Piazza Pop

So it’s been a really crappy summer for the New York Mets, but at least catcher Mike Piazza has made

So it’s been a really crappy summer for the New York Mets, but at least catcher Mike Piazza has made it through a season without having to respond to rumors about his sexuality.

Not .

Mr. Piazza’s orientation is the unlikely topic of a new song on the upcoming album from that band of Scottish eccentrics, Belle and Sebastian. The album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress , features a song called “Piazza, New York Catcher,” which, according to press materials, is a tribute to Belle and Sebastian founder and vocalist Stuart Murdoch’s “deep love of baseball.” The bare-bones love song is performed by Mr. Murdoch, addressed to a woman. He suggests that she accompany him to San Francisco to watch the Giants play the Mets.

The song then addresses Mr. Piazza, asking outright, “New York catcher, are you straight or are you gay?”

In a later verse, Mr. Murdoch could be referring to his female companion or to the baseball player:

We hung about the stadium we’ve got no place to stay

We hung about the Tenderloin and tenderly you say

About the saddest ending of a book you ever had to read ….

Belle and Sebastian, currently on tour in Europe, couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the New York Mets told The Transom that Mr. Piazza didn’t know about the song. Despite the lyrics sent by The Transom, and “without having heard or any knowledge of the song,” Mr. Piazza “was unable to comment,” said the spokeswoman.

-Rebecca Traister

Bianca Likes Chad

Sex and the City creator Darren Star’s new show is Miss Match , an NBC sitcom about a divorce-lawyer- cum -yenta. On Saturday, Aug. 30, the producer took his own turn at playing Cupid at a party at his East Hampton home. Looking tired and jaded, guest Bianca Jagger perked up when artist Ross Bleckner entered the fête with a bevy of young-Adonis types. Female-orgasm expert Kim Cattrall, who held court in a mauve halter dress, steered clear of the group, but Ms. Jagger pounced. One particularly tall, well-muscled one-who said he worked for a nonprofit, was straight and 21-seemed to be especially enchanting to the 58-year-old former rock-wife. When Mr. Bleckner and Ms. Jagger were leaving to join Calvin Klein for supper, the painter beckoned the young blond hunk to come with. “We’re going, Chad,” he said. “Bianca likes you.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Three-Alarm Seymour

On Thursday, Aug. 21, Southampton’s midweek calm was interrupted by alarm bells ringing at Sam Goody on Main Street. The culprit: model Stephanie Seymour, dressed in a low-cut red-and-white-flowered sundress with black lace sparingly covering her décolletage. As the model waltzed around the store in high heels carrying a Discman, one of the store’s salesmen followed Ms. Seymour making suggestions and carrying all of her prospective purchases. But whenever she required additional guidance, Ms. Seymour would haul a CD to the store’s entrance, open the door and wave it at a girlfriend, who was standing outside chatting on her cell phone.

Unfortunately, each of the three times Ms. Seymour did this, she set off Sam Goody’s security alarm. She also added her own whine to the sound mix when the salesman told her that the store didn’t have a certain album that she wanted in stock. “But the guys in Greenwich said they’d have it by the 19th!” Ms. Seymour whimpered. “I mean, it’s already like the 23rd or 24th!” Finally, she made her purchases, met her friend outside, and Sam Goody got its security system back under control.

-Alexandra Wolfe

Costner, Unforgiven

Open Range , the Buena Vista Pictures western starring Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall and Annette Bening, has garnered mixed reviews and lukewarm box office, making it actor-director Kevin Costner’s best-received film in years. But it wasn’t a hit with one Los Angeles producer-director who contends his name should have been listed as one of the producers of the film. And now he’s made a federal case of it.

Director and producer Howard Dratch has sued Mr. Costner, his production company Good Ones Productions, screenwriter Craig Storper, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and other defendants, claiming that although he helped to put Open Range together, he was eventually cut out of his rightful credit and producer’s fee.

