Andrea Jaffe Redux

In the aftermath of Tom Cruise’s decision to leave his publicist of 14 years, PMK/HBH’s Pat Kingsley, some movie-industry Kremlinologists find it interesting that Andrea Jaffe is getting back into show business.

Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, Ms. Jaffe-the sister of producer and former Paramount Communications chief executive Stanley Jaffe and daughter of the late Columbia Pictures chairman, Leo Jaffe-wielded a lot of power as the iron-fisted personal publicist of Mr. Cruise, as well as actors Richard Gere, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and filmmaker Oliver Stone. In 1991, Los Angeles magazine declared her, along with Peggy Siegal, Ms. Kingsley and Nancy Seltzer, one of Hollywood’s “Flacks Fatales.”

When Ms. Jaffe closed her firm, Andrea Jaffe and Associates, later that year to become the president of marketing at 20th Century Fox in January 1992, Mr. Cruise went to PMK. And now that Ms. Jaffe has quietly announced-via ads in the Hollywood Reporter-the opening of her new marketing-consulting firm, Andrea Jaffe and Associates L.L.C., speculation has begun that, at some point, she will be called to work upon the films of Mr. Cruise, who has married and divorced Nicole Kidman, become the father of two children, made a dozen films and cooled somewhat in the media’s perception since Ms. Jaffe went to Fox.

Fueling the speculation is a comment that Mr. Cruise’s sister and current personal publicist, Lee Anne DeVette, made to the Hollywood Reporter when news broke of his split with Ms. Kingsley. “Will we potentially be looking for someone on films? Yes, we will, but no decision has been made,” Ms. DeVette told the publication.

Reached via her new company, Ms. Jaffe denied that there was any connection to be made. “I haven’t had any conversations with him recently,” she said, adding that she had no intention of becoming a personal publicist again. Besides, Ms. Jaffe said, “If I had Tom Cruise as a client, why wouldn’t I want to tell you?”

Ms. DeVette backed up Ms. Jaffe. “We’ve had no discussions whatsoever,” she told The Transom, although she added that she thought Ms. Jaffe’s return to the business was “great.”

When Ms. Jaffe decided to jump to Fox, Mr. Cruise’s career was in ascent. In 1988, he had done Rainman. A year later, Born on the Fourth of July netted him an Oscar nomination and gave Mr. Cruise the kind of momentum that not even Days of Thunder (1990) could stop.

Ms. Jaffe was on the rise, too, and her decision to leave her very successful firm behind was the talk of both coasts. But in September 1994, she abruptly left Fox amid some reports that her abrasive style had alienated certain Fox executives. Ms. Jaffe said that this was “categorically untrue,” but declined to discuss why she had departed the studio.

On her own again, Ms. Jaffe continued to consult on the marketing of films, but she also began donating her services to a number of children’s organizations, including Save the Children, in the Southeast.

Citing the fledgling state of her new company, Ms. Jaffe, who is in her 50’s, declined to be interviewed or to discuss any films she may be working on, but she did explain why she decided to get back into the business: “I really thought I was seeing some holes in some movie campaigns, and I had some ideas, and I thought it was time to get back in,” she said. “I thought I could have some fun.”

-Frank DiGiacomo

King, of the Friars

With his hooded eyes and carnivorous smile, Alan King looks like a man intimate with anger. But the 76-year-old Abbot of the New York Friars Club seemed more wistful than wicked when he spoke at a March 24 lunch celebrating the organization’s centennial.

Up on the stage that had been set up in the East 55th Street club’s dining room, Mr. King looked pale and grizzled in a gray suit, white shirt and black tie. Then again, anybody would have looked pale next to the electric blue number that his interviewer, longtime Channel 11 senior correspondent Marvin Scott, was wearing.

Apologizing that there was something wrong with one of his eyes, Mr. King repeatedly put on and took off a large pair of brown sunglasses as he reminisced about his adventures in show business.

There was the time, for instance, when his agent’s back went out at the Concord in the Catskills.

“He was like a pretzel,” Mr. King recalled.

So Mr. King and his friend, Buddy Hackett, gingerly set the guy down on the hood of a car and began to make the slow crawl to the nearest doctor. They hadn’t gotten far when a cop pulled them over. According to Mr. King, Mr. Hackett, who was driving, told the cop: “What’sa matter? Is he out of season?”

