Matthew Barney’s Butt

Freelance multimedia artist David Last is sick of all the Matthew Barney butt-kissing going on in town, and he wants the whole world to know.

After Mr. Barney’s Cremaster Cycle exhibit at the Guggenheim spawned a glowing profile in The New Yorker , an adulatory article in The New York Times and never-ending buzz in the art world, the 31-year-old Mr. Last, who records music and designs books-some of which are sold in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art-posted an original protest song on the Web site he hosts, mysterydimension.com.

The song’s title? “Matthew Barney’s Anus.”

“I don’t wanna know about Matthew Barney’s anus / But lately that’s all anybody talks about,” Mr. Last sings on the fey tune. “I don’t care for Vaseline-drenched masterworks / Masturbation football nation movie shows.”

The lyrics are a reference to The New Yorker ‘s passage on Mr. Barney’s Yale senior thesis project, “a two-part video called ‘Field Dressing’ which he shot then presented in two rooms of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium at Yale. The first part showed Barney, wearing football cleats, athletic gloves, a Speedo bathing cap, and a complicated harness suspended from the ceiling, strenuously winching himself up and down and sideways above a large bed of Vaseline, which he periodically scooped up and applied to the various orifices of his nude body-eyes, nose, mouth, navel, anus, genitals.”

“I’m just not so sure how much I want to hear about somebody’s internal organs,” Mr. Last told The Transom. “He talks about a lot of bodily issues.”

Mr. Last said he made the song not because he has a chip on his shoulder about Mr. Barney, but because “I’m a smart ass. It’s not like I’m an ear-to-the-ground art critic.”

Indeed, he said the tune came to him when he was making spaghetti with his girlfriend. When he started singing it, she started laughing, so that night he sat down and wrote the song and posted it on his site even before he saw the exhibit.

“[His exhibit] was worth three hours of my time and Web-server space, and that’s basically it,” he said. “I feel like the films are more like masturbation than consenting sex with the audience.” Mr. Last thought that Mr. Barney’s good looks coupled with the grotesqueness of the show were responsible for the hype. “It’s an interesting tagline to say, ‘Oh, he used to be a model,” Mr. Last added. “It goes against stereotypes of artists. The artist is usually a skinny guy with a turtleneck on.”

Mr. Last’s song addresses those sentiments as well: “If a J. Crew model works real hard / He can make his chiseled looks respected / He can be famous / Like a movie star is.”

Mr. Barney could not be reached for comment.

-Alexandra Wolfe

Malkovich’s Game

John (“Malkovich, Malkovich!”) Malkovich sat staring at a tender piece of chicken at the Puck Building on the evening of Feb. 26, at a benefit for the artists’ colony Yaddo. He looked as if he were contemplating either strangulation or frottage.

“I’ve killed a lot of people. People like it when I do it,” he cooed to The Transom sweetly, softly. Perhaps a little too softly ….

The non-hirsute artiste was discussing the blood and gore in his new film, Ripley’s Game , the Fine Line Features thriller due out in April. In it, he plays the murderous Tom Ripley, a character given life onscreen four years ago by another large-foreheaded actor, Matt Damon.

“I didn’t like The Talented Mr. Ripley ,” Mr. Malkovich told us. “I just found it tiresome. It just wasn’t my thing. But I know Matt [Damon]. He’s lovely .”

Mr. Malkovich had other opinions, too. On his burly English co-star, Ray Winstone: “I love Ray. He’s demented.”

And on doll-like Italian actress Chiara Caselli, his love interest in the film: “She has a great butt. Doesn’t she?”

Mr. Malkovich was the special guest of the evening, which was being held in honor of Donald S. Rice, Yaddo’s chairman. The festively clad guests (among them Sam Waterston, Erica Jong and Susan Cheever) were herded to the Puck from the Angelika Film Center, where Ripley’s Game was screened.

When she died in 1995, Patricia Highsmith–author of the Ripley series–left $3 million of her estate to Yaddo, the Saratoga Springs colony where she’d written her first novel, Strangers on a Train , in 1948. Alfred Hitchcock turned the book into a film classic three years later.

During the dinner, six signed Patricia Highsmith novels were auctioned off, raising $3,850 for Yaddo. Announcing the winners during dessert was the bubbly Patricia Volk, author of 2001′s Stuffed , a humorous memoir of growing up in a Manhattan restaurant family.

“I’d love it if Mr. Malkovich would come up here and read the name of the winner of this one-it’s called Little Tales of Misogyny ,” said Ms. Volk from the podium. “I can’t read the handwriting of the person who won!”

Mr. Malkovich politely shook his head no.

Ms. Volk was not deterred. “You know, Mr. Malkovich, I looked you up online today and I found a site that had a Malktionary! I couldn’t download it because I live in the Dark Ages, but it was a dictionary of things you’ve said. Have you ever seen it?” Ms. Volk asked.

Mr. Malkovich again shook his head no. “I don’t think about myself-ever,” he told The Transom, without blinking, but smiling lasciviously. “I’ve never thought about myself once in my entire life.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Taken for a Ryder

The French don’t just have a hard time here in the United States these days. A Paris Match magazine journalist claims that she was booted from an interview with Chicago star Renée Zellweger by a publicist unfamiliar with her well-known French publication.

