“Tonight there will be smoking, despite Mr. Bloomberg,” Jon Stewart told the audience in the Regent Wall Street Hotel’s grand ballroom. “Fuck him. And when I say ‘fuck him,’ I mean it. He’ll do it. For $15, he’ll do it. I kid, of course. Mostly because I’m still drunk from Passover.”
Three weeks after Passover-May 12, to be exact-and Mr. Stewart was insulting the city’s Mayor for a good cause: a benefit for the McCarton School for autistic children, which honored Comedy Central chief executive Larry Divney and featured Mr. Stewart as the M.C.
Offstage, Mr. Stewart, whose program has been praised for reporting and analyzing current events better than some serious news organizations, told The Transom that he hadn’t yet read The Clinton Wars by ex-President Clinton’s ex–senior advisor, Sidney Blumenthal, but had high hopes for the recently published tome. “I’m hoping for limericks, actually,” Mr. Stewart said. “But in all seriousness, I hope it’s factual, and truthful, and utterly irrelevant.”
Mr. Stewart also seemed encouraged by the recent spate of achievements by journalistic fabricators Jayson Blair, whose work at The New York Times prompted a hefty explanation in the May 11 edition of the paper of record, and Stephen Glass, who just published a fictionalized account of his fictitious exploits. “As a fake newsman myself, it’s always encouraging to see the profession catching on,” Mr. Stewart added. “If I can inspire one guy to make up all his sources, well then I’ve done my job.”
Kidman’s Car Service
When it comes to exercise, Nicole Kidman knows how to cool down in style. On the afternoon of May 12, a Transom spy spotted Ms. Kidman-in an Adidas track suit, wraparound sunglasses and a baseball cap-finishing up a run on the fringe of Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 90th Street. Ms. Kidman’s jog ended at the back door of a black Ford Explorer with tinted windows that was idling on Fifth Avenue. Shifting from a lower- to upper-body workout, Ms. Kidman worked her delts and biceps by opening the door, tensed her abs to slide into the back seat, and, before you could say “cardiovascular benefits,” was spirited away from the scene of her exertions.
NBC Fall Preview: Rock Center Ratings
On May 12, hundreds of NBC employees, advertisers and affiliates lined up at the site of the Rockefeller Plaza ice rink to glad-hand and pose for pictures with the cast members of new shows that will adorn the schedules of NBC’s broadcast and cable properties.
Based on The Transom’s unscientific monitoring of the lengths of each of the show’s lines, here, in descending order, are the most popular shows with NBC insiders:
1) It’s a close one, but the cigar goes to Las Vegas . A kind of C.S.I. for the William Bennett set, the show revolves around a casino security team populated by James Caan-a guy who knows something about police procedurals, and Molly Simms. The line for the show snaked through the door of the Sea Grill restaurant and onto the rink, though Ms. Simms’ extremely low-cut jacket may have given the show an unfair advantage.
2) A close second was the turnout for The Lyon’s Den , which stars Rob Lowe, and is about the goings on at a 150-year-old law firm. Mr. Lowe might have drawn a bigger crowd if he had posed for videos instead of stills.
3) Next came the line for former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who had been set up at a “star station” on the Rockefeller Center concourse. Mr. Ventura, who got a lot of face time on MSNBC during the war in Iraq, will now host his own talk show on the cable news network. Mr. Ventura told The Transom he was chosen because “[MSNBC] naturally knew, to be honest, that every time I appear the ratings spiked.”
“I’m cool, see. I can relate to young people,” Mr. Ventura added. “I’m on cable where you can swear and stuff.”
4) Holding steady was Happy Family star John Larroquette, who stars as one of two parents trying to get their twentysomething children out of the house. But really, everyone just remembered him from Night Court .
5) What! Fifth place for Coupling , the sitcom that’s being billed as the Friends of the future? That’s the way it looked at Rockefeller Center for the American adaptation of a British sitcom of the same name-which can currently be found on the BBC America channel on Time Warner cable. Expect the defense contractors at NBC’s parent company, General Electric, to begin jamming the Beeb’s feed any day now.
In the meantime, Coupling co-star Lindsay Price was batting away any comparisons to its predecessor. Though the ensemble consists of three men and three women, “The humor is more like an Oscar Wilde play than an American half hour,” she said of Coupling , adding that viewers will “see in each [character] someone you know.” Of her own character, Ms. Price said, “I play a bisexual psychotic girl,” which means NBC has the Midwestern states pretty much covered.
6) Whoopi Goldberg, who plays a New York hotelier in Whoopi . Think Nathan Lane in Encore! Encore! with an even more desperate laugh track.
7) James Lipton. There were times when poor Mr. Lipton seemed to be all by his lonesome at the Bravo booth-another cable channel that NBC owns. But don’t feel sorry for him, folks. He’ll use this experience to strengthen his craft and, you can bet, talk about it at length on the next episode of Inside the Actors Studio .
