The tuxedo-clad man in the Waldorf’s ballroom elevator sounded furious. “He’s a man with a brain,” he sputtered to his elegant though matronly wife. “You think he could have talked about something other than his pizza restaurant.”
The object of the angry guy’s tirade was actor Robert De Niro, who minutes earlier had accepted the New Yorker for New York Award from the Citizens Committee for New York City on Feb. 10.
In truth, the graying, bearded Mr. De Niro hadn’t really talked about his “pizza restaurant.” As the evening’s M.C., NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw explained to the crowd in the Waldorf’s Grand Ballroom, Mr. De Niro was being given the award in part because, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, he had shown himself to be a “New Yorker by instinct, not by design.” The actor, Mr. Brokaw said, had helped feed the rescue workers and then helped boost the downtown economy with last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
When Mr. De Niro got up to the podium, he had merely tried to share the glory by mentioning those who’d worked with him on these projects. For instance, he thanked his longtime partner at Tribeca Grill and Nobu, Drew Nieporent-though he sure mangled Mr. Nieporent’s surname-as well as Tribeca Grill’s former chef, Don Pintabona; his Tribeca Films partner, Jane Rosenthal; and Ms. Rosenthal’s husband, investment banker Craig Hatkoff.
For an actor, it was a pretty ego-less thing to do. But judging from the outburst by the man in the elevator, some people in that crowd wanted more.
And why not? They had dressed up to gather at a soft target in Orange-Alert Manhattan where dinner cost $600 to $2,500 a head, and the invitation promised the participation of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, the anchor of one of the largest news organizations in the world and the actor most identified with this city. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect someone with ego and charisma to get up there and either reassure them, inform them or make them forget about their fears. But instead, everyone had stuck to the script-and Mr. De Niro read his as if someone had handed it to him just minutes earlier.
The closest anyone came to delivering some kind of message to the crowd was U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who presented the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Medal for Lifetime Public Service to United Nations Association of the U.S.A. vice chairman Arthur Ross. Looking out into the audience, Mr. Annan announced that the previous year’s winner, former Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore, was in the crowd. After the spotlight was turned on Mr. Moore, Mr. Annan told him: “Bishop, it is very good to see you again.” Then he added solemnly: “Pray for us.”
Young Virgin Auctioned
Among the Impressionist and Modern works sold at Sotheby’s Feb. 4 sale in London, one painting stood out from the others. Though such masterworks as Eugene Boudin’s Scene de Plage a Trouville , Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s La Reveuse a la Fontaine and Henri Fantin-Latour’s Oeillets sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds, none came close to Salvador Dalí’s Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by the Horns of Her Own Chastity (1954). The 16-by-12-inch painting sold for 1.35 million pounds -in excess of $2 million-after being put on the block by Playboy Enterprises. (Only a Pierre Bonnard oil painting brought in a higher price in London.) And according to the company’s founder, Hugh Hefner, it’s just the beginning.
Mr. Hefner said that his publicly traded company-which, if anyone’s noticed, has dropped from $17.50 to $9.22 per share over the last year-is in the process of putting a number of significant artworks on the block over the next few months. “We’ll be selling a lot of things-fine art and commercial art, manuscripts from the magazine,” he told The Transom. But, he added, the best will be saved for a “major auction” at the end of the year at Christie’s as part of the magazine’s 50th-anniversary celebration.
Mr. Hefner skirted the question that Playboy Enterprises might have had to sell the painting because his company needed a cash infusion. Though he admitted the auction sales are “commercially inspired,” he said that they show how Playboy “has managed to accomplish blurring the line between fine art and commercial art.”
You could say the same about Young Virgin , which was inspired by a scene in an adult magazine. The painting shows a naked woman leaning suggestively over a balcony while two rhinoceros horns attack her from behind. “[F]or of all Dalí’s paintings in praise of the female bottom it is the most blatantly erotic,” wrote Ian Gibson in The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí . “Dalí, tongue in cheek, had no difficulty in denying the phallic nature of the picture’s horns. ‘The rhinoceros horn is derived from the unicorn, the symbol of chastity,’ he told Reynolds Morse.”
