“I’m over it,” said Hollywood stylist Phillip Bloch as The Transom debriefed him by phone the morning after the Oscars.
Mr. Bloch, a man who has adopted a black beret as his personal signature, said that after the “commotion” of the previous week, he’s contemplating quitting the beautification biz altogether.
“We had the people at Donna Karan calling, freaking out because we gave Jennifer the dress and they didn’t give their permission,” Mr. Bloch continued. “And you know, like, ‘Oh, you have to get the dress back,’ and ‘Donna’s out there and she doesn’t have enough dresses with her.’ You know, everybody with their own private agenda. And it’s like, ‘Oh, so if Halle wears it, that’s O.K., but if Jennifer wears it, it isn’t?’ It’s just so gross.… Everybody has turned it into their own personal freak show.” (The Donna Karan company declined to comment on the incident.)
But back on the Beverly Hills retail strip-which throughout the weekend appeared so sunny, clean and white, it could have undergone a cosmetic bleaching-the well-greased industry-style machinery was grinding on apace. On Saturday afternoon at L’Ermitage hotel near Rodeo Drive, small-time designers were bunkering down in sterile seventh-floor suites stocked with bottles of Bombay Sapphire and mineral water, displaying their wares for the army of stylists and starlets that descend on the area every awards season, in search of “fashion inspiration”-a.k.a. freebies. Some vendors strove valiantly to peg their products to the casualties in Baghdad. “Black is that color that anything would go well with!” said hopeful Pasadena jewelry designer Christian Tse, who makes delicate platinum-and-diamond necklaces he was calling “not intrusive.” (They turned out to be a big hit with the wives of the Lord of the Rings sound team.) Down the hall, the Park City, Utah, evening-bag concern Corem Rose was confirming its Oscar-night roster of celebrity customers: Meg Ryan, Cameron Diaz, Kathy Bates and Renée Zellweger. “It’s been insane. Insane,” said the line’s designer, Melinda Gomez. “We had everyone demanding black bags, and we ran out.” Farrah Fawcett’s stylist, however, apparently selected a shimmery red pochette to accompany the actress’ American-flag-festooned skirt.
Over at the slightly grungier Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, B-list celebrities in low-rise jeans and flip-flops were eagerly swarming two special swag-filled cabanas with extremely tenuous ties to the Academy. Christian pop singer Jessica Simpson was sitting wearing a purple bustier, receiving a “custom” manicure incorporating the name of her husband, Nick Lachey. The model Rachel Hunter, a former wife of Rod Stewart, was clomping around, trailed by TV cameras. Two of the Backstreet Boys were examining Bugs Bunny merchandise. The only person on the premises who seemed conscious that anything was going on in the world outside was Jerry Stiller, sitting outside by the pool in bathing trunks and an Army-green hat, reading glasses dangling around his neck, with a script for The King of Queens (his CBS sitcom) and the New York Times editorial page. He said he’d been listening to public radio a lot. “It’s incredible, out of sync, unreal,” he said, meaning the juxtaposition of the war coverage and the Shangri-La before him. “You smell this foliage-the leaves, the jasmine-and you’re saying, ‘It can’t be happening.'” Mr. Stiller did cop to accepting a free pair of sandals and a tube of Binaca.
Not everyone in the enchanted world of Hollywood fashion shared-or would admit to sharing-Mr. Bloch’s sudden queasiness about Oscars fashion in wartime.
“We had no insanity; we had no freakouts,” said Jason Weisenfeld, a spokesman for Versace, arguably the winning label of the night, having outfitted the Best Supporting Actress and general life’s-lottery winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, plus Kate Hudson, Heather Graham, Anjelica Huston and (somewhat squashily) Jennifer Garner.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez’s silk crêpe Valentino caftan (“Some say apple, some say pistachio-I think the happy go-between is maybe a seafoam,” chirped the publicist) was several months in the planning. By Monday, the rumor was rapidly circulating that it was the exact same frock the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had worn on a visit to Cambodia in 1968, giving it vague “political” overtones and prompting one staffer at a rival house-because if we stop being catty, the terrorists win!-to comment: “C’mon, that had to be Jackie and Lee’s dress sewn together.” It turned out that J. Lo’s frock was merely modeled after the late Ms. O’s, and that designer and star had agreed, months ago, that “they wanted a goddess approach.”
