A Dream to Work With

Who does Ben Stiller think he is? Well, the answer to that question is a little complicated.

Mr. Stiller is currently in town at work on an untitled comedy directed by John Hamburg, who wrote Meet the Parents and wrote and directed the vastly underseen comedy Safe Men .

According to sources close to the production, Mr. Stiller has insisted on being called by the alias used on-set for security purposes by the production crew-even away from the public eye. Stacey Sher, the film’s producer, denied that Mr. Stiller uses the alias for anything other than security purposes, and raved to The Transom about Mr. Stiller’s on-set demeanor.

“Yesterday [Monday], Ben was taking pictures with kids outside John’s Pizza,” Ms. Sher said, adding that during Tuesday’s shoot, Mr. Stiller ran up and down Ludlow Street in the rain “over and over and over again,” hurtling over garbage bags, never once complaining, never once taking time in the heat tent. “He has been a dream to work with,” said Ms. Sher.

But the source said that Mr. Stiller’s nickname isn’t the only thing that has the crew talking. On Friday, Nov. 8, according to the source, Mr. Stiller had a doctor’s appointment in the West Village at 11 a.m. and rehearsal for Mr. Hamburg’s film at 1 p.m., also in the West Village. The source told The Transom that Mr. Stiller, who is staying in an Upper East Side hotel, insisted that the production staff book him a room at 60 Thompson Street in the West Village-just in case he had some down time between appointments. The source said that Mr. Stiller never wound up using or paying for the room, but that the production had $175 worth of fruit and water waiting for him just in case-all of which a representative from the celebrity-friendly hotel denied.

Later that afternoon, according to the source, the film’s crew was informed that Mr. Stiller had a personal chef who would need a car for the weekend. A producer on the film who asked not to be named admitted as much, but said that this request was not unusual, and that the chef needed the crew to book her a car “because she needed to get some pots and pans around the city.”

The source also claimed that Mr. Stiller demanded that two hard phone lines be installed in his mobile trailer for each of the three days he spent shooting in New York. According to the source, Verizon representatives had to rewire the trailer each morning. The source said that Mr. Stiller would not emerge from his trailer until both lines were in place.

“We try to accommodate all actors,” said one producer on the film. “[Two phone lines] is standard procedure in Los Angeles. Every major movie star in the city of Los Angeles has this, and we are a Los Angeles film company.”

Topping it all off, according to the source, Mr. Stiller pitched a fit on Sunday, when he discovered that only one copy of The New York Times had been left in his trailer.

“I do not wish to dignify that garbage with a response,” said Kelly Bush, Mr. Stiller’s publicist in response to the litany of complaints. “None of that is true.”

-Rebecca Traister

Idiot Wind

Some of the most political rockers of the 60’s and 70’s seem to be succumbing to the insidious influence of political correctness.

On Monday, Nov. 11, during the first of two nights at Madison Square Garden, Bob Dylan performed an unexpected rendition of the Rolling Stones 1971 paean to interracial, uh, romance, “Brown Sugar.” In the original, three of the five choruses go “Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good / Brown Sugar, just like a black girl should”; two end with the variation “just like a young girl should.” But Mr. Dylan, dressed in what looked to be black satin pajamas with red piping, and powering through the number with the conviction of a man who suspects that he may actually have written the lyrics himself, used the latter, color-blind version for all five choruses.

Mr. Dylan is in good company. On Oct. 29, Lou Reed managed to shock a roomful of staid Hollywood lefties at the Creative Coalition’s “Seconding the First” event in support of free speech by self-censoring his 1972 song “Walk on the Wild Side.” Mr. Reed abandoned his lyric “and the colored girls say” in favor of “and the girls say.”

– R.T.

Stilton Crew

The Nov. 7 opening of the new Burberry’s store on East 57th Street brought out the Brits. Two Sykes sisters, Alice and Lucy, came hand-in-hand, and models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant showed up, as did Vogue European editor-at-large Hamish Bowles. They were joined by a crew of New York luminaries that included socialite Blaine Trump in a white-fur cape, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and gal pal Judith Nathan, Bungalow 8 owner Amy Sacco and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who at one point during the night referred to his date, Ms. Dahl, by using the very Burt Bacharach–ish phrase “my ladyfriend.”

Guests were served such English staples as tiny shepherds’ pies and Stilton cheese puffs that fouled many a bird’s breath.

It seemed like the right place to conduct a poll on the very Bond outerwear.

