“I do yoga and I try to get Tom to join in,” said Kathy Freston.
“I do a good bit of yoga, not as much as her,” said her husband, Tom.
Mr. Freston is the co-president and co-C.O.O. of Viacom. Ms. Freston is an author and meditation counselor. Both are delightful. Last week, they were guests of honor at a benefit for the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center.
“New York has a way of beating you up,” said Ms. Freston. “The stress really takes an effect and Woody’s”—Dr. Woodson Merrell, a Continuum board member and the night’s M.C.—“really taught us a lot about nutrition and meditation and really taking care of ourselves, so that our immune system isn’t so susceptible.”
According to Forbes, Mr. Freston received a $16 million bonus in fiscal year 2004.
“He does a mean downward-facing dog! He really does,” said Ms. Freston of her husband. “I’ve actually even gotten him to meditate, once in awhile. We eat a lot of vegetarian food. He gets more tofu than he ever dreamed possible.”
“But best of all with Woody,” said Mr. Freston, “are the vitamin shots.”
Ms. Freston agreed. “A good vitamin-B hookup is really great.”
Well, bend us over and shoot us up, because that truly does sound fantastic. A nice break, really, from swallowing horse-pill-sized vitamins with burnt deli coffee and a Paxil.
“I’m a meditation counselor,” said Ms. Freston. “So I have an altar, a meditation room, a little yoga corner of the house, and we definitely eat as organic as possible, use nontoxic chemicals. What else?”
“Whole Foods,” said Mr. Freston.
“Yeah, we shop at Whole Foods,” she said. “We try to, you know, shop locally, local farmers. I think finally people are starting to think about it. I think things happen in New York first.”
Allen Sperry, the president of Manhatti.com, and John Hays, the deputy chairman of Christies, sat at table 11. The centerpiece consisted of a few flowers and a vase of broccoli.
Over a dinner of something called herbed millennium tofu spread, goat-cheese mousse, free-range organic chicken and a phyllo purse stuffed with quinoa, their conversation turned to the much-maligned auctioning of Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits by the New York Public Library back in May.
“Why did they have to sell it?” asked Mr. Sperry.
Mr. Hays leaned in close. “I can give you 38 million reasons why,” he said.
Sarah McLachlan performed a few songs, while a visibly pregnant Christy Turlington snuggled into hubbie Ed Burns. Ms. McLachlan was suffering from a sinus infection, she said during her performance. “When I’m sick,” she said, “the last thing I want to do is take antibiotics. I take a lot of Chinese herbs. I’ve done acupuncture, cranial sacral. I’ve done a lot of massage.” Where’s the good doctor with the big needle now?
At the close of the evening, Dr. Merrell presented Mr. and Mrs. Freston with a gold-plated statue of Tara, a Buddhist deity. The audience members closed their eyes and breathed deeply as Ms. Freston, in her lovely cream pantsuit, guided them in meditation.
“May every living soul realize peace,” she said.
The Devil Wears What?
Henry Novelo was on Broadway, barking instructions into a wireless headset, when a film technician suddenly materialized and asked him to move out of the shot.
The Devil Wears Prada was filming across the street and the crew wasted no time in disrupting the daily routine of the poor suckers working much more unglamorously in the Flatiron district on a Monday afternoon. Unconcerned, the delectable Adrian Grenier and princess Anne Hathaway were seated inside the Mayrose café, doing their scene.
The technician asked pedestrians gawking at the flashing lights and equipment to look away from the flashing lights and equipment. Office-drone smokers were acceptable, but could not look at the cameras.
“What movie is it?” demanded Mr. Novelo.
“The Devil Wears Prada.”
“Who’s in it?”
“Meryl-Streep-but-she’s-not-here-today,” said the P.A.
“You shut down two or three blocks just to film the extras?” Mr. Novelo asked in disbelief.
“Don’t yell at me!” countered the crewman, intercepting more unsuspecting pedestrians.
“This is bullshit,” Mr. Novelo said. “This morning I was going to this power meeting— with Verizon Wireless—and one of those guys walked up to me and pushed me back to stop me!”
It was now 5 p.m., almost rush hour.
“Forget about me smoking—whaddya gonna do, stop New York City at rush hour?” he growled.
Nearby, a small crowd of smokers passed the time in speculation about the self-presentation of Mr. Grenier’s sexuality. “It’s the T-shirt,” said one.
A line of extras next to Mayrose had waited patiently since 8:30 a.m. to mindlessly walk back and forth in front of the café’s glossy windows. Tobin Tyler reclined outside, dressed in a white button-down shirt and jeans. “That’s a tough job,” he said, gesturing to another crewmember trying to divert city traffic away from the shooting site. “I mean, you gotta tell New Yorkers they can’t go down their street?” He shook his head.