Then there was the time Mr. King worked as one of the opening acts for Judy Garland on Broadway. His contract called for him to precede Ms. Garland onto the stage. But one day, he said, he was bumped to an earlier segment of the show in favor of two dancers who had survived the sinking of the Andrea Doria. Mr. King had to be coaxed to go on, and at this point in the story, he suggested that he understood the connection between angry and funny.

“I never was so mad at an audience,” Mr. King told the Friars crowd. He killed, and after the show there was a knock on his dressing-room door. It was Garland, all made up and wearing “the dirtiest terry-cloth robe,” Mr. King remembered.

“You can close my fucking show any time you want,” she told him.

The memory of poor, doomed Judy Garland had an unexpected impact on Mr. King. He began to cry. “She was the best,” he said. “Better than Jolson.”

Frank Sinatra-whose portrait looked on from the side of the stage-was the best, too, Mr. King said. And then he added with a killer’s smile:

“Even if he wasn’t, who would say he wasn’t?”

There were other great ones. And Mr. King seemed to have a story for each. When actress Norma Talmadge left comedian George Jessel, considered one of the best roastmasters in the history of the Friars, Mr. King said that the comedian bought a gun and, while on a “three-day drunk,” intended to commit suicide. But Jessel apparently had trouble saying goodbye and, according to Mr. King, called up writer/composer George M. Cohan (“Give My Regards to Broadway”) for help with his suicide note, telling him: “You’re the best writer around.” Cohan sent someone in his room to alert the authorities while he pretended to collaborate. And when a sobered-up Jessel eventually called to apologize, the comic told Cohan, “But it really was a good letter.”

Cohan apparently agreed. Somewhere, said Mr. King, “it’s a published song.”

Mr. Scott urged him to tell one more story that is a bit of show-business legend. At a roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Harry Einstein, a beloved radio comic who performed as Parkyakarkus (and the father of comic actor and filmmaker Albert Brooks), got up and did his shtick-“He was terrific,” Mr. King said-then returned to his seat, put his head down and died of a heart attack. As the dais members tended to Einstein, Mr. King said, Jessel shouted to performer Tony Martin: “Sing something!”

Martin did as he was told, Mr. King said, and began to croon “There’s No Tomorrow.”

-F. D.

Cast Member

In his heyday, Robby Benson, the swarthy, unctuous, good-boy idol of 1970’s teen movies, was the king of doe-eyed schmaltz and androgynous, youthful good looks. “Cute as Bambi and twice as smarmy,” wrote Newsweek in 1977, “Benson seems destined for one of the most protracted adolescences on the screen (by 40 he should be ready to play psychopaths).”

Not quite. Mr. Benson spent most of his post-adolescent years undergoing-like something out of one of his after-school special–like teen flicks-two heart-valve surgeries because of a chronic congenital heart defect. Professionally, he took to directing sitcoms (Friends, Evening Shade), acting in them (Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and doing the voice of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast (Grrr!). But now, at 48, it looks like his balls have finally dropped. On March 17, he’ll open at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Open Heart, a semi-autobiographical musical that he wrote and will be starring in. His wife, Karla DeVito, plays his wife and other roles (her portrayal of a dead cow is particularly touching), and Stan Brown plays, among other parts, Mr. Benson’s penis.

In the show’s most memorable scene, Mr. Brown-an extremely robust 41-year-old black man-sings and dances the penis role, which takes place during a dream sequence after Mr. Benson’s character undergoes heart surgery. Mr. Brown starts the bit with his beaming face poking out from between Mr. Benson’s straddled legs and, some 10 gyrating minutes later, ends up enveloping Ms. DeVito in the folds of his paunch.

Whatever inspired such a scene, we asked?

“I just think that, basically, most of the problems in this world are caused by man’s testosterone and the desire to control-the megalomania and the power-that comes with that testosterone,” Mr. Benson told The Transom by phone one recent afternoon as he got ready for a preview of his opus. “And that makes me physically ill. The power people use that comes not from their mind, but from their dick? It’s absurd in the same way that that scene is absurd. The show is about getting rid of all that and going back to the soul and following the [soul’s] path, not the path of the dick. A man shouldn’t be making life decisions based on his ego, [especially when] a man’s ego is often in his balls.”

Right. So does that mean Robby Benson’s ego is in Robby Benson’s balls?

“Well, if you’re a compassionate man, you’ll get a hard-on when the 104 bus goes by, you know? You’re fighting these primeval, cave-man testosterone bursts, and you’re at war with yourself like a fifth-grader is [about sex],” he said. “The idea is to evolve out of that place and not just shoot sperm all over the place all the time.”

