The Transom

Running After Luck

Cyndi Lauper avoids red wine. It turns her teeth an unsightly hue, she said. Someone handed her a goblet of the stuff shortly after she arrived at Tony’s Di Napoli restaurant on 43rd Street on the night of Friday, March 24. She accepted it with grace—but then, in a slick maneuver involving a dip, a smile and a swivel, she slipped it to Alan Cumming. “Honey, can you please take this?” she said to him softly, their faces very close. The glass passed from him into the charge of a third party and Ms. Lauper and Mr. Cumming hugged.

At 52, Ms. Lauper’s smooth alabaster complexion and narrow figure allow her to wear such a thing as a blouse cut all over with revealing eyelets and still make a fine entrance. Though she’s acted on-screen before and won an Emmy, this revival of Threepenny Opera marks her debut on Broadway, hence tonight’s party in honor.

“She’s sort of ageless,” said Alan Markinson, theater manager of the Helen Hayes Theatre, whose own playhouse is currently running Sarah Jones’ Bridge and Tunnel.

“She’s got that great role of Jenny the prostitute,” said Ms. Lauper’s cast mate, Brian Butterick. “It’s definitely not an ingénue role; it’s a woman of experience.”

Ms. Lauper’s portrait had been painted by resident caricaturist Daniel May for the occasion; it was in a nook of the room, draped in velvet. Later, it would be unveiled and fastened to the establishment’s fabled wall of fame, alongside past Broadway queens.

“I’m in awe of this picture business,” Mr. Butterick said. “Twenty years ago, I bought a picture of Brecht and put it on my wall. I’m a real Brecht wanker.” Carlos Leon, also a cast member, sat at the same table. He wore a beard and a leather wristband.

“I play a guy called Charles Filtch,” Mr. Leon said. “He’s one of Peachum’s beggars. We all beg in our life somehow, so you can always work on that.”

Will Lola—Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, Mr. Leon’s daughter with Madonna—be attending the show?

“I see her all the time,” he said. “I’m a very active father.”

This must be difficult, what with she being in London and he in New York.

“Well, that works easily,” he said. “I mean, if you’re a good father, you make the effort to see your child. No matter what. Even if she’s in Finland, it doesn’t matter—or Australia, which is 10,000 miles away. I would go see her because she’s my daughter. I love her. That’s the way it’s going to stay.”

And how would he describe his relationship with Madonna?

“Madonna’s a great friend of mine.”

Had he heard the whispers that her passion for England—and her English husband—were on the wane?

“I don’t believe any of it. Her husband’s amazing, by the way. He’s an amazing guy, so they make an amazing couple.”

“I loooove playing your music,” crooned radio personality Valerie Smaldone, the night’s hostess, from the front of the room. She introduced Ms. Lauper as a “hometown girl” from Queens—who needed a reminder?—and herself as hailing from the Bronx. “Big up the borough girls!” she said. Ms. Lauper approached the mike and said a quick thank you. Hearing her thick Queens cadences fill the room, everyone laughed warmly.

Unveiled, the portrait showed Ms. Lauper, head several sizes bigger than her body, kneeling in a long red dress and light-blue Dorothy-from-Kansas shoes. On the ground before her were a few pennies spilled from a tiny pouch.

“Oh, it’s great!” said a tall man, drink in hand. “But the body’s scaring me a little bit.”

—Nicholas Boston

Shrunk

Huff stars Hank Azaria as another one of those analysts who are put upon by life, so, at Showtime’s second-season premiere party, Bob Balaban was taking a minute to discuss mental hygiene.

“Therapy’s really interesting,” Mr. Balaban said into a breadstick microphone he had just used on Oliver Platt. “Network television never, ever, ever has shows about therapy.”

Does Mr. Balaban watch network television? “No.”

Does he remember a show called Frasier? “Two or three really successful shows about therapists,” he said, “and now there won’t be any more, because people in television think everything is the same.”

Just then David Hyde Pierce appeared in the distance. He was talking colorfully to an alm

ost-recognizable young man—the party, held in the lobby of the Museum of Television and Radio, was full of them—about a play he attended with Baz Luhrmann, and how they started a standing ovation at the end because what the hell was the rest of the audience thinking? “It was fucking great,” he said.

Mr. Pierce stars with Mr. Azaria in Spamalot. Other cast members were in attendance to show their support, as were David Schwimmer, Fred Armisen and Oliver Platt’s parents, whom he hustled past Mr. Balaban just before the start of the premiere. Mr. Balaban, in green Merino wool and tortoise-shell glasses, was unruffled.

“I believe that a good therapist is like a good anybody,” Mr. Balaban said. “They’re well trained, except they have a gift. If you really have a gift, you probably don’t have to go to school for it. And if you don’t have a gift, you can study for a million years and get a million degrees and still be a bad doctor. And that’s my theory of the universe.”

