Sweet and Sour at Elaine’s
It was Oscar night at Elaine’s, the night of the annual Entertainment Weekly party, and Tatum O’Neal wasn’t happy. Sitting at one of the many tables that were occupied mostly by rouge-cheeked journalists, second-tier actors and socially ambitious political types, Ms. O’Neal was watching the TV screen and spearing calamari with her fork. Geena Davis was hosting her pre-Oscar special on ABC, to which Ms. O’Neal sneered, “What is she doing ?” When actress Liv Tyler was being interviewed, Ms. O’Neal said, “It’s L.A.–there’s no style.”
If there was style at Elaine’s that night, it was the studiedly casual style of New Yorkers who wouldn’t dream of dressing up for an Oscar party but who also wouldn’t dream of staying home. Perhaps the greatest show of emotion came when Patricia Duff–involved in a nasty custody battle with billionaire Ronald Perelman and squired on Oscar night by her new beau, Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey–high-fived a friend when Judi Dench won the best supporting actress for her royal role in Shakespeare in Love . Otherwise, coolness prevailed. Indeed, when the TV sets suddenly went blank during Barbara Walters’ pre-Oscar interview with Susan Sarandon, no voice called out in complaint.
But the TVs were fixed in time for the actual awards ceremony, and a slight power haze had formed above the room. Keith Barish, a former owner of Planet Hollywood, dressed in black from head to toe, stood at the entrance, declared his position to be “the pneumonic spot” and ducked into the back of the restaurant. Time magazine’s managing editor, Walter Isaacson, tanned and wearing a bright blue shirt under a black sports coat, trailed Mr. Barish while puffing on a cigarette and stating, “I’m too short for parties of this size.” Alan (Ace) Greenberg, chairman of Bear, Stearns & Company Inc., came with his wife Kathryn Greenberg. Socialite Cari Modine showed up without husband Matthew Modine–she said he was in Florida filming Oliver Stone’s The League . The happiest-couple award went to Today ‘s Matt Lauer and his wife, model Annette Roque, who sat entwined, hands and lips locked for much of the evening. Director Robert Altman came late with his wife, Kathryn Altman. He sat next to Ms. O’Neal, who helped him fill out his Oscar ballot.
The category for best supporting actor was announced. When James Coburn’s face flashed on the screen, Mr. Altman softly said to Ms. O’Neal, “I think he’ll win.”
“But you didn’t vote for him,” reprimanded Ms. O’Neal.
“I know,” replied Mr. Altman. “But he’ll win.” He did. When the camera fell on nominee Geoffrey Rush, Mr. Altman said, ” He’s good,” with a confident nod of his head.
Nearby, Mr. Lauer was looking around the floor.
“Did you lose something?” The Transom asked.
“The ballot,” he replied. “We got a lot riding on this.”
“Not money,” replied Mr. Lauer, raising an eyebrow.
Ms. Duff, wearing a black satiny dress with a white, silver-sequined cashmere sweater tied around her neck, was making the rounds. She finagled her way through chairs and tables to the bar, where she hugged director James Toback. She caressed his beard as his hands moved up and down her satin-sheathed back. From her table Ms. O’Neal looked at Ms. Duff, and scoffed, “She fired my lawyer.”
In the room next door, Kevin Spacey held court with five women, including Linda Fiorentino, his co-star in the upcoming Ordinary Decent Criminal . He wore a white shirt and a black suit. One of the women opened her wallet and was slipping him some bills.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lauer and Ms. Roque continued their Oscar foreplay. Ms. O’Neal gestured toward Ms. Roque and commented, “She looks like she’s starving. It must be all their sex.” Then she dismissed the carnivorous couple with, “It’s all a big show.”
As waiters made their rounds with dessert, people started to peel off into the night. The awards for best picture and director had not yet been given out. Ms. O’Neal was staying put. Perhaps she was buzzed from the cappuccino she had ordered with her calamari, which put her in mind of something Elaine’s regular Woody Allen once said to her. “He told me, when I ordered coffee before dinner, ‘I could never do it. The sweetness spoils the dinner.'”
Oscar Goes Bust at Ohm
Owing perhaps to Elaine Kaufman’s celebrity vortex, which sucked all eligible Manhattan celebs into her East Side saloon on Oscar night, the Hamptons International Film Festival’s first ever Oscar-night bash at the Chelsea club and restaurant Ohm didn’t exactly suffer an infestation of famous people. Elaine’s got Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer. Ohm’s got Stuttering John Melendez, a certain Penthouse Pet, and buxom celebrity fitness trainer High Voltage, as well as many guests from Long Island.