Of course, casting an actor who could help him walk the audience through the journeys and struggles of a man and his penis took a great deal of care. The penis-actor plays many other choice roles, including a dead AIDS victim and a television producer. In the end, Mr. Benson chose Mr. Brown, whom he’d met at the University of South Carolina, where he taught filmmaking, voice-over and screenwriting in the 80’s. “Stan was one of my students, and I realized he was probably the most talented male performer I’d ever been in the same room with. He’s a brilliant man. He deserves to be a star,” said Mr. Benson. And is he happy with his student’s portrayal of his manhood? “Yes. He’s brilliant,” Mr. Benson said. “Magnificent. Life is an adventure, and I find it beautiful that I can continue to help my students learn.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Dawson’s Screed

Several weeks ago, rumors began to swirl around that ribald Irish thespian Colin Farrell had dumped co-star and girlfriend Rosario Dawson for fellow castmate Angelina Jolie on the set of Oliver Stone’s Macedonian epic, Alexander.

Throughout the sixth months of filming, Mr. Farrell and Ms. Dawson were sequestered in locales like England, Morocco and Thailand; somewhere along the way, Ms. Jolie started filming-and that, rumor has it, occasioned the split.

While sources claimed that the 24-year-old actress was heartbroken from the experience, she had nothing but praise for Mr. Farrell at a March 28 benefit for the Lower East Side Girls Club. “I think he’s actually undermined by all of the rumors that go on with him,” said the multiculti beauty, who’s part Irish herself (she’s also part African, Cuban and Native American). “He’s really, really, really talented. I mean, he really gives a lot. He’s a very generous actor. I’m really proud of him in this movie.”

But were the rumors true?

“For me, for Colin, it only annoys me, because now I feel how robbed he is-you know what I mean? Because now, the whole six months [of filming] is only ‘Rock on’ and who you fucked. And I really think he did so much more than just fuck Angelina.”

She continued.

“Fuckin’ A! He’s just a fuckin’ guy doing his thing. He’s gorgeous, he’s talented, he’s got a lot of money out of nowhere, and … I just think he’s an incredible human being.”

Mr. Farrell has reportedly moved on since his relationship with Ms. Jolie, and Ms. Dawson said she’s now skipped over the Irish Sea to lust after Scotsmen.

“Goddamn, I love Ewan McGregor!” she gushed. “I really, really love him. I was having an argument with my friend about him today, because I was like, ‘He’s even great in Star Wars!’ and he was like, ‘No one was good in Star Wars!’ I was like, ‘No, he is really amazing!'”

Is she partial to one part in particular?

“Beautiful penis!” Ms. Dawson said, answering another, more interesting question. “In almost all of his movies, he’s always showing off, and I’m just like, ‘Yeah, man, uncircumcised! That’s nice! You go! You work that shit!’ That’s why he’s amazing.”

-Noelle Hancock

The Zen of Mipam

Last fall, Uma Thurman’s brother Mipam was overheard fuming, “I want to kill him! He’s a piece of shit. I can’t believe what he’s done.”

He was responding to the news that his brother-in-law, Ethan Hawke, had cheated on his sister, causing the marriage to crumble.

At a March 29 party in honor of National Tartan Week, however, Mr. Thurman attempted to water down his previous threat.

“Any intelligent person will tell you the statement ‘I want to kill him’ is a proverbial statement and no one actually-well, people in prison may mean it-but no one in the outside world actually means it when they say that,” he told The Transom. So does he take it back?

“Um, I wouldn’t take it back, but I would temper it with the statement that it takes people a certain amount of time to come to terms with wrongdoings of other people. And a little bit of anger is natural and perhaps even healthy. I have come to terms with Ethan, and I have talked to him about it. And it did hopefully scare him a little bit into being more compliant with the apology situation!”

The spitting image of his ravishing sister, Mr. Thurman took time out from his career as a model to participate in the “Man with a Pan” cooking class sponsored by Dewar’s. The event found 12 men-about-town, like Page Six poobah Richard Johnson, ubiquitous celebrity D.J. Mark Ronson and Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, cooking under the tutelage of chef Marcus Samuelsson (Aquavit, Riingo).

When the Buddhist Mipam was handed a lobster, he started stroking the animal.

“It looked at me and said, ‘You’re Buddhist! Why are you going to throw me into the boiling water?'” he said. “There was nothing I could do except pet the lobster!”

Maybe it wants an apology?

-N.H.