—Rebecca Dana

People Disappear Every Day

At 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 25, on the eighth floor of Macy’s in the human-resources department, the first job interview began. The candidate, a woman from Arkansas, walked through the maroon door marked “Training Room B” as the lenses of two cameras followed her. Inside the room were: Parsons fashion-department chair Tim Gunn; Project Runway Season 2 runner-up Daniel Vosovic; Elle editor Joann Pailey; and Gen Art fashion director Mary Gehlhar.

The first candidate was but the first to disappoint.

“Today’s a desert, to be honest,” Mr. Gunn said later on his lunch break. He had seen and rejected nearly 60 hopefuls. “If I were a good, young designer and I were confident about my abilities, I wouldn’t have come here at 2 o’clock in the morning and stood in line. It demonstrates that I’m committed, I’m eager, and I really want this badly—but for me, that’s compensating for things that they don’t have. And that’s really what we’re seeing today: things they don’t have.”

The average waiting time was four and a half hours for Project Runway Season 3 contestants to either a) defend their work in front of the panel for two minutes, b) walk into the room and get rejected before even reaching the “T” taped to the carpet, or c) get rejected at the pre-screening table, never making it before Mr. Gunn’s intimidating gaze.

Sidney Maresca had arrived at 7:30 a.m., followed by her three models, friends of hers. They changed clothes at Dunkin’ Donuts and joined Sidney on line. She did their makeup. One wore a strapless evening gown made of men’s suiting with a flowing aqua chiffon band beneath the bust. Another wore a bright purple knee-length satin dress with knotted straps and exposed hot-pink satin lining. The last wore a black suit jacket and dark green skirt with a heavy multicolored bobble-bead choker.

How long had Ms. Maresca been preparing for this?

“My entire life,” she said. Her own label, in existence since 2001, was “on hiatus” while she paid off debts and regained financing. She works now as an administrative assistant at a cosmetics company.

“I don’t watch the show because I don’t have cable—I can’t afford it,” she said.

That might not be a bar to entry. Mr. Gunn and Mr. Vosovic agreed that the recipe for a Project Runway cast member has four main ingredients: a passion for fashion, experience, talent and personality.

“I want to be excited when you walk into this room,” said Mr. Vosovic. He deserved it; it was his birthday. “You have to be excited for this, because this is what you do. Especially in Project Runway—it beats the hell out of you, believe me.”

Fully recovered from the disappointment and surprise of losing the show’s second season, Mr. Vosovic said he now has “a lot of offers on the table.” And, yes, he did call Michael Kors after the show, as Mr. Kors requested in the season finale, and even interviewed, but so far nothing’s been “cemented.”

“I wanted to see what he was offering, and to see not only if I would be good for their company, but if they would be good for me. So if he did offer, I’d have to see what else there is. But it’s a great offer—I can’t deny that,” he said. “In the next few weeks, I hope to have a job solidified.”

The other side of the audition-room wall looked like Disney World: a long line snaking through elastic ropes and peppered with characters. One young designer wore a backless and hooded black trash bag and ripped black tights. He was accompanied by two hipster-goth models, and all three wore matching makeup with heavy fuchsia body glitter.

“What do I do?!” he cried. He had realized he was next in line for the pre-screening. Since they had so much “personality,” he and his models had skipped the pre-test.

“Stay where you are,” said a crewmember. They plopped down in the dingy black chairs of the next holding area. One model started talking to another designer to her right.

“Do you remember [Daniel] talking about Santino? And he was playing with the spoon and the yogurt? I’m just like, ‘I hate you!’”

“This place is tapped, don’t you know?!” interjected Black Trash Bag. He gasped as he watched the contestant ahead of him get wired for the audition room. “The mike’s going to rip my garment!”

A crewmember hurried over with a small camera—footage for the Internet, a Bravo spokeswoman explained.

Black Trash Bag and his two models, all three of them Parsons students, were not camera-shy. “We love you, Tim!” they called to the camera, making heart shapes with their hands.

A bit later, Black Trash Bag emerged from the audition room—his “garment” was unharmed—angrily placing one foot in front of the other, as if the eighth floor of Macy’s were his catwalk. A maroon ruffled corduroy mini-dress on one of his models was now growing a hole at the seam.

“Daniel’s like, ‘How are you going to make your vision?’” Black Trash Bag explained to another rejected designer on the safety of the seventh floor. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t want a vision—I want art.’ And then they’re like, ‘Well, you’re not here for the right reasons.’ I’m like ‘Great! Bye!’”

“‘Keep working’—that’s what Tim said to me,” the designer replied. “Ugh, whatever. One of the ladies, that lady on the far left—”

“That blond bitch?” asked the model in the ripping dress, referring to the Elle editor.

“She was like, ‘You’re definitely not equipped for this.’”

“She’s just mad because she’s a junior assistant at Donna Karan.”

“And I was like, ‘Thanks,’” Designer No. 2 said sarcastically. “And Daniel’s like, ‘Thank you for being so pleasant,’ and I was like, ‘No problem.’ But then my stupid microphone popped out of my back, like, on the way out, and I’m like, ‘Oh, now they’re going to show me like, “O.K., we thought he was cool doing the show, and then his microphone’s hanging from his ass cheeks.’”

—Amy Odell