On Oscar night, Cynthia DeMoss was eating pizza and drinking vodka cranberries at Lot 61 on West 21st Street. She was wearing a red scarf, a red shirt that exposed her belly, a long flowing skirt, an Indian necklace, black knee socks and sandals.
“I look like a hippie chick,” she said. “Fuck fashion!”
Ms. DeMoss, who moved to Manhattan from San Francisco six years ago, is an actress and a party girl. You might see her dancing very late at nightclubs like Sway or Float-or you can see her at Bellevue, the seedy Hell’s Kitchen bar where I met her by the jukebox about a year ago.
On Oscar night, she told me she’d been having a rough few weeks. The New York Post had reported that she was the “other woman” in the breakup of Sopranos star James Gandolfini’s marriage. Page Six referred to her as a “nude portrait model.” The National Enquirer said the affair with the HBO actor was “torrid” and “kinky.” People magazine also weighed in.
“I’ve been having a really charming experience with the media,” Ms. DeMoss said. “I never thought that after several years of trying to make art happen and saying no to a lot of offers-I’ve said no, believe it or not, to a few different movies. I could have shaved my head and played a serial killer last year. My manager at the time said, ‘Let’s wait. Wait until you get Robin Williams’ fee. And hair takes a long time to grow out.’”
Ms. DeMoss also sings in a two-person electronica band called Baby Elephant Grow. She said her demo CD is being shopped at Sony. She said Tony Soprano likes her music.
“Jimmy Gandolfini did give me permission to say that; it’s the one thing we agreed on, in all the lies, deceit and manipulation,” she said. “That we can actually say we are friends and he fucking loves my CD. (A rep for Mr. Gandolfini said the actor had no comment for this story.)
“I sleep weird hours,” Ms. DeMoss continued. “All great minds do. I’m at Sway almost every Monday …. I like to leave before Puff Daddy arrives, and I go throw beer bottles against the wall at Siberia. That’s my favorite thing in the world. I live in Brooklyn, I ride in limos with millionaires, and I have $2 in my pocket. I tell my mother I never pay for anything in New York and she doesn’t understand. People are rich, they have $600 bottles of vodka at the table and they say, ‘Yo, girl! I like the way you dance, honey-have a sip.’”
A year ago, she met Mr. Gandolfini at Ciel Rouge, a bar owned by Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli, who introduced them. “It was very chill,” she said.
Was it possible she spent time with Mr. Gandolfini but never got intimate?
“I don’t think it’s possible at all,” she said. “It’s impos-si-ble.” She began to sing: ” It’s impos-si-ble / To tell a baby not to cry / It’s just impos-si-ble …. I hear he plays saxophone, actually. Yes, we’re friends.”
She said she’d been offered $25,000 to tell her story to a tabloid, but she refused.
“I’ve not ratted him out,” she said. “I’m walking around pretty broke, with a lot of gossip around me, and you know, I’ve had recommendations-almost unanimously-that I take the money and run, because I’ve already been disgraced , humiliated, put through the ringer, and I still wouldn’t talk about it. I’d like to have one trace of integrity to my name as I walk the streets of Manhattan. The fact that Jimmy likes my CD is, I think, an exquisite gift.
“I’m so lonely that it’s so ironic that I’m supposedly having this really hot, kinky friendship with someone really special,” she said. “Meanwhile I’m just walking the streets, alone and devastated. Ha! And sometimes I just start to ache for this phantom man. Who is he? Where is he?”
Her arms were stretched above her, holding onto the booth, and she was rocking back and forth.
Where had she been the previous night?
“Maybe I was on mind-expanding hallucinogens, and maybe I just had a contact high, but it was excessively good. People were actually friendly and nice to each other. The bathrooms were unisex. All ages, all races, guys with muscle shirts-you had people dressed to the nines. With little gangster hats. I was with a speechwriter for some big political figure. Trying to be very discreet. I was up very, very late. Until 1 in the afternoon. And I needed it. I danced my ass off. I had moments of extreme insight, and I felt good for one of the first times since all this really negative ‘bimbo home-breaker’ untrue bullshit has been surfacing. I’d rather be characterized as a nerdy intellectual than some blonde bombshell.
“It’s ironic that we’re having this interview while the Academy Awards are on, because what Jimmy and I have in common is, we’re both actors,” she said. “Maybe I’m just as talented as he is-I don’t know.” She looked up at the TV screen. “This is such an emotional show,” she said. She picked up my tape recorder and said, “Does it have to be a man’s world all the time, 24-fucking-7?”
At Siberia, A Gay Old Time
A few weeks ago at Siberia, a cavernous bar at 40th Street and Ninth Avenue, a bartender-as a joke-brought in an adult movie called Summertime Blues , in which the late, abdominally ripped actor Brad Chase makes time with cabana boys (“When the mercury rises, so does Brad Chase!” enthuses an ad for the flick). Siberia, formerly located in a subway station at 50th Street and Broadway, can be a wild place, but it’s not a gay bar. But after midnight, when the joint was packed, the bartender cranked up the VCR and played the skin flick on the big screen across from the bar.
Almost immediately, something curious happened. As Summertime Blues ‘ hot shots of Mr. Chase and his strapping compatriots enjoying man-on-man coitus appeared, “all the meatheads left,” said Tracy Westmoreland, the bar’s owner.
Mr. Westmoreland and his employees were thrilled. Siberia prides itself as a cool word-of-mouth hideaway for media types and eccentric nightcrawlers but its Times Square location still nets plenty of boneheaded investment bankers, Stony Brook frat boys on the town and other high-testosteroned undesirables. The bar’s staff had difficulty keeping these knuckleheads out and away from female customers, but when Summertime Blues went on, “all those morons left,” Mr. Westmoreland said.
A tradition was born. For years, New York bars have adopted strategies designed to weed out unwelcome males-bans on white sneakers, khakis, baseball caps, etc. Mr. Westmoreland himself had been known to pretend to close his bar to drive out people he didn’t like, and then open up a short while later for his regulars.
But homophobia’s one hell of a bouncer- Summertime Blues cleared out the unwanted guys in just a couple of minutes. “I’m like, ‘Throw that thing on every night!’” Mr. Westmoreland said. Indeed, every night at around 1:30 a.m.-peak meathead time, apparently-the bar cranks up what Mr. Westmoreland calls “entertainment of that venue ,” though not Summertime Blues anymore. Mr. Westmoreland was worried about the legality of regular hard-core porn screenings-not to mention the possibility of boring his regulars-so he switched to a milder selection of material. “We got one of those Playgirl tapes, you know, hot guys just standing there, um, voguing,” he said. “We play that now. It’s very soft-core.”
So far, the screenings have done their job, diluting Siberia’s meathead population. But on a recent Friday night, one self-described “meathead” said he was glad about the gay porn.
“It’s good that they show it,” the man said. “It means it’s 1:30-time to catch the last train back to Massapequa.”