Gore Campaign Shocker!

Gore Campaign Shocker!

The night before Vice President Al Gore walked through a service

entrance and into a private room at the Four Seasons restaurant on East

52nd Street, Barbara Walters had interviewed Monica Lewinsky on prime time

and left some of us with the realization that an irrevocable change in our

culture had occurred. We had watched Ms. Lewinsky coquettishly discuss sex

and orgasm with the President. We had talked about her teeth and her

sensuous lips and joked about the roll of flesh that was visible between

the parted coattails of her shirt. Yet, what was generally absent from Ms.

Lewinsky’s performance and our reaction to it was the one emotion that

has been inextricably entwined with scandal since this country began:

shame. On March 3, Ms. Lewinsky proved that shame, the analog-age

sentiment, has no place in the digital era of opportunity and wealth.

So, credit Mr. Gore with good timing. The following day at the Four

Seasons, the Presidential hopeful was the guest of honor at a luncheon

hosted by Roger Altman, Mr. Clinton’s former deputy Treasury Secretary

who is the improbable new owner of The National Enquirer and

Star magazine, the nation’s vivid supermarket retailers of

scandal and shame, and attended by a small group of the city’s

financial elite.

Ordinarily, The National Enquirer and the Star would bring

sniffs of derision from the meritocratic elite, and a political candidate

such as Mr. Gore would keep his distance, particularly since the

Star has been running Monica, Hillary and Bill stories with giddy

abandon. But Mr. Altman, whose Evercore Capital Partners purchased the

tabloids’ parent company, American Media Inc., in February, was a

member of the Clinton Administration and the group that he was hosting on

the afternoon of March 4 represented a bonanza of wealth and influence.

Among those who negotiated the maddening security (52nd Street between

Park and Lexington avenues was closed off, as was the restaurant’s

usual entrance) to dine on black bass with squid ink risotto with the Vice

President were American International Group’s chief executive, Hank

Greenberg, who seemed to arrive with a police escort; Jamie Dimon, former

president of Citigroup; Frank Savage, chairman of Alliance Capital

Management; Mortimer Zuckerman, owner of the New York Daily News ;

Lionel Pincus, chief executive of E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Company; Jon

Corzine, the departing co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Company; Jerry

Speyer, chairman of Tishman Speyer Properties; Ivan Seidenberg, chairman of

Bell Atlantic Corporation; Stan Shuman, executive vice president of Allen

& Company; Steven Rattner, deputy chief executive of Lazard

Frères & Company, and Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews

Hotels.

In January, The Washington Post identified Mr. Tisch and Mr.

Rattner, along with money manager Orin Kramer, as a “quasi

‘kitchen cabinet’ working behind the scenes virtually since

Clinton’s 1996 victory to help Gore meet and convert key players on

Wall Street.” (Those guests called by The Transom, including Mr.

Altman, either did not return calls or declined to comment for this

article. A spokesman for Mr. Gore also did not return a phone call.)

The private room used by this roundtable of powerful men overlooks the

Four Seasons’ Grill Room. Had he walked through the lunch crowd to get

to his destination, Mr. Gore would have encountered even more power and

influence. The Transom spied Seagram Company chief executive Edgar Bronfman

Jr. lunching up on the balcony. Below in the Grill Room were Blackstone

Group chairman Peter Peterson; real estate magnates Lew and Jack Rudin;

former Mayor Edward Koch, who sat with his former Parks Commissioner,

Elizabeth (Betsy) Gotbaum; GQ editor Art Cooper, who was lunching

with some writers; Condé Nast House & Garden editor

Dominique Browning with writer Jay McInerney.

One person who attended the Gore luncheon said that it was not a

fund-raiser, but rather an informational meeting where Mr. Gore spoke about

“his issues” regarding the economy, foreign policy and

technology. The source said that because he had not yet declared his

candidacy, Mr. Gore spoke in rather “elliptical” terms about the

upcoming Presidential race.

When Mr. Gore does declare his candidacy, no doubt some will question

his relationship with Mr. Altman, the new chief marketer of scandal and

shame. But nobody can question Mr. Altman’s sincerity. Who but a true

friend would throw his weight behind a candidate whose spectacularly

stultifying powers could create an anti-Clintonian New Age of Boredom that

could sink the very products for which Mr. Altman’s company just

ponied up $294 million?

Doin’ What Comes Naturally

At 9:30 P.M., Donald Trump was the first of the celebrities to clomp

down the long mirrored hallway into the dining room of Tavern on the Green

for the opening-night party for Annie Get Your Gun . Mr. Trump, who

never seems to go anywhere without a model on his arm, had arrived solo on

this evening of March 4 and found himself practically alone among the

stagecoach centerpieces and bandannas that decorated the restaurant’s

dining room.

As he stood at the buffet table and served himself a big-assed pile of

crispy shrimp, Mr. Trump christened the night with the first of many fatty

platitudes that the city’s first-nighters feel duty-bound to deliver

when the evening’s entertainment, food, drink and even photo

opportunities are compliments of the house.

“I had something else to do tonight, but I hear the show is

great!” Mr. Trump said, demonstrating that even though he had not seen

the performance, he was prepared to plug it. He then took his place at a

large, round table devoid of any other guests. There, he proceeded to eat

his shrimp, alone.

Mr. Trump was long finished with dinner by the time Annie let out

at 10 P.M. The celebrity quotient improved as actors Gregory Peck, Joel

Grey and Lauren Bacall, and pianist Bobby Short, arrived, each stopping

briefly at the entrance in front of a bank of corraled photographers. A few

lesser-known guests showed up in western wear, which, considering the

demographic of the crowd, endowed the room with a sort of middle-aged

Fievel Goes West feel. Those who hadn’t dressed for a hoedown

were given the option of wearing straw cowboy hats that had been laid at

each place setting. (The noncelebrity guests in the adjoining dining room

were provided with Indian headdresses.) Stern-countenanced designer Tommy

Hilfiger, who ate quietly and formally with his two children, did not wear

the hat. Ben Gazzara did, although the hat sat high on his head, making him

look like he was trying to summon his inner child. Mr. Short took a

practical tack. “I had a choice,” he told The Transom.

“Either wear the hat, or sit on the hat.” He wore the hat.

Mr.Grey did not. “I already went through that hat period,” he

said.

Barry Weissler, who produced the show with his wife, Fran Weissler,

stood in the middle of the dining room wearing a black sheriff’s

outfit and a silver star embossed with the word “Producer.”

“My wardrobe master from Chicago cooked this up for me,”

he explained. (Mr. Weissler produced that show as well.) Though it was only

about five hours before New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley

would refer to his show as “acrid smog,” Mr. Weissler exuded a

yogi’s serenity about the reviews. “We’re just fine, no

matter what happens,” he said. “We also did Grease with

Brooke Shields and Rosie O’Donnell. The reviews were horrible.

Horrible! They killed us, but it didn’t make any difference. That one

was reviewproof, too.”

Mr. Weissler didn’t have to worry about negative word-of-mouth in

this crowd. Guests were milling around enthusing about what they had just

seen. “Flawless, absolutely flawless,” Mr. Grey cooed about

Bernadette Peter’s performance as Annie Oakley.

“Terrific,” Art Buchwald said, mustering as much excitement as

one could expect from the slow-tongued columnist. “I’m going to

go get some food,” Mr. Buchwald said, edging away from his interviewer

and toward the brisket.

Mr. Gazzara, who was still wearing the child-size cowboy hat, said,

“I’d forgotten how enormously talented Irving Berlin is. Leaving

that theater not just whistling one tune, but about nine of them! It puts

Andrew Lloyd Webber in his place, doesn’t it?” Mr. Gazzara said,

his voice rising. “His musicals are made of one song. One song! If

that!”

Across the table from Mr. Trump, Danny Aiello leaned back in his chair,

and offered his own contribution to the Zolofty positivism of the evening.

“Oh, those potatoes. I had three helpings. You know, I’m not

supposed to eat them–the cream,” he said. “Did you try the

ham? Ooh.” Mr. Aiello should have sat next to Mr. Buchwald.

Wending her way among these tables of contented men, photographer Jill

Krementz (sans her husband Kurt Vonnegut Jr.) snapped away with an instant

camera. Ms. Krementz had planned to photograph the curtain call of the

show, but had some trouble locating the theater. “It’s so hard to

see the difference between 6 and 8 in the teeny little print in the paper.

Those little teeny numbers. they get littler every day,” she lamented.

“I went to 48th Street instead of 46th Street.” So Ms. Krementz

skipped the curtain call and came straight to the party.

When Ms. Peters and Mr. Wopat strolled into the dining room arm in arm,

the crowd gave them a standing ovation. Ms. Peters slowly ambled through

the crowd of stars, which pawed and patted her approvingly. Ms. Bacall held

Ms. Peters’ two hands and looked deeply into her eyes. Amy Irving

rubbed her back. Mr. Grey beamed. Brooke Shields hugged her and told her,

“You are unbelievable. It was so human. So fabulous.”

As Ms. Peters circumnavigated the lovefest, she looked to be on the

verge of tears. Somebody in the crowd told her she should sit down and have

a bite to eat. (Perhaps it was Mr. Aiello or Mr. Buchwald.) “No,”

Ms. Peters said, “I had a protein bar.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the dining room, Mr. Wopat–who

portrays drawling marksman Frank Butler in Annie Get Your

Gun –stood with his friends, who lacked the encounter-group

emotionality of Ms. Peters’ devotees. His supporters included the

actress Catherine Bach, who had titillated many a prepubescent boy as Daisy

Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard , where Mr. Wopat had portrayed Luke

Duke. Earlier in the evening, Ms. Bach had said that a deal had been inked

for yet another Dukes reunion show. She seemed excited to be going back to

Boss Hogg country.

Mr. Wopat might not be so atwitter. He visibly chafed when The Transom

observed that Mr. Wopat seems to play a lot of good ole boys. “Oh,

shit,” Mr. Wopat replied. “It all depends on what they need me

for. I’ve also done Guys and Dolls as a gambler and City of

Angels as a detective. I’ve done a lot of different things.”

Mr. Wopat looked further offended when the Transom asked him if he feared

that his Camels would get crushed in the back pocket of his jeans. “I

just try to keep them out of the pictures,” he said. Then he walked

away.

–Andrew Goldman

Basta! Ciprianis, Maccioni Settle Silent Feud

Father-son restaurateurs Arrigo and Giuseppe Cipriani have never

been known for their diplomatic skills. But now that they’ve had a

family-style portion of bad press and ill will dumped in their laps, could

they be trying to mend fences with one of the city’s most well-known

restaurateurs, Le Cirque 2000 owner Sirio Maccioni?

The Transom hears that the elder Mr. Cipriani may have offered an olive

branch to Mr. Maccioni in an attempt to end tension between the two Italian

restaurateurs that has existed since the reign of New York Times

food critic Bryan Miller. Back in 1987, Mr. Miller reviewed Harry Cipriani

and gave it a mere one star. An angry Mr. Cipriani retaliated by taking out

an ad in The Times charging that, essentially, a group of

“multi-star restaurant owners” had sicced Mr. Miller on the

Ciprianis.

Contacted by The Transom, Mr. Miller remembered that “there was

some implication that Sirio,” who is Italian but who operates a French

restaurant, “and the French [restaurant] mafia had somehow influenced

me to go get Cipriani. Which of course was absurd.” Mr. Miller also

recalled Mr. Cipriani being quoted in the press saying something like,

“I’m going to show New Yorkers real Italian food.” Mr.

Miller said, “Sirio, being Italian, thought it was a pompous thing to

say,” and remembered that “at the time, there was some bad

blood” between the two men. Mr. Miller said he had heard nothing about

the two men burying the hatchet, but, he added: “From the

outset,” he added, “they certainly weren’t friends.”

Mr. Maccioni, however, denied that there ever had been any feud between

him and the Ciprianis. “I never knew that we had a war,” Mr.

Maccioni told The Transom. “This is the first that I’ve heard

about it.”

A spokesman for the Ciprianis offered a similar statement from Giuseppe

Cipriani: “To his knowledge, his father and Sirio have always gotten

along, and Giuseppe personally respects what Sirio’s done in New

York.”

Michael and Me

Last summer, television sardonicus Michael Moore of Roger &

Me fame hired documentarian Alan Edelstein to help figure out a way to

drop television sets on Afghanistan for an upcoming series on the Bravo

channel called The Awful Truth . That stunt didn’t work out, and

neither did Mr. Edelstein’s gig as a producer for the show. He was

gone by September.

But soon enough, Mr. Edelstein, who snared an Academy Award nomination

for best documentary in 1986 for his profile of a Hawaiian steel guitar

virtuoso, started approaching Mr. Moore with a video camera. That led on

March 8 to seven hours of non-funny business at the Midtown North police

station: Mr. Edelstein was booked with trespassing and harassment for

making his “Michael & Me” video. Stalking? Not only was he

making art, contended Mr. Edelstein, he wasn’t even pettily copying

his former boss’s signature mise en scène ! Instead, he

was working on his own long-term project, a feature documentary about

himself and a friend that is loosely based on The Jazz Singer .

“It’s half a mocking self-portrait, and it’s half about a

friend of mine who became a Hasidic Jew. So it’s really a comparison

of our two daily lives, and one of the things that happened in my daily

life is this firing by Michael Moore, and I decided to include that in my

film,” said Mr. Edelstein.

Mr. Edelstein’s buddy movie will use some un-Moore-like subtlety:

“It’s a comparison of our lives and why we make the decisions

that we make. The overarching theme of it is repentance.”

Mr. Moore’s spokesman, Jennifer Suitor, said, “This is

actually the first I’ve heard about him making a personal documentary

on himself and a friend. And I think the problem we’ve had with him is

he’s shown up without a camera.”

Mr. Edelstein’s attorney replied that the filmmaker denies all the

charges and that Mr. Moore’s side had their details incorrect. The

filmmaker gets to pitch hisidea to the judge on April 12.

–Matt Fleischer

Gore Campaign Shocker!