Mr. Bloch said that he came face-to-face with the goddess while making the post-party rounds. “I was like, ‘Leave it to you to get Jackie O.’s gown!’, and she was like, ‘I know, rrright ?'” he said. He deemed her choice “chic” and praised the collective effort to clean up nice for the troops. “I just think there was a lot of uncertainty going on,” he said. “Everybody was trying to be very politically correct, and it was just very difficult to understand this year-what was going to be right, what was apropos and what was pretentious.” Then he bravely plunged into a brief history lesson on the Korean War. “When Marilyn Monroe went to perform for the troops, she wore a black, sequined sparkly dress,” he said. “She didn’t wear fatigues, you know?”
But despite his helpless affinity for the glitz, Mr. Bloch is ready to regroup and try something new.
“I hate to sound like Celine Dion, but this is my final performance,” Mr. Bloch said. “I really have to say, I walked out of this week just going, ‘I so don’t want to do this anymore.’ I don’t know that I would ever want to dress celebrities for an event again.” Mr. Bloch said he’ll be in three movies himself soon-one of which, Death of a Dynasty , will appear in the forthcoming Tribeca Film Festival. He will play a TV fashion journalist.
When Hollywood has nursed its Oscar hangovers, there’s work to do-and it’s not always pleasant, as Kelly Osbourne learned on March 25. Her flight from Los Angeles to New York to catch a 9 p.m. concert that night at Birch Hill Concert Hall in Old Bridge, N.J., was turned around, her reps say, and the shaken starlet wasn’t eager to repeat the episode.
Ms. Osbourne’s spokeswoman said the plane lost pressure and had mechanical problems. The spokeswoman added that Ms. Osbourne wouldn’t try to get on another flight until later that evening or the next morning-effectively canceling her 9 p.m. curtain call for Tuesday night.
“They’re not putting her back on the plane right away because, you know-you don’t want to be back on another plane right away after something like that happens,” the spokeswoman said.
Earlier in the day, Max Cruise, the company promoting the tour, seemed eager to fill seats for the New Jersey show, sending out an e-mail offering free seats to anyone who brought the printed invite. Tickets originally went on sale a month ago.
Asked whether Ms. Osbourne postponed the show because of low ticket sales, Max Cruise production manager John D’Esposito said: “No. We’re telling you the truth: The girl had a bad flight. It went bad.” Ms. Osbourne’s spokeswoman also said that low ticket sales had “no bearing on her not being able to make it.”
Ms. Osbourne’s last-minute concert promotions have almost become a pattern. Before her March 20 engagement in Chicago, her promoter, Jam Productions, also sent an e-mail to its subscribers offering free tickets, adding: “First come, first served”-but even with that added incentive, only half the house was filled.
While the New York studios like Miramax, along with their stars and celebrity hangers-on, decamped to Hollywood as usual this Oscars season, the small outpost of Oscardom that is the annual party at Elaine’s soldiered on much as it has every year.
Entertainment Weekly ‘s ninth annual Academy Awards viewing and dinner at the storied Upper East Side hangout was full on Oscar night, with its usual bevy of pinstriped media heavyweights, Law & Order alumni and cast members, and Manhattan B-listers.
Should the annual parade of glitz go on as usual when our boys and girls abroad are in house-to-house combat in southern Iraq, the Transom wondered?
“Why not?” said Sex and the City star Chris Noth (who is also a Law & Order alum). “What do the Oscars have to do with Iraq?” Then he settled in with his dark-haired girlfriend, Tara Wilson.
The restaurant was packed hours before the awards began. Some guests looked out the window at the red-carpet arrivals, while others flocked to the bar, chattering about everything but the war. J. Lo’s shockingly conservative green get-up was a far hotter topic than Saddam-but was quickly eclipsed when Ice T’s date, Coco, arrived in a bright-red, derrière-bearing sheath dress. Her long blond hair covered the sheer front, but in back the dress plunged ever downward, with only crossing red string to hold it up.
