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July 19, 1999

Michael Eisner, Ted Turner, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Keller, Anna Wintour, Bret Easton Ellis, Bobby Kennedy, Annie Leibovitz, and more . . .

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SILVER LINE: VENICE, ANYONE?

Good news for Ted Turner and Time Warner stockholders: The company's beleaguered movie division isn't paying for Joel Silver's wedding in Italy after all. When press reports first surfaced about the Die Hard producer's July 10 date with producer Karyn Fields, perk-savvy Left Coasters wondered whether Warner Bros. might be picking up the tab for 50 at Cipriani's in Venice. Guess again. It turns out that David Geffen, Warner Bros.' Terry Semel, and Universal's Ron Meyer are shelling out their own hard-earned dollars for jet fuel and hotel rooms, according to an incredulous Hollywood source. "It's a B.Y.O.B. wedding -- bring your own bed," cracks the source. "Joel should be paying for the hotel for those who are schlepping all the way over there." Explains Silver's press rep: "It's a very personal, private wedding with close friends. No one was asked to pay to go. . . . You either come or you don't come, like any wedding." She adds that Silver is picking up the bills for family members on both sides. Of course, they, unlike the moguls, didn't have to turn down Herbert Allen's simultaneously scheduled luxe media retreat at the Sun Valley Lodge. There, you get fireworks extravaganzas and daily paparazzi outtakes -- gratis.

HAVE THEY GOT MAIL AT DISNEY!

Steady, now: Michael Eisner has discovered e-mail. The embattled Disney head last month began sending around companywide communiqués, an idea he admits to having borrowed from Bill Gates. Eisner started off with a populist touch -- "Dear Fellow Cast Members" -- before offering a philosophic prescriptive to the company's recent bad press ("I have found throughout my career that the light regularly follows the dark") and reviewing the upcoming Toy Story 2 ("I saw it 10 days ago and I can say without hesitation that it is actually better than the first, a bold statement I admit"). Eisner's second missive -- apparently composed as he watched the Stanley Cup on ESPN ("If this letter wanders a little it's because my family is into this game. Score!!! Dallas 1, Buffalo 0! Ouch!") -- brings the staff behind the scenes to his dinner with McDonald's chairman Jack Greenberg. The Mouse House's top cheese-leader promises "to frankly discuss matters that are not so upbeat" in the future. He goes international in the third e-mail, telling his fellow cast members that "the potential for Disney entertainment is tremendous on the globe's other six continents (though I wouldn't pin too many hopes on Antarctica)." Here's hoping the next installment presents Eisner's take on last week's settlement with Jeffrey Katzenberg.

ROCK CENTER, MEAL MECCA?

Foodie frenzy is gripping Rockefeller Center. The biggest gastronomic news concerns Thomas Keller, chef-owner of the acclaimed French Laundry in Yountville, California, who is negotiating with landlord Tishman Speyer to open a French bistro in the suddenly hot complex. French Laundry received the highest food rating in Zagat's 1999 San Francisco/ Bay Area survey. Should he close the deal, Keller's Rock Center competition will be stiff: Morrell & Company is currently building a wine bar and store; Restaurant Associates is opening Cucina and redoing both SeaGrill and American Festival Cafe, which will be renamed Rock Center Cafe; architect Philip Johnson is designing Campari; and Bice co-owner Roberto Ruggeri is slated to open Medí. One restaurant that definitely won't be opening, however, is the casual American spot planned by Gabriel's restaurant namesake Gabriel Aiello: He has decided, because of an illness in the family of a key staff member, to scrap plans for an outpost under Atlas.

NIELSENS, MEET THE HAMPTONS

The last thing the East End of Long Island needs is a little more attention, but Lions Gate Television is shopping a new hourlong drama to the networks with the terrifying title The Hamptons. According to creator James Deutch, the still-uncast series will feature a hip young writer -- inspired by Deutch's friend (and Hamptons mainstay) Bret Easton Ellis -- who works for an unnamed East Hampton newspaper and hobnobs with barely disguised celebrities and displaced Hamptons locals. The characters will be "compilations of real people torn from the headlines, such as Martha Stewart and Ron Perelman," says Deutch. Whom will they get to play Ellen Barkin?

MI CASTLE, SU CASTLE

Didn't you always think you had that rare, undiscovered quality that Kennedy playmates are made of? That you would fit right in at muddy scrimmages if you only had the chance? Well, thanks to hosts Anne Randolph Hearst, George Plimpton, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, and other generous luminaries, your time has come. At a benefit for the upkeep and repair of San Simeon's Hearst Castle, to be held at the Galesi castle in Southampton on July 24, Bobby Kennedy is offering a falconry trip, plus, predictably, a game of touch football, to the highest bidder. Or you can join Plimpton for dinner at Elaine's and a very literary round of pool. Other rarefied opportunities include lunch with Jay McInerney at Moomba and a lifetime membership at Dan Aykroyd's House of Blues.

