VH1’s John Sykes Gets a Presidential Pardon After Hillary-Hissing

Presidential Pardon

Things are cool between former President Bill Clinton and VH1 president John Sykes, according to the cable-network executive. After Senator Hillary Clinton got booed onstage at the Oct. 20 Concert for New York at Madison Square Garden, which Mr. Sykes co-produced, the press reported that Mr. Clinton had dressed down the VH1 chief for leaving the Missus exposed.

At the Center for Communication’s Nov. 19 award luncheon honoring Viacom chief operating officer Mel Karmazin, Mr. Sykes acknowledged that Mr. Clinton “was upset” at what had happened to his wife, but he said: “It wasn’t anything between us . He was definitely upset. There were about 10 of us standing around when he came down, and we just felt bad for him because we like Mrs. Clinton.” Mr. Sykes said that he spoke to Mrs. Clinton the Monday after the event “and she was fine.” He added that Mr. Clinton is “still the rock ‘n’ roll President to me, and he’s still a great friend and we’ve talked since and nothing ever happened.”

–George Gurley

Gwyneth’s Secret Wish

Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t just reveal her buttocks in the November issue of Harper’s Bazaar . She also confessed her desire to produce–under certain circumstances, of course. “I would only produce if a great project came along,” she said. “For example, if I could get the rights to The Secret History by Donna Tartt for my brother, Jake, to direct, I would produce it.”

At the time Ms. Paltrow uttered these words, Warner Bros. owned the rights to Ms. Tartt’s novel. But then–shazam! On Nov. 7, Daily Variety announced that Miramax–the company that made Ms. Paltrow a star with Shakespeare in Love , and whose co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, has referred to Ms. Paltrow as “the First Lady of Miramax”–had come to an agreement with Warner to develop the picture.

Ms. Paltrow will indeed produce, and her brother Jake–whose curriculum vitae includes directing an episode of The Others and NYPD Blue –will make his feature-film directorial debut.

Neither Ms. Paltrow’s agent nor anyone at Miramax or Warner would comment on the deal. Ms. Tartt’s agent, Amanda (Binky) Urban, said, however: “There have been rumors for months that Miramax was looking into that project.” The novel, she said, has been out of Ms. Tartt’s hands for some time. “It was sold ages ago to Alan Pakula,” the producer and director who died in a car accident in 1998. Did Ms. Paltrow’s comments precipitate the deal? “I read that thing in Bazaar ,” Ms. Urban said. “I don’t have a clue how that happened.”

–Ian Blecher

Sarandon: No to U.S.O.

Wayne Newton may have a funny mustache, but he’s got great taste in broads. On Nov. 13, the day after the 59-year-old lounge singer took over the United Service Organization (U.S.O.), the celebrity-heavy group charged with keeping our G.I.’s entertained during wartime, there were signs that Mr. Newton was not reaching out to the usual Rosemary Clooney types, if you know what we mean.

At the Nov. 13 benefit for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation at the Waldorf, actress and activist Susan Sarandon told The Transom that she was “asked to go on the U.S.O. tour” along with singers Jessica Simpson, Mary Chapin Carpenter and, of course, the right-leaning Mr. Newton.

Unfortunately, Ms. Sarandon turned the U.S.O. down. “I can’t,” she said. “I’d love to be able to support the troops, because I’m very much about supporting them even if I don’t approve of whatever the action is that’s going on,” she said. “But I can’t leave my family …. ” She cited concerns about her children’s security. “Even though I feel it’s safe in New York, I don’t feel that I can leave for 10 days. I also canceled my UNICEF trips and a trip to Russia for Amnesty International.”

Ms. Sarandon did make one thing clear: “It wasn’t Wayne Newton. He wasn’t the one that asked me.” She didn’t say who did.



“It isn’t easy to roast a food critic. They are very tough,” New York Post gossip columnist Liz Smith told the crowd at the Citymeals-on-Wheels annual Power Lunch for Women at the Pierre Hotel. Ms. Smith was referring to Gael Greene, the charity’s founder and New York magazine writer, who was supposed to be saluted that afternoon with a series of roasts and toasts. Luckily, Ms. Smith is from Texas, where they take such activities seriously.

Seizing upon Ms. Greene’s past as a card-carrying voluptuary and sex-book writer (see Blue Sky, No Candy ), Ms. Smith said that roasting Ms. Green was doubly difficult because “in Gael’s case, it’s always been almost impossible to tie her legs together for the roasting pan.”

The crowd–which included actress Kathleen Turner, New York’s former first lady, Donna Hanover, restaurateur Elaine Kaufman and feminist Gloria Steinem–practically did a collective spit-take. Ms. Smith followed up by saying that Ms. Greene “is delicious when properly prepared, I’m told.”

Ms. Smith said that Ms. Greene “could have written about anything and made it great. She could have written about press and die tools and made them interesting. She practically made a number of tools interesting.”

Again, the crowd guffawed. “There’s nothing politically correct about this lunch,” Ms. Smith said. “This is just a bunch of dames sitting around with a few guys yakking.” The columnist was referring to the handful of men–such as former Penguin publishing chief Thomas Guinzburg, former HBO boss Michael Fuchs, restaurateurs Steve Hanson and Drew Nieporent, and investor Steven Greenberg–who had paid $10,000 apiece to be in the room, pushing the total amount raised for the charity event to $983,000. “The good taste is mostly still in your mouths.”

Ms. Steinem took a crack at the podium, but her most startling comment was that Cindy Adams, who followed the feminist, “is the reason to buy the New York Post .”

A laryngitic Ms. Adams, who knows her way around a roast, said she was thrilled to be at the event–”or as thrilled as I can ever be when I’m not getting paid.” But in addition to not feeling well, Ms. Adams was not too happy that a woman in the ladies’ room had looked at her Versace suit and asked, “Make it yourself?”

“So you possibly may not be too thrilled with me, but right now, I don’t like you either,” Ms. Adams said as she stared down the crowd

But the columnist did like Ms. Greene and her charity. “Gael, I’ll do anything for you,” Ms. Adams said. “I left a load in my will for Meals-on-Wheels.”

–Frank DiGiacomo

The Correct Corrections

Jonathan Franzen may have been ambivalent about being a part of Oprah’s Book Club, but many of his readers are downright partisan. Madison Avenue Bookshop manager Perry Haberman said that his Upper East Side establishment has been getting requests for copies of Mr. Franzen’s novel, The Corrections , that do not bear the Oprah Book Club logo. “We definitely have some of those people coming in,” Mr. Haberman said. “We can request it from the publisher.” Indeed, the Oprah and non-Oprah versions of Mr. Franzen’s book have two different ISBN numbers, which are the equivalent of a book’s serial number.

Mr. Haberman said he didn’t know why his clientele prefer their books Oprah-free. “It’s not anti-Oprah,” he said. “The people who shop here tend to collect for their libraries and would prefer an original jacket versus a logo. It would be my guess that the one without the Oprah seal would be more valuable as a collector’s item in the future.”

Other stores have dealt with the problem in their own ways. Academic-chic St. Mark’s Bookshop nipped the problem in the bud. Manager Terry McCoy told The Transom that “when the news came out that the book was an Oprah pick, we called the publisher and found out that you had a choice. You could either get it with or without the sticker–and we chose without.”

Informed about these anti-Oprah fans at the National Book Awards at the Marriott Marquis on Nov. 14, Mr. Franzen said: “They’re so silly!”


The Transom

Also Hears …

… the hoary timeline of New York politics was on view during lunch at the Four Seasons restaurant on Nov. 14. At one of the middle power booths, future Mayor Michael Bloomberg lunched with former Governor Hugh Carey. At another booth to Mr. Bloomberg’s right sat former Mayor David Dinkins with a group that included entrepreneur Percy Sutton. To Mr. Bloomberg’s left sat former Mayor Ed Koch. And representing the current administration was co-general manager Julian Niccolini, who sported a “Rudy” button on his lapel.

–F.D. VH1’s John Sykes Gets a Presidential Pardon After Hillary-Hissing