Nearby, Carol, an up-and-coming actress in jeans and a striped blazer, rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe it’s after 4 and we’re still shooting this same scene.” Her feet were clad in gleaming black Nikes.
“I paid $100 for these sneakers on my break,” she said. “I couldn’t stand in those heels anymore. None of the shots are gonna show my feet, so what do they care?”
Robbie Bryan and Tim Miller, both dressed N.Y.C.-casual in slacks and jackets, were called to walk in front of the window where the characters are sitting and drinking coffee.
“CUT!” yelled the frumpy woman wearing a production badge. “RESET!”
Messrs. Bryan and Miller came back, and walked behind Carol around the corner again. And again. And again.
“Your mind’s a little jellylike,” said Bryan after the umpteenth take, “doing the same thing over and over all day.”
“It could be worse. We could be digging ditches.”
A teenage girl with curly black hair wrapped in a pink bandana stood on the corner, dressed in baggy orange cords and a denim jacket. “Are they filming a commercial?”
It’s a movie. The Devil Wears Prada.
“What? The devil wears what?”
“Who’s in it?”
Meryl Streep, but she’s not here. And that guy from Entourage.
She lost interest and ran off.
Another young New Yorker with shades perched in his black spiked hair paused to watch the action.
“What movie is this?”
The Devil Wears Prada.
“Who’s acting in it?”
“Is she here?”
No, she’s not here today.
“Who’re they?” he motioned to the actor and actress barely visible inside through the glare of the spotlights reflecting off the glass.
The guy from Entourage and the girl from The Princess Diaries.
He craftily sidled up to the window and snapped a couple of quick shots of the actors with his camera. He tipped a wink before running off to show his girlfriend. “I told her they were filming a movie here. She’s excited.”
Mr. Bryan came over and shook his head.
“Those are the stand-ins,” he said, nodding toward the terribly normal couple inside the coffee shop. “The actors are in their trailers, around the corner.”
Half A Wormy Apple
“I met Neil Rosen at a premiere party once,” the actor Jesse Eisenberg said. “It was kind of like meeting Santa Claus.” This makes Mr. Eisenberg the first up-and-coming actor to admit to being star-struck over a NY1 film critic and his Big Apple rating system.
Mr. Eisenberg slunk into the Regency Hotel’s Library lounge last week. He nervously ran one hand through unruly curls while clutching his tweedy jacket with the other, unconsciously doing a dead-on Woody Allen impression. The now-22-year-old (his birthday is the same as the release date for his new film, The Squid and the Whale, Oct. 5) is also startlingly honest. He disclosed his apartment’s location—Chelsea; the cost of his rent—“18-something”; and his girlfriend’s profession—nonprofit arts administrator. “Was it fun to do that movie? Not really,” he said of last winter’s Cursed, about a werewolf in Los Angeles. “I did it to make some money.”
Back in the 90’s, there was a better-known Eisenberg; Mr. Eisenberg’s curly-haired cutie sister, Hallie Kate, who starred in ubiquitous Pepsi commercials and charmed Jay Leno in Tonight Show appearances. “She’s cute and brilliant,” he shrugged. “Those Pepsi ads were kinda stupid, but she’s a lot smarter than me. I think she’ll end up being a doctor or something.”
“Jesse auditioned maybe nine or 10 times,” Noah Baumbach, director of The Squid and the Whale, had told The Transom earlier. “I kept hearing through the casting director via Jesse’s agent that he really wanted the part but kept feeling like he did terribly. I thought he was great. I just kept bringing him back because there’s a lot to the character and I wanted to make sure he could handle every aspect—which of course he could.”
“He said nine auditions?” Mr. Eisenberg asked. “I think it took maybe six or seven.” He grinned. “I really wanted the part—me and every other young actor who got to read the script.”
After The Squid and the Whale’s New York Film Festival premiere, Mr. Eisenberg would be flying back to L.A. to finish a limited run of Orphans, a small play co-starring Al Pacino. “Al Pacino. Fucking amazing, right?” It may transfer to Broadway this winter.
“I get offered money for movies sometimes, but I think there’s a direct science for how bad the movies are to what they want to pay you,” he said. “Al Pacino, he just made $10 million or something for that movie with Matthew McConaughey”—Two for the Money—“but then he gets to do a play. I don’t think I’ve reached the point where I can do that. His crappy movie still might be my good movie, you know?” He smiled. “He gets the cream of the crop of crap.”
And Happy New Year
When the Nation of Islam enters the room, two things come immediately to mind. They will, hands down, win the best-dressed award. Also, one wonders: Who else these days brings such a frisson of conflict to a party?
