“Is that Nell’s?” a harried young man asked, standing on the north side of 14th Street near Eighth Avenue and pointing across the street at the awning of NA. Anticipating a fashion show that night, a fair number of low-grade scenesters were milling about in front of the nightclub that had indeed once been Nell’s in a former life.
Preceding as it did this season’s Fashion Week by at least half a month, the evening’s spectacle seemed a slapdash affair: several fledgling designers lumped together in a startlingly amateurish presentation by Stop the Glamour, a group that is hoping to capitalize on the T-shirts-with-witty-slogans trend (which, of course, isn’t witty at all).
Redesigned-but not really-by rock ‘n’ roll godmother Anne Jones and Easy Spirit’s Tara Subkoff, NA is already stalling, less than half a year after it opened its doors to New York’s ennui-ridden nocturnals. Not one, but two whole floors of nothing much but dead, crispy banana plants, NA seems to attract neither the fashionably uptown-downtown types who can’t help but frequent Bungalow 8 nor the undiscriminating spendthrifts at Marquee. It draws a nouveau pauvre kind of girl and boy, but their shoes are too conventional, the hair too symmetrical, their cheeks just not sunken enough-Murray Hill hipsters, pimply N.Y.U. juniors, second-tier art-school graduates.
They stood around, in their Bakelite earrings and mullets, drinking free Vox cranberries through coffee straws, eagerly waiting for the models to strut. NA’s catwalk was lined on either side with six beige sofas, reserved for V.I.P.’s, which as far as anyone could tell were restricted to Mr. and Mrs. Oscar de la Renta, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Bolen, and Coco Brandolini-all members of Oscar de la Renta’s private and professional coterie. Five labels (Tamara Pogosian, Besnik, Jessica Kaufman, Queue and Moises de la Renta) were represented by the girls loping down the runway in ill-fitting skirts and cashmere jump suits. And then, finally, came Mr. de la Renta Jr.’s “special pieces”-no doubt the most redeeming aspect of the show, but not by much: mostly T-shirts with slogans (when will it stop?!), well-tailored trousers with exposed seams (distracting) and two remarkably proportioned trench coats (confident). There was plenty of applause and whooping for the young de la Renta, the adopted 20-year-old son of the de la Renta, though he still has a long way to go.
With fairy-tale origins true to his name, Moises was rescued from a dust bin in the Dominican Republic a few days after his birth. The young infant was soon adopted by Oscar de la Renta, who has invested several decades of time and money into creating charitable institutions in the country of his birth. At 3, Moises was shipped to the United States, growing up with his father and mother in New York, and then later sent to boarding school. There are rumors that he got into some trouble, though those stories are spread by shadowy acquaintances whose intentions seem suspect. Mostly taciturn and polite, the young de la Renta is characterized by a distinct humility that may wind up hampering rather than benefiting him. Last season, one of his T-shirts was paraded down Oscar de la Renta’s runway show on top of one of his father’s elaborate silk skirts, but in general Mr. de la Renta père has kept out of his son’s business. Whether that negligence is due to tough love or something else is hard to tell. But Moises didn’t seem inclined to reflect too much on his heritage. Intentionally sending most of his coterie to the wrong party, he went to dinner at Pop Burger and remained mostly silent. Asked for a comment, Moises purred, “Call me tomorrow.”
The Reel Ambassador
For a couple of hours on Tuesday, Jan. 18, Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, must have felt like a camp counselor trying to herd a rambunctious group of third-graders. The savvy 41-year-old was trying to organize a photo shoot for New York magazine featuring over 30 New York–based filmmakers heading to the Sundance Film Festival. They had gathered in the fifth-floor soundstage in City Stage, a production studio in Chelsea, to mingle with Ms. Oliver and exchange pleasantries before the Park City ratfuck, where many of them will be competing for awards and, more importantly, distribution.
As photographer Chris Callis busied himself setting up the shoot, Ms. Oliver held court, launching the latest salvo in her battle for relevance. Clad in a black turtleneck and pants, Ms. Oliver-who has spearheaded a vociferous campaign to bring film and television production back to New York City-made her way around the room kibitzing with such indie stalwarts as Hal Hartley, self-described “war horse” Rebecca Miller and Flatliner- cum-director Kevin Bacon, as well as some notable “rookies” to the film scene, such as veteran P.R. man Dan Klores, to talk up the recent tax incentives passed in Albany and to hand out “goodie bags” stuffed with “Made in NY” T-shirts.
“When you’re out in Sundance, wear the T-shirts with pride,” she said in a short speech. A wave of chuckles passed through the crowd-most of whom were bundled in jean jackets and sport coats to fend off the city’s first serious cold wave. Much the same will greet them in Utah; the T-shirts will have to wait for Cannes.
Ms. Oliver made sure to cater to the V.I.P.’s in attendance. “I brought you your pin,” Ms. Oliver said to Mr. Bacon, who was there to promote his latest project, the film Loverboy, starring his wife, Kyra Sedgwick. “Is someone with you?” she asked, looking for his handler to take the bag off his hands. It quickly disappeared.
