Since 1996, Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues has been performed in over 40 countries and translated into over 35 languages. As of last May, it was booked in over 140 cities in the United States. Not bad for a six-year-old play that was first produced in a 74-seat theater in Soho.
Since April 2002, another one-woman show, Big Vagina Monologues , has been playing at the 72-seat Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Chelsea, a few blocks from Ms. Ensler’s apartment-but she’s no fan.
Last month, comedian Jackie Clarke got a letter from Ms. Ensler’s attorneys demanding that she stop using the title or else they would “take all appropriate legal action”.
Reached at her temp job on Nov. 18, Ms. Clarke called herself a “super-broke struggling-actor lady.” She said that after receiving the threatening letter, she was in “total shock,” then decided it was “hilarious.”
Still, she said, Ms. Ensler “is just protecting her work, and I respect that. I have no ill will against her; I think she’s a talented woman.”
Ms. Clarke’s first instinct was not to change Big Vagina Monologues , but after talking to friends’ fathers who are lawyers, she changed her mind and also her play’s name, to Mail Order Family , which she describes as her account of growing up in a Massachusetts suburb.
“My mom died when I was little,” Ms. Clarke said. “And my dad was in the dating scene for like two seconds and then decided to order my stepmom from a catalog. Yes, from the Philippines. I’m so serious-it’s so insane. It just created a weird world to live in.”
One day, her new stepmom went to a gynecologist who was “kind of mean to her, because she was very small and his tools wouldn’t fit. So my dad was kind of yelling in the kitchen, like, ‘Well, you shouldn’t be ashamed. American women have enormous vaginas!’ And I’m just sitting there. I’m like, ‘Oh, man-is that true?'”
Her father, an export manager named Paul Clarke, ordered another mail-order bride without divorcing the first one. He wanted his daughters to be feminists, but his wives to be barefoot and at home, where he kept an AK-47, Ms. Clarke said.
He made his daughter sell eggs door-to-door.
“I swear to you, I wish I was making this up,” Ms. Clarke said, adding that her father used to say things like “Only ugly people end up on welfare” and “Prostitutes are fun to talk to.”
“He’s in the Philippines now,” she said. “He lives there, so he has all of these relationships with prostitutes, but he’s like, ‘I don’t sleep with them, Jackie: You don’t know what you can catch. I don’t want any syphilis or anything.’ He’s there for the women, and you can live like a king over there. He’s middle-aged, Caucasian, attractive, 62 years old. Oh my God, they love him …. I love that guy sooo much, but he is totally nuts.”
Ms. Clarke reveals stuff about herself, too. She danced at her grandfather’s funeral to “ease some of the tension” and masturbated during social-studies class. Toward the end of her 30-minute one-act, she dances to “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Ms. Clarke said that if she does well in a final call-back, Mail Order Family might make it to this year’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, where The Vagina Monologues played once. In a nice letter she wrote to Ms. Ensler, Ms. Clarke begged the playwright and “social activist” to come see her perform.
“I think it’s her type of show,” she said. “I didn’t want to be mean to her, you know, ’cause I understand it’s a copyright issue. It’s like, hopefully someday I’m gonna threaten to sue people!”
Neither Ms. Ensler nor her lawyer returned The Transom’s phone calls.
A group of Hollywood’s biggest moguls learned earlier this month that no matter how many publicists, assistants, event planners, beepers and cell phones are applied to a task, something will go wrong.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Daily News and U.S. News & World Report publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, in Los Angeles on personal business, set tongues to wagging when he failed to show at a breakfast where he was expected to speak about Israel in front of some of Hollywood’s most important players.
According to John Fishel, the chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, Mr. Zuckerman’s office had called a week before the breakfast to say that the publisher, who is the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was interested in setting up an event that would allow him to speak to members of the entertainment community about current events in Israel.
The breakfast was hastily arranged for Nov. 5, and a passel of Hebraic Hollywood machers gathered at the Vivendi Universal Studios commissary, thanks to Universal chairman and chief operating officer Ron Meyer. Joining Mr. Meyer were actor Elliot Gould, Quentin Tarantino’s producing partner Lawrence Bender, Endeavor Talent Agency partner David Lonner, Godzilla writer and producer Dean Devlin, Creative Artists agent Dan Adler, and Russell Goldsmith, chairman and chief executive of City National Bank.
The only person missing was Mr. Zuckerman.
“The night before [the meeting], somebody [at the Federation] said something about ‘Where is Mort staying?’, and I started to have an uneasy feeling,” said Mr. Fishel, who added that he was driving carpool when he found out that the group was sitting around the Universal cafeteria waiting for their speaker to appear.
It turned out that though tentative arrangements for the event had been discussed, representatives from the Jewish Federation never confirmed any of the details with Mr. Zuckerman’s office, and so the media mogul had no idea that he was actually committed to appear.
