Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti’s decision to ban the distribution of screeners of Oscar-nominated films continues to reverberate. Movie-industry sources told The Transom that a number of “independent” film directors and producers are campaigning to seek legal action against the MPAA. Apparently, lawyers who have been consulted feel there could be a case against the MPAA for antitrust violations.
The ban has reportedly received a surprising amount of backlash from independents on both coasts. On Oct. 8, a group called the Independent Working Group, an ad-hoc organization of executives from at least three specialty film companies, including Disney-owned Miramax, Sony-owned Sony Pictures Classics and Vivendi Universal–owned Focus Features, conducted a conference call with Mr. Valenti to air their grievances. On Oct. 10, a large contingent of directors and producers reportedly sent a letter to Mr. Valenti, writing, “We ask that the MPAA repeal its decision immediately.”
You can take Harvey Weinstein out of Buffalo, but you can’t take Buffalo out of Harvey Weinstein. On Monday, Oct. 13, in the dusky after-work hours, Miramax’s co-chairman pulled out all the stops for one of his longtime buddies and former Buffalo University roomie, Dan Ward. Mr. Ward is running for county executive in far-off Erie County, N.Y. While most Gothamites don’t even want to know where Erie County is, Mr. Weinstein remembered his roots and threw a $500-a-ticket fund-raiser in his friend’s honor that included canapés at the Four Seasons restaurant, an advance screening of the Miramax film The Human Stain, and a cameo by New York’s junior Senator, Hillary Clinton.
The evening began at the Four Seasons, where loyal Democratic donors schmoozed beneath the restaurant’s undulating chain-mail curtains while they nibbled on hors d’oeuvres of flowered smoked salmon, crab cakes and batter-fried shrimp. Mr. Weinstein huddled at the bar chewing on a piece of gum.
Shortly after 6:30, Ms. Clinton arrived in a vampy pinstripe suit, zapping the room to twittery life. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson also assembled to lend support for Mr. Weinstein’s pal from upstate.
“I grew up pretty poor, lower-middle-class as some people would say, and because of the G.I. Bill and student loans, I got to go to school at the University of Buffalo, and that’s where I met Dan and Dennis Ward [Dan’s brother and also a close friend],” Mr. Weinstein said in a brief speech that he made to the crowd. “And I’d say to these guys on a Friday night, ‘Guys, let’s go out to a movie, let’s go out to a bar.’ Instead they’d say, ‘No, we got to put up placards in South Buffalo for the City Councilman’s race.’ And thanks to [them], we’ve learned that public service and giving back is the most important thing that you can do.”
But then Mr. Weinstein flexed the kind of rhetorical muscle that works as well in the back halls of Manhattan as it does in smoke-filled rooms upstate. “For all of those Democrats who are not helping Dan Ward in Buffalo, I want you to know that the Miramax operators have your name and telephone numbers, and we believe in revenge,” he said from his perch above the crowd.
No wonder Erie County’s Democratic chairman, Len Lenihan, gushed: “He’s a great friend of Buffalo.”
Mr. Weinstein was much less expansive about his considerably less expansive waistline. When The Transom asked him about his trimmed-down physique, his spokesman, Matthew Hiltzik, told us: “Tonight’s a night about politics, not about diets. We’re going to focus tonight on gaining votes, not on losing pounds.”
Alex Von Stud
Alex Von Bidder, the dapper co-owner of the Four Seasons Restaurant, has a new gig: model. In the past three Lands’ End catalogs, the restaurateur has been featured in two-page spreads. One page features the well-pressed 50-year-old enjoying a spot of espresso in the Four Season’s Pool Room, wearing a double-breasted suit and a crisp white Lands’ End shirt and tie. The facing page chronicles Mr. Von Bidder’s “love affair” with Lands’ End, which began when he ordered a pair of custom made jeans from them last year.
“They’re the best jeans I’ve ever owned,” he said. “They really fit my butt.”
Previously, he said, he’d favored Gap and Levi’s dungarees but was so impressed with the Lands’ End jeans that he wrote a note to the company telling them so. This led the company to ask Mr. von Bidder if they could feature him and his restaurant in the catalog. “It didn’t make sense for me to model jeans for them in the restaurant because I don’t wear jeans here,” he said. “But then they started a custom line of shirts and they were equally terrific, and they were a third of the normal price of shirts, so I said ‘sure!'”
So, in April, Mr. Von Bidder posed in a shirt for the catalog, and then sat down with a Lands’ End “reporter.”
Mr. Von Bidder received a gift certificate for his trouble and said he now owns at least half a dozen of the custom made shirts, which start at $49. His modeling career has not gone unnoticed by Four Season regulars.
“It’s amazing the diversity of people who get the Lands’ End catalogue. Many people have come in the restaurant and say, ‘Hey I buy those shirts too!'”
A spokesman for Lands’ End said that since the article ran, custom shirt sales have spiked. However Julian Nicolini, Mr. Von Bidder’s partner at the Four Seasons was not one of the men who picked up the phone to order some shirts.
“Alex should do more modeling. He’s a good looking guy,” said Mr. Niccolini who did some modeling himself at a fashion show recently held in the Pool Room. “But I don’t wear Lands’ End. I prefer Brioni.”
-Anna Jane Grossman
Society Scavenger Hunt
Tom Guinzburg, veteran publisher of Viking Press, is no stick in the mud. Back in the 70’s, when Thomas Pynchon won the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow, Mr. Guinzburg convinced Professor Irwin Corey to pose as the enigmatic author and accept the award. Mr. Corey took the stage at Carnegie Hall dressed in a dashiki and a giant gold amulet, faced the crowd and began his speech, as is his trademark, with “And furthermore!”
On Oct. 16, Mr. Guinzburg plans to liven up another usually ritzy-but-staid party when he stages a scavenger hunt at the Preview Party for the International Fine Art and Antiques Dealers show.
Fans of the world renowned International Fine Art and Antique Dealers show at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue and 67th Street.
Everyone who purchases a ticket to the event, which benefits the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, will be handed a “Riddle Card” on their way into the soiree. On it, Mr. Guinzburg, a member of the Society’s Administrative Board, has worked up 46 clues that lead to a corresponding number of dealers. For example, “Dover fish hiding in bush” should lead players to the S.J. Shrubsole Corporation. Those who correctly figure out the riddles will have their names entered into a drawing. Jamee Gregory and Leslie Jones, co-chairmen of the Preview Party, will draw the winners and the top prizes are a $1,000 gift certificate from Saks Fifth Avenue and a 9-day art cruise for two aboard the River Cloud from Amsterdam to Maastricht.
Mr. Guinzburg told The Transom that this year’s scavenger hunt will be considerably easier than the last one he worked up for the preview party. “The velvet ropes were being abused,” he recalled, adding that some “art historian graduate” won and was “very grumpy” that the prize was not worthy of her efforts. This time, he said, “There’s only one hard clue in the whole thing.”
Martha Stewart may be scared of going to the clink, but it hasn’t affected her appetite. “I’m feeling very Italian today!” said Ms. Stewart as she stuffed spinach ravioli into her mouth next to the pasta bar at Osteria del Circo on Oct. 13. The homemaking specialist was taking part in the festivities at the post-Columbus Day Parade party hosted by Ruffino wine and the restaurant’s owners, the Maccioni family. Wearing a brown checked blazer with cuffed jeans, Ms. Stewart had snuck out of her office to watch her second parade of the weekend; the first she saw on Sunday in New Jersey. “A parade is fun to watch! To see all the Italian Americans out in full force is pretty great,” she said, then motioned around the room adding, “Look at who’s here, Maccioni, Cavalli, Silvano!”
Mr. Cavalli arrived with the panache of the pope with his lithe long-haired wife and three children. As Grand Marshall, he rode in an Alfa Romeo trailed by twenty models wearing his fall line riding Ducati motorcycles. Incidentally, the models arrived at the party an hour and a half before Mr. Cavalli, parked there bikes out front and were the first guests to fill the bright banquettes and tables in the sideroom of the restaurant. When the designer arrived himself, he rolled up the sleeves of his black jacket and crisp white shirt, gestured wildly, embracing The Transom, and said, “In Italy, we don’t know what Columbus day is, only in the United States. If they invite me to be Grand Marshall, it’s very special.”
Short and Sweet
Actor Peter Dinklage, the handsome, swarthy 34-year-old star of the new film The Station Agent, is four-foot-six inches tall.
And the film’s writer and director Tom McCarthy, an old friend of Mr. Dinklage, is a bit jealous.
“Look how fucking sexy he is!” said Mr. McCarthy emphatically. He was standing in the cramped back room of the new Upper East Side restaurant Kitsch following a screening of the film at the MGM screening room on West 55th Street. Pundit George Stephanopoulos squeezed by him to find his wife, journalist and talk-show host Alexandra Wentworth, a seat next to fellow screening-attendee actress Julianna Margulies. “Peter’s always had action going on, but now it’s improved, absolutely. “Goddamnit!” Mr. McCarthy continued. “He’s going on Leno!”
