Clarissa’s California Payload
When Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his family started spending more and more time on the West Coast, word was that the chief executive of the Seagram Company had descended into the Hollywood trenches to ensure that his decision to acquire MCA Inc. would eventually pay off. (In 1995, Seagram sold its 25 percent stake in E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company for $8.7 billion to make the deal; today, that block of stock would be worth about $20 billion.) Mr. Bronfman’s decision to stick to one coast may be more than simply a business decision, however. The Transom hears that Mr. Bronfman’s Venezuelan wife, Clarissa Alcock, is once again pregnant, and this time with twins.
When Mrs. Bronfman was anticipating the couple’s son, Aaron Edgar, who was born in September 1996, she was confined to bed for a portion of her pregnancy, and Mr. Bronfman rarely left Gotham. But moving the brood out to Malibu this time, where the couple is said to be renting a house from the comedian Bob Newhart, seems to work for both husband and wife. Mr. Bronfman can keep his eye on Universal, and Mrs. Bronfman doesn’t have to lug her precious payload up and down a lot of New York stairways.
The cast and crew of Jacob the Liar traveled to the Polish city of Lodz to make a movie about the Holocaust and found that not much had changed in 50 years.
The film stars Robin Williams as a Jew hiding from the Nazis in World War II Poland who rescues a young girl (played by Hannah Taylor Gordon) after her family has been arrested. The production arrived in Lodz during the high holy days to find that the town’s only synagogue had been defaced with such anti-Semitic graffiti as “Jews go back to Auschwitz.” Distressed by what they saw, according to one source close to the situation, members of the cast, including Mr. Williams, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Alan Arkin, Nina Siemaszko, Bob Balaban and Liev Schreiber, marked Yom Kippur by joining the 30 or so Jews of the town for Kol Nidre service on the night of Oct. 10. (The service apparently was presided over by an American rabbi who travels from synagogue to synagogue in Poland to help make up for the dearth of rabbis there.)
But Michael Umble, the unit publicist for the film, told The Transom that the actors were not trying to make “a political statement.” Said Mr. Umble, “Their going to that service was not in reaction to the condition of the synagogue. They didn’t go because the place had been vandalized. They went just to attend the service there.”
As he sat in a booth in the nightclub called Life, Burt Reynolds looked as if he had been digitally inserted, Forrest Gump-style, into the party that surged around him. A few feet away, style consultant Ingrid Casares was rubbing the small of actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s back. Billionaire Ronald Perelman was negotiating the masses with his ex-wife, Claudia Cohen. Director Penny Marshall was there, too, as was model Christie Brinkley, her eyes opened extra-wide, as if her thyroid were acting up.
There was something desperately modern about these people as they cajoled their way through the masses celebrating the premiere of Boogie Nights . Mr. Reynolds was different. His laid-back attitude, his satyr’s smile, his expensive, embroidered, black-on-black western shirt, that glorious toupee. All reeked of the 70’s, the time in which Mr. Reynolds’ image seems to have been hermetically sealed. Even if you consider Evening Shade (or especially if you consider Evening Shade ), it’s as if he ceased to exist post- Smokey and the Bandit .
Timing is everything, though, and Mr. Reynolds has been freed from his suspended animation-by playing a 70’s pornographer named Jack Horner!-at a moment when popular culture has gone gaga for 70’s nostalgia. And on this evening of Oct. 9, some partygoers were gazing upon Mr. Reynolds with the same expression that Laura Dern used when she spied her first brontosaurus in Jurassic Park .
The actor was clearly enjoying the attention, patiently answering questions, posing for photos with fans and signing autographs. Asked if he, too, was nostalgic for the 70’s, Mr. Reynolds smiled. “It was a great time for me. It was the height of my career,” he said. With hits like Cannonball Run , the actor remembered that “I was No. 1 at the box office for like five years.”
“It’s a lot different now,” the actor added, noting the difference between appealing to Midwestern tastes with a tire-squealer like Smokey and being in one of the tent-post films at the New York Film Festival.
