The Story of H

For years, the media has been portraying Hillary Clinton as a kind of public-service dominatrix, but maybe they’ve had it

For years, the media has been portraying Hillary Clinton as a kind of public-service dominatrix, but maybe they’ve had it ass-backwards.

Please turn your attention to Exhibit A, the February issue of Interview magazine, that publication started by Andy Warhol in which celebrities interview other celebrities and usually achieve even more banal results than if a real reporter did the job.

But not budding interviewer Chelsea Clinton! On page 142, there’s a transcript of her question-and-answer interview with actor Jake (Moonlight Mile ) Gyllenhaal, which is pretty dull, except for the crumb of revelation that the Oxford-educated Ms. Clinton lets slip about her mother.

One of the most terrifying things about children is their infallible-though mostly innocent-knack for shining bright halogen lights on the intentionally dark cracks of their parents’ lives. And during Chelsea Clinton’s interview with Mr. Gyllenhaal, their talk turns briefly to his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, who made a big splash in independent-film circles-not to mention a number of floundering suburban marriages-with her role in Secretary . In the titular role, Ms. Gyllenhaal-whose heavily dimpled face bears some resemblance to the young Hillary-discovers her inner submissive when she is hired by a dominating lawyer (played by James Spader) who likes to issue spankings for spelling errors, and eventually has Ms. Gyllenhaal performing office work while shackled to a kind of portable stockade.

Well, not only did Secretary garner plenty of good press and reviews but, as Chelsea Clinton tells Mr. Gyllenhaal in the interview: “My mother liked it.”

It’s a single line in a magazine, but a resonant one, and not because the screamers at the Fox News Channel will go to DefCon 2 to make hay of it, or because Ms. Gyllenhaal’s character tells her boss she likes “dull work”-a sign, perhaps, of a political future.

For those who have tried to figure out Mrs. Clinton for years-like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character, she’s “closed tight, a wall,” as Mr. Spader says in the movie-this little nugget of information dropped by Chelsea feels like it’s important part of explaining the woman who stood by her man when a hefty portion of the country thought she should have abandoned him. Get past the sexual antics of Secretary , and one of the themes of the film is that the submissives in this world are really no less powerful than the dominants. They just go about acquiring power and affection in a different way than most people. As someone says in the movie: “Who’s to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?” (Note to the Eulenspiegel Society: This does not mean we want to be on the mailing list.)

Unfortunately, Senator Clinton was not interested in discussing what she liked about Secretary . We wanted to ask her what she thought the film said about human relationships and the employer/employee dynamic, and whether a public servant with a huge constituency has to worry about revealing her personal and idiosyncratic reactions to art. (Tune in to Bill O’Reilly tomorrow night to find out!) But the Senator chose to remain silent-or was it passive?-on the issue. A spokeswoman for the Senator declined to comment and at press time she said she was unable to track down Chelsea Clinton to see if she was interested in responding to this article.

Meanwhile, The Transom also submitted a copy of the Interview interview and a similar set of questions to Bill Clinton. He did not respond-which could also suggest, of course, that what Mrs. Clinton dug about the movie was Mr. Spader’s role.

-Frank DiGiacomo

Genuine Authentic Spin

It’s a race to the finish in the spinning wars between designer Ralph Lauren and his biographer, Michael Gross.

Mr. Lauren has been loud in his claims-through spokeswoman Nancy Murray-that he has not read and does not intend to read Genuine Authentic , Mr. Gross’ biography of him, published this month by HarperCollins.

But as Mr. Gross told The Transom, Mr. Lauren may actually have someone on payroll who has read it for him.

Mr. Gross said by phone that he tried to keep galleys of his controversial book under wraps until publication, but that in December, a friend informed him that “Jim Abernathy had my book and was reading it for Ralph Lauren.”

Mr. Abernathy is chairman and chief executive of the Abernathy MacGregor Group, a financial and crisis communication agency where the late John Scanlon was also a partner until 1996. When The Transom contacted Abernathy MacGregor, a representative for the company would only confirm that they have been counsel to Polo Ralph Lauren for almost three years and have “worked on a number of corporate and financial public-relations issues for the company.”

Asked whether or not potential fallout from Mr. Gross’ book was one of those issues, the representative said, “Our policy is that we don’t get into the work we do for our clients.”

Mr. Lauren’s spokeswoman, Nancy Murray, confirmed that Abernathy MacGregor were hired by February 2000 for the launch of RL Media. She added, “I don’t know what Jim [Abernathy’s] reading habits are, but I can tell you that Mr. Lauren has not read the book and doesn’t intend to, that I have not read the book and don’t intend to.”

Ms. Murray then subtly added that she has been reading the “great reviews [of Mr. Lauren’s show in] Milan, and about how well he dressed Jennifer Garner at the Golden Globes.”

