In the moments before Donald Trump barreled through a packed house at Michael Kors’ runway show last week, a thin man stood in the center of the tent, mindlessly patting his starchy coif. It was Austin Scarlett, the delicate wunderkind of Bravo’s Project Runway and a reality-show star to rival Mr. Trump in general hairdo fluffiness. Mr. Scarlett was busy flashing his Brite Smile across the room, and The Transom had begun to approach, transfixed. “Hellooo,” said the fashion designer, television-star and Kate Moss body double, as if we were a Texan tourist in the market for boots and he a clerk in the Barney’s shoe department. “How can I help you?”
But before we could answer, there came The Donald, plowing a course to Mr. Kors, a plucky Melania in tow. We were thrown back from Mr. Scarlett, whose limbs flopped but whose tresses remained in a neat, blond wave. He recovered, a beacon of graceful femininity in the crush of over-stylized women, rushing aside so the busy billionaire could pass. Taller than you’d expect, and prettier and glossier of the lip, Mr. Scarlett retreated to his second-row seat, smoothing the red ruffles on his shirtwaist. This would turn out to be a sad night for him. He would be lovingly booted from his television show for creating too ball a gown in a Grammy dress design challenge. But that afternoon, unbeknownst to anyone, he was a reality-show cast-off living out a unique fantasy: In the audience of one of his former judges-Mr. Kors was a regular on the show-being asked (by us) to evaluate the designer’s collection. A comparable situation would have Omarosa judging Mr. Trump’s ability to sell lemonade at rush hour. (Not that Mr. Scarlett is in any way Omarosa-like. First of all, those power suits of hers! Ugh.)
So-”What’s it like to be Michael’s judge this time? Well, I’ll just say it was an honor to be invited to the show. It’s nice we were worthy of the sacrifice of one of the valuable seats that could have been saved for a buyer or a member of the media,” he told the inquiring Transom, earnestly and without a drip of sarcasm. It was the kind of answer that would have irritated Mr. Trump, had he not run off with the missus to a press conference in the main Bryant Park tent, at which she was to receive something-or-other from some eager publicist and smile pretty for the flashing bulbs. Mr. Scarlett was sincere, and seemed sincerely flattered to be there. He sat quietly at attention while Mr. Kors danced backstage, coaxing each model onto the runway to the pulse of Madonna on loop. Modestly, post-Trump trample, Mr. Scarlett offered an evaluation. Running one finger through his shiny mane, he took a look back at the crowd and declared, “It’s all just very glamorous. I don’t know what else to say.”
Power Broker Burlesque
The ghost of Robert Moses may be haunting theater director Alex Timbers. The impresario and his cohorts at the theater troupe Les Freres Corbusier were all set to open Boozy: The Life, Death, and Subsequent Vilification of Le Corbusier and, More Importantly, Robert Moses, their sincerely irreverent take on the master planner’s life, when a mysterious flu virus ravaged cast and crew this past weekend.
Mr. Timbers soldiered through a 103-degree fever to direct a Feb. 13 preview performance of the play, but his hard work was only rewarded with further calamity: Actor Ian Oldaker, who plays Governor Nelson Rockefeller ( Boozy’s Judas figure to Moses’ Messiah), caught the same virus and was sent to the hospital on Monday, leaving the director to fill in the role for another preview performance that night.
Although less than thrilled with his ad hoc part on Monday, Mr. Timbers remains confident that Boozy will appeal to both urban-planning aficionados and Moses-haters alike. While the former may barely fill out a conference table, the latter would fill Yankee Stadium.
As he is quick to point out, the play is “not entirely critical” of the man commonly held responsible for the gridlock along his various highway projects (think of Moses the next time you hit the B.Q.E. at rush hour), not to mention the bulldozing of the Bronx into a perpetually doomed sprawl of housing projects.
“He was the most important person in the history of urban planning,” Mr. Timbers said, “but it’s startling how little people knew about him. I was surprised that no one had explored his life through plays and the theater.”
For inspiration, he drew on Robert Caro’s epic screw-you tome to Moses, The Power Broker-which The Transom has still not read in its entirety, but admit it, neither have you-and “that ‘New York’ documentary TBS kept showing” in the months following 9/11.
But if Moses’ spirit isn’t cursing Mr. Timber’s show, then the planner might at least be rolling in his grave: This is a Les Freres Corbusier production after all, and the company is known for absurdist satire that goes over the top in all the right places. (Previous productions cast President Warren Harding as a coke-snorting rock star and Benjamin Franklin as, well, the anti-Christ, and there was a Scientology Christmas Pageant-long story.) Boozy paints Moses (played by Les Freres veteran Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum) as a wide-eyed do-gooder who falls under the spell of the enigmatic modernist architect Le Corbusier. Moses launches a crusade to implement Le Corbusier’s vision of an automotive utopia upon the grid of New York City, and in the process he becomes the new messiah, pitted against an evil cabal headed by Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Goebbels and Benito Mussolini. Along the way Moses does battle with Jane Jacobs (a hilarious Nina Hellman), the jilted ex-girlfriend of “Boozy”–as she calls Le Corbusier-who forms Community Board 3 to stamp out any trace of her former beau’s vision. Moses receives aid from flaming admirer Fiorello LaGuardia (played brilliantly by John Summerour) and from Governor Rockefeller, who later betrays Moses after the planner unveils his doomed scheme to build a cross-Manhattan expressway through Soho. (Had it been completed, this project would have steamrolled over the Ohio Theatre, where the play is being performed, an irony not lost on Les Freres.)