Ms. Voltage, dressed in a form-fitting white backless dress, insisted that she wouldn’t have traded her lot for the world. “You know, Elaine’s is a fun thing and I’ve done that a few years. But I really like the concept of tonight–that we can watch the Oscars, then dance after.”
Ms. Voltage was accompanied by Mark Thomsen, a son she had given up for adoption 32 years ago and had not seen until last month, when she tracked him down in Orange County, Calif.
“Before we met, Mark called me up and asked me what I looked like. I said, ‘Where do I start?” Ms. Voltage giggled.
Spalding Gray ate dinner upstairs, but refused to be interviewed for The Transom. “I just hate your paper so much I don’t think I could do it,” he said, pacing in front of his table. Mr. Gray looked shaken and sat back down.
Those who didn’t have the Hollywood juice just yet seemed to be hoping that lightning would strike at the party. Standing against a post in the cavernous back room of the club and watching the Oscar show on a huge projection television screen, Joseph Sullivan, a wiry, middle-aged screenwriter and aspiring director-producer, spoke optimistically of selling his screenplay. Mr. Sullivan, who sported about three days’ worth of stubble, black-framed glasses, a denim jacket and a “No Fear” gimme cap, said that he had written five screenplays, all unsold. Naturally, he’d written a sixth.
“This one’s really good, though,” he explained. “It’s called You Better Not Cry . It’s a slasher horror movie about an indie film crew wasted by a psychopathic killer,” he said proudly as he took a puff off an 8-inch Dominican cigar. “It’s kind of a Scream -type thing, but the victims are older–they’re in their 20’s instead of their late teens.” The Transom asked Mr. Sullivan the name of the slasher.
Before he could answer, John Starace, Mr. Sullivan’s dark-suited “producer,” walked over and announced, “Reverend Billy. His name is Reverend Billy.” Mr. Starace, a firefighter in Chinatown who started the Summer Shorts Film Festival in East Hampton, said he wants to get into the business of movie producing, and that he saw his shot with You Better Not Cry.
“Reverend Bob !” said Mr. Sullivan emphatically. “Not Reverend Billy –it’s Bob .”
Mr. Starace looked momentarily embarrassed. “Maybe we should call him Reverend Billy Bob,” he suggested.
Then they began handicapping for best picture. Mr. Sullivan thought it would be Saving Private Ryan . Mr. Starace was pulling for The Thin Red Line . They felt lucky.
If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, it wasn’t working on March 22, when Henry Kissinger came to read from his new memoir, Years of Renewal , at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. At the door, protesters were passing out bright yellow fliers that read, “Henry Kissinger has blood on his hands. Ask him to set the record straight and tell the truth about his past.” Some held small white signs that read, “War criminal. Friend of murderous dictators around the world. Don’t buy books from crooks.” Inside the store, everyone seemed to be absently clutching one of the fliers; the yellow handouts also covered tables in the cafe.
The fourth floor reading area, however, had been prepped: Several hundred people were seated in rows of chairs facing a stage. Soon enough, Mr. Kissinger emerged, followed by TV interviewer Charlie Rose. The two men sat down at a table across from one another on the elevated platform.
Mr. Rose introduced Mr. Kissinger, then jumped right to current events. “Tell me how you see Kosovo and the threat of air power,” said Mr. Rose.
Before Mr. Kissinger could answer, a voice from the audience yelled, “Speaking of genocide, what about Vietnam, Chile, Cambodia?”
Other voices yelled back, “Shut up!”
Somebody yelled “Dr. Strangelove!” at which point Mr. Rose informed the crowd, “This is not the first time we’ve experienced such interruptions.”
Mr. Kissinger calmly quipped, “I didn’t know they let the Harvard faculty in here.”
When things settled down, Mr. Kissinger spoke about his opposition to the use of any ground forces, American or NATO, in Kosovo.
Mr. Rose was paging through the shiny gold-jacketed book. “Why did it take you 17 years to write this third memoir?” he asked.
“I didn’t know I could use a computer until three weeks ago,” joked Mr. Kissinger.
Meanwhile, a man’s head appeared over a bookshelf–he had dragged a chair over to stand on and presumably get a better view. Barnes & Noble’s security people quickly told him to get down.
Mr. Kissinger was speaking about Richard Nixon. “He couldn’t stand face-to-face confrontation,” he said. “He could write memos, but when you faced him he wasn’t reliable, because he tended to agree with you. This led to a very complex form of decision-making, but he worked around this disability.”
“War criminal!” resounded through the store. Two women could be seen being hauled off by the guards. One of the women wore a black Monica Lewinsky-style beret, which disappeared as the escalator carried her down, her fist still in the air, her mouth still shouting epithets.
Mr. Rose remained collected. “We are going to do this in a chronological manner,” he said.
Mr. Kissinger moved on to Cambodia, Pol Pot and the secret bombing campaign. “We’re always presented as though we’re a bunch of madmen.” He said that, if he were to do it all over again, “I would have made it a public issue. We were the ones who resisted Pol Pot and now we’re told that we so inflamed the people that they just decided to go and kill 2 million of their own countrymen. It’s like saying the Holocaust was caused by the bombing of Dresden. What it is, is hatred of intellectuals.” The intellectuals in the audience gave a knowing laugh.
Over to one side, meanwhile, out of sight of Mr. Kissinger, about a dozen protesters were sitting in chairs, their faces covered by a white circular piece of paper and their hands dangling, as though they had been shot. They had rubbed fake blood all over their clothes.
Animal lovers know how to throw a party. On March 18, Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sat downstairs at the Bleecker Street club Life, where she was being feted for her new book, You Can Save the Animals: 251 Simple Ways to Stop Thoughtless Cruelty . She sat behind an oak desk and signed each book with a slow, deliberate message. Ms. Newkirk does not fit the profile of most Lola Granola bomb throwers: A native of Surrey, England, she had short-cropped blond hair and wore a low-cut zebra-patterned ensemble.
Unlike most book parties, where the books serve as visual props or a handy surface on which to set down one’s vodka tonic, several of the guests at Life sat alone on the club’s couches, squinting as they actually tried to read Ms. Newkirk’s book under the dim red lamps. Adela Pisarevsky, a middle-aged Argentine woman wearing two big buttons (antivivisection; anti-fur) said that her pro-animal views had not been particularly good for her career. “I would say I lost about a half-dozen jobs–maybe more,” she said. “That’s why I do temporary jobs.”
Artist Peter Max, accompanied by his daughter, Libra Max, spoke at great length into The Transom’s tape recorder about animal rights, meditation and himself. Then he requested that we drop off a copy of the audiotape at his studio. “I think I did some nice stuff,” he said.
Video footage playing on a large screen at the back of the club made sure that things did not get overly jiggy. While Ms. Newkirk smiled and signed a book, a pig was being beaten to death on the screen. “You think this is bad?” one party guest remarked to a horrified neighbor. “In Faces of Death they lit the pig on fire .” While the deejay played Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face,” an elephant got smacked by a trainer wielding a sharp metal rod. And at about the time the veggie platter and tub of hummus were being unwrapped on the bar, the monkeys-in-the-lab portion of the film began to roll.
Ms. Newkirk used to be a heathen. “I was a staunch carnivore,” she said. “The last meat I had was steak tartare.” Ms. Newkirk mimed shoving capers and onions into an imaginary ball of meat. “When I was 19, I had a fabulous fur coat that I adored,” she said, breathlessly, then quickly added, “I wish there had been a PETA then to make fun of me.”
In 1996, one of Ms. Newkirk’s PETA foot soldiers dropped a dead raccoon on Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s plate at the Four Seasons.
Pies–tofu topping–have replaced dead raccoons as the organization’s latest weapon. PETA pie-throwers have tofu-ed Oscar de la Renta and Procter & Gamble chairman John Pepper.
“We still have a pie with Anna Wintour’s name on it,” Ms. Newkirk said at her party. (A spokesman for Ms. Wintour declined to comment on the renewed threat.) In any case, the one party guest who seemed to be truly enjoying himself was Late Show With David Letterman personality Calvert DeForest, who said he had recently brought two stray cats into his Bay Ridge apartment. “I needed them like I needed a hole in the head,” he said. The Transom asked the names of the darling twosome. “I hardly ever name animals,” said Mr. DeForest. “They’re not going to know the difference!”
The Transom Also Hears
… ” This is from my collection, and this is from my collection,” Ivana Trump told The Transom as she pointed to the peculiar diamond tarantula pinned onto her electric blue Thierry Mugler dress and then to the smaller spiders stuck to her ear lobes. The Transom had caught up with Ms. Trump at the Plaza hotel on March 18, where she was attending a 25th-anniversary party for the eyewear magazine 20/20 . She was joined by Joan Collins and Lauren Hutton. The Transom asked Ms. Trump what her magazine Living in Style was about, and the spunky Czech replied, “The modern woman. I don’t want to be Martha Stewart, but the woman, I think, is wonderful. Martha is a very good friend of mine, but she goes and she bakes a pie and waits for an hour. I don’t want to bake a pie. I hate the pie! I have the friggin’ joy of not cooking … The woman of the 90’s, what we want to do is, we want to be the wife , we want to be the mother , we want to be the entrepreneur and, in our free time, we want to be a woman .”