A Cookie Full of Arsenic
Tony Curtis has a message for the producers of Sweet Smell of Success , the $10 million musical gamble that begins previews on Feb. 23 at Broadway’s Martin Beck Theater.
“Tell them to go fuck themselves,” said the 76-year-old actor, whose performance as the overreaching press agent Sidney Falco in the original 1957 movie remains one of his signature roles.
Though Sweet Smell , the musical, has been gestating for seven years and had its out-of-town premiere in Chicago in December, Mr. Curtis told The Transom that he has yet to hear from the production’s principals, a group that includes playwright John Guare, composer Marvin Hamlisch, director Nicholas Hytner and two of Mr. Curtis’ longtime movie-industry colleagues: veteran producer David Brown and Ernest Lehman, the original movie’s screenwriter.
Mr. Curtis pointed out that, like Mr. Lehman, he is among the last living links to “one of the greatest films of all time,” and yet no one had called to ask his advice or to invite him to any of the events surrounding the show.
“They’re very rude,” he said. “I’m no further than a phone call away.”
Mr. Brown, who goes way back with the material himself–he published Mr. Lehman’s original novella in the “pre-Helen Gurley Brown” Cosmopolitan a half century ago–insisted that Mr. Curtis is simply jumping the gun. “We’d love to have Tony come in,” he said, adding that Mr. Curtis would be invited to the musical’s March 14 Broadway debut. According to a publicist for the show, “Invitations are going out this week.”
When The Transom asked Mr. Brown if Mr. Curtis deserved a courtesy call given his association with the original Sweet Smell of Success , he replied: “He’s not in the musical. Bryan d’Arcy James is in the musical.” Mr. Brown was referring to the largely unknown theater actor who will attempt to fill Mr. Curtis’ shoes.
Still, the courtly producer did not seem too perturbed by Mr. Curtis’ outburst.
“You never need a reason to be upset in show business,” he said.
Mr. Lehman sounded more contrite when he explained why he hadn’t discussed the musical with his old friend Mr. Curtis. “There’s a certain level of embarrassment talking about a musical he’s not going to be in, when he made that part famous,” Mr. Lehman said. He added, however: “We couldn’t have found a place for him in the show. It would have thrown it off-kilter. People would say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s the real Sidney Falco.’” Mr. Lehman’s sympathy has its limits, though. “Say it was A Streetcar Named Desire ,” he said. “I don’t think Marlon Brando would sit around brooding that we were disregarding him.”
Far from brooding, Mr. Curtis is at work on a musical project of his own. “I’m going to be doing a musical of Some Like It Hot , playing the Joe E. Brown role, in Houston in June,” he said. “Maybe we’ll end up in your neck of the woods.”
Editors at the Penguin Putnam Group’s Jeremy P. Tarcher imprint might want to read one of Dr. Harold Bloomfield’s earlier books, Healing Anxiety Naturally , before they figure out what the hell they’re going to do with his new one.
Tarcher was scheduled to publish the best-selling California psychotherapist’s latest effort, Making Peace with God: A Practical Guide , on April 15, but that’s about to change due to recent events. On Jan. 23, Dr. Bloomfield pleaded guilty to drugging and molesting two women in his Del Mar, Calif., home.
The author, who has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show , was arrested on Dec. 19 and released on $500,000 bail. He’ll be sentenced on Mar. 22, by which time the folks at Tarcher would have been shipping his manuscript to the printer. The book is already featured on Amazon.com.
Though Tarcher’s publisher, Joel Fotinos, and Dr. Bloomfield’s Tarcher editor, Mitch Horowitz, did not return phone calls, a spokeswoman for Penguin Putnam confirmed that the imprint has decided to postpone publication of Making Peace with God.
“It was a mutual decision between us, the author and the agent,” said the spokeswoman. “We wanted to give the author time and space to deal with his personal matters; however, we do intend to publish the book in the future, at a time to be determined.”
The spokeswoman would not comment on whether the decision was made on Friday, Feb. 1, in a closed meeting at the Tarcher offices, as one source familiar with the situation claimed.
Robert Grimes, the lawyer for Dr. Bloomfield, referred The Transom to Dr. Bloomfield’s agent, Joelle Delbourgo, who did not return calls.
The investigation into Dr. Bloomfield’s misconduct began in July, when one of his female patients claimed that she met Dr. Bloomfield in his home for a therapy session and found him clad only in boxer shorts adorned with images of martini glasses. She said that he gave her lemonade which had been laced with Ecstasy and methamphetamines and waited for her to get groggy before fondling her breasts. A yoga teacher lodged similar complaints, claiming that she’d been drugged with a bitter-tasting smoothie.
Tarcher, the 30-year-old Penguin Putnam imprint devoted to nonfiction health, philosophy and self-help titles, had great success with 1992′s The Artist’s Way and 1985′s Women Who Love Too Much . But the last Tarcher best-seller was 1998′s movie tie-in edition of Seven Years in Tibet . Making Peace with God is Dr. Bloomfield’s first book with Tarcher.