Also seated at Elaine’s were perpetual party person Chloë Sevigny; actor and former Cabaret M.C. Alan Cumming; Happy Gilmore’s girlfriend, actor Julie Bowen; actors Rose McGowan and Joan Collins; and indefatigable party-goer Tony Bennett.
Girls on Film
On stage at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center on Wednesday, March 19, actress Marlo Thomas recalled starring in and producing her late-60’s television show, That Girl .
“I really was the only woman in a room full of [male television executives], and I used it,” Ms. Thomas purred into a microphone on the table in front of her.
“I was young, and pretty, and they were scared of me because I was this freak person who could actually talk,” she smiled before continuing. “And I always had good legs, and I never covered them up.”
Ms. Thomas was helping New York Women in Film and Television celebrate its 25th anniversary with a panel discussion moderated by newswoman Mary Alice Williams and including Ms. Thomas, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron, Screen Actors Guild New York division executive director Jae Je Simmons, Revolution Studios partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Tribeca Films co-founder Jane Rosenthal.
Just an hour before the U.S. launched its attack on Iraq, five hours after Barry Diller resigned as co-chief executive of Vivendi Universal Entertainment and four days before the Oscar horse race would end in some upsets, these panelists didn’t bother to mention President George Bush, Mr. Diller or Harvey Weinstein by name. Instead, the names on their lips were those of Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing, Universal head Stacy Snider, Columbia Pictures chairwoman Amy Pascal and former super-agent Sue Mengers.
Next it was Ms. Goldsmith-Thomas’ turn for a confessional, and she was just as upfront as Ms. Thomas. Ms. Goldsmith-Thomas, who rose through the ranks at William Morris and then ICM until she was virtually synonymous with her most famous clients, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez, left agenting three years ago to run the New York office of Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios. But in 1981, fresh out of college, she was just an assistant.
“The William Morris Agency [then] was filled with a lot of very short older men who didn’t really like a smart, not-short girl who had opinions,” said the placid-faced Ms. Goldsmith-Thomas, who was dressed in a white shirt and black jacket.
“So, for the first year, I had to convince everyone that all I wanted to do was be a secretary. That’s what you had to do unless your last name was Wasserman, which it wasn’t. I just said, ‘I want to be a secretary. That’s what I went to college for, it’s all I want to do.'”
Ms. Rosenthal, who spoke in her signature whisper about her early days at CBS, said that her transfer to the television-movie department meant that she was assigned to Ms. Thomas.
That prompted Ms. Thomas, feminist pioneer, to let loose with another admission that would not have made the final cut on the Free to Be … You and Me record.
“I had made several successful television movies by the time Janie was brought in,” cooed Ms. Thomas, using a little-heard diminutive for the tough Ms. Rosenthal. “And she was tall and thin and squeaky-voiced, and she had a script where every page was turned over, and I thought, ‘Oh no, she’s going to prove to me how smart she is. Oh, shit.'” Ms. Thomas rolled her eyes before adding, “I’m this far in my career and I’m talking to this kid?”
But, of course, the story came around, along with Ms. Thomas: “By the third page, I was taking notes because she was just so smart.”
Ms. Ephron noted that she got into screenwriting from journalism in the 1970’s, “when the screenwriting fairy flew over New York, following the sideburns fairy and the Vitello Tonnato fairy.”
Acerbic and warm-just like she should be!-a bespectacled brunette Ms. Ephron sat back in her chair with a palm clasped over her mouth, looking not unlike her frequent screen alter ego, Meg Ryan.
Noting that she gets “depressed” about the feminist film community’s tendency to flip out about “occasionally discouraging statistics” from the industry, she had a discouraging take herself: “There are a lot more women making decisions about films now, and you know what? The films are getting worse,” said Ms. Ephron.
The panelists grimly seconded her, noting that there are fewer movies about “people, not machines, and characters, not cartoons.” This spring will see the release of The Hulk , The Matrix Reloaded and the second X-Men movie. As Ms. Goldsmith-Thomas darkly pointed out, “The only women’s movie this summer is Charlie’s Angels .”
