Living Her Story, Part 2

At the end of a week in which she was frequently accused of not being forthcoming enough about her husband, Senator Hillary Clinton made a clear and unequivocal statement to The Transom last Friday about the former President’s plans. “No,” she said, laughing. As in: No, Bill Clinton is not seriously considering running for Mayor of New York City.

We spoke to Senator Clinton at a reception for the Municipal Art Society’s new exhibit, which celebrates the life and work of another New York politician not known for being equivocal: the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The show, co-sponsored by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Museum of the City of New York, features seven enormous black-and-white photographs of Moynihan -most with his signature bow tie-and quotes from him about public-works projects that he championed in New York, including Foley Square and Penn Station.

Near a photo of Moynihan sitting in front of his typewriter at the family’s old farmhouse in upstate New York is written the following quote: “We let Penn Station disappear in the Jersey marshes. We let ourselves go broke. We let a lot of things go to hell. But by God, all that is behind us. There is nothing we can’t do when we really are as good as we know how to be.”

The Eagle landed a half-hour late, in her signature black pants suit. She had come from a Senatorial press conference a few blocks away and was on her way to a public book-signing in White Plains. But she took the time to tell the crowd a story about her last visit with Moynihan.

“He came to see me in September,” Ms. Clinton recalled. “He came to my office [in the Senate], which was his office. His office was a bastion of intellectual, masculine presence, and mine”-she paused-“is painted yellow. I was a little apprehensive that it no longer looked quite like a Harvard professor’s study, where great debates take place.”

Moynihan’s appraisal of what Ms. Clinton had done with the place: “Very cheerful, very cheerful,” she said.

-Elizabeth Brown

Dia Mios! Call a Tow

After admiring the works of Warhol, Serra and Richter inside the newly opened Dia: Beacon Riggio Galleries in Beacon, N.Y., some of museum’s earliest visitors had a decidedly mixed reaction to artist Robert Irwin’s exterior installation. Outside the red-brick minimalist main building (a former box-printing factory), Mr. Irwin designed a parking lot punctuated by islands planted with lavender flowers and, in the center of each, a crabapple or hawthorn tree. But he chose to border these sylvan settings with rusted, weathered steel barriers that turned out to be lethal to automobile tires.

One person who visited the museum on May 19 told The Transom that when he was going into the museum, “I noticed that there was a tow truck pulling out of the parking lot.” Lo, when it was time to head back to Manhattan, he found that not only was one of the sidewalls on his vehicle “shredded,” but that “there were at least five cars” that had similar flats.

Dia: Beacon assistant director Amy Weisser said that the barriers have given at least two visitors flat tires since the museum opened on May 18, but she implied that the punctured tires had more to do with driving skills than Mr. Irwin’s islands. “People didn’t respect the barrier, so they didn’t notice,” she said. “They drove onto the barrier rather than stopping.”

Since the incidents, the museum has tried to make the parking area less hazardous. “Consequently, we grounded the top edges to make them even more blunt,” said Ms. Weisser. “We sanded it down.” Dia: Beacon has also compensated everyone who has run into the outside artwork. At press time, Mr. Irwin could not be reached for comment.

And the May 19 visitor, who requested anonymity, even found a silver lining in Mr. Irwin’s rusted metal. “It was like some mass participatory piece of art,” he said.

-Alexandra Wolfe


On May 25, 26-year-old Jessica Capshaw-co-star of the ABC drama The Practice -attended her five-year Brown University reunion at the college’s campus in Providence, R.I. While she was there, she appeared on a “Where Are They Now?” panel at Alumni Hall, where she and nine other members of her class discussed what they’d done since graduation.

Two of Ms. Capshaw’s former classmates who observed the panel told The Transom that, in front of a crowd of about 100, the Practice star spoke about her early struggles in show business, which involved “knocking on doors” looking for work and trying to track down some decent representation.

Ms. Capshaw didn’t mention whether any of those doors belonged to her mother, actress Kate Capshaw, or her stepfather, director Steven Spielberg.

“There was also something about how she had to take a job serving drinks as a kind of on-set gofer before she got a real acting job,” said one of the witnesses. He said that the young performer finally told of her big break: a meeting with television writer and producer David E. Kelley, who cast her as Jamie Stringer on The Practice .