CASH-POOR WRITERS; LAND-RICH PHOTOG

CRYING THE BLUES: Warning to freelance writers and photographers: You may or may not get paid. The two-year-old adventure-lifestyle publication Blue is developing a habit of remunerating its freelancers in an untimely manner. Abby Ellin, who writes the "Preludes" column for the New York Times business section, is one of several disgruntled Blue contributors who claim to have been misled about payment by the bimonthly. Ellin still hasn't received a $450 check for an article that ran in the December 1998 issue. "Blue editor Amy Schrier said that suing her would bring us closer together," says Ellin. Schrier denies making the comment or encouraging Ellin to sue, but does admit to "longer payment periods . . . than the magazine-industry norm."

ANNIE'S NEW GUN: Photographer Annie Leibovitz lost money when she sold her Upper East Side apartment in the early nineties, according to the New York Observer. But she's primed to do better with her latest real-estate venture. A few years ago -- before West 26th Street and Tenth Avenue became a hot artistic enclave -- Leibovitz took over a garage on the block that she's been renovating. Last week, she moved her photography studio into the building. Leibovitz did not return calls to discuss her land grab in the far West.

BORTMAN TAKES THE METRO (PICTURES)

Not everyone is wild about the frantic world of Internet art auctions. According to Boston-based art collector Alan Bortman, his eBay auction of Cindy Sherman prints was interrupted by an unsolicited e-mail to bidders informing them that the prints were part of an unlimited series and implying that they weren't worth the $1,300 high bid at the auction. Bortman later learned that the e-mail had come from the Chelsea gallery Metro Pictures, which offers prints from the same series for only $150. Says Bortman, "Metro Pictures should never have gotten involved." Helene Winer of Metro Pictures counters, "We offer the Sherman prints so that less wealthy members of the art community can get artists' work that is not so precious. We did not intend these non-collectors' pieces to be sold for profit." Sherman herself (right) adds, "The idea that this person tried to make a profit selling art he acquired at a charity event for a reduced price is not only repellent but discourages artists from donating art to auctions in the future." Bortman insists he did not misrepresent the prints and points to the lucrative nature of Internet auctions to explain their increased value. Artist Mark Kostabi, who's been making a killing on eBay since Bortman introduced him to the site, is baffled by the conflict: "Galleries are irrationally afraid, instead of thrilled, to take part in the Internet mania." Caveat emptor.

THE WINTOUR'S TALE, ACT TWO

The city's most-read current soap opera isn't going on summer hiatus. Anna Wintour, the glamorous Vogue editrix whose interesting personal life has rivaled her professional accomplishments this year, is in Europe with her two children now, spending part of her time at the English estate of Jacob and Serena Rothschild, reports a source close to her. Wintour has been increasingly focused on the world of international high society, reports another source in the social swirl. It was at an Anne Bass dinner party last year that the editor met telecommunications mogul J. Shelby Bryan, the wealthy Democratic fund-raiser who has figured in so many blind items about her romantic life this spring. Now Bryan and his wife, Katherine, have split up, according to a reliable source, and both Bryans are talking to divorce attorneys, the source continues. Wintour's spokes-man would say only that she's "on vacation right now with her family." Her husband, Dr. David Shaffer, was at his office last week, but he did not return calls.

A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK LOSES OUT

Just because Chip McGrath is the editor of The New York Times Book Review doesn't mean he doesn't have a book or two inside him. The Times-man, who edited Books of the Century: A Hundred Years of Authors, Ideas and Literature for Times Books with his staff earlier this year, has long been interested in hockey, which he wrote about for both The New Yorker and the Times Magazine. Now it turns out that after his magazine story on Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier ran two years ago, Gretzky's literary reps contacted McGrath about writing an authorized bio of the hockey star. McGrath was interested, but the project has now been put on hold. "When Gretzky moved to L.A., that, from my point of view, complicated things," says McGrath, adding that it's "my understanding now" that the project "has been put on hold for 18 to 24 months, because Gretzky just isn't ready to do this yet." McGrath insists that he hasn't had any talks with any publishers, although he allows that Gretzky's reps at IMG might have. McGrath adds that he hasn't even discussed the project with Gretzky yet: "There was interest, but it was all slightly hypothetical."

With Ken Frydman

Additional reporting by Jared White.


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