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June 21, 1999

Julia Roberts, Donna Karan, Woody Allen, Michael Bloomberg, Thomas Kramer, Rupert Murdoch, and more . . .

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SHOCK-WORK ORANGE FOR JULIA

The new Marie Claire cover of Julia Roberts has some people seeing red. Or, to be more specific, seeing a weird shade of computer-generated orange. Roberts may have looked ravishing when she was photographed in an elegant pale-yellow gown, but according to magazine insiders, Marie Claire later decided the photo needed a bit of digital touching-up. (No, not what you're thinking -- Julia's recently notorious body hair was thankfully kept under wraps for this shoot.) The magazine was apparently unsatisfied with the way the photogenic Notting Hill diva's dress blended with the background, an unusual (and unwearable) shade of orange. So with a few clicks of a mouse, Julia went from strikingly luminous to strikingly sallow. Though the sources say the Roberts camp was aghast when they saw the dress she had "chosen" to wear for Marie Claire, her rep maintains that "Julia is thrilled with the cover." It turns out the magazine is also "thrilled," according to a Marie Claire spokeswoman (coincidentally, the same spokeswoman who represents the thrilled Roberts): "Obviously, we are thrilled with the response to our covers. Every celebrity we have worked with, including Julia Roberts, has been thrilled, and the readers have responded with a 22 percent increase in newsstand sales." Maybe Roberts herself is buying up all those copies this month.

HOW SUITE IT IS FOR ALLEN IN HOLLYWOOD

Woody Allen is famous for his digs about Hollywood, but it's his digs in Tinseltown that are causing talk these days. The Woodman just wrapped a movie for director Alfonso (Like Water for Chocolate) Arau, starring as a kosher butcher who kills his wife (Sharon Stone). The black comedy also features David Schwimmer, Kiefer Sutherland, Fran Drescher, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Elliott Gould -- quite a star-studded cast for a small-budget movie. The crew of the $20 million independent film had to be very resourceful to hold down costs, according to one Hollywood insider, and the cast "had to drive out from L.A. to Valencia in the Valley, where they were shooting, and they weren't even getting gas money." So when word started circulating that Woody and his wife, baby, and nanny were ensconced at the swank Regent Beverly Wilshire penthouse presidential suite (at $7,500 a night), crew folks started grumbling. But Allen's spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, explains that "he made no demands. He did say he was bringing his family with him, as any actor would." Dart insists that Woody didn't get any "star treatment." She adds: "Not that he goes to L.A. that often, but when he does go, he doesn't stay at the Beverly Wilshire. That was the producers' choice." The producers refused to comment.

BLOOMBERG FINDS A NEW FOCUS IN LIFE

Even though his name is branded on computer terminals and every media outlet imaginable, Michael Bloomberg doesn't really want to be on a marquee. He's been very quiet about his first foray into Hollywood. When Neal Slavin, a photographer turned ad director, asked his old friend how to line up financing to film Arthur Miller's first novel, Focus (a tale of anti-Semitism published in 1945), the Stock-Ticker King decided to invest himself, agreeing to pick up the development costs and half the $6.5 million shooting budget. "I know nothing about producing movies," says Bloomberg, "but I fell in love with the concept and with Neal's passion." Arthur's son, Robert Miller, signed on as a producer, but the writer David Mamet was too expensive. So Kendrew Lascelles wrote the script that Slavin will direct next summer. "We kept it very quiet in the beginning," says Slavin, "but now Michael's getting excited." Not that he's planning to quit his day job. "When it comes to movies," says Bloomberg, "you may rest assured that I have no aspirations to be on either side of the camera or the checkbook." Once he's out of Focus, that is.

TYCOON (WAY) OVERBOARD!

Is Miami Beach real-estate mogul Thomas Kramer one of those people who are strangely affected by the sea? Kramer (who, by the way, is currently up on rape charges in London brought against him by a secretary) boarded the luxury liner Seabourn Spirit for a thirteen-day Mediterranean cruise but was put off the boat after just one night. The German-born developer (who, by the way, was criticized last year for starting to date just two months after his girlfriend's suicide) was celebrating a birthday when what his lawyer deems "a dispute" erupted between the Kramer party and members of the ship's crew. His attorney says that Kramer (who, by the way, once got into hot water for reportedly barring homosexuals from his Miami nightclub, Hell) did nothing to get himself bounced to dry land and that it was in fact the Seabourn employees -- not Kramer -- who engaged in "excessive profanity and insulting, sexual-type behavior." A spokesperson for Seabourn Cruise Line says only, "Mr. Kramer did disembark early. Other than that, we have no comment." The Kramer lawyer says they're considering taking legal action against the cruise line.

DONNA'S AD: PARK VUS, FRPLC, TERR

Donna Karan is a real comparison shopper. She's scouring the city for a new apartment -- and she's working with at least seven real-estate brokers. The cashmere-swathed designer has been renting an apartment in the San Remo for the past two years for about $27,000 a month, according to building sources. But the landlady doesn't want to sell, so the New Age devotee has to find a new address, preferably something on Central Park West with views, a fireplace, and a terrace. Karan is working with Sotheby's Olga Neulist, Allison Utsch of Edward Lee Cave, Brown Harris Stevens's David Anderson and John Sheets, Betsy Green of Douglas Elliman, and Corcoran's Sherry Matays and Dalia Newman. "She's famous for looking, looking, looking -- and not buying," reports one Realtor who's not on the list. Another broker reports that Karan "is all over the place," explaining that the designer has been inspecting her exclusives for years "from Carnegie Hill down to TriBeCa, the East Side and the West Side. Then, even when she likes something, she tries to rent instead of buy." Case in point: There were several rounds over a TriBeCa rental ($50,000 a month) that Karan's husband, Stephan Weiss, wanted, although she apparently prefers an uptown address, according to an industry source. "She's working with everyone and anyone in town," sighs yet another exhausted broker. Karan's spokeswoman doesn't have a list of her boss's brokers, but she does know that imminent homelessness is not an issue: "She has two homes in the Hamptons, and Stephan has a studio and a gorgeous place downtown."

MERCER-FULLY, BAR OWNER BAGS SPACE

When a prime SoHo space comes on the market, competition is fierce. Matthew Kenney is closing his Mercer Street restaurant, Monzú, next week, and already half the city's top restaurateurs have been in to talk to Kenney, who still holds the lease, about cutting a deal. While he was at work on his new Grand Central Terminal restaurant, Métrazur, Kenney met with Bond Street's Jonathan Morr, the Mercer Kitchen's Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Steve Hanson (Blue Water Grill, Ruby Foo's), and Serge Becker (Joe's Pub) before going with 30-year-old John McDonald, who owns MercBar across the street and plans an American bistro with British furniture and restaurant designer Marc Newson. "I think John has the exact sensibility for Mercer Street," says Kenney, who will design the menu and stay on "to support John's concept and ideas" but not as chef: "Sometimes a seasoned restaurateur would be so spread out, he'd miss the mark."

NEW ROOM AT THE INN

At this point, you're about as likely to book a room in the Hamptons this summer as you are to get courtside seats at a Knicks game. The situation should ease up just a bit as Jeff Salaway, co-owner of East Hampton hot spot Nick & Toni's and operating manager of Colina in New York, is adding two new Southampton hotels to his hospitality empire. First, he bought the Sandpiper, renovated it, and turned it into the Atlantic hotel, which opens July 1. Now he's purchased the Concord and the Bayberry, which he plans to keep open this summer and renovate in the fall into the Bristol and Capri hotels. "There's a master plan to totally renovate the hospitality scene in the Hamptons," says Salaway. "I want to create a centralized reservation system with the 140 rooms I have so finding a place to stay will be easier." Salaway also hopes to convert the Dah Jong restaurant, currently in the Bayberry, into a nightspot as soon as the lease is up.

AIN'T NO THEME LIKE THE REAL THING

Even as 42nd Street seems to be trying to ensure that native New Yorkers give it a wide berth, West 57th Street is apparently eager to welcome them back. The Motown Cafe has just shuttered, and instead of more touristy destinations, actual restaurants are coming: According to a real-estate insider, Mario Sbarro is taking over the Wolf's Deli site at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue to establish something along the lines of the Bice and Salute! restaurants he's backed. Meanwhile, the former owner of Wolf's, Angelo & Maxie's Marc Packer, is taking over the spot across the street, once Lucky's, to open a brasserie with an Asian influence. Winick Realty's David T. King, who did the Sbarro deal, says that the coming "Death of Theme," as he terms it, will make way for "more upscale, traditional installations for more sophisticated customers." Packer will also open a second Angelo & Maxie's in midtown, as well as a new seafood place near the W Hotel.

IT'S TIMES FOR SCHOOL

So much for the school of hard knocks. Geraldine Fabrikant, the New York Times reporter who broke the news that Rupert Murdoch was seeing Wendy Deng and had moved into "the trendy Mercer Hotel in SoHo," is headed for the