Longtime documentarian Marc Levin’s Protocols of Zion will open in New York on Oct. 21. The film tries to unravel what Mr. Levin sees as a resurgence of post-9/11 anti-Semitism, relating such sentiment to that old absurdity The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In fact, that infamous forgery turns 100 this year, but its dissemination hasn’t slowed, dovetailing nicely with an odd chestnut that 9/11 was part of a Zionist plot for world supremacy.
For a screening and party for the film, the 15th floor of the HBO building was saturated with producers, backers, publicists, invited guests, a few members of the press and black-tied waiters. And then the entourage of African-American men and one woman, half in crisply tailored suits, a few in berets and baggy green camouflage, stepped off the elevator.
Mr. Levin, the journeyman narrator, takes his audience on a whirlwind tour of Kabbalists, Arab-Americans, white supremacists and incarcerated Black Muslims. As a filmmaker, Mr. Levin is less self-righteous than Michael Moore—pure New Jersey where Mr. Moore mourns for Flint, Mich. He’s also a born schmoozer; he shook hands with any stranger he didn’t recognize. Tall and gray-haired in a light jacket and pink shirt, he played part idealist, part P.T. Barnum (“Obviously,” he said later, “you want people to pay and go see the movie”). His vocabulary is pure Hollywood, while his accent is undeniably across-the-Hudson. He says fun things, like “wake up, baby” and “putting strychnine in the Kool-Aid.”
And Protocols of Zion is begging for controversy. The film’s poster shows the burning World Trade Center—the two towers are stacks of leather-bound copies of the inflammatory booklet. Asked about it later, Mr. Levin said, “I don’t want to, you know, offend any of the families of the victims. At the same time, this isn’t just history, some crazy book written a hundred years ago. It came back to me in the wake of 9/11, when somebody said, ‘You know that, that, which was written a hundred years ago, came true on 9/11, and the Jews were behind it, and that no Jews died …. ’ So the fact that yes, it’s sensitive, it’s provocative, but I think it’s legitimate.”
It was announced that HBO Documentary and Family president Sheila Nevins was home sick. “Yeah, right,” mumbled one of the militants. Of course, the evening could have been more entertaining, but the various prison inmates interviewed in the film were obviously also unable to attend. Still, when the post-film Q&A began, the room had a noticeable air of expectation.
“One flaw I found in the film,” said Malik Zulu Shabazz, chairman of the New Black Panther Party, to the tense room, “was just the use of the word ‘Semite.’ It conveyed to the audience that only Semites are Jews …. Which raises a whole other question on the origin of Judaism and ignores that fact completely that it originally comes from Africa, and the current population of Israel, mainly from Europe, are Ashkenazi Jews.” At least one man, a few rows down, visibly displayed his displeasure. With glasses and a bald spot, a light blue open-necked shirt and blazer, he turned around half out of his seat and shook his head angrily. He mouthed what looked like “No way,” but may, of course, have been much dirtier.
Mr. Shabazz is a tall and imposing man; after the panel, in his dark suit and glasses, he spoke firmly, but with impeccable politeness: “I think it has been an education,” but “we need a deeper analysis than merely saying that the Jewish community is hated because they’re Jewish. There are legitimate grievances by black people and by Arab people about what has been done to them by members of the European Jewish community.”
O.K., so far we’re talking. And the Protocols pamphlet? “I have no idea,” said Mr. Shabazz, “whether it is true or false.” Eric Ture Muhammad, executive director of the Black African Holocaust Council, also voiced his suspicions. “I have no proof,” he said, “that it’s a fabrication. I’m not here to say that I believe in it. However, it is uncanny how so many similarities in terms of what we see in the world today fit those protocols.” O.K., less constructive.
And what about the bizarre and persistent rumor that no Jews died in the World Trade Center? Here Professor Leonard Jeffries stepped in. A smaller, older man with a mustache and a kufi hat, Dr. Jeffries was famously demoted from his chairmanship of the CUNY black-studies department. “That’s not even a question to respond to,” he insisted. Pressed by an intrepid AP reporter, Dr. Jeffries stood firm. “Well, they’re gonna twist it, whatever we say. That’s a crap question.” But Mr. Shabazz shrugged off this advice, talking over Dr. Jeffries. “I don’t know,” he said, “I don’t know, I don’t have enough research on that.”
Mr. Levin was happy to end the evening with the glass half full. Here he was, after all, hosting a room full of Jews and militant black Muslims, and “Nobody panicked, you know. Because the fear, is it gonna turn into a freak show, and chairs thrown and people hitting each other? You know, whatever: the Geraldo syndrome.” Of course, black nationalists may be the least of his problems. “Come tomorrow night,” Mr. Levin teased. “The J.D.L.”—the Jewish Defense League—“is going to be here.”