During the panel discussion, which took place just four days after Mr. Kelley fired core Practice cast members Lara Flynn Boyle, Dylan McDermott, Kelli Williams and Lisa Gay Hamilton, Ms. Capshaw assured the reunion crowd that she would be returning to her role next season.

The alumni who spoke with The Transom acknowledged that Ms. Capshaw was certainly the most successful panelist on the “Where Are They Now?” program. Indeed, they said they couldn’t even remember much about the other panelists.

“One led some sort of African dance troupe, and then I feel like the rest had all been just sort of traveling around the Caribbean or something,” said an audience member.

And while her former classmates may have rolled their eyes at Ms. Capshaw’s tales of professional uncertainty, it should be noted that her acting résumé contains only two gigs on Mr. Spielberg’s tab: an internship on Schindler’s List and a bit part in Minority Report .

– Rebecca Traister

Living Her Story, Part 3

Senator Hillary Clinton, meet photographer Hillary Clinton. Last December, a middle-aged artist named William Sande began to exhibit a collection of photos that he aptly calls “Fetishfotos” under the name of Hillary Clinton. Mr. Sande-who has no connection to Ms. Clinton, save for putting her name on his business card and next to his phone number in the white pages-has been exhibiting his art at various downtown coffeehouses, including Starbucks. “They’re social statements,” he said of his work. “Sometimes they’re very sexual images.” His color photo montages depict explicit sexual scenes. “It’s really very primitive,” Mr. Sande said. “It’s about the human condition.”

Mr. Sande said that Senator Clinton was unaware of him using her name, and reps from her office didn’t return calls by press time.

So what possessed Mr. Sande to connect his work with Ms. Clinton? “She’s a person who makes me think of my work, because people have a lot of different perceptions of that woman. My work offends people terribly at times, but at other times they like it very much. She’s kind of pivotal like that.”

Ms. Clinton is also a lightning rod, as Mr. Sande said he found out since listing his phone number next to her name. The photographer said that he’s inundated with calls at all hours of the night. “That was a big mistake,” he said. “I think it’s interesting that [people] think they can look up Hillary Clinton by looking in the phone book. A lot of women call her. In some instances, they sound like very rural people. Undoubtedly some poor people call. Only poor people would be naïve enough to think they could find her in the yellow pages.”

What do they say when they call? “I can tell that a lot of people are calling her seeking out help,” he said. “They always ask me how to reach her. Some very profound need has to be met.” On the other hand, he said, “I’ve been getting quite a few obscene phone calls. They say really nasty things. I had no idea people hated her so much.”

But that hasn’t stopped Mr. Sande from trying to emulate Ms. Clinton. When The Transom asked him how old he was, he replied: “I can’t tell you. You know how Hillary is.”


About Schmidt

Ever since Ed Schmidt became an Off-Off- Off -Broadway sensation by inviting theatergoers to his Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment to cook dinner and perform his play The Last Supper for them, the 41-year-old playwright has faced the inevitable question: What’s next?

For the time being, the answer seems to be more Supper.

At least that’s the impression Mr. Schmidt gave in an interview with The Transom following a June 12 performance of his play at the Williams Club in midtown.

Compared to the 15 people maximum who can fit into Mr. Schmidt’s kitchen- cum -stage in Brooklyn, the Williams Club audience was a large one: 47 well-heeled members, most of whom were alumni (not including Mr. Schmidt, who graduated from the leafy liberal-arts college in 1984). While Mr. Schmidt did all the cooking and entertaining when the show was performed in his kitchen, the multitude of guests who forked over $30 to see the performance were fed by the club’s catering staff, who prepared Mr. Schmidt’s recipes “offstage.”

If they didn’t know the story of Mr. Schmidt’s unlikely rise from the alumni grapevine, they gleaned it from the evening’s program. For those who weren’t there, the story goes like this: In April 2002, after 20 years of rejections by agents, producers, directors and theaters-one major script, Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting , was slated for a 1995 Broadway run until the plans were scrapped later that year-Mr. Schmidt invited some friends to dinner at his apartment to see his new play, in the kitchen.

Those friends told other friends about “this guy who does this play and cooks dinner at his apartment in Brooklyn”-and before the run ended on May 17, Mr. Schmidt had been featured in The Times, The New Yorker and Time Out . He did NPR. The Today Show followed him around for four days filming a segment. “I didn’t meet Katie, but she did say the words ‘Ed Schmidt’ on the air,” he said.