“I’ve been wearing my ["Made in NY"] shirt for six months,” Mr. Bacon said to The Transom, looking tired but wearing it well with a faded black shirt over a thin camouflage-print sweater, a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand. Mr. Bacon currently stars in The Woodsman, an intimate portrayal of a pedophile recently released from prison. But the actor didn’t want to talk about that; he wanted to talk about Loverboy, which he directed from a screenplay by Shakespeare-Hannah Shakespeare, that is.
“Feelings that you have for children are so extreme,” Mr. Bacon said. Wait a minute-”a different kind of feeling” from those in The Woodsman, he explained. It is the love that a mother (Ms. Sedgwick) has for her child. The film, Mr. Bacon explained, explores the question of how a person deals with those feelings.
On the eve of the most important American film festival of the year, the other directors milling about were dealing with excited feelings of their own. The room bubbled with anxious chatter. Many of them would be leaving the next day for the festival, which starts on Thursday, Jan. 20.
Rebecca Miller, the director of Personal Velocity: Three Portraits, said she’d be “skating on in” to Utah. She’ll be making her third trip to Sundance with the distribution for her latest film, The Ballad of Jack and Rose-about a misanthropic conservationist who starts a commune on a deserted island-already in the bag.
“It’s about the war against nature-the war against the uncivilized parts of ourselves,” the beautiful and leggy 42-year-old brunette said. The $3 million film was produced and will be distributed by IFC Films. But Ms. Miller warned, “It’s incredibly hard [to make a film in the U.S.]. There’s no support system.”
Also milling about was Ira Sachs, the director of Forty Shades of Blue, a quasi-autobiographical film about a Russian woman living in Memphis with a promiscuous, aging rock ‘n’ roll legend. Mr. Sachs promises that the film will show a part of Rip Torn “we haven’t seen in a while.” (Let’s hope it’s not the same part that got such a workout in The Man Who Fell to Earth.) But for now, we’ll just have to take Mr. Sachs’ word for it: “Nobody’s seen the film,” he said nervously.
Mr. Klores, the P.R. maven, was there to promote himself and his documentary, Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story, which he co-directed with Ron Berger, about the boxer who killed a man in the ring in March of 1962, after the other fighter had taunted him with homosexual epithets. Mr. Klores has found at least one early supporter of the documentary: Mr. Griffith. “I think he’s quite pleased,” he said, looking like a young Pete Hamill-well, he has a beard and some of the same old friends-in a blue sweater. The documentary is Mr. Klores’ second film. His third, Viva Baseball, about the “Latinization” of the great American pastime, will air on Spike TV in September. And he’ll begin shooting his fourth in February, this one about Burt Pugach, the man who blinded his then girlfriend, was jailed for the attack and then married her 14 years later, upon his release. The true story provided much fodder for late-1950′s tabloids and will allow Mr. Klores to explore the “difference between obsession and love.” Good luck!
Mr. Klores will face stiff competition in Park City from some other New Yorkers. Alex Gibney, a veteran documentary producer, has directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The bald, goateed filmmaker explains the company’s pathology quite succinctly: “It’s Gordon Gekko meets Alfred E. Newman, ‘Greed is good’ and ‘What, me worry?’” On the opposite extreme is Murderball, the ThinkFilm documentary about quadriplegics who play full-contact rugby in ” Mad Max –style” wheelchairs. The film follows the bad-ass clan from the World Championships in Sweden to the Paralympics in Athens, Greece. Co-directors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro-formerly a senior editor at Spin-eagerly explained that many of the film’s subjects have “hot” girlfriends and drink like fish, and that this is not your typical sappy story about the handicapped. “Let’s just say that our score features music by Ministry and Ween,” they said. “If you say ‘Good job,’ they’ll say ‘Fuck you!’” Critics beware.
After an hour and a half, the scaffolding had been set up and the directors-some with nervous smiles, others with stern looks-were arranged to the photographer’s liking.
“Everybody loose!” Mr. Callis yelled from behind the camera. “Sundance! New York magazine! Big picture!”
The class of 2005 laughed together.
The Transom Also Hears …
… that there were plenty of conservatives roaming the Congress of Racial Equality’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. awards dinner on Jan. 17: Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Hudson Institute’s Herb London, New York Civil Rights Coalition head Michael Meyers and a few members of the National Rifle Association. But missing in action was the star of the hour and the recipient of CORE’s Public Service Award-Karl Rove, senior advisor to President Bush and bête noire to liberals everywhere. “He couldn’t make it. He sent [Republican National Committee chairman] Ed Gillespie here to pick up the award-who was sitting here-but he had to rush back [to D.C.],” explained Roy Innis, the chairman of CORE. At least Mr. Hannity knew enough to throw some red meat to the partisan crowd, shouting, “Is everybody happy with the election results?” When guests roared in approval, he proceeded to explain why his liberal co-host, Alan Colmes, couldn’t attend the function. “Right now, he’s in Massachusetts, he’s with Ted- hic!-Kennedy,” said Mr. Hannity, adding, “Let not your heart be troubled: Alan’s driving.” Before rushing off to make his evening broadcast, the talkmeister lauded three men who were each “the right man in the right place at the right time in human history”: Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Innis and George W. Bush ….