The Transom

Celeb Xmas Luv! A heartstring-tugging family movie? A red-carpet premiere just before Christmas? That confluence can only mean that it’s

Celeb Xmas Luv!

A heartstring-tugging family movie? A red-carpet premiere just before Christmas? That confluence can only mean that it’s time for The Transom to do its best impersonation of a celebrity gossip column. Saunter along with us as The Family Stone cast and friends share their own Christmas-time tales of awkward moments, alcohol-induced comas and horrible gifts. Hooray!

(But first, a note: As the screening began, blond bombshell Rachel McAdams, her form molded in a gorgeous purple Dolce & Gabbana strapless gown, ducked out of the theater with cast member Elizabeth Reaser. Where to, ladies? “I don’t know,” Ms. McAdams said. “To pre-pre-pre-party.”)

On with the tugging! “There’s a certain degree of discomfort in any holiday,” said Dermot Mulroney. “And if you put in that many people in a confined space, just about anything can happen.”

Mr. Mulroney, who will be spending the holidays with his baby son in L.A., had one Christmas where he presented his girlfriend at the time with a gift in a small box. It caught his family, let us say, off guard.

“It was in a box about that big, about two inches across,” he said. “It was wrapped up beautifully, and she starts to open it in front of the rest of the family, and everybody starts to, you know, ‘Are you sure, dude? Are you sure?’

“And, uh, well, the end of the story,” he said, “is that she really loved the earrings.”

Rebecca Mader, who has a small role in the upcoming The Devil Wears Prada, recalled a Christmas eight years ago at a past boyfriend’s house. “I felt uncomfortable, so I had too much wine, just to kind of like help my nerves,” she said. She ended up conking out around midnight.

“Ya know, it was one of those 12-hour comas that you have around the holidays,” she said. Her red hair was pulled into a long, sleek ponytail. “Like, ‘Whoa—I just fully slept 12 or 13 hours,’ like you did when you were a teenager going through puberty.

“No one ever came to wake me up,” she said. Finally, “I came downstairs, and the whole family just stood up and gave me a round of applause. Ya know, my hair’s all this way …. ”

And then? “I had a big cup of coffee.”

Ms. Mader, who will fly home to Cambridge, England, for the holidays, hopes for a repeat this year. “I intend on sleeping for 12 hours, and if I do come down late, I would like to get a round of applause, actually,” she said.

After the screening, Luke Wilson, in a pinstripe suit and brown sneakers, looked like he could use a nice, long nap himself. His family and friends were in town to go to the screening and after-party at the Plaza Athénée, along with Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld and Paul Giamatti. He seemed just a bit stressed!

“If you knew me, you’d find out how wound up I am,” Mr. Wilson said. “Like right now, I’m exhausted, but I’m wound tight. I’m uptight. I got a bunch of people here. I’m trying to get them all to the party.” O.K.!

Sarah Jessica Parker wore a black, billowy dress that kept coming undone in back. “It’s a breakaway dress,” she said.

Ms. Parker, you may be interested to learn, was looking forward to seeing her older sister, who has just had a baby, for Christmas.

“Any excuse to be with my family,” she said. “I think I speak for all of us—I’m one of eight kids, and we’re all pretty probably unhealthily attached to one another. It’s really yet another fantastic opportunity to be together. I love Christmas.”

Ms. Parker has an easy time of family get-togethers. “I actually knew my husband’s mother,” she said, that husband being Matthew Broderick, natch. “We, strangely enough, traveled in the same social circles. I had met her prior to our courtship.”

Director Alexander Payne plans to bring his parents out of the snow in Omaha, Neb., to his house in Los Angeles. But Christmas? Meh! “It’s no better, no worse than anytime else during the year,” he said. “I like Flag Day, though—June 14.”

Obligatory worst-gift roundup!

“One year, I got inundated with pajamas,” Mr. Wilson said. “That was rough.” Were they a foxy fleece, at least? “No, flannel.”

“A children’s handbag,” Ms. Mader laughed—a cute little snort. “It was a pink handbag, right? And I went to put it over my shoulder, and it was like up in my armpit. My aunt got it for me. I was like, ‘Wow, a lot of thought went into that.’”

“Well, I asked for a bicycle, and my parents gave me a unicycle,” Mr. Mulroney said. Awww.

There is, of course, the matter of New Year’s Eve, still to come.

Tyrone Giordano, who plays a member of the filmic Stone family, is going home to Connecticut for the holidays. He said he didn’t plan to relive a past New Year’s. “It involved an ex-girlfriend, a current girlfriend and a girl that liked me,” he said. “That’s all you need to know.”

Oh, is it?

—Erin Coe

Deals to Make

New York University had originally requested permission to show Good Night, and Good Luck to J-schoolers on campus, but the studio declined. Instead, they offered a tantalizing consolation prize: What if the film’s director, George Clooney, came on down to offer his take on the issues facing journalism himself?

So last Thursday, Dec. 15, Mr. Clooney entered the hall of 19 University Place, stomped his feet and rubbed his hands together briskly, then barked, “What is it, 12 degrees out? How do you people live here?”

He’d brought along company, too; his co-writer, Grant Heslov, and David Strathairn, the actor who played broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow in the film.

The intimate gathering was scheduled for a 120-seat auditorium, with an overflow room that could house an extra 70. When the news broke last month that Mr. Clooney was speaking at the school, however, almost 300 e-mail requests flooded the graduate director’s inbox in the first two days, with more streaming in over the next couple of weeks. Eager students name-dropped, pleaded and jokingly offered bribes. One even wrote a haiku. In the end, a lottery for tickets had to be conducted to assign students—and faculty—seating.

“I grew up on the floor of a newsroom in Cincinnati, Ohio,” Mr. Clooney said to the throng. “My father wasn’t making a lot of money, and in the summer we had no baby-sitter.” He hung around the studio into his adolescence, becoming a floor director and working on Dialing for Dollars. He also ran the teleprompter for his dad.

He studied journalism at Northern Kentucky University and briefly hosted a cable-access show. “I only lacked the talent and the skill,” Mr. Clooney said.

Mr. Strathairn talked about his preparations to play Murrow. “I have this cockamamie image of him as the cigarette,” said Mr. Strathairn of the reporter’s most famous prop. “People see him as this elegant thing, poised and straight, and at the tip of it, something is burning. Inside this man, something is burning, and it eventually burned him from the inside out.” Murrow later died of lung cancer.

Why, the moderator wondered, was the film doing so well? “The girls are showing up to see David,” said Mr. Clooney.

“Also because of the black-and-white film,” said Mr. Heslov.

“And the car crashes,” said Mr. Strathairn.

“I like good entertainment as much as anybody,” Mr. Clooney said, explaining that he sees entertaining as his own leverage for creating more serious pieces. He noted that Murrow had had to host the show Person to Person—which he abhorred—in order to continue his more serious subject matter on See It Now. “There are deals that you guys are going to have to make to get the stories you want out,” he said. “It’s going to make you sick sometimes. It’s what you have to do. That’s the deal everybody makes.”

At the conclusion of the talk, the three guests stood up as the room broke into applause. Camera phones clicked and whirred, to the chagrin of the event planners, who had specifically prohibited cameras and autographs.

“Power, unchecked, corrupts,” said Mr. Clooney in an interview backstage. “That has historically been the responsibility of the fourth estate. Whoever was in power at the time, you went after him—because you have to.”

—Nicole Pesce

Shakespeare’s Daughters

“They were truly beautiful breasts,” said the underemployed actor Daniel Reton of his first encounter with Valerie Monroe Shakespeare’s pair. He said that he first met Ms. Shakespeare, braless and clad in her typical see-through sheer blouse, at an art opening about 20 years ago.

“I was at an art opening because I’m a collector,” said the fortysomething aspiring thespian, who is best known for his work on the public-access show Single in the Hamptons. “Oh, that’s bullshit—I’m not a collector. I was out partying at art galleries and I saw those breasts, and I was like, ‘This is why I live in New York!’”

Mr. Reton’s complex homage to Ms. Shakespeare’s breasts epitomized the preferred methods of recall at the eccentric gathering of art enthusiasts taking place at the home of Ms. Shakespeare and her artist husband, Tery Fugate-Wilcox: remembering the good old days, infusing them with bullshit.

There were a few facts that everyone at the soiree on Tuesday, Dec. 13, could agree on. Ms. Shakespeare and Mr. Fugate-Wilcox do not give their ages, although they said they married at 16 and have been together longer than 30 years. They’ve been having a Tuesday dinner party for over 20 years, and the former locale of those parties, a two-story loft space at 7 Worth Street with a connecting fireman’s pole, was a lot better than the one-bedroom hole out of which they currently entertain.

“She arrived at the dinner every night by sliding down on the fire pole,” recalled Bob (Denver Bob) Forbes, 56, who attended his first Tuesday dinner in 1997.

Ms. Shakespeare, who wears (or would wear) a 36-DD, says that she hasn’t put on a bra for over 30 years. Instead, she has a collection of more than 700 sheer blouses, including the hot pink one she wore on Tuesday. Over the years, she has been escorted out of various gallery openings for her attire.

“It’s getting a little grotesque,” said Baird Jones, the professional gossipeur and so-called “curator” of Webster Hall. “Whatever her breasts once were, they’re just not that anymore.”

Her parties, too, it would appear, are currently in decline. Whereas 35 or so guests would attend the Tribeca loft parties, less than 10 were on hand to enjoy the spread on Dec. 13.

“How elegant the parties are is quite irrelevant to me,” said Ms. Shakespeare, who fondly recalls entertaining such notables as Bruce Springsteen, Bobby Short and Caroline Kennedy. “Whether it’s a backyard barbecue or a black-tie what-have-you, it’s about enjoying people and people enjoying you.”

This is the very philosophy behind the cookbook that Ms. Shakespeare is currently writing. “You can’t kill yourself trying to make everything perfect,” she said. Indeed, all was not “perfect” at last Tuesday’s party, where the featured dishes were white rice, a crab-and-shrimp dish in cream sauce and cheese popcorn. Cheap red wine was provided to wash the stuff down.

“It’s a lot less expansive,” said the unpublished auteur of film and theater, Michael Swiskay. “I admire their desire to maintain the energy.”

Also admirable is their unflinching attitude toward the art world. Ms. Shakespeare, who said that she always represented more than 15 artists at any one time, was forced to shutter her most recent gallery, at 480 Broome Street, because “we weren’t making any money.” But she’s still keeping the artsy “energy” alive, and now she packs the walls of their diminutive apartment with the works of just one artist: her husband.

Mr. Fugate-Wilcox is still carrying the torch of “actualism,” which he defines as art that incorporates the elements on which it comments. For instance, there’s a piece titled Rabbit Glue (going for a mere $2,200) that hangs outside the “foyer.” It is made of rabbit skin and glue, and it comments on, er, rabbits. BYR 5436 (selling for $4,800 and currently hanging in the bathroom) is a combination of oil and raindrops on canvas.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Dec. 20, the couple were hard at work preparing for another party. “I hope that the strike ends,” said Ms. Shakespeare, describing her hopes for the new year. “And I wish for the success of our new gallery.”

She declined to divulge the actual location because “negotiations are still underway. But it’s a beautiful building, I assure you.”

—Spencer Morgan

The Transom