Playboy ‘s founder said that he purchased Young Virgin soon after he bought his Los Angeles mansion and hung it in the Great Hall, the entryway to the dining room. “There aren’t any $2 million paintings hanging in the girls’ dormitories or the bedrooms,” he said. “They mostly have pin-ups and photographs, like posters of Marilyn Monroe.”
And what did Mr. Hefner think of the painting he just sold in London?
“It’s erotic,” he said, “but in a very elegant and genteel way.”
When one trails an international celebrity these days, a cool reception might not come as a big surprise. But that wasn’t the case in 1955, when Peter Mangone, then 14, was “a young boy in the Bronx in love with Marilyn Monroe.”
The hairdresser, who now lives in Florida, grew up in New York City-where, he said, he was so infatuated with the American idol that he used to cut school regularly to seek her out at her regular haunts, including the Gladstone Hotel, the Elizabeth Arden beauty spa and the jazz clubs she frequented with Joe DiMaggio.
So it was business as usual one sunny day that year-Mr. Mangone thinks it was in the spring-when he learned that Marilyn would be spending the day shopping. Mr. Mangone grabbed his eight-millimeter Kodak film camera and waited for Monroe outside the Gladstone. Much to his delight, the film star exited the hotel looking pretty damn dewy and then proceeded to mug for Mr. Mangone’s lens as he followed her to the Arden boutique and I. Miller shoes. “She loved it,” Mr. Mangone said. “I stood there for five minutes while Marilyn waved and threw kisses to me.” Most of the footage was shot, he said, “within four or five feet of her face.”
Mr. Mangone put the tape away and promptly forgot about it. Eventually, he assumed it had been thrown out. But late last year, his brother, the attorney Louis Mangone, was cleaning out their late father’s Florida apartment and came across the film. It turned out to be in remarkably good shape, and Peter has since had the frames copyrighted and transferred to standard 35-millimeter frames. Now he’s investigating turning the shots into a coffee-table book, or something that would make him-like Monroe, who died in 1962-rich and famous. “It’s Marilyn having fun in New York City back then with the old checkered cabs,” he said. “Plus, that was one of the first years we had color film.”
Reality Eats (A Lot)
Hey, ladies! The hot fashion accessory for plus-size women of distinction is … a reality series, judging from all the camera crews that were tailing the stars of the Lane Bryant fashion show on Feb. 4.
Both Roseanne, who M.C.’d the big-boned bonanza at the Manhattan Center, and Kelly Osbourne, who performed at it, were being taped for their respective reality programs.
“Roseanne had two camera crews there,” said one witness who requested anonymity, “plus Kelly’s crew. And everyone who was filmed had to sign a release [allowing their image to be used] for Roseanne, including [MetroTV’s] Judy Licht and Access Hollywood ‘s Billy Bush.”
Yet despite the potential for vérité vexation, the three crews seemed to co-exist. “I didn’t notice the camera crew for Kelly,” said R.J. Cutler, who produced The War Room , directed American High and was at the Bryant show taping Roseanne for ABC. “And I didn’t even see Kelly until the end of the show.”
Maybe Mr. Cutler heard her. Sources at the show said that Ms. Osbourne-who performed a version of “Papa Don’t Preach” at the show, which was dubbed the “Grand Cabaret”-sung at such an ear-splitting level that she had to stop in the middle of the song and begin again. It’s unclear whether her performance was being recorded for MTV’s The Osbournes , or for the spinoff show that she’s reportedly doing.
Meanwhile, Roseanne’s reality show is supposed to track the development and production of another Roseanne show-a lifestyle series akin to a downmarket Martha Stewart . And Mr. Cutler, who was at the Lane Bryant event to shoot some early footage, said that he had already fantasized about a “convergence of reality stars” at the event. Mr. Cutler’s fantasy included Anna Nicole Smith-but though a look-alike had reportedly showed up with her own camera crew, Mr. Cutler said that his team had already asked around and determined that the real Ms. Smith was not planning to show.
