Hand on the hip of her Alberta Ferretti gown, her proud chin jutting out from that pixie face, Reese Witherspoon stares out from the cover of the September issue of Vanity Fair, the cursive headline announcing the actress as “Regally Blonde.” The caption continues, “Reese Witherspoon brings home a $15 million paycheck, makes time for the kids, and still looks fabulous. Why are we putting her on our cover?*” At the bottom of the page, tucked in the right corner, reads a short reply to that question: “*Because she stars in the movie ‘Vanity Fair.’”
And, apparently, because Ms. Witherspoon’s phalanx of protectors threatened legal action if she didn’t make it on the cover.
Ms. Witherspoon had long been scheduled for the cover of the magazine due to her starring role in the movie version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic comic novel, from which the celebrity magazine borrowed its name.
But when editor Graydon Carter saw Bruce Weber’s photographic portfolio of the U.S. Olympic hopefuls, he did a double take and reconsidered. “Graydon was so impressed with the photos that he wanted to put [swimmer] Michael Phelps on the cover,” said a source in publishing.
“But Reese’s people got involved and started sending letters and threatening legal action-so Vanity Fair went back to Reese.”
Vanity Fair publicist Beth Kseniak explained that Mr. Carter thought about splitting the covers, putting Ms. Phelps on subscriber copies and Ms. Witherspoon on newsstand editions of the magazine. That’s a concept the magazine hasn’t explored since March 1993, when they split newly elected President Bill Clinton and actress Andie Macdowell. “In the end, we decided to go with the Reese cover,” said Ms. Kseniak.
Ms. Witherspoon’s publicist, Nancy Ryder, declined to comment.
Could the sight of guide-book-clutching tourists strung out along Bleecker Street waiting for the frosted creations at the Magnolia Bakery be a thing of the past? For the past few months, rumblings have swirled through the leafy blocks of the West Village that the building at 401 Bleecker Street, on the corner of West 11th Street, has been sold, and that a Chanel Boutique would replace the faded blue awning and country red storefront where Magnolia has been turning out their baked confections since 1996, when Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel opened the bakery.
But cupcake aficionados have no fear: Magnolia appears not to be going anywhere in the near future.
“It’s a rumor that’s been spreading for the past few months. We are not planning on closing anytime soon,” Magnolia’s manager Ben Olson told The Transom. A spokesperson for Chanel also dismissed the neighborhood talk of Chanel’s rumored move.
“We’re reopening the 57th Street boutique in October, but we have no plans to open any new boutiques downtown,” the spokesperson said.
Rumors aside, even if talk of a Magnolia exodus remains just a fanciful tale fueled over beers at the Corner Bistro, the rapidly changing character of the western reaches of Bleecker Street are undeniable. What was once a ramshackle collection of antique shops and the beloved Biography Bookshop has become a fashion mecca welcoming Soho transplants tired of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd clogging West Broadway. Ever since Marc Jacobs landed on Bleecker Street in 2000, the three blocks along Bleecker stretching from Abingdon Square to Charles Street now play home not just to three Marc Jacobs boutiques, but also to handbag designer Lulu Guinness, European housewares retailer Basiques and the dog spa Four Paws Club. Indeed, Chanel would be right at home.
Alrick Brown, 28, is one of four N.Y.U. student filmmakers who will star in the new reality series Film School, which premieres on the Independent Film Channel on Sept. 10. His short film, The Adventures of Supernigger: Episode One, The Final Chapter, about Amadou Diallo, has already earned props from Doug E. Fresh. “I just want people to watch [Film School] and say, ‘Man, I want to go out and do something righteous,’” Mr. Brown said the other day. “Just not write about bullshit. Or make movies about bullshit. Or make a video about bullshit. Do something about something. And whether it’s good or bad, the process of doing it is going to make it worthwhile.”
The series is part of an onslaught of original programming being unfurled by the 10-year-old cable channel. IFC hopes the reality series, like its counterparts Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Bravo and Nip/Tuck on FX, will attract new viewers in the growing competitive marketplace of cable TV. The channel’s longest-running original series thus far has been Dinner for Five, a talk show of sorts hosted by Elf director Jon Favreau.
The show’s creator, Nanette Burstein, is herself an N.Y.U. alum (there, she said, “I just saw the craziest stuff I’d ever seen in my life”) and the director of the Academy Award–nominated documentary On the Ropes-a behind-the-scenes account of three Bronx contenders, widely considered the Hoop Dreams of the boxing world. At age 34, she has made a career out of championing the underdog. Her last documentary was about Hollywood stalwart Robert Evans, 2002′s The Kid Stays in the Picture. “Even Bob Evans ended up becoming an underdog after being the top dog,” she said.
Better-known N.Y.U. alums such as Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Rush Hour’s Brett Ratner and Marc Forster of Monster’s Ball all make appearances in her show.
“The great American dream used to be writing a novel,” said Ms. Burstein. “And now the great American dream is either writing a screenplay or ultimately becoming a director. People are obsessed with movies. Even beyond America, everyone wants to become a moviemaker. And so, Film School, you’re living out their fantasy, which actually you see that fantasy can become a nightmare.”