The breakdown in publicist-to-publicist communication was so surprising that it led to speculation that Mr. Zuckerman whiffed on purpose, wary of setting foot on the Universal lot at Mr. Meyer’s invitation less than a week after a Wall Street Journal story suggested that Jean-Marie Messier, Mr. Meyer’s boss and the former chairman of Vivendi-Universal S.A., had improperly withheld information about his company’s financial health. The morning of the breakfast, it had been announced that the U.S. Attorney’s office would be launching a criminal investigation into the financial dealings of Mr. Messier and Vivendi-Universal S.A.. Mr. Zuckerman, whose news organizations have and will continue to cover the Vivendi-Universal story, might have felt compromised by a visit to the studio.
But representatives from the Jewish Federation moved with lightning speed to put those rumors to rest. By the afternoon of Nov. 5, Mr. Fishel had dashed off a series of letters to everyone involved in the mix-up, several of which were obtained by The Transom.
Mr. Fishel wrote to Mr. Zuckerman that he was “deeply mortified that this incident occurred,” adding that although he “now understood how it happened that we never confirmed your attendance … and realize that the entire situation could have been avoided, it does not ameliorate the anger, frustration and bad feelings …. ”
At Mr. Zuckerman’s request, Mr. Fishel included a list of the names and addresses of those who did attend the breakfast. He also wrote that he had sent “a special note” to Mr. Meyer.
In that special note to Mr. Meyer, Mr. Fishel expressed his apologies “for the debacle that occurred … around the hoped-for visit of Mort Zuckerman to Universal.”
By phone, Mr. Fishel again conveyed his regrets, but said that the abandoned breakfast team had managed to fend for themselves in Mr. Zuckerman’s absence, staging an impromptu discussion about advocacy for Israel on college campuses.
“It was one of those all’s-well-that-ends-well situations,” said Mr. Fishel, who admitted that no matter how happy the others were, Mr. Zuckerman was pretty ticked.
“Mort Zuckerman was not alerted in advance as to where or when the meeting of Jewish community leaders would be held,” said Ken Frydman, a spokesman for Mr. Zuckerman.
Before he was the Terminator, before he was a Kennedy, before his face was overly taut from excessive cosmetic procedures, Arnold Schwarzenegger was just a cute, beefy, gap-toothed guy who’d flex his pecs on the beaches of Los Angeles, then go smoke pot with his pals.
Just in time to draw attention to the muscle man’s rumored 2006 G.O.P. candidacy for the governorship of California, Pumping Iron , the 1977 documentary that put Mr. Schwarzenegger on America’s celebrity radar, is being re-released-digitally enhanced!-this time on HBO’s sister pay-cable channel, Cinemax.
On Tuesday, Nov. 12, the remastered film was premiered at the Loews Tower East cinema. All the memorable gems from the original have been preserved: Mr. Schwarzenegger is filmed with a joint, chiding and pranking his competitors, and telling a reporter about his discerning taste in women.
“I like them with black hair, with brown hair, with red hair, with big breasts, with little breasts, with a big ass, with a little ass …. ” he says.
And then there’s the moment where, dressed in tight pants and a polyester striped T-shirt, Mr. Schwarzenegger announces that lifting is as good as sex.
“[Pumping] is as satisfying to me as cumming is,” he says with a massive grin. “So I am cumming day and night.”
Following the screening, Mr. Schwarzenegger-now a 55-year-old father of four-lumbered down the red carpet to a reception at the Whitney with his wife, the sinewy, large-jawed Democrat Maria Shriver. The smell of baby oil wafted through the museum’s lobby as two massive, well-greased muscle men flexed their stuff.
German bodybuilder and Mr. Olympia 2003 hopeful Günter Schlierkamp, wearing nothing but a small turquoise Speedo, posed by Mr. Schwarzenegger, showing off biceps like hams and a back like braided challah. The Transom asked him if he could take Mr. Schwarzenegger down in a fight.
“I don’t know about that,” the 6-foot-2, 305-pound Mr. Schlierkamp replied slowly. “I don’t want to mess with Arnold.”
Gazing at the well-oiled young Mr. Schlierkamp was former bodybuilding sensation Franco Columbu, another one of Pumping Iron ‘s stars. In the movie, the sprightly bodybuilder is shown lifting his family’s car in his hometown in Italy and subsequently winning the Mr. Olym-pia title for his weight group. Today, the tan and stocky 61-year-old is Mr. Schwarzenegger’s best friend, and works as a practicing chiropractor in L.A.
“It feels like things have changed very little, and it’s nice to see all my friends,” Mr. Columbu told The Transom, gesturing toward another Pumping Iron personality, Lou Ferrigno-best known as Bill Bixby’s green alter ego in TV’s The Incredible Hulk .
We asked Mr. Columbu the inevitable question: What makes Mr. Schwarzenegger cum these days?