Dr. Bloomfield, 57, was raised in New York by Holocaust-survivor parents. He got his medical degree from SUNY’s Downstate Medical Center and completed his residency at Yale. Since then, he has authored or co-authored 17 books, which according to his Web site have sold over seven million copies and have been translated into 26 different languages. The Web site also claims that Dr. Bloomfield “has led millions of people to integrative healing, emotional literacy, and quintessential peace.”
Dr. Bloomfield’s recent focus, through such books as Healing Anxiety Naturally , has been the use of herbal medicine to treat psychological maladies. Making Peace with God looks to be part of an earlier series, which included best-sellers Making Peace with Your Parents: The Key to Enriching Your Life and All Your Relationships and Making Peace with Yourself: The Six Essential Steps for Enjoying a Great Future.
In 1999, Dr. Bloomfield won the San Diego Book Award Association’s Theodore Geisel “Best of the Best” prize. He was a frequent guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show until 1993, when he was usurped by the unctuous Dr. Phil McGraw.
After Dr. Bloomfield’s Jan. 23 guilty plea, his attorney Mr. Grimes told the press that “[Dr. Bloomfield] wanted to admit what he did and help with the healing process with the victims.”
Mr. Grimes also revealed that Dr. Bloomfield has been suffering from drug dependency since a 1998 bout of depression and a painful plastic-surgery operation.
“Ultimately, he started … medicating himself by smoking marijuana and ultimately using Ecstasy,” Mr. Grimes added. Dr. Bloomfield and his wife and frequent co-author Sirah Vitesse are divorcing. They have three children.
Dr. Bloomfield was ousted from the American Psychiatric Association in September for failing to pay his dues.
– Rebecca Traister
C.P.A. Does N.A.C.
While the nation struggles to understand Enron’s accounting mess, members of the National Arts Club are trying to make sense of a curiously worded audit of their organization’s finances.
The 12-page report, which was prepared by the certified public accounting firm of Condon, O’Meara, McGinty & Donnelly, was recently mailed to the arts organization’s membership, though it bears a June 2001 date. According to N.A.C. members, it is the first time in a number of years that the notoriously secretive current management of the club has made audit results available to the club’s rolls. That said, the document has generated more questions than answers.
For instance, a letter from the accounting firm that accompanied the audit read: “The Club’s accounting practices with respect to its property, equipment and art collection are … not in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.” Another passage noted: “The effects on the financial statements of these practices are not reasonably determinable.”
Members were also stymied by the cryptic description of a “Related party transaction” on page 9 of the audit: “The Club has an agreement with a firm to provide certain professional services. A partner of the firm is also a member and director of the Club. During the 2001 fiscal year, these services provided by this firm totaled approximately $15,875.” Neither the identity of the partner nor the nature of the services are revealed.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, members cited a number of passages of the document that they thought needed additional explanation. They found it strange, for instance, that the club was still basing the value of its real-estate and art holdings on appraisals that were conducted, respectively, in 1983 and 1993.
A number of the club’s expenditures also raised some eyebrows, including $71,098 spent on “audio visual,” $20,062 spent on “transportation,” $36,921 doled out for “photographic services”–presumably for all those party pictures featuring club president Aldon James and various celebrities that adorn the club’s Web site–and $34,181 for “book purchases.” Some found this last category particularly puzzling, given that the National Arts Club doesn’t have a library.
The club also managed to spend $59,252 for its New Year’s party. Meanwhile, the club’s food and beverage sales were not reflected in the audit because, according to the document, the “dining room and beverage service are separately operated by an independent contractor.”
“It’s really unclear where that money’s going to,” said one club member. Another pointed out that club president Mr. James sacked the N.A.C.’s aging president, Adriana Zahn, in 1985 after accusing her of running up excessive advances with the limousine service she used to take her to and from the club.
Mr. James called The Transom from what he said was a pay phone in an attempt to better explain the document. He said that the club’s audits have always been made available to club members, just not always mailed out. “This year, they had made such an issue of it, and they had mailed so much material,” Mr. James said, speaking of disgruntled club members, “that I decided to throw more light on the subject.”
When asked about the disclaimer regarding the club’s valuation of its property, equipment and art collection, Mr. James referred The Transom to the club’s accounting firm. (The accountants were traveling and unavailable for comment.) “It’s boilerplate, a standard phrase,” he said. “I think it refers to the fact we take our depreciation differently.”
As for the “certain services” provided by a “club member and director,” Mr. James rummaged his memory and found the answer. “As I remember it, this is related to a law firm; it could have been [board member Daniel] Schiffman,” he said. “He does much of his work pro bono, and then some work he bills. I think it had to do with a matter of someone suing the club because they were reminded about dress codes.”
Mr. James said he could not explain the vague language used to describe the expenditure. “Why it comes out like that, I don’t understand,” he said. “That’s the way they’re comfortable with it,” he added, referring to the accountants again.
Mr. James said that the club’s book purchases were for “literary evenings,” so that club members can buy the books of that evening’s featured author. “We don’t lose on any books sold,” Mr. James said. The audio-visual expenditures were for sound systems and video equipment rented by the club. As for transportation, the N.A.C. makes it available to V.I.P.’s who speak at the club, and to committee members who attend special events.
Mr. James also denied that Ms. Zahn was dismissed over expenses. “No one booted her out because of that,” he said. “The club wouldn’t put an older person on the subway at night!”
Richard Hell, Butt Man
On Jan. 31, punk-rock demiurge Richard Hell sat quietly beneath the National Arts Club’s stained-glass skylight.
A young man named Thatcher introduced himself. “How are you?” he said.
“I’m tired and I have to go to the bathroom,” Mr. Hell said.
In his corduroy jacket and slacks, Mr. Hell, at 51, looked younger and considerably more robust than he did when his band, the Voidoids, recorded the definitive album of 1977, Blank Generation . He even looked sort of happy–not like a guy who would change his last name from Meyers to Hell.
After a trip to the john, Mr. Hell approached the rostrum. He had come to the club to read poetry and prose from his new book, Hot and Cold . “I’m pretty delirious,” he said. He spoke jerkily, a little like Bobcat Goldthwait. “I had no idea what I was going to say when I came over here. But fortunately, right, I don’t have to talk, really, I just have to read from my book here,” he said.
“I know one of the poems by heart. I know it. I think I know it,” Mr. Hell said. “O.K., ummm …. ” His jowls tensed. Then the poem flowed forth: “You know what’s my favorite book? Your butt.”
The crowd of mostly middle-aged men in leather and the occasional Thatcher hooted and huzzah’d. Mr. Hell smiled and deconstructed the couplet: “I’m a real poetry lover, you know. But it has its limits.”
Then he read a story written for, and rejected by, Spin magazine. It was about Peter Laughner, the founding guitarist of Pere Ubu, who died of an overdose in 1977, when he was 24. “I had mixed feelings about the guy,” Mr. Hell said. “His record moved me. But when he was alive, he just kind of got on my nerves. When he was in New York, he was always drunk and trying to get next to everybody.”
Mr. Hell described visiting Laughner’s grave in Cleveland. “I did not know how to respond; I was just at a loss. So I just spontaneously spit on it,” he said.
After this prosaic introduction, Mr. Hell read what turned out to be a moving tribute to Laughner. “Laughner didn’t believe in himself very deeply, but he is a legend in Cleveland for his generosity in recognizing, in the most unlikely places, people with possibilities, and then encouraging them on and bringing them out,” he said.
But Mr. Hell also plumbed the guitarist’s dark side. At one rehearsal, he recounted, Laughner “put a syringe in his arm and extracted some blood, and sprayed it all over the room …. It broke my heart and the hearts of others to witness his self-destruction …. I couldn’t change or rescue him from his determined path.”
The crowd seemed muted after the story. To cheer them up, Mr. Hell read a poem about oral sex.
On the evening of Feb. 4, as snow started to fall in the city and taxis skidded up Madison Avenue, the strains of a sitar could be heard inside Donna Karan’s sleek three-storey boutique on the corner of 68th Street. The place was packed with taut, long-limbed yoga teachers and their taut, long-limbed students, invited to celebrate the publication of Yoga: The Poetry of the Body , by Rodney Yee, globe-trotting yogi to the stars.
The smell of fried fishcakes wafted through the air and there was a lot of talk of bodies, and energy, and inner peace. Pretty soon, Mr. Yee stripped down to tight-fitting olive-green shorts and a black tank top and started demonstrating what inner peace could do for your butt–right onto the cold, hard stone floor of the boutique.
Nearby, a group of yoga teachers demonstrated a kind of Zen-like frenzy as they descended in balletic slow motion upon a pile of goody backpacks that were being given out at the door. Inside were sticky mats, Mr. Yee’s opus, a wooden block that’s used with certain exercises and lots of coveted Rodney Yee videotapes.
Watching this was supermodel Heidi Klum, in a white leather coat. “I’m such a hyper person; I’m always like, ‘This is too slooow for me,” she said of the yoga craze.
Ms. Klum said she’d never tried yoga because she feels her body type isn’t right for it. “My bungee cords inside are very tight,” she said. “I have to stretch them and start from scratch.”
She had other reservations. “I don’t know if I can really sit there, really still. Also, this music, it’s not really my music. It’s very–I don’t know. All this uhmmohoooh –I’m afraid I’ll have to fart or I’ll have to laugh and I’ll ruin the whole class.”
The Transom Also Hears …
Near the end of Talk magazine’s official memorial service at Glass on Jan. 31, publisher Ron Galotti and editor Tina Brown got up to give their goodbyes to the staff. Ms. Brown was crying as she began to speak, which may be why she didn’t notice that the microphone wasn’t turned on. One person who was present at the event said that Mr. Galotti may have inadvertently summed up the magazine’s short life when he told Ms. Brown, “Tina, the microphone’s not working. It’s just buzzing. They can’t hear what you’re saying.”