“It was a nightmare,” said Christine Haas, the journalist who was sent to the Plaza Athénée Paris to interview Ms. Zellweger. “It was so amazing, so rude! And to this day, I do not know if Renée Zellweger even knows what happened.”

It began when Miramax and French distribution company TFM were gearing up to open Chicago , the musical that scored more Oscar nominations than any other 2002 film, in France on Feb. 26. The cast was sent to Paris for a standard publicity junket of print, television and radio interviews. Among the stars was Best Actress nominee Ms. Zellweger, who plays gun-wielding Roxie Hart.

Paris Match arranged for Ms. Haas to interview Ms. Zellweger, finalizing details with the French publicity firm Personality, which had been hired by TFM. All requests for interviews with the Chicago stars went through Personality, then through TFM, then through Miramax, then through the stars’ personal publicists.

When the request got passed along to Ms. Zellweger’s publicist, Nanci Ryder, a partner in the Los Angeles–based Baker Winokur Ryder, Ms. Haas and Personality publicity manager Etienne Lerbret both told The Transom that Ms. Ryder wanted to know what kind of magazine Paris Match was, and what previous celebrities had been interviewed.

Mr. Lerbret said that “‘strange’ would be one word” for that type of question from a veteran publicist.

Dany Jucaud, Paris Match ‘s New York correspondent-who heard the story from her colleagues in France-found other words for it. “I found it very bizarre that any good publicist would have to ask about what kind of magazine it is,” said Ms. Jucaud, explaining that “it’s like Time or Newsweek ! It’s been around forever .”

Paris Match is one of France’s best-known entertainment magazines, covering film, television, music, celebrity and politics. “Sure, it has a People side to it,” said Ms. Haas, “but there is a long, important cultural section at the beginning of the magazine [where the four-page feature on Ms. Zellweger-the lead story-was scheduled to appear]. That section includes stories on people who are much more important than Renée Zellweger.”

Ms. Haas, who started writing for Paris Match in 1979, and spent eight years writing for Premiere before returning to Paris Match in France five years ago, has interviewed the likes of Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola. She said that last week she interviewed director Spike Lee for the fifth time and that two weeks ago she did a feature on director Steven Soderbergh.

Ms. Haas also co-hosts a cable television show called Le Dernier Retro , on which she has interviewed filmmakers including Sidney Lumet, Jules Dassin and Sydney Pollack about the golden age of cinema.

When some version of all this was communicated back to Ms. Ryder, through Personality via TFM via Miramax, Ms. Haas wound up staying on Ms. Zellweger’s interview schedule.

Ms. Haas said that she was originally scheduled to have 45 minutes with the Chicago star, but that the morning of the interview, she received a phone call informing her that because Ms. Zellweger had a flu and fever, that she would have only half an hour.

But when she arrived at the Plaza Athénée Paris, more trouble was waiting.

“The French publicist said, ‘It’s crazy, there are some problems,’” said Ms. Haas, explaining, “Nanci Ryder had already had a minor quarrel-about what, you never know with them. It could be that the water for the tea was cold, or someone had forgotten to repaint the room, something someone had done to frazzle the nerves of the [publicist] more than Renée Zellweger.”

Ms. Haas said she was told that she would have to get her interview done in 20 minutes. “I said ‘Listen, I can’t do a big piece after twenty minutes!’ But what can I do?”

Ms. Haas was shown through the door to Ms. Zellweger’s suite, where she was introduced to a representative from Miramax, and to Ms. Ryder.

“I was introduced. I said, ‘Hi, I’m Christine Haas from Paris Match .’ They looked at me and smiled and shook my hand.”

Ms. Haas began her interview with Ms. Zellweger whom she said was indeed very ill, and “very, very sweet-a real professional.”

Ms. Haas said that she began talking to the ailing star about the dark political message of Chicago , and the way that message is conveyed in light song and dance, but that eight minutes into her conversation the French publicist burst into the room with Ms. Ryder close behind.

Ms. Haas said that the French publicist told her, with much embarrassment, that she would have to stop the interview. Ms. Haas said that she was confused, and asked “‘Why? Is the hotel burning down? Do we need to evacuate?’” Ms. Haas said that Ms. Ryder was “lurking around, circling Ms. Zellweger,” who did not understand what was happening, since the conversations had taken place in French.

“Renée thought that the interviews were just getting shorter and shorter. So she very sweetly said ‘Well, at least can I answer the question that she just asked me?’ and then she gave me an answer.”

On the way out of the room, according to Ms. Haas, the French publicist told her that she could not use any of the taped interview, because Ms. Ryder had claimed that she had never approved a Paris Match interview, and thought the publication was a “tabloid.”

Ms. Haas said she was flabbergasted about “the fact that Nanci Ryder had no clue as to what we were.”

“I was just going to discuss the film in a cinema-oriented way. Not how do you stay slim or what are your hobbies or who are you sleeping with these days! That’s not the thing we do on these pages!” said Ms. Haas.