-Rebecca Traister

Nodding With the Fish

New York nightlife has always been rife with iridescent, tentacled and spineless creatures, and soon they will have a nightclub where they can commune with their evolutionary predecessors.

Sources familiar with the situation told The Transom that nightclub entrepreneur Paul Devitt-the man responsible for East Village hot spots Beauty Bar and Barmacy-plans to open a dance club in Chelsea that will incorporate gigantic aquariums into its design.

The club, tentatively named Aquarium, will be located at 512 West 29th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. The squat, one-story, 5,000-square-foot brick building was until recently home to Dom’s Market, a grocery retailer that has relocated to the Bronx, but still owns the building.

Mr. Devitt, who recently signed a five-year renewable lease on the location, declined The Transom’s request for an interview, but he has described his plans for the club to real-estate agents and community-board members.

In addition to the cocktail-quaffing, glowstick-brandishing revelers inside the club, the sea-life population may also have to deal with humans in the tank. “They’re going to have people swimming in the aquarium that they’re building,” said Brandon Maltzman, a broker from Leslie J. Garfield & Co. Real Estate, who leased Mr. Devitt the building. Mr. Maltzman said that Mr. Devitt was also considering making the aquariums visible to bystanders outside the club via portholes.

Mr. Devitt’s partner in the venture is Chris Ventura, a professional aquarium designer who has constructed tanks all over the world. He did not return calls seeking comment.

Although an aquarium-lined club would be a first for New York, David Rabin, co-owner of the meatpacking-district club Lotus and president of the New York Nightlife Association, told The Transom that “the original Limelight in Atlanta had a shark tank underneath the see-through dance floor.” And he wasn’t talking about Limelight owner Peter Gatien’s office.

Most of Mr. Devitt’s previous nightlife ventures have employed similarly unorthodox and original concepts. In 1995, after running a bar and two diners in Philadelphia, Mr. Devitt and another nightlife impresario, Deb Parker, opened Beauty Bar on East 14th Street in Manhattan, where customers can sip martinis while getting a manicure or shampoo. Branches in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami followed.

Mr. Devitt also teamed up with Ms. Parker to open Barmacy, a pharmacy-themed lounge-also on East 14th Street-where shots are “administered” in medicine cups. And last year, he opened Star Shoes in Los Angeles, a club designed to look like a 1940’s-era shoe emporium. The walls there are stocked with four decades of vintage women’s footwear, all of which is for sale.

Mr. Devitt and Mr. Ventura had intended to open Aquarium in December, but according to their broker, Mr. Maltzman, “everything went back and forth,” and they’re still unsure about an exact opening date. As of this July, Community Board 4 had approved their request for a liquor license, and their application for a cabaret license is currently pending.

Michele Solomon, assistant district manager for Community Board 4, said the license approvals are contingent on several conditions. To name a few: Patrons won’t be allowed to queue on the sidewalk, the club will have to be soundproofed-it shares a wall with a residential building-and no roof or outdoor parties will be permitted.

-Blair Golson

South Beach Soufflé

“People go to Florida to get drunk, lay on the beach and party,” said chef Daniel Boulud at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Preview Party at the W Hotel’s Tuscan Steak restaurant on Jan. 14. And on the weekend of Feb. 28 through Mar. 2, a predominant number of the men and women staggering through the surf and side streets of Miami will belong to that particularly hardy group of hedonists, New York chefs and restaurateurs.

Chefs such as Mr. Boulud, Rocco DiSpirito, Alfred Portale and Nobu owner Drew Nieporent are slated to attend the festival, where they’ll cook and cavort with their Miami-based counterparts, who have figured out how to make their restaurants work in a town where the siren’s call of the beach-as well as myriad other sybaritic pleasures-can have a constant erosive effect on culinary excellence.

Just ask Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert. “We used to have a restaurant [in Miami] a long time ago, and it was very difficult to operate,” said Mr. Ripert. “The staff was more beach-oriented than kitchen-oriented.”

“We send one plate out, and then we go down to the beach for 15 minutes,” said French-born Marc Ehrler, executive chef at Miami Beach Lowes, who was hanging with his friend and fellow countryman, Mr. Boulud. “We have one kitchen pants where there is one zipper, and the pants go and the bathing suit is right there- voila !” He demonstrated how this zipper might work for The Transom, tugging at an imaginary zipper along the side of the white chef pants he was wearing.

“You see?” he said.

When The Transom asked Mr. Ehrler if this mode of dressing ever led to any unwanted grains of sand landing in his dishes, the chef grinned in a way that suggested even wilder things were possible.

” Exactement !” concurred Mr. Boulud.

-Ronda Kaysen

Tony Clifton Lives

Stanley Kaufman, the 80-year-old father of the late comedian Andy Kaufman, went to see Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York the other day and couldn’t believe what he encountered. Watching Daniel Day-Lewis up on the screen as the terrifying but also funny nativist Bill the Butcher, Mr. Kaufman, who lives primarily in Palm Beach, Fla., said he turned to the friend who’d accompanied him to the theater and said: “For crying out loud, this guy’s doing a takeoff on Tony Clifton! Am I crazy, or am I hearing it?”