As the panel discussion turned to the lack of good roles for middle-aged women actors. Ms. Rosenthal raised her soft voice a bit and said, “Do you know what it’s like to be in a casting meeting, and you’re trying to cast a movie with Rene Russo, who is age-appropriate for Robert De Niro [Ms. Rosenthal's partner in Tribeca Films] and fits perfectly with the movie, and everyone goes: ‘Can we get a younger demographic?’ And they come up with these names who are young enough to be, you know, Bob’s child? Not even!”
Ms. Goldsmith-Thomas, speaking about her longtime client and friend, Ms. Roberts, said, “Julia is 35, and I’m sure in a couple of years it will be somebody else’s turn, and my guess is she’ll welcome it,” she said.
But Ms. Thomas broke into a “don’t kid a kidder” grin and quoted a line which she attributed to Bette Davis: “Twenty years ago, I played the girlfriend of Cary Grant, and now I play the mother of the girlfriend of Cary Grant.”
I Want My OTV
If anyone needed proof that the winds of war were blowing change through the entertainment industry, they didn’t have to look any further than the Angel Orensanz Center on Norfolk Street on March 24.
There on the Lower East Side, in the city’s oldest synagogue-now converted into a nondenominational event space-79-year-old Serpico director Sidney Lumet was shooting his first music video. But it wasn’t for Avril Lavigne, who recently shot her “Losing Grip” video in the center. On this golden post-Oscar Monday, Mr. Lumet was aiming his camera at Brooklyn-born opera tenor Neil Shicoff, who was dressed in a yarmulke and black-and-white prayer shawl, repeatedly tearing apart a fake Torah while lip-synching “Rachel, quand du Seigneur,” an aria from the 1835 Fromental Halevy grand French opera La Juive .
“This is an opera about the politics of today,” said Mr. Shicoff, who now lives in Vienna. La Juive is about Eleazar, a Jew who would rather see his besotted daughter Rachel burned to death than have her convert to Christianity.
“It is about exclusion and prejudice and non-acceptance-for Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Americans,” said Mr. Shicoff, whose father was a New York cantor. “When you turn on the news today, you see a clash of historical civilizations.”
La Juive was banned in the 1930’s by the Nazi regime and was revived, with Mr. Shicoff in the role of Eleazar, at Vienna’s Staatsoper in 1999. Mr. Shicoff will open it at the Metropolitan Opera in November and then bring it on home to Paris in 2006.
Paula Fisher, head of the Millennial Arts Foundation, is making a documentary about the timely revival of La Juive , and it was her idea to have Mr. Lumet make the nine-minute video, which will air on European music channels. Mr. Shicoff could not have been more enthusiastic.
“Sidney and I don’t necessarily have the same point of view on certain hot spots in the world and how to resolve the conflicts there,” said Mr. Shicoff.
The advantage of working together on the video, he said, is that “this gives us a chance to talk about what we see as a resolution to some of these conflicts.”
Mr. Lumet, dressed in jeans, a gray wool sweater and blue-gray toggle-coat, loped around the Angel Orensanz Center in gray sneakers, a clipboard under his arm.
“That was a beaut!” he shouted after one of the takes, in which Mr. Shicoff had stared up toward a balcony, the camera feet from his face, addressing the invisible daughter whose death his character is ensuring.
Mr. Lumet said he was so focused on the shoot that he couldn’t speak to a reporter, but did tell The Transom, “The next thing you can observe me doing is going to pee.”
And so the opera video was born.
Ann Coulter is leaving New York at the end of the week. The bony blond pundit is moving to Florida.
In an e-mail exchange on Monday, March 24, Ms. Coulter, author of Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right , listed for The Transom the many reasons she was heading south.
“I’m tired of working all the time, so I want to sit on the beach and drink pina coladas with little umbrellas for a while,” was one reason. Also:
“I loathe Bloomberg and his obsessive anti-smoking campaign-he’s the next John Lindsay hellbent on ruining NYC.”