“I was really very surprised by how rude and how unprofessional it was,” added Ms. Haas, who said that she had “worked with Miramax thousands of times” with no problems.

According to Ms. Haas, Ms. Ryder claimed that she had informed Miramax that she would not grant a Paris Match interview, and that Miramax had failed to tell TFM or Personality.

Mr. Lerbret said that his publicity team “did not know that Nanci Ryder had not approved” the Paris Match interview, and that “it was a miscommunication because we never dealt directly with [Ms. Ryder].” He added, however, “if we knew before that she really did not accept [the Paris Match interview] we could have talked to Nanci and explained and argued why we wanted to make that interview.”

Paris Match wound up running nothing on Chicago.

Ms. Jucaud, who heard the story from her friend and colleague Ms. Haas, told The Transom that she was “so shocked” that she fired off a letter to Ms. Ryder, and copied appropriate people at Miramax and TFM. She said she has yet to receive any sort of response.

“You know how much power the personal publicists have in this town and its getting worse and worse,” said Ms. Jucaud. “They have all the power, more than the studios and more than the clients.” She added: “The problem is that while some publicists know very, very well about the international press, most of them, not all of them, know nothing.”

A source representing Miramax and BWR told the Transom that “there was never anyone removed from the hotel suite. There were several interviews cut short because of Renée’s illness, and she was a trooper for doing what as much as she did. We were assured that Paris Match was still going to do a one page cultural piece as originally intended. There was never a letter sent to us. They were treated exactly the same as every other journalist there. Any confusion must have been the result of a language barrier. There was no disrespect to Paris Match. They received at least ten to twelve minutes with Renée just like every other media outlet that day.”

When told of the response, Ms. Haas stood by her story. “My whole dealing was through the Paris office and Personality but she [Nanci Ryder] was there,” said Ms. Haas. “She walked into the room. I was asked to leave because there was a problem. And I was clearly told not to use what I had. Very clearly told by Etienne’s office, that it was on the orders of Nanci Ryder, that she only remembered after I was introduced to her that I wasn’t supposed to do the interview because we were a tabloid.”

– Rebecca Traister

Chefs Tell

Beneath the oceanside tents of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the question was put to Chez Panisse owner and California cuisine pioneer Alice Waters: As one of the country’s original celebrity chefs, did she think the celebrity chef culture was waxing or waning? “Well, I think I sort of hope it’s waning. I hope people are more interested in becoming better cooks and not so into the glamour,” Ms. Waters told The Transom on Mar. 1, even though an audience of 50 gourmands had just given up an afternoon at the beach – and boy was it hot! – to hear her talk about the pleasures of organic food with Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin (whose magazine presented the festival). “I like having a platform and I hope it continues,” she continued. “But on the other hand it’s gotten out of hand and it needs to come back around.”

As if to illustrate that very point, later that night the celebrated London Chef Gordon Ramsay-whose British TV show was called Boiling Point for a reason-left the festival in the lurch when he ducked a $300-a-plate dinner that he was supposed to headline at Miami’s branch of Smith & Wollensky.

Mr. Ramsay didn’t bother notifying the festival organizers that he was bailing out on them. Festival director Lee Schrager told the Miami Herald that when he called the airline to track down the chef was told that Mr. Ramsay “changed his reservation at 4:28 p.m. the previous day, which is when he was walking into the Loews,” the hotel he was supposed to stay. Calls to his spokeswoman, Jo Barnes, in London, were not returned.

The London chef’s disappearance wasn’t the only talk of the vodka and champagne-fueled beach parties that took place at the Shore Club, the Delano and the Sagamore hotels and attracted Nobu owner Drew Nieporent and chefs Bobby Flay of Bolo, Rocco DiSpirito, of Union Pacific, Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, David Burke of the Smith & Wollensky Group, Pierre Herme, Daniel Boulud and Laurent Gras of San Francisco’s Fifth Floor. The day before the festival began, Mr. Ripert had done a cooking segment on Late Show with David Letterman where the guest host, former tennis pro John McEnroe had tried to give the chef-who was born in Antibes but raised in Andorra-some guff about his “native” France. Mr. Ripert sidestepped Mr. McEnroe’s barbs by sticking to the shrimp dish he was cooking, but before the segment was over a sizable gob of crustacean gunk ended up on Mr. McEnroe’s bespoke suit. When The Transom asked Mr. Ripert if, perhaps, he had sullied Mr. McEnroe’s pants on purpose, he replied: “Oh yeah.”

-Frank DiGiacomo

The Transom Also Hears…

“Some men are cads,” said Monica Lewinsky, Clad in a black leather jacket and dark pants and top as she bounded out of Rick Marin’s party for his new book, Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor , on March 3rd at the Chambers Hotel. While her former flame Bill Clinton may have fallen into that category, Ms. Lewinsky did add that caveat that “All men are not cads, though. I think if you find the right match, men can be great.” But she still hasn’t found her prince. “I haven’t found anyone,” she said. “I’m still looking.” And with that she rushed off to a Rangers game, sans that special someone.

– Alexandra Wolfe