N.Y.U. film students graduate with an average of $65,000 in debt. “It’s do or die for them,” Ms. Burstein said. “And when you get into those kinds of situations, you get a really compelling story line.
“Most reality shows, in order to make sure that they have drama, they create a world, they create a reality, they create a contest, and put real people in it and see how they react,” she added. “This experience already has a built-in narrative. You got there and your objective is to make an award-winning student film. And you’re going to have so many hurdles along the way to get there.”
Her subjects are a diverse array of potential Darren Aronofskys, but although all of the characters are given equal exposure, Mr. Brown provides the core of the show. Bright, competent and idealistic, he always strives to do the right thing (one of his idols is Spike Lee, who might be his professor next year). Mr. Brown’s film, which screened at last week’s Urbanworld Film Festival, appears to be the most controversial. An exploration of the shooting death of Amadou Diallo, The Adventures of Supernigger is a modern-day allegory about police brutality.
“It has nothing to do with a fucking wallet,” Mr. Brown said of the object that police thought was Mr. Diallo’s gun. “It has everything to do with the color of his skin and the situation and their training and the powers that be and all those things.
“You see one person dying,” he said. “I see how many more people who have been killed, and how many people who will be killed, and how many people have gotten away with killing.”
Mr. Brown-a New Jersey native who put in a stint for the Peace Corps as well as working as a turnpike toll collector and security guard for a chemical company-wants to be as provocative as Mr. Lee, but as accessible as Jerry Bruckheimer.
“Anything Hollywood would use to make a bad movie interesting-the camera movements and all those things, the colors-I used all those things to take my audience, who would not normally sit there through a movie about police brutality and the killing of a man that people are forgetting about already,” he said.
Mr. Brown claims he will not be watching Film School. For one thing, he is (probably wisely) skeptical of reality TV’s influence on fledgling careers. For another, he does not have cable.
“I’m broker now than I was last year because I’m in debt from that movie,” he said.
Poured into jeans and a slinky mauve tank top, and boasting a gold Tiffany necklace that was a gift from her mother, Venus Williams was settled on a couch in Long Island City, gazing across the East River at a skyline view that included the United Nations. She was leaving on a flight to Athens that night, but had stopped by this apartment, which purportedly represents those housing the 16,000 athletes staying in the Olympic Village in 2012.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 10, reporters were hustled in small groups up to P2 (the second of the four “penthouse” floors) so they could view the apartment and “collect sound bites.” It was a toss-up as to what was more stylized, the apartment or the event.
The Avalon Riverview building had donated the one-bedroom apartment, which was 31 stories up and furnished by Crate and Barrel. “It’s a little more extravagant than the other apartments will be,” an Olympics official admitted. Then he brightened. “Janet Evans has agreed to stay here!”
Bamboo mats and shag rugs covered the wooden floor; a black mod dresser sat in the bedroom with two twin beds piled high with decorative pillows. A full-length mirror with a sleek frame leaned against a wall. All of these accouterments had been set up and arranged by Ms. Williams’ two-year-old design company, V Starr Interiors.
The bedroom walls were painted a cool teal. “If you’re an athlete and you’re trying to get ready and trying to relax, it’s really a calming color. This part’s more lively, there’s more light,” Ms. Williams said of the living room. “This is where you’d be hanging with your friends if somebody’s coming from down the hall.”
Someone asked the tennis champ to point out her personal touches. “I think the one place I wanna be is on this wall right here,” she said, dodging the question and gesturing to a wall of black-and-white photographs featuring champions like Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton.
“Was this the first time you saw the apartment?” a reporter asked. “Today?”
“I’m sorry, we have to wrap it up,” a handler interrupted. Ms. Williams chuckled.
Victim of Love
Last Thursday night, Chelsea’s Suede nightclub was a little more crowded than usual. There was slipping songster Ricky Martin at a table in the back, sipping Cristal champagne while watching the crowd dance and politely declining the invitations of a few female fans to join them on the dance floor. Several other B-list celebrities, such as former ‘N Sync singer Joey Fatone, Bring It On actress Gabrielle Union and Dr. Evil’s son, Seth Green, were scattered about the dimly lit room. And there was Vili Fualaau.
The victim of Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who served seven years for seducing him when he was just a 12-year-old junior-high-school student, Mr. Fualaau didn’t seem very traumatized. Sauntering around the room with a friend, Noel Soriano, who claimed to be Mr. Fualaau’s agent, he flashed a self-satisfied smile before sitting down at a table.
But when a couple at the next table snapped a picture of themselves, Mr. Soriano thought that they were targeting his client and screamed, “No pictures!”, shooing away curious onlookers who vaguely recognized Mr. Fualaau. Several men eagerly told him that he was their hero. Mr. Fualaau seemed touched by these kind words and proceeded to invite some in the crowd back to his room at the Waldorf-Astoria. Later, in the early hours of the morning, Mr. Fualaau demanded to see the owner, Eytan Sugarman, to have him locate the rest of his party as he was ready to leave. Mr. Sugarman replied, “I’d like to help you, but I don’t know who is in your party, so how could I identify them?” Mr. Fualaau’s agent quickly replied, “Everyone knows who we are!!”