Ivan Wilzig Hits the Billboard Chart

Sir Ivan, Rock Star

On an otherwise usual

Thursday in October, Ivan Wilzig-the 45-year-old banking heir, indefatigable

partygoer and proprietor of a small castle in the Hamptons-had an announcement.

Imagine , a maxi-single he’d recorded

(let’s face it) on a lark and that his producer’s lawyer had passed on to Tom

Silverman, the owner of Tommy Boy, was No. 45 on the Billboard charts. Mr. Wilzig claims to be the oldest person to

debut his first dance album in the Top 50. 

“I’m the closest thing to a male Madonna this planet has ever

had,” he said.

Mr. Wilzig, who now goes by the nom de discothéque Sir Ivan, didn’t explain how he’d earned the

comparison, but as he sat eating a rib sandwich at a tony midtown restaurant,

he was clearly feeling his oats. “People said, ‘He’s just the son of a wealthy

man,’ or maybe ‘Everything was given to him on a silver platter.’  But you can’t buy yourself a record

contract,” Mr. Wilzig said. “You can’t bribe everyone in America to buy your

record. They buy it ’cause they like it! They give me standing ovations

everywhere I perform ’cause they like it! 

The 14-year-old girls scream for me like they scream for the Backstreet

Boys.  That’s something my father’s not

doing for me.”

Now there’s something Mr.

Wilzig has in common with Madonna: a complicated relationship with his father.

Mr. Wilzig said that his banker father, Siggi Wilzig, was so surprised by the

album’s success that he wrote his son a check for twice the advance on his

record deal. “He’s only impressed with money,” Ivan said, not at all sadly.

“I’m a dreamer; he’s very concrete.  He

never thought anyone would buy it.” (Siggi Wilzig could not be reached for

comment.)

But people are buying Mr. Wilzig’s record. Which brought us to

the next question: Why ?

Mr. Wilzig, who was wearing a blinding yellow dress shirt

unbuttoned just enough to reveal three chest hairs, gave us his theory: The

record, which consists of several remixes of the title song, is just really

good. ” DMA , which is the Dance Music Authority , the biggest

dance-music magazine, gave it rave reviews,” he told The Transom. “People who

know music love it-it entered this chart, what’s called the ‘International

HiNRG Euro-Beat Chart,’ at 16,” he said. “Higher than any new song in the world . That’s very significant,

someone told me.” 

Imagine ‘s success got

Mr. Wilzig signed to Evolution Talent a few weeks ago; his new agent also

represents ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.

Critical acclaim aside, the album owes a measure of its success

to the title track: a synthed-up version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” sung by Mr.

Wilzig. Not surprisingly, Mr. Wilzig’s rendition met with resistance. “Fans of

the late John Lennon will not be pleased,”

New York Post   columnist Neal

Travis, the gossip business’ equivalent of Austin Powers, wrote in his column

on Aug. 30. Adding to the blasphemy, the cover of the record showed Mr. Wilzig

as John Lennon next to his very own Yoko, a Japanese artist named Mina

Otsuka. 

By mid-September, however, “Imagine” was the “God Bless America”

of the edgy patriotic set. It opened the tribute to Lennon at Radio City on

Oct. 2; the lyrics (“Imagine all the people living life in peace”) are on

billboards all around Times Square. A remake was a natural hit. 

“The timing was uncanny-eerie, almost scary,” Mr. Wilzig said.

The whole thing was a little weird. Mr. Wilzig is just the sort

of person we were supposed to stop hearing about after Sept. 11. He sits on the

board of his father’s bank, but judging from his open-necked yellow oxford,

Thursday isn’t one of the days he goes in. And he’s long had a reputation as a

nihilistic playboy. The Wilzig Castle (hence “Sir Ivan,” which is also the

vanity plate on his Jaguar) was seen in stately Water Mill as an emblem of the

Wilzigs’ New Jersey, new-money origins. 

He has been trying-thus far in vain-to unload it almost since it was

built in 1997.  Mr. Wilzig’s parties

were famous for all manner of debauchery: Playboy Playmates, drugs, techno-you

name it. “A lot of people dream of having what I have once they become a rock

star,” he said. “In my case, I was living like a rock star already. Then I

became one.”

But Mr. Wilzig insisted he’s a rock star with depth. “My friends

know that I was a European intellectual-history major at the University of

Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school,” he said. “For those that don’t know,

European intellectual history is the history of ideas. I went to Cardozo Law

School.  How could I do all that if I

was just partying all the time? I was a philosophy major!” His favorite philosopher?

“Myself,” he said. “I also like Bertrand Russell. The Naked Ape was good. But basically, be as you want the world to

be. That’s how I try to lead my life. My philosophy is, almost all the problems

of the world could be solved if everyone concentrates on two things: sharing

and caring.” He pulled a chunk of ribs out of his mouth and balled it up in his

hand.

There was one more thing: “The importance of being down-to-earth.