“He was denied credit as producer of a movie, and credit is worth a tremendous amount of money,” said Mr. Dratch’s lawyer, Neville L. Johnson of Johnson and Rishwain. He added that after an unsuccessful attempt to settle through mediation, the case has been moved to United States District Court in Los Angeles. A trial date is set for June 8, 2004, and Judge Christina A. Snyder, a former entertainment lawyer, is scheduled to preside.

A copy of the initial complaint, filed on Oct. 7, 2002, was obtained by The Transom. It begins with an unusual epigraph:

“It is a poetic piece that deals with a code of friendship and people who were willing to die abiding by that code,” reads the quotation, which is attributed to Mr. Costner, speaking about Open Range in The Hollywood Reporter .

Mr. Dratch’s lawyers go on to argue that Mr. Costner, Mr. Storper et al. violated a similar code of friendship-if such a thing exists in the movie business.

The lawsuit’s allegations begin with the assessment that “an unknown, neglected screenwriter, no matter how talented and worthy, can remain in that forlorn state for many years in Hollywood. Without access to this town’s decision-makers, without intelligent handling, and without the skillful diplomacy of an experienced producer, such a writer can be marginalized for months and years, and ultimately lost.”

Mr. Storper, according to the lawsuit, was just this sort of screenwriter when he met Mr. Dratch, the producer of On Company Business , the director of Routes of Rhythm , which starred Harry Belafonte, and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated 2002 HBO TV series Paths to War . Mr. Storper and Mr. Dratch lived across the street from each other, and according to the suit, developed a friendship over the course of six years.

Though the suit acknowledges that Mr. Storper “had seen some early success as the winner of a Golden Globes Award” for writing the 1986 television film The Truth About Alex , it claims that “after that, his career hit a wall,” and that none of his scripts were produced for over 15 years.

According to the suit, Mr. Dratch became a protector to his neighbor, storing Mr. Storper’s furniture when he got evicted, allowing him to use his home mailing address and helping him to place his scripts with producers.

The complaint also alleges that the two men had an unwritten agreement: If Mr. Dratch’s help led to the development of one of Mr. Storper’s projects, Mr. Dratch would become a producer-and, further, that “Storper assured Dratch that they did not need a written agreement because they were friends and that Storper was a man of his word.”

In 1999, according to the suit, Mr. Dratch began to shop the Open Range script, along with Mr. Storper’s scripts Lawless and Land of the Free , to Hollywood players, including Ron Shelton, Sam Shepard, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. The documents quote an e-mail from Mr. Storper in which he expresses his desire that Mr. Dratch get the script to someone who can, in turn, get it to “Clint [Eastwood] (or another big actor or his own big agents or someone).” At least one reviewer has likened Open Range to Mr. Eastwood’s Oscar-honored western opus Unforgiven .

After unsuccessfully submitting the script to L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson in January of 2001, the suit alleges that Mr. Dratch began to work with Mr. Hanson’s United Talent Agency agent Keya Khayatian, who became interested in the script.

During a meeting between Mr. Khayatian and Mr. Dratch, the lawsuit claims there was a discussion of Mr. Dratch’s producer credit and whether he might be willing to share it.

Mr. Dratch was willing, and Mr. Khayatian contacted Mr. Costner, who was a U.T.A. client at that time. Mr. Costner liked the script.

Mr. Dratch’s suit maintains that throughout this process, he was in constant contact with Mr. Storper about meetings, casting ideas and the progress of the developing project. But after a May 2001 meeting at Mr. Costner’s house, which Mr. Dratch and Mr. Storper attended, the suit claims: “Not even out of Costner’s driveway after the meeting, Storper advised Dratch that he, Storper, should subsequently meet with Costner without Dratch,” but that “Storper assured Dratch that he had nothing to be concerned about and that the project would not proceed without him.”

