Mighty Windbags

It looks like there is at least one Hollywood star who thinks a political endorsement from a celebrity is as useless as one from Al Gore.

At a recent lunch at Michael’s in honor of Barbarian Invasions director Denys Arcand, actor Bob Balaban, wearing a black pinstripe suit and sporting a short platinum-blond hairdo, humbly replied: “First of all, I’m not very famous, so for me to say, ‘Oh, Bob Balaban supports somebody,’ this is not terribly exciting. But I’m not sure all the time but that people aren’t turned off when actors support them.”

The actor, who is perhaps best known for his roles in Gosford Park, A Mighty Wind and Best in Show (and his directorial effort with The Exonerated), has some firsthand experience, too.

“I show up in a lot of places and they scream out at my little group there, ‘Go home, left-wing actor people! Go back to Hollywood!’ They scream that at you!”

But that hasn’t stopped actress Kathleen Turner, producer Quincy Jones and musicians James Taylor and Moby from supporting Senator John Kerry, or Martin Sheen, Melissa Etheridge or Michael Douglas from rallying behind Governor Howard Dean when he was still in the race. And while she may not have been his downfall, Madonna’s endorsement of retired Gen. Wesley Clark didn’t seem to give him much of a leg up.

So far, Senator Kerry’s Hollywood helpers haven’t given him any trouble, but will more stars lead to more votes? Mr. Balaban doesn’t think so.

“People think that all Hollywood people are left-wing radical liberal stupid people,” he said. He’d be voting for Senator Kerry, he added. “I tend toward the Democratic side-although I know some Republicans who are wonderful, obviously. But if Kerry wins the nomination, I would be very happy to vote for Kerry.” Did he think all celebrities were far left-wingers out to scream? “No,” he said, “but there are some-just like there’s Rush Limbaugh.”

-Alexandra Wolfe

Trumped Up

The macho grandstanding between two of Manhattan’s biggest real-estate developers, Donald Trump and Related Companies chief executive Stephen Ross, for bragging rights over Columbus Circle -and its coveted Central Park views-took its latest turn on Feb. 11 at the annual Douglas Elliman Brokers awards banquet, held at the Pierre. Mr. Trump delivered the keynote address in front of some 750 brokers during the annual breakfast fête, which toasts the firm’s top bread-winners.

With Time Warner’s official opening on Feb. 5 garnering a slew of media coverage, including a cheery write-up of the Whole Foods supermarket by former New York Times food critic William (Biff) Grimes in the Dining Section on Feb. 18, Mr. Trump took time in his keynote speech to remind the members of Manhattan’s largest brokerage that his building outclasses the $1.7 billion upstart from Mr. Ross’ Related Companies across the street, according to those who attended the event.

“He was terrific and refreshing. Donald talks about himself-what do you expect him to talk about?” said Elliman’s president, Dottie Herman, when asked about Mr. Trump’s keynote speech turned 1 Central Park West marketing spiel.

Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Ross returned calls for comment.

Another broker who attended the event put it more simply: “Donald made it pretty clear that Time Warner was in the second row, and his building had front-row seats to Central Park. It was pretty crude, actually.”

In November, Mr. Trump launched the first salvo in the battle for Columbus Circle supremacy when he dangled a sign off the roof of the Trump International Hotel and Tower at 1 Central Park West, his jet-black homage to all things luxurious, that read: “See, your views aren’t so good, are they? We have the real Central Park views and address! Best wishes, ‘The Donald.'”

-Gabriel Sherman

Mother Love

Discussing the merits of the “zipless fuck” appeared to come easily for authors Erica Jong and Edmund White, two of the panelists at a Feb. 13 lunchtime debate on love sponsored by This Week magazine.

The phrase, coined by Ms. Jong in Fear of Flying, describes an ideal sexual exchange in which nothing but pleasure is the objective. It’s “rare as a unicorn,” she wrote.

Fellow panelist Farrah Fawcett seemed to think that was a good thing: She used the panel as an opportunity to come out as a prude-and a proud one at that.

When asked by moderator Harry Evans (who revved up the discussion with questions like “Why don’t women cheat more on their men?”) if she’d ever kissed a woman, the aging Angel looked confused. “I kiss my mother on the lips,” said the amber-hued Ms. Fawcett. She paused, sounding a little skeeved by the thought. “I mean, no.”

Ms. Jong let drop casually a short time later that of course she had relationships with women.

When Ms. Fawcett later was asked if she’d ever contemplated the utopian pleasures of the aforementioned “zipless fuck,” she balked again. “No. Absolutely no. I feel more old-fashioned,” said the 57-year-old actress, who’s repertoire reportedly includes little more sensational than dating her seriously junior fellow actor Tom Green. “I just feel that I had and have a more traditional upbringing. You know, Corpus Christi, still close to my parents, grounded.”

But what about the 60’s, The Transom wanted to know? She was there, right? That poster, the one that launched a thousand … ?

As she was gently tugged away by a female companion, Ms. Fawcett chuckled, “I was in art school and then I went to L.A.” The Transom was left to figure out the rest on our own.

-Shazia Ahmad

I Saw It in the Window And I Couldn’t Resist

E! Entertainment fashion critic Leon Hall can’t stop gushing over Pieces of April Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson-so much so that he stood out even at a party organized to fête the actress by her friend Julianne Moore, at the surprisingly kitschy library of Soho House on Feb. 17.

“Her body is flawless. She’s got a Scarlett O’Hara body,” Mr. Hall kvelled in his trademark nasal bellow. “And you know what? It’s all hers. I don’t know if I’ve seen a body that good, even on an 18-year-old girl, in a long time. But she’s tiny. She can’t just go and take a dress off a rack. She has to have something made on her.”

Ms. Moore organized the event, at least according to the Julianne Moore–letterhead invitation, to honor Ms. Clarkson’s “incredible performance” in April, which garnered the actress a “well-deserved and long-overdue” Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Academy this year.

Ms. Clarkson may yet be angling for another, higher distinction at this year’s Oscars. Mr. Hall-who voted Ms. Clarkson “best dressed” at this year’s Golden Globes for wearing a blue ombré Bill Blass gown “made on her” by designer Michael Vollbracht-thinks she’s set a red-carpet trend for wearing idiosyncratic, personalized designs.

“Everybody is going to be more specialized. People are going to wear clothes that are made on them,” said the cherubic Mr. Hall, an oversized desk lamp looming behind him. “I don’t think you are going to see a mass of Versace. I don’t think you are going to see two dozen Valentinos. I think you’re going to see some things from designers you don’t know.”

Mr. Hall said that even Nicole Kidman-“who at the [Golden] Globes looked really horrible”-could use a touch of individualism. “It’s about the person and then the dress,” purred Mr. Hall. “I think for too long it’s been about the dress and then the person.”

But Mr. Hall may be just a little bit biased. After all, he is smitten. “I’ve covered the red carpet for 15 years, and this is the first time that someone took the trouble to call me a day later and say thank you,” said Mr. Hall about Ms. Clarkson’s reaction to his gracious remarks on Melissa and Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police. “When I was a little boy-and I always wanted to be in fashion, I really wanted to be a designer-I thought women always looked like she looked that night.”

-Jake Brooks

The Transom Also Hears …

… That burgeoning young actress Claire Danes is adding another role to her résumé: college dropout. The strawberry-haired starlet, who entered Yale University in the fall of 1998, left the school sometime during her junior year to star in films like The Hours. “I never graduated!” she boasted from the front row of the Zac Posen show at Bryant Park, where she held court in a sparkly cowl-neck gown. Now she tells The Transom that she has walked off the set for good, as far as her education is concerned. “I actually went back to New Haven last Saturday for Pepe’s Pizza, and for a hamburger from Louis’ Lunch,” she laughed, naming two popular campus eateries. “So I go back for food, not degrees!” Isn’t she afraid of mad cow? “No, not at all. And I’m not afraid of being undereducated, either!” Ms. Danes has been keeping a low profile since rumors began to swirl that actor Billy Crudup had abandoned girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker (who was 8[1/2] months pregnant at the time) to take up with Ms. Danes. Over the last few weeks, she and Mr. Crudup have been spotted canoodling at various locations and slurping dessert at Serendipity 3, but Fashion Week marked her first major public appearance. Though Mr. Crudup was nowhere in sight (Ms. Danes arrived with an unidentified woman with whom she chatted and giggled throughout the show), we asked the actress if there were any rumors about herself that she’d like to clear up. “No, none,” she shot back with a smile. “Not a single one.”

-Noelle Hancock

… That the Feb. 11 funeral for the renowned classical string-instrument dealer Jacques Français at the Frank Campbell Funeral Home was a mixture of grieving and beautiful music, with a little bit of careerist schmoozing thrown in. Français, who died at 80 on Feb. 4, was an expert on Stradivarius instruments, and his memory was honored with a string-quartet performance of Borodin’s Nocturne.

Leaving the chapel, an old music-loving friend of Français’ second wife (there had been three in all) approached one of the musicians to say how moved she was by the music. Introductions were made. “Sono Italo-Americana,” the music lover, an Upper West Side actress, said jauntily. “Really?” said the cellist, who asked if she’d be at the breakfast following the service so they could continue their conversation. Sure enough, he eagerly approached her when they arrived at the reception. “So, you said you’re with Sony?!” he said.

When she corrected him, he swiftly turned on his heel.

-Anna Jane Grossman

Mighty Windbags