For those who need a comedy refresher course, Tony Clifton was Andy Kaufman’s alter ego from hell, a malevolent, mustachioed lounge singer with oversized sunglasses and an inky, cauliflower-shaped toupee who made audiences squirm more than they laughed. Just like Bill the Butcher.

Since catching the movie, Mr. Kaufman told The Transom that he’s been asking everyone he knows who’s seen the film whether they’ve noticed the similarities too. “There can’t be any connection,” he said at one point, and yet he couldn’t dismiss the similarities. “It was very immediate to me,” he said. “It was absolutely the speech. Tony was very nasal. And Daniel was very nasal. Don’t you think so?”

When The Transom told Mr. Kaufman that, after listening to some old Internet recordings of Tony Clifton, we thought that he had more of a Midwestern, Chicago-area accent, he just laughed.

“Andy’s a Brooklyn boy. He’s a New York boy,” he said of his son, who died in 1984. Then Mr. Kaufman did a respectable Tony Clifton imitation, pouring water on our opinion. “And that’s the way I thought I heard [Day-Lewis] talking all the time. It was that kind of an accent.”

Then again, after listening to the digital sound bites of Clifton (occasionally Mr. Kaufman’s partner-in-comedy, Bob Zmuda, would play him), it was hard to deny that Clifton and Bill the Butcher were kindred spirits-“Names to respect! Names to fear!” as Mr. Clifton might have said-breath-taking practitioners of a combination of brutality and comedy that, once experienced, is hard to forget.

“Oh yeah, Tony was a nasty guy,” Mr. Kaufman said. “You mispronounce his name, he’d pour a glass of water on your head.”

Did Clifton ever say “Whoopsy-daisy!” the way Bill the Butcher does in the knife-throwing scene? The Transom asked Mr. Kaufman. The closest thing we had been able to find was a sound bite of Clifton saying: “Whoops! Hey! Look out! I think you sat in some cottage cheese. Pardon me-that’s your ass!”

“That’s a good question,” Mr. Kaufman said. “Not to my recollection.”

Maybe someday Mr. Kaufman will get an answer from Mr. Day-Lewis-but in the meantime, the actor’s manager, Gene Parseghian, wasn’t able to clear up the matter. “I wouldn’t be able to comment at all upon Daniel’s preparations, not having experienced them,” he said.

And if Mr. Day-Lewis was somehow inspired by Tony Clifton, he can take heart from the knowledge that Andy Kaufman’s dad approves. Referring to the Golden Globes, Mr. Kaufman said: “I think Daniel Day-Lewis should have gotten the award the other night.”


Boltin’ Bolton

… For some revelers at the anniversary party for Gotham and L.A. Confidential magazines, the body language onstage was worth the bridge-and-tunnel crowd beneath it. One partygoer who attended the Jan. 14 event at Cipriani 42nd Street recalled that rap impresario Russell Simmons-who toasted Gotham publisher Jason Binn while wearing an argyle sweater-seemed to use former President Bill Clinton as a human shield when Top 40 singer Michael Bolton was invited onstage to sing. The source told The Transom that when Mr. Bolton began ululating, the multi-tasking Mr. Simmons managed both to get Mr. Clinton’s ear and to edge his way to the side of the stage, thereby preserving his street credibility. Partygoers also noticed that after high-spirited model Heidi Klum was rendered speechless during her time on stage-“Jason, what should I say?” she asked Mr. Binn at one point-she got a big bear hug of support from Mr. Clinton after she left the podium.


The Transom Also Hears …

… The publication party for Mariel Hemingway’s book Finding My Balance: A Memoir at Donna Karan’s Madison Avenue store turned out to be a Sun Valley reunion. The evening’s hostess, Ms. Karan, had just recovered from a serious summer skiing accident, but said she’d returned to the Idaho slopes this season. At one point, Ms. Karan lifted the leg she had broken in the mishap and said to a socialite and fellow Sun Valley–goer: “Look, doesn’t it look better?” Edgar Bronfman Jr., who had been the first guest to arrive, didn’t get the same viewing pleasure. He stood in the back of the room with Ms. Hemingway’s other Sun Valley pal, ketchup heir Chris Heinz, who told The Transom, “We’re part of a close-knit Central Idaho community.” Noticeably absent from this “community” was ImClone chief executive Sam Waksal, who had invested in Ms. Hemingway’s husband’s restaurant, Sam’s, many moons ago. “I haven’t seen him in seven years!” Ms. Hemingway said. “I only wish him luck.” Is he in the book? “No, but he should read it. He could use a little meditation himself!”

-Alexandra Wolfe

The Story of H