next to the pool and “his whole knee has fallen apart. And this is all in the last 32 days,” said Ms. Newman, with something that sounded like a shrill wail.
For her part, Ms. Beegan said she’ll be staying close to home this Labor Day. “I’m afraid to go away. Though I guess, after that, there’s nowhere to go but up.”
Always one to turn pain into prose, Mr. Gray–despite his injuries–is likely to recount the details of the accident during his Aug. 17 “Interviewing the Audience” performance at Guild Hall’s John Drew Theater in East Hampton.
– R. T.
Cops & Mayors
On Aug. 9, the cast of NYPD Blue slunk into the cavernous Lansky Lounge, a former Mafia den on the Lower East Side, for photo ops with the suits from Court TV. The network will be airing older, better episodes of the show this fall, which apparently called for a lot of public handshakes, loud promises to call one another and remembrances of detectives past (“If only Victor Sifuentes were here!”).
Thoughts of the halcyon days of ’93, when Blue was green, brought to mind another fizzling eight-year-old cops-and-robbers show: our Mayor’s administration. People have been wringing their hands about the post-Giuliani NYPD; but what about the post-Giuliani NYPD Blue ?
“There will be numerous jokes about it,” said Gordon Clapp, who has played Detective Medavoy on the series since the beginning. “But what we do on the show really depends on what happens here [in New York]. We’re pretty sheltered from the politics in this city, because we’re out in L.A. But the Giuliani administration has weighed on us over the years. We don’t just portray cops in a good light. We’ve portrayed corrupt cops, abusive cops, alcoholic cops. So I don’t think the police [in the show] come off as being some futuristic force.”
Soon afterward, the rippling Henry Simmons (Detective Baldwin Jones) wandered by. All eyes wandered with him. Mr. Clapp, who sensed his opportunity, tried to get Mr. Simmons’ attention. He feigned a microphone with his fist and, shoving it in Mr. Simmons’ face, tried to solve the season-finale cliffhanger. “Is he dead? Is he dead?” he asked, referring to Rick Schroder’s character.
“No comment,” Mr. Simmons said, and kept walking. But Mr. Simmons did comment on the post-Giuliani NYPD Blue. “We were here before Giuliani, we were here during Giuliani and we’ll be here after Giuliani,” he said succinctly, if with only marginal accuracy ( NYPD Blue premiered in September 1993, in the heat of the Mayoral race that brought Mr. Giuliani to power two months later).
Esai Morales, who plays Lt. Tony Rodriguez, was sitting nearby. He’s “Brooklyn-born, Bronx-bred, Queens-crucified and Manhattan-mainstreamed,” which gave him a certain authority when he said that, without Rudy, “We won’t have our whipping boy anymore.” Still, Mr. Morales was ambivalent about what the city has become under the Mayor. “I have my issues with his administration,” he said. “I, for one, miss the feral qualities of 42nd Street. You have to go back to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver to see the jungle. Now it’s clean and corporate–which is, in a way, more obscene.”
Bill Brochtrup, who plays openly gay administrative aide John Irvin, was less polemical. “It would be fun if the show did change,” he said. “We have mentioned things like the Diallo shooting on the show. And a lot of the cases on the show are based on real cases.”
Kind of like Jack Maple and The District ?
“That was a terrible loss,” Mr. Brochtrup said, biting his lip.
Mr. Simmons, still standing a few feet away, was less broken up. “I have to be honest,” he said. “I’m not familiar with him.” Mr. Simmons stopped himself. “It was, um, a great loss,” he went on. He screwed up his face. “We shoot in L.A.,” he said, by way of explanation. “I live in L.A.”
– R.T. and Ian Blecher
The Transom Also Hears …
… A shoddy limousine with District of Columbia plates was parked outside Alfred A. Knopf on a recent morning. In the back seat, easily glimpsed through the untinted windows, was a black hat that said “President Bill Clinton” in gold letters, a satchel embroidered with the Presidential Seal and a hardcover copy of Ray Kurzweil’s 1999 screed, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence . Mr. Kurzweil’s chilling scenario: By 2020, computers will be conscious beings intellectually superior to their makers.
When Mr. Clinton emerged from negotiations with his new publisher, The Transom asked if he believed Mr. Kurzweil. “I don’t know,” he said amid a scramble of well-wishers, paparazzi and bodyguards. Would his book be written by a hyperintelligent computer? “I’m looking forward to getting down to work,” he said, and ducked into the limo.
– I.B .