Even without her, one source said, the Lane Bryant spectacular was a circus.
John Barrett, who was hired to do Roseanne’s hair, said that the comedienne’s reality was pretty surreal. He explained that once he arrived, he witnessed a discussion among some of Roseanne’s assistants about a man they’d met the night before who had offered to fly the whole entourage to Atlantic City to gamble after the fashion show.
“They were all wondering whether to take this guy up on the offer, and then one of them said, ‘Google him!’ And then they all started yelling, ‘Yeah, Google him!’, and Roseanne was very much in on this whole conversation. But they finally decided that it wasn’t really feasible to take this stranger up on his offer.”
Mr. Barrett, who runs John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman, also said that Roseanne complained to him that her handlers and entourage members-or “all these goddamned people,” as he recalled her saying-couldn’t get her a table at Rao’s, the exclusive East Harlem Italian restaurant. Mr. Barrett put in a call to Josephine Pellegrino, the wife of Rao’s owner, Frank Pellegrino. Roseanne scored the reservation, though her camera crews were barred from entering the restaurant.
Mr. Cutler said that it wasn’t a matter of being barred; his crew was simply pooped.
Mr. Cutler also said that the real display had taken place on Monday, Feb. 3, when Roseanne and company dined at Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse on the Lower East Side.
“Let’s just say that a successful night at Sammy’s Roumanian is when everybody’s singing and dancing. On this particular night, there was a conga line,” said Mr. Cutler. When asked what other celebrities besides Roseanne might have been part of this conga line, a weary Mr. Cutler dutifully replied, “There are no other stars besides Roseanne.”
– Rebecca Traister
Wine, Women & Song
Chalk it up to the transformative power of white Armagnac, but there was little evidence of the political chill between America and France at D’Artagnan on Feb. 8. An international cast of cuisiniers and gourmands-including Sopranos creator David Chase-gathered until the wee hours of the morning at Ariane Daguin’s restaurant to dine on cassoulet and Bordeaux and celebrate the arrival of Ms. Daguin’s fellow Nouvelle Meres Cuisineres : Elena Arzak Espina from Restaurante Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain; Christine Ferber, from Boulangerie-Patisserie in Niedermorschwihr, France; and Helene Darroze, from La Maison d’Helene in Paris. Ms. Darroze seemed a bit dazed -not from the lethal Armagnac, but from learning hours earlier that she’d just gotten her second hallowed Michelin star. The following night, the four women cooked with Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert at a City Harvest Benefit Dinner in honor of the late Jean-Louis Palladin. “Call me the rooster,” Mr. Ripert said of his role as the sole male chef.
But Mr. Ripert wasn’t the only cock of the walk at D’Artagnan. Daniel Boulud was on hand, as were chefs Bill Telepan, Christian Delouvrier and Francois Payard. And around midnight, a group of stout-hearted and extremely high-spirited men from a Burgundy wine association called La Poulee parked themselves at D’Artagnan’s downstairs bar and sang, for at least a good half hour, a Burgundian rhythm called ” Le Ban Bourgignon “-one of those ancient songs where the rhythm and the tune stay the same, but the spontaneous lyrics reflect the singers’ progressive state of inebriation. Every so often, one of the men would link arms with Ms. Daguin and dance around in a circle with her.
Upstairs in the restaurant, a group of younger French dandies, including Jean-Charles Cazes, whose family owns the Lynch Bages vineyards in Pauillac, were singing a similar song that involved repeated use of the phrase ” lechez-moi ,” which translates to “lick me.” And you thought we couldn’t all get along.
The Transom Also Hears …
There’s always plenty to look at come lunchtime in the Four Seasons Grill Room, but on Feb. 11 all eyes were on former Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola as he dined with MTV Networks chairman Tom Freston.