As the script was being revised, Mr. Storper was signed by Mr. Khayatian at U.T.A. and, according to the lawsuit, a concerned Mr. Dratch asked to confirm their producing agreement in writing. That’s when Mr. Storper allegedly voiced a new position: The suit claims that in letters dated Aug. 10 and Oct. 22, 2001, Mr. Storper’s attorney, Matthew Saver, claimed that “there had never been any agreement that Dratch would be a producer for Open Range and that Storper was free to proceed without Dratch’s involvement if Dratch was unwilling to accept the terms unilaterally offered to him. Instead, Storper is now credited as the producer and writer of the project.” Mr. Storper is credited, in fact, as an executive producer on the project.

Mr. Dratch has not yet asked for a dollar amount in his lawsuit. But the suit claims that he suffered monetary loss not simply from the producer’s fee he claims he was owed, but for the worth of a credit on a feature film. The legal papers also claim that Mr. Dratch still has all of Mr. Storper’s stuff in his garage.

Michael Plonsker, an attorney for Mr. Storper, said: “We believe that there is absolutely no merit to this case.”

News of the lawsuit was first broken by Roger Friedman in his online “Fox 411” column last January, but industry interest in the legal contretemps has escalated since Open Range opened on Aug. 15 and revived Mr. Costner’s seemingly moribund career.

Lawyers for Mr. Costner and the other defendants didn’t return calls by press time.


The Transom Also Hears ….

· Running Man, Pt. 1 : Actor Edward Norton may be a die-hard Democrat-he’s openly anti-war and has donated thousands to Democratic candidate John Kerry’s Presidential campaign-but he seems to be taking a least-of-all-evils approach to the California gubernatorial race. Over dinner for two at the Bridgehampton sushi joint Yama-Q on Saturday, Aug. 16, Mr. Norton was overheard telling his middle-aged, redheaded female companion: “I think [Arnold Schwarzenegger] would be a good idea. He’s better than all those other conservative fuckers.”

His dinner partner was incredulous. “Are you kidding me?” she said.

“No, I’d vote for him,” Mr. Norton answered. “He wouldn’t be that bad.”


· Running Man, Pt. 2 : A lot of New Yorkers are enjoying the California recall madness, but perhaps none so much as What Makes Sammy Run? author Budd Schulberg. White-haired and elegant in a blue blazer and white shoes, the writer, who’s nearing 90, had a laugh over the Left Coast situation during a recent Writers Guild event at the Yale Club on Aug. 7.

“What I’m about to say is a little self-serving, but I thought, ‘They’re rewriting A Face in the Crowd ‘” (Mr. Schulberg’s 1957 film about a hobo who becomes a TV star and is, inevitably, corrupted by power). “Schwarzenegger knows nothing about state governance, and he’s an instant favorite. Why? Because he delivers that line so well”-and here Mr. Schulberg, with his gravelly, staccato voice, assumed an unfortunate, tepid Spanish accent-” Hasta la vista, baby! He’s perfect for this moment in time. Schwarzenegger is it .”

-Elon Rafael Green

· Running Man, Pt. 3 : On Aug. 23, film producer Eliot Kastner, restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, publicist Bobby Zarem and Kathryn Altman, the wife of director Robert Altman, were having lunch at Girasole when the conversation turned to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ms. Altman told the group that although most people think that Mr. Schwarzenegger’s first film was Stay Hungry , he had actually played a tiny role as a hood in her husband’s 1973 picture, The Long Goodbye , which starred Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe. Indeed, Ms. Altman remembered how Mr. Schwarzenegger had shown up at the Altmans’ California homestead, thinking that this was where the scene would be shot. This information came as a surprise to Mr. Zarem, who represented Mr. Schwarzenegger and his film Pumping Iron in the 70’s, and especially Mr. Kastner: He was the executive producer of The Long Goodbye and, he told them, “never knew” that Mr. Schwarzenegger had appeared in the film.

By the way, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s very first film role was in the 1970 flick Hercules in New York (a.k.a. Hercules Goes Bananas ), in which the producers dubbed over his heavy Austrian accent and billed him as Arnold Strong.

-Frank DiGiacomo

Piazza Pop