Broadway Love Orgy
The song-and-dance-filled Spring Gala for the Manhattan Theatre Club on the evening of Monday, May 12, was something of an orgy of egos and ardor because, well, theater people love other theater people almost as much as they love themselves.
The evening at the Hilton raised over a million dollars for the Club’s new Broadway theater on West 47th Street, the Biltmore-which everyone looooooves -but the No. 1 recipient of the evening’s tsunami of adoration was Lynne Meadow, the Manhattan Theatre Club’s artistic director. The gala celebrated Ms. Meadow’s 30th year in that position.
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife playwright and transvestite extraordinaire Charles Busch loves, loves, loves Ms. Meadow. He told the audience that she-he referred to her as a “wacky coed”-accepted the job as artistic director only after pondering and ultimately turning down a position managing the cheese counter at Zabar’s.
“With her drive, one can only imagine what that cheese counter would be like today,” he said. “She is adorable and relentless, and when I say relentless, I mean that she is so passionate about what she believes in that she will pursue it until you want to kill her …. I always say that they should send Lynne to the Middle East. She’d locate bin Laden in a week-10 days if she were working on a show.”
Back at his table over filet mignon, Mr. Busch-there with his boyfriend, Opera News columnist Eric Myers-told The Transom about his long love affair with Ms. Meadows, who directed The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at the Manhattan Theatre Club and on Broadway. “I get kind of moony about her,” he said, a coy smile on his face. “My mother died when I was 7, and I get big crushes on intelligent maternal types. I get very gooey. I want to sit on her knee.”
The evening included performances from nine Broadway and Off Broadway shows, including Movin’ Out , La Bohème , Urban Cowboy and Zanna, Don’t! The entire cast of Hairspray performed “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” with a special “This is for you, Lynn” from a dolled up Harvey Fierstein.
Speaking of unstoppable, former Knots Landing star Michele Lee, who co-hosted the evening with actor Treat Williams, seemed intent on giving out her phone number to whomever might be interested. Addressing Mr. Williams from the stage, she said: “You know, Treat, before the show I asked Lynne if you were married, and she said you are, so you can just look. But for the rest of you, in L.A. I’m at 310-274-02 …. ” Ms. Lee’s voice trailed off, perhaps remembering that she’s been married to TV producer Fred Rappoport for 15 years. But then she said: “For those of you in Manhattan, I’m at 706-hey, are there any horses here?”
There was synchronized brow-furrowing in the audience.
Then things got really weird. Ms. Lee capped her performance by serenading Ms. Meadow with “I Believe in You” from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying , a play that Ms. Lee starred in in the 1960’s. But anyone who’s seen the play will recall that the song is sung by an actor looking at himself in a mirror. “I believe in yeeeeeeeeee-ooooooo,” Ms. Lee belted. But was she talking about Ms. Meadow or herself?
Don’t ask Poetri. The performer recited a number from the Broadway production Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam , about the true love of his life. “I plan to be with myself to the very end,” the verse ended. “Or until something better comes along.”
-Anna Jane Grossman
Does Viagra sell faster when a celebrity’s name is attached? While poring over a recent litter of penis enlargement and lower mortgage-rate offers from such e-mail senders as “Billy35tp94” and “ewjulie1,” The Transom recently came across a message bearing the name “Kirstie Alley.” The subject headline read “VlAGRA, Soma, Fioricet, Prescribed Online for Free, Shipped Overnight” and the body of the e-mail included a photograph of a woman in a bikini-not Ms. Alley, or at least the actress with that name-and a series of promises that the reader could “Lose Weight Now! … Quit Smoking Now! … End Pain Now! … [and] End Impotence Now!” with “No Prior Prescription Necessary!”
Clearly, some tech geek was having a bit of fun at the actress’ expense. Several years ago, the real Ms. Alley, who starred on Cheers , publicly admitted to a long battle with cocaine and alcohol addiction, and has been the spokeswoman for Narconon, a rehab program with ties to Scientology.
Attempts to reply to the message from “Kirstie Alley”-whose e-mail address was email@example.com unsuccessful and Ms. Alley’s manager did not return calls by press time.
The Transom Also Hears …
… “This is my Mother’s Day outfit,” Sylvia Miles said at the May 12 premiere party at the Four Seasons for HBO Films’ My House in Umbria . Despite the celebrity wattage of Oscar winner Chris Cooper, Dame Maggie Smith, screenwriter and director John Sayles and Marisa Berenson, Ms. Miles was hard to miss in a flower-studded hat and a brown-and-yellow floral-patterned ensemble that brought to mind the old Orchard Street. But then the Crossing Delancey co-star decided a clarification was in order. “I’m not a mother,” Ms. Miles explained, “but it’s the outfit I would wear if I were one.”