Are the groupies now any different, The Transom asked. Mr. Reynolds ducked his head and smiled his smile. “Maybe their I.Q.’s are higher,” he replied.
“The audience tonight was ahead of us,” he said, wondering aloud how audiences outside of the big cities, the audiences that came to see him the last time mutton-chop sideburns were in, would react to Boogie Nights .
Would this play in Jupiter, we asked, the Florida town where Mr. Reynolds used to own a regional theater. “I really don’t know,” said the actor. “I just hope that people realize this is not about pornography. It’s about people who are damaged goods. People who are crying out for help” and looking to form the surrogate family that they never had.
“People like Howard Rodman,” Mr. Reynolds said, illustrating his point.
“Howard Rodman,” he said again.
Did he mean, Crayola-haired Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman, The Transom asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “Dennis Rodman.”
Partying With Jonathan Fire Eater
“Oh, there’s a party? What kind of party?” asked the blue-blazered Swedish tourist, trapped with her polite father and a pile of shopping bags at the Windows on the World bar on Oct. 13. Sid Vicious’ version of “My Way” was blaring, and the Swedes hunched their backs-as if they were emerging from a helicopter-against the sonic assault.
The tourists had dallied too long over drinks, and now they found themselves in the middle of a developing album release party for Jonathan Fire Eater, five delicate, expensively educated, well-bred young men who got a bunch of money dumped on them by Dreamworks Records and are riding the updraft of extreme publicity to wherever it may take them. So many had heard of the band without ever hearing its music.
They lived here for a while, on dark, dirty Suffolk Street on the Lower East Side, where they worked at Kim’s Video, dressed alike in tight black vintage clothes, read Céline, got on and off heroin, and perfected a kind of sharp, repetitive, Sam the Sham and the Pharoah-esque sound that compelled a major-label bidding war and gave them enough leverage to sign a contract that excuses them from making videos.
“Thank you for your patience, friends, family, one and all,” slurred Stewart Lupton, the 22-year-old lead singer, looking sweaty and wasted in a striped French sailor’s shirt. To the right of the stage, the sulfur-yellow streetlight grid of New Jersey spread off across the Hudson.
Their parents were there, in a booth in the back; moms pensive, dads trying to look bemused. Friends from St. Albans prep school were there, ferrety in sports jackets and ties. But mostly the audience was drawn from the exactingly styled downtown ecology.
Mr. Lupton spun around his microphone, holding on with alarming desperation as Jonathan Fire Eater worked its way through the set in front of a strung-up tinsel curtain. The lead singer raised his puny fist in the air. His eyes rolled up into his head. The dads made little, ironic, boogying finger gestures to the moms to cheer them up in the face of Mr. Lupton’s passionate unwholesomeness. But everyone else was having a great time.
The Transom Also Hears …
What does the Walt Disney Company’s hiring of Henry Kissinger mean for the former Secretary of State’s television exposure? Disney looked to Mr. Kissinger’s international consulting firm, Kissinger & Associates, after the Chinese Government, angry over Kundun , the studio’s upcoming Martin Scorsese-directed movie about the Dalai Lama, banned any future Disney ventures there. The Chinese occupy Tibet and do not recognize the Dalai Lama as the country’s spiritual leader.
With the topic of Western entertainment companies trying to make inroads in China sure to be a newsworthy one, the question is whether Disney-owned ABC News will place a moratorium on using Kissinger as an on-camera expert on the subject. If not, will it identify its parent company’s business relationship with him? ABC News spokesman Martin Blair told The Transom that Mr. Kissinger’s Disney job “wouldn’t rule him out” as an on-air commentator, but added, “it wouldn’t necessarily rule him in, either.” He added that “if he’s coming on our shows to talk about China, it would make sense to identify what he does.” If, however, Mr. Kissinger were talking about “his Vietnam experience,” Mr. Blair said that he didn’t think that full disclosure would be necessary.
The Transom can be reached by confidential e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Public relations pitches are not welcome.