“You’ll never believe it, but Arnold’s high is playing chess,” Mr. Columbu laughed. “He’s very good. For him, it is a mental cum.”
-Anna Jane Grossman
The Urban Arts
The Citizens Committee for New York City was founded by Senator Jacob Javits in 1975 as a result of the city’s dreadful financial state and that classic Daily News headline, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Now might be a good time to pay attention to them again. Wednesday, Nov. 20, is the opening night of Art 20-an art show at the Park Avenue Armory that will feature works from the 20th century. Proceeds will benefit the Citizens Committee, which, with more than a million volunteers, helps New Yorkers solve their neighborhoods’ problems by showing them how to organize at the local level. “If you want to do something to help New York, buy a ticket. It’s painless, and you’ll see good art at the same time,” said art advisor Victoria Anstead, who’s co-chairing Art 20 with publisher Tom Guinzburg. Tickets for opening-night cocktails range from $125 to $500.
What a Nightmare
You can always count on Joan Collins to make an entrance. Just don’t count on her to make it on time. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, the Dynasty actress arrived 45 minutes late to a party thrown in her honor at the Chambers hotel.
But Ms. Collins wasn’t about to shoulder the blame for her tardiness. Shortly after her arrival, Ms. Collins spotted The Transom scribbling in our notepad and pounced. “What are you writing?!” she hollered. “If you dare write that I was late, I’ll kill you! They didn’t send the car! What a nightmare!”
Not surprisingly, at the first offer of a cocktail, the 69-year-old actress pounced again. “Would I like a drink?! Is the Pope Catholic?!” she said.
The party at the Chambers was ostensibly to celebrate the publication of Star Quality , Ms. Collins’ latest novel (her 10th, believe it or not). She said the plot involves four generations of women and “the notion of history repeating itself.”
History has certainly repeated itself for Ms. Collins, who recently married for the fifth time. She posed smugly for photographers with her 37-year-old husband, Percy Gibson. Mr. Gibson is the same age as Ms. Collins’ son, Alexander, and two years younger than daughter, Tara.
Ivana Trump took a page out of Ms. Collins’ book and arrived with her 31-year-old beau, Rossano Rubicondi. Air-kisses abounded, followed by an introduction to fellow guests Blaine and Robert Trump. “Zees ees my ex-sister-in-law and my ex-brother-in-law,” Ivana said breezily. When The Transom asked about Ms. Collins’ star quality, Ms. Trump championed the actress’ many talents. “She speaks languages. She can talk about art. She can come on zee boat and swim with me!”
– Noelle Hancock
The Transom Also Hears …
…that racial harmony was on tap at rap impresario Sean (P. Diddy) Combs’ birthday party at the Supper Club on Nov. 18.
Photographers and cameramen sang “Happy Birthday” as Mr. Combs sauntered down the red carpet. Decked out in a tailored purple-velvet suit, dark shades and diamonds galore, Mr. Combs made his entrance fashionably late, after Denise Rich, Janet Jackson, Stephanie Marsh, Adrien Brody, Dean Cain and Ivana Trump had already strutted down the red carpet. His mother, Janice Combs, with her long blond hair and long-sleeved black dress with a plunging neckline, looked hardly a day older than her son. She walked in with Patti LaBelle and an entourage of men. The two white men in the group were detained outside the ropes by the guards. “Those two white guys are with me!” Ms. Combs yelled. “They’re my white friends!” Finally, the guards let them through.
-Alexandra Wolfe and Noelle Hancock
… that Bono thinks pregnant girls are hot.
“What a gorgeous, sexy mama you are,” U2’s front man told ABC News ‘ Elizabeth Vargas at Monday night’s Simon Weisenthal Center dinner in his honor at the Marriott Marquis. After a whistle and a cheesy wink from the rock star, Ms. Vargas clutched her protruding belly and giggled.
Not quite the only celebrity in sight (Lou Reed, whom Bono referred to as the “greatest poet in this city,” sat stoically at Bono’s table), the Irish bad boy turned humanitarian donned hazy blue sunglasses amid a sea of black ties and ball gowns. The Humanitarian Laureate award was given to Bono for his advocacy in AIDS-prevention and poverty-relief causes in Africa.
With tickets starting at $750 a pop, guests munched on green beans and Cornish hens while a litany of speakers -everyone from Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. to 10-year-old Elisha Mlotek, who squeaked his way through the Israeli and U.S. national anthems-praised Bono’s good deeds.
Former President Clinton couldn’t attend, but sent Bono a letter congratulating him on his latest achievement, signing it simply “Bill.”
“Celebrity is currency,” said Bono, “and I’ve learned to sell it.”
Referring to U2 as his “day job,” Bono confessed that his bandmates “think this is unhip.” He also apologized for sporting a mullet in the 80’s. “Men should never iron their hair,” he said, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.