Mr. Timbers, now recovered from his bout with the flu, says cast morale is high going into this Thursday’s opening public performance. Ethel Sheffer, president of the N.Y. Metro chapter of the American Planning Association, is confirmed to attend Thursday’s show, and the director expects to see other luminaries from the American Institute of Architects in the audience. After the Feb. 20 performance, The Architect’s Newspaper will host a panel discussion of Moses and Le Corbusier, featuring Mr. Timbers, Geoff Lynch of architecture firm H3 Hardy Collaboration, and Deborah Gans, author of The Le Corbusier Guide.
“It’s really exciting for us to create a show that the community of urban planners is taking an interest in,” said Mr. Timbers. “It’d be a pity if we did the only show about Robert Moses and no one in that (planning) community came to see it.”
Danielle Burger, an urban planner who attended Sunday’s preview, said she liked the show, though it did little to make her like Moses any better.
“(Moses) did some good stuff, but mostly he was a tyrant,” Mr. Burger said. Her companion, chemist Matt Kirisits, concurred:
“I drive on these roads and bridges all the time, and at nearly every time of day they’re terrible to drive on. If you’re on one at 3 a. m. and nobody else is around then yeah, it’s great, but any other time it’s a nightmare,” Mr. Kirisits said.
But hey, maybe there’s a need for creatures like Moses, because when you get down to it, do you want to be the one dealing with all the headaches of urban planning? As Moses points out near the end of the show, urban planning is a shitty job.
When Sources Get Mad
John Aretakis, 44, a Manhattan- and Albany-based lawyer, likes to be taken seriously-and beware those in the media who don’t respect that attitude. The controversial attorney recently slapped Hearst Publications with a wide-ranging lawsuit based upon claims that a reporter at the company’s Albany Times Union paper broke an “oral contract” they had made to embargo information on tapes he shared with her, among other allegations. According to the complaint, the newspaper published “libelous, slanderous and defamatory articles” about him, and the paper employs an editor who “was caught and arrested for having sexual contact with a young male hustler in [Albany's] Washington Park.”
Mr. Aretakis, who filed the complaint on behalf of himself in New York Supreme Court on Feb. 10, has for the past three years been representing alleged victims of clergy sex abuse. And in the current lawsuit, in what appears to be the emotional core of Mr. Aretakis’ claims, he blames the newspaper for being sympathetic to the church: “The defendant has for at least the past year, acted to be an agent for or partial to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.”
Speaking by phone to The Transom, he claims that “For the past year they have just turned around and been an agent for my adversaries.”
Mr. Aretakis has a reputation for speaking his mind. According to his own count, approximately 15 complaints against him have been filed with the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. In one of the most recent complaints, the Reverend Carl Urban asked the Third Department’s Committee on Professional Standards to investigate Mr. Aretakis for publicly accusing the reverend of sexual improprieties, allegations that the reverend contends are false.
In fact, one of the issues in Mr. Aretakis’ lawsuit is that the Times Union mishandled the story that they wrote about these allegations, among other things claiming that he could be disbarred if the charges are true (a clarification ran later clarifying that other sanctions were an option, too).
“Aretakis has certainly been right on a number of issues-not this one. It’s hard because we’re going to still need him as a source,” said the paper’s editor, Rex Smith.
Mr. Smith said the reporter accused in Mr. Aretakis’ suit never had an agreement to embargo the information Mr. Aretakis provided. The story the reporter wrote, which angered Mr. Aretakis, was researched with “independent reporting,” Mr. Smith said. As for the allegation that a staffer engaged in sexual improprieties, Mr. Smith said he is investigating the charges, but has turned up nothing.
“I think it’s outrageous, I really do. It’s a smear. Against whom I don’t know, because he doesn’t say who he’s talking about. Frankly, I think it’s an effort to harass the newspaper because our coverage hasn’t raised his public profile to the level that he wishes. It’s simply outrageous, it’s harassment, and we will deal with it in court, as harassing lawsuits should be dealt with. We’ve had good days with John Aretakis and bad days with John Aretakis in terms of our relationship with him as a source. I presume we’ll have more of the same in the future-right now this is one of the bad ones.”
Mr. Aretakis is seeking unspecified damages for harm to his reputation.
Sure, Michael Eisner’s long-awaited memoir, Camp, won’t hit bookstores until June 14 after being postponed a year by Warner Books. “It wasn’t exactly the best time to be publishing a book about the life lessons learned by Mike Eisner-who would read that after all the turmoil over at Disney?” says a publishing insider. And rather than dwelling on the costume design in Fantasia or the ambiguous sexuality of Goofy, the 256-page book focuses on the other camp-that woodland prison where kids get tortured with mosquito bites and Indian rope burns. But if you can’t wait to read more about the Chief Mouse’s time sitting around the campfire at Camp Keewaydin in Vermont, just sneak a peek at James B. Stewart’s DisneyWar, which contains the following anecdotes:
· On his first weekend at camp, Mr. Eisner’s counselor pushed the 7-year-old into boxing another older, bigger boy at the camp’s Saturday-night matches. The young Mr. Eisner, who had never before thrown a punch in his life, was clobbered in two minutes but he never cried.
· Mr. Eisner’s arch nemesis, Dreamworks Animation C.E.O. Jeff Katzenberg, was a little less enthused about the camp experience-he was expelled from a camp along the Kennebec River in Maine for playing poker.
· Decades later, when Mr. Eisner went to visit his son at Camp Keewaydin and he spotted 48 Hrs. producer Larry Gordon, with whom he’d had a falling-out, the Disney chief jumped into the camp’s lake with his shoes on to avoid an awkward encounter.