Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein is a pretty sexy guy to begin with, but as a political ally, he’s goddamned Warren Beatty. And right now, Democratic Senatorial hopeful Charles Schumer must feel like freakin’ Annette Bening.
Mr. Schumer, who has quit biding his time as a U.S. Representative, recently found out that his camp has landed Mr. Weinstein in his battle to upset New York’s junior Senator, Alfonse D’Amato, come election time.
“Harvey Weinstein has offered to help in a significant way,” Mr. Schumer told The Transom. “When he told me, it didn’t make my day. It made my month.”
Mr. Schumer declined to be more specific about how Mr. Weinstein would assist his campaign; he first must defeat New York City Public Advocate Mark Green and former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in the primary in September. A source close to Mr. Weinstein did, however, say that the Miramax co-chairman’s role would extend beyond contributing to Mr. Schumer’s war chest.
Mr. Weinstein could be a valuable asset on several fronts. Via Miramax, he and his brother Bob Weinstein gave $588,500 in soft money to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Committee in the 1995-96 campaign cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.
In addition, Mr. Weinstein commands a veritable promotional army at Miramax, and he also works tirelessly to schmooze and forge relationships with Hollywood’s hot properties, such as Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow and Good Will Hunting stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Mr. Weinstein could use his influence in the celebrity world to populate Schumer fund-raisers with famous faces. (Sure beats having drinks with Bella Abzug.) There’s also that private jet, which Mr. Weinstein has been known to offer to his friends.
Mr. Weinstein’s decision to put his considerable weight behind Mr. Schumer is interesting given that his primary competitor, Mr. Green, seems to have better luck at drawing the Hollywood crowd. Paul Newman, Carly Simon, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, and Universal Studios chairman and chief executive Frank Biondi are among those behind the Public Advocate, while Democratic perennials like Dustin Hoffman and Alec Baldwin seem to be the only current celebrities behind Mr. Schumer.
The source close to Mr. Weinstein said, “Harvey has a lot of respect for both men, but the bottom line is he thinks Chuck can beat D’Amato.”
Word in political circles is that Mr. Weinstein may have arrived at this decision with help from his college roommate, Dennis Ward, who is the Democratic Party chairman for the town of Amherst, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo. Mr. Ward’s brother, Dan, is a Buffalo town council member. Mr. Ward functions as kind of a political consigliere and occasional dinner date-with the likes of Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas-for Mr. Weinstein. In April 1996, Mr. Ward accompanied Mr. Weinstein to a dinner at the White House that the President and Mrs. Clinton held for Italy’s President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.
-With Tish Durkin
Cindy’s Still a Bit Afraid
Back on Oct. 21, 1996, David Letterman looked over at the extremely obvious and dark eye-makeup that his guest, model Cindy Crawford, was sporting and asked her when the bruises would go away. Mr. Letterman has long since apologized, and Ms. Crawford has resumed appearing on the show. Still, the ego-bruising that Mr. Letterman inflicted that night left a mark. “Unfortunately, if you’ve been burned like I was burned on that show once, you don’t go in with the same sense of fun,” Ms. Crawford told The Transom during intermission at the Feb. 12 premiere of Freak , John Leguizamo’s one-man show at the Cort Theater. She had appeared on Mr. Letterman’s show the previous night. “You’ve got your armor on around [Mr. Letterman] because you don’t wanna get screwed, and it blocks the rapport.”
According to a newspaper report at the time of the faux pas, Mr. Letterman’s “bruises” crack caused Ms. Crawford to shed some post-show tears and to vow that she would never be a Late Show guest again. But the talk-show host then managed to coax her back on to the show on March 19, 1997, so that he could publicly apologize to her. He also sent the former Mrs. Richard Gere flowers.
Ms. Crawford’s impression of Mr. Letterman is that “he’s really smart, and I always like smart people. But … I’ve been on that show 10 times, and I don’t know him personally. He doesn’t come back and talk to you, like, before the show, so … what you see is what you get.”
A Late Show spokesman said, “The show is thrilled with Cindy and would love to have her back whenever she’s willing to come back.” Indeed, the spokesman said that Ms. Crawford had been invited to make a cameo appearance on Feb. 20.
Moon Over Hammerstein
In 1998 New York, getting a group of celebrity women to perform a collection of monologues about female genitals is a piece of cake. Finding a politically correct space in which to hold the event is another story.
When it was announced that an all-star female cast would gather for V-Day 98, a Valentine’s Day performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues to benefit a number of charities that combat violence against women and girls, some strictly P.C. types couldn’t help but notice the choice of venue. The Hammerstein Ballroom, in which the event took place, is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The property is leased from the church by an entity called One Up Enterprises, which rents out the space for concerts and recordings. (A spokesman said that because of the space’s exceptional acoustics, the New York Philharmonic rehearses there, and Luciano Pavarotti has recorded in the hall’s studio with the New York Metropolitan Opera. The spokesman added that the score for the upcoming film Primary Colors was also recorded there.)