” Loo-oove trench coats,” said socialite Nicky Hilton. “Love them. I’m going to get one personalized in pink cashmere lining.”

Ms. Hilton added she would have it inscribed. With “Ms. Hilton.”

“You have to have a certain elegance to carry it off,” volunteered Stella Tennant, dressed in a black Balenciaga jacket and black jeans. “It could look frumpy.”

Pausing on the staircase on his way out was the devilish-looking, mustachioed designer Claude Sabbah of Da House of Sabbah. He had come with his ladyfriend, Vanity Fair contributing fashion editor Anne McNally, whom he called “my beautiful friend/guide.” He wore a leopard-print pantsuit, an orange leather coat, a gold tooth, gold chains, gold hoops and a leather Louis Vuitton hat.

“It’s so funny-I was photographed 10 years ago in full Arabic Burberry’s outfit I did myself in ID magazine,” Mr. Sabbah said. “I had a strong story with the clan, Burberry’s-I love England. Anyway, at the time, the head of Burberry’s Europe, Mr. Levy, wanted to sue me. And I called him and said, ‘How can the Levy sue the Sabbath?’ He said, ‘I’m not suing you,’ and we became friends. True story !”

-Elisabeth Franck

Vespa Drill

The Vespas are coming! Many a tear has been wiped of late in lower Soho as Canal Jeans, a beacon of downtown no-nonsense cool, announced it will be closing for good in January. But just two blocks down, the nouveau retro-chic yuppies are giddy … they’re getting their very own Vespa boutique.

Over 600 checkbook-wielding romantics daydreaming of Roman Holiday flocked downtown on Wednesday, Nov. 6, in order to hail the swarm of candy-colored scooters. They’re overflowing from Manhattan’s first Vespa store, Vespa SoHo, on Crosby Street between Howard and Grand.

Filmmaker Joel Coen and his actress wife, Frances McDormand, beat the mad rush, convincing store owner Zach Schieffelin and his wife, Wen, to sell them a Silver ET4 before the 1,800-square-foot boutique’s official opening on Nov. 7.

Live with Regis & Kelly co-host Kelly Ripa’s husband, All My Children ‘s Mark Consuelos, won’t shut up about wanting one of the damned things, and as you’d expect, she won’t shut up about it, either. The whole thing gave Regis Philbin a good chuckle when his co-host announced last week that her husband was so excited about going to the opening party that he showed up at the boutique’s cobblestone stoop a night early by mistake.

Showing up on the right day, however, was crooner Tony Bennett and his son, Danny. A chauffeured limo brought them to the event, where Mr. Bennett nervously mounted a green bike that sat parked in the store. “I hope this thing isn’t on,” he said, adding that he doesn’t even know how to drive a car. Vroom!

-Anna Jane Grossman

The L’Impero Curse

Daniel Radcliffe might have wished this weekend that he had the same thunderbolt-shaped scar on his forehead that got his character, Harry Potter, such special treatment at Hogwarts.

The 13-year-old, in town for the Nov. 10 Ziegfeld premiere of the second installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , tried to score a Saturday-night dinner reservation at L’Impero, the hot, nine-week-old restaurant improbably located in Tudor City.

L’Impero co-owner Chris Cannon (also owner of the restaurant-crowd after-hours favorite, Bar Veloce) explained that the concierge from the Essex House, where Mr. Radcliffe was staying, called him personally on Saturday afternoon about Mr. Radcliffe’s party of five.

“We were already four tables overbooked,” said Mr. Cannon. “It would have been great to have Harry Potter here, but that’s not what’s going to keep you in business for the next 10 years. It’s not like he lives in New York.

“Maybe if I was 8 years old, I would have been going nuts,” Mr. Cannon continued, “but we need to take care of our customers, and a party of five-people could have had to wait for hours.”


The Transom Also Hears …

… The Four Seasons restaurant felt like a fever dream during the final hours of Friday, Nov. 8. Co–general manager Julian Niccolini was gadding about in a brightly hued blue-green shirt beneath his tailored suit, and punk-era power popster Joe Jackson sat at the Grill Room bar in a black leather trench coat and green plaid pants. Mr. Jackson, who told The Transom he’d never been to the Four Seasons before, had come to see the performance of Echo, a two-person band featuring D.J. Takuya Nakamura and singer Joy Askew, with whom Mr. Jackson has performed. The concert, which took place in the hallowed Grill Room, followed a dinner in honor of winemaker Cristina Mariani, who runs Castello Banfi vineyards in Italy.

-Frank DiGiacomo A Dream to Work With