That’s very important. Macho is not cool,” Mr. Wilzig said. His chest hairs

shone. “Like the alpha male should be allowed to be more sensitive. All this

stuff. I want to become the Bob Dylan of techno-the philosopher-king of pop. “

-Ian Blecher

Rome in Its Day

Jane Fonda was at the new Museum of American Folk Art on Oct. 25,

celebrating her newest incarnation as mistress of the African-American

publishing venture Tinwood Books and its enormous first volume, Souls Grown Deep: African American

Vernacular Art of the South.  

Confused guests who managed to find their way past the construction-site

entrance of the unfinished museum found Ms. Fonda decked out in a

multi-colored, multi-patterned, multi-fabric jacket, her right hand scarily

entwined with the model Lauren Hutton’s.

The retired actress, onetime

political lightning rod, ex-aerobics-meister and former Mrs. Ted Turner held

Ms. Hutton in a vice-like grip as she leaned her finely lined bare face closer

and closer, and the two whispered and giggled like high-schoolers.

Ms. Fonda’s gaze was broken when Maria Cooper Janis, the daughter

of Gary Cooper, joined them. Dressed in a very proper, very bright red suit,

she contrasted both with Ms. Fonda’s cacophony of colors, and with Ms. Hutton,

who wore a simple gray jersey and what appeared to be a wicker backpack.

“We grew up down the street from each other,” Ms. Fonda explained

to Ms. Hutton, while gesturing to Ms. Janis. Ms. Fonda’s father, the actor

Henry Fonda, was a contemporary of Mr. Cooper. 

“Also, Brooke Hayward is

coming tonight,” Ms. Fonda reported excitedly to Ms. Janis. She had slung one

arm over Ms. Janis’ shoulders and was still clutching Ms. Hutton’s hand with

the other as she explained. 

“Her mother [actress Margaret

Sullavan] was my father’s first wife. She was the great love of my father’s

life. They were married”-Ms. Fonda finally disengaged her hand and held up four

fingers-“for four months. So it was not a long marriage, but it was a great

match. Then Brooke’s mother married my father’s agent [Leland Hayward, Ms.

Sullavan's husband after a brief second marriage to director William Wyler] and

they all moved in down the block from us, and the three of us grew up

together!”  Here, Ms. Fonda again

indicated Ms. Janis, and Ms. Hutton nodded.

“Jane and I were very good friends,” Ms. Janis said. “We used to

get in trouble together, throwing oranges at cars and things like that.”

Outside, Ms. Hutton leaned against a fire hydrant and grabbed a

smoke.

“It’s awfully warm out here,” she said to no one in particular as

The Transom was leaving the building. It was, indeed, near 80 degrees.

Wasn’t the late October heat a little spooky? we asked her.

“Everything’s spooky now,” Ms. Hutton said. “I moved downtown in

’63. There were no skyscrapers then. It feels like ’64 again.”  She sighed softly.

“New York has always had its

own ambient stress,” she said. “It’s just that it’s focusing now; it’s

palpable.” Ms. Hutton stared at the scribbling Transom. “Don’t tell them that.

Let’s not scare them by telling them how frightened everyone is. We don’t need

to tell them yet-they’ll know soon.”

She leaned back again.

“Rome in its day,” she said deeply, almost to herself. She was

gazing skyward at the midtown skyscrapers. “We’ll need a new Constantinople,”

she said finally. “We can use Pittsburgh.”

-Rebecca Traister

The Transom Also Hears

… “It’s not a movie, it’s a

film!” Sopranos co-star Aida Turturro

said of the Coen Brothers’ latest picture,

The Man Who Wasn’t There , at an Oct. 25 screening at the Tribeca Grand that

brought out designer Diane von Furstenberg, Marisa Berenson and a number of Sopranos , including Steven van Zandt,

Edie Falco and the HBO series’ creator, David Chase. The film’s complex,

layered and ultimately philosophical story-about an extremely quiet barber

(played by Billy Bob Thornton) whose life goes to hell after he attempts to blackmail

his unfaithful wife’s boss for money to start a dry-cleaning business-and

film-noir cinematography had the evening’s revelers buzzing but struggling to

describe it. “It’s like a Kafka book,” said Ms. von Furstenberg, the wife of

Barry Diller, whose USA Pictures is distributing the film. “It seemed to be

about many things,” said Mr. Chase, whose series is also about many things. But

whether or not the next season of The

Sopranos will deal at all with Sept. 11 and the aftermath is still up in

the air. “We’re approaching that very carefully and slowly,” Mr. Chase told The

Transom. He noted that the series won’t debut until the fall of 2002, which is

an eon in television time .

-Frank DiGiacomo

… That Mark Green, recently

derided for fiddling with a Palm Pilot (his camp insisted that the Mayoral

candidate owns a BlackBerry) during a post–Sept. 11 meeting with Mayor

Giuliani, attended U2’s fifth and final concert at Madison Square Garden on

Saturday, Oct. 27. In a crowd that included publicist Lizzie Grubman and her

father, lawyer Allen Grubman, as well as Kyle MacLachlan and his fiancée,

Desiree Gruber, Mr. Green stood alone in the stands for a period and during the

performance of “Bad” was seen bopping his head tunelessly … and fiddling with his

BlackBerry.

– R.T.