Willa Shalit, who produced V-Day, told The Transom that the site’s link to the Moonies is “something we were aware of.” She also said that one of the night’s performers, actress Susan Sarandon, had expressed some concern about it as well, but ultimately decided to go on with the show. Ms. Shalit, who is the daughter of Today show movie reviewer Gene Shalit, explained that the ballroom was one of the few venues available that would hold 2,000 people, their target audience. She said the group had also looked at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, but it was not available. Besides, said Ms. Shalit, “if you trace the ownership of any of these buildings to the source, you will find something, quote, politically incorrect, unquote, about them.” She then offered that Radio City Music Hall “is owned by G.E., which makes military arms.” Actually, Radio City and the 11 other buildings comprised by historic Rockefeller Center are owned by a group of investors that includes Goldman, Sachs & Company and Tishman Speyer Properties, but not the General Electric Company. “We decided we were comfortable,” said Ms. Shalit. When the issue did arise with potential ticket buyers, “we said, If that’s what your conscience says, then don’t buy a ticket.”
A spokesman for Ms. Sarandon said that the actress “did not find out about this until the last minute, and at that point her commitment to the event was important enough that she didn’t remove herself from it.” Still, said the spokesman, “She didn’t think it was necessarily the most appropriate venue.”
The church’s recruitment techniques have come under fire in the past. In one lawsuit brought against the church by former members, for example, its indoctrination methods were likened to those used on prisoners of war. In 1986, the State Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out the lawsuit, noting that although the church’s “beguiling and very intensive recruiting methods … seem objectionable to us,” the church was protected by the First Amendment.
It seems that in the end, the Hammerstein Ballroom’s charms outweigh the aggressively unliberal politics of its owners. According to a ballroom spokesman, the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center didn’t bat an eye at the Moonies’ antigay stance when it rented out the facilities for a dance last October. The organization has scheduled another dance at Hammerstein in March.
On Valentine’s Day, actress Hazelle Goodman touched herself and moaned with pleasure. She did this while wearing a curve-accentuating red dress and standing before a live audience of approximately 2,000.
This was not Show World. This was V-Day (see item above), and Ms. Goodman (she played the happy hooker in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry ) was in good company. She was one of a female celebrity contingent that included Glenn Close, Lily Tomlin and Susan Sarandon, who had come together to perform portions of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues .
Ms. Goodman’s performance of her particular vignette of “vaginal wonder”-as Ms. Ensler called them-about a 13-year-old girl who is seduced by a 24-year-old secretary, was particularly realistic. And at the post-performance party, she acknowledged that her mojo had indeed been working. “One of the things Eve said was, ‘Just surrender,'” Ms. Goodman told The Transom. “Once I surrendered, I kind of, you know, almost went there.”
Offstage, Ms. Goodman was still engorged with ideas about her subject. “All the life that exists on the planet came forth from the vagina,” she said, still wearing her sexy red dress. “When you own your vagina, you own all of you. Not only seeing it as a sex object, but also as a center for creativity and genius and excellence and all that it is. The penis just kind of hangs out waiting for a vagina-it can’t do nothin’ without a vagina.” Given the current popular discourse about “blowjobs” (and then, on Feb. 15, Mike Wallace upped that ante by saying the word “pussy” on 60 Minutes! ), some people might not agree with Ms. Goodman’s last assertion. But in an old-fashioned, missionary-style way, she had a good point.
Ms. Goodman said she thought New York was the perfect city for the extravaganza, which raised money for organizations working to combat violence against women. “Here, people are much more loose and open and ready to talk about their vaginas,” she said. “In other places, the vagina is still under lock and key.”
Actor Matt Damon was a sponsor of the event, and he brought his mom, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, to see the performance. She agreed that most people are not comfortable talking openly about the V-word-especially kids. As a professor of early childhood education at Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass., she was pleased to see Hannah Ensler-Rivel-Ms. Ensler’s 8-year-old niece-tell the audience that if her vagina could get dressed, it would wear “red high-tops and a Mets cap worn backwards” and that it smelled like “snowflakes.”
“It’s actually extremely healthy and wonderful to ask little girls and little boys about their genitals,” said Ms. Carlsson-Paige. ” That little girl was really comfortable with knowing about her body and being able to say ‘vagina’ and being able to talk about it like a snowflake and feel like she owned it. It’s really beautiful to see, actually.”
Ms. Carlsson-Paige added, “Our home life has always been very open.” The freshly Hollywood-hatched Mr. Damon nodded in agreement with his mom’s assessment and smiled.
The Transom Also Hears
… Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes once produced Tomorrow With Tom Snyder , so there had to be some shtick involved in his Feb. 14 City Hall wedding to television consultant Elizabeth Tilson. The Transom hears that when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who officiated, asked the attending crowd if they had any objections to the impending union, both Hizzoner and Mr. Ailes peered out into the crowd, where a number of hands were ascending. After Mr. Ailes wagged his finger at the troublemakers in the audience, one attendee recalled Mr. Giuliani saying to the groom: “I don’t see anything.” To which Mr. Ailes replied: “Good,” and the ceremony resumed. Cocktails followed in the rotunda at City Hall. Those in attendance included Fox News Channel senior vice president Chet Collier (who gave Mr. Ailes his first job on The Mike Douglas Show ), ABC’s Barbara Walters, Senator John Warner, News Corporation senior vice president Eric Breindel, Bush White House senior aide Jim Pinkerton and Rupert Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch.