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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.