But in the 24-hour smorgasbord of entertainment news that exists today, that kind of exposure only does so much. And as waiters cleared the plates from the club’s wood-paneled Grill Room, the blond-haired Mr. Schmidt, clad in jeans and a gray T-shirt, told The Transom: “You know what this play has done? It hasn’t gotten me any screenplays, it hasn’t gotten me any work, it hasn’t gotten me another play produced-none of that.”

Did he think producers would take a second look at his work? After writing some 10 plays without a hit, the success of The Last Supper hadn’t completely altered his view of the theater world. “One would hope-” Mr. Schmidt began with a gleam of optimism in his eye. Then he thought for a second. “From a very crass point of view, I can’t say it’s guaranteed, but it’s given me a very good chance that the next play I do will be reviewed by The Times .” And for Mr. Schmidt, “that’s what it’s all about.”

So to maintain traction, he’ll bring back The Last Supper for a second run in his Brooklyn kitchen this fall. “I may be naïve, but I don’t think it will be hard to keep up the exposure, for a couple of reasons,” he said. “Look, a thousand people have seen it, and I’m guessing 500 more people will want to see the next thing I do. I have a waiting list of a thousand people who couldn’t get in. There’s this built-in audience.”

And that audience won’t necessarily have to schlep to Brooklyn. “It’s now being franchised to different actors in different cities,” he told The Transom. Could he be spawning a national revival of dinner theater? “Essentially, I’m licensing the play. I give them everything-scripts, recipes. I’ve gotten inquires from 15 to 20 people. And we’ll push to get more.”

It’s exactly this kind of race against time that’s been driving Mr. Schmidt these days. “I do have this other play marching towards Broadway-maybe it will get there, maybe it won’t. The experience of this has been so fascinating that the whole idea of writing a play for the proscenium stage holds less interest for me,” he said. Then he looked at the waiters clearing the last of the wine glasses away. “I’m sure I’ll have to do it eventually. I don’t want to do plays in people’s houses for the rest of my life.”

-Gabriel Sherman

Scream and Scream Again

At rush hour on June 9, as shadows began to creep across the stone side of St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, hundreds of women (and one drag queen) stood in the courtyard and screamed bloody murder. The event was the Women’s Action Coalition’s “Scream Out!”, and its leader was Karen Finley, the performance artist and activist most famous for infuriating Jesse Helms, smearing chocolate on her naked body and taking the N.E.A. to the Supreme Court for censorship.

Forty “charges” were leveled against George Bush and his administration at the gathering, and each one was punctuated by a single scream from a different screamer. Each participant preceded her scream by traversing the stairs to the screaming platform, as if she were going to hurl herself from it once she got to the top. There Ms. Finley stood with a mane of red hair, more than six feet tall in black boots and tight pants embroidered with dragons. “You might have to scream out more than once,” she told the designated screamers, “’cause that’s how life is. You give and then you might have to give again.”

The screams ranged from the hoarse roller-coaster scream of the tall, blond drag queen to the high-pitched shrieks of a woman dressed in subtle white linen, from the melodic chant of a woman wearing an African robe (accompanied by a confused grimace on Ms. Finley’s face) to Ms. Finley herself, whose scream was deep and guttural, half-laugh and half-howl.

Ms. Finley said that she conceived of the “Scream Out” because “screaming is sometimes a woman’s only way of defense, and she’s criticized for being a screamer, for noise. So we’re taking that, in the same way that ACT UP took the word ‘queer’ and made it pro-active. We shouldn’t be embarrassed for being emotional. We’re outraged, emotionally, over political issues.

“We got together in a friend’s apartment,” Ms. Finley continued. “We put this together in the past month, and I think that’s also what I want to show: Protests, rallies, can happen on a small scale. We have to start working locally. And I feel very strongly, being a New Yorker and being here on 9/11, that the Bush administration uses the tragedy of that day, and the fear and terror of being here on that day, to take away our civil rights. And I was depressed for so long, but now we’ve got to get back moving, get back going. The purpose of this event is to take the energy and go forward. We’re New Yorkers, we have the right to free assembly, we’re here, and we just want to show our feelings together.”

-Lucy Teitler Living Her Story, Part 2