And Mr. McCarthy isn’t.
Although he’s difficult to spot in a crowd, The Transom found the diminutive all-black-clad Mr. Dinklage having a smoke outside the restaurant. He was surrounded by women.
Mr. Dinklage said he was thinking about wearing a pirate costume when he went on Leno. “And I can be like, ‘Camera A? What camera am I looking at? Camera A?’ I’ll do all the predictable stuff.”
Just then Mr. Dinklage’s co-star, Bobby Cannavale, best known as the “Funky Spunk” guy from Sex and the City-a distinction he likened to being the “HBO Soup Nazi”-came outside and rushed his cast member. “I heard Lou Reed came up to you!” he said. The middle-aged pop star had attended the screening, but not the dinner that followed. “Why didn’t you [tell] me?”
“I was standing outside and he beelined toward me,” Mr. Dinklage recounted. “He was talking about the colors of the movie, the beautiful green and he was talking about Hollywood. “But I did the rudest thing. He was talking to me for like five minutes and at no point was I like, ‘I’m a huge fan.’ Do you think he just assumed that?”
Mr. Cannavale stared down in awe at his friend, two feet below. He shook his head, smiled, then said: “You and Lou Reed, man!”
-Alexandra Wolfe & A.J.G.
Gafni the Brow Slayer
“I love begging people for money!” Sarah Michelle Gellar announced at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on the evening of Oct. 9. The place had been decorated in pink, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but not Ms. Gellar. She was wearing a slinky décolleté brown satin dress and a $11,000 Mikimoto pearl necklace, which was for sale.
“You can come take it off me!” she said.
The men in the crowd lunged.
“But wait! You have to go pay for it first!” Ms. Gellar said.
The evening was organized to raise money for the Young Survival Coalition, an international non-profit for breast cancer battlers under 40. When the actress asked the breast-cancer survivors in the room to raise their hands, a shocking number of arms shot up. “When I was playing Buffy, women were always telling me that I inspired them,” she said. “And looking at you all, for the first time ever, I know how that feels. You inspire me.”
She then passed the mike up to the six-foot-three-inch tall comedian Judy Gold, former producer for the Rosie O’Donnell show. Immediately, the crowd started to lose interest.
“Man, the moment she said ‘I’m turning the mike to Judy Gold, you all started talking, so F-U!” Ms. Gold said. The crowd’s disinterest persisted. “You know, I became a comedian because I didn’t get enough attention as a child, and I want to thank you because now I’m reliving that.”
Ms. Gold then turned to the boom-microphone above her head and pretended to give it a blowjob.
Most of the murmuring was going in the front of the room near make-up artist Ramy Gafni who had a station set up next to the make-up section of the silent auction. A survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Mr. Gafni was there with a team of eyebrow pluckers to tweeze willing event-attendees. A freshly plucked gray-haired man examined his sculpted brow and the area underneath which, in keeping with the evening’s decor, was pink.
A pleased Mr. Gafni smiled at him and then swept some spare hairs off the rose-colored tablecloth in front of him. He then looked up and considered Ms. Gellar, who was offering to announce the Yankees score to the crowd if they would please just shut up.
“I’d love to get my hands on her,” he said. “I’ve always thought she needed some help in the brow area.”
Stop That Artist, Now!
Following We Go Round and Round in the Night and Are Consumed By Fire , the inaugural exhibit of British artists at the new Chelsea gallery Comme Ca NYC on Oct. 16, those crazy Limeys are hosting a party at the club formerly known as Tunnel. Fun times will be had at the event, which is being organized by Flux, a Manchester-based art and lifestyle magazine. In addition a hula-hoop contest between the Manchester artists and the Liverpudlian ones, the Poms will screen a film by David Titley, a Lancashire-based artist who works mainly with pigeons and pigeon droppings. He will show a footage he shot in New York City on Friday Oct. 10. Inspired by the 1979 film The Warriors, which is about a gang finding their way home to Coney Island from the Bronx, Mr. Titley spent the day shooting himself capturing a pigeon in Coney Island and then bringing it in a basket “by tube” to the Bronx, where he released it. “It’s a movie all about finding your way home,” said Mr. Titley. “But he was a young bird, so he probably won’t find his way back to Coney Island,” Mr. Titley added. “I feel guilty about that.” In addition to his celluloid project, he created fine art that day as well. “In the bottom of the basket I put some really nice watercolor paper and the markings of [his] droppings made a delicate stain that I think is really beautiful. Like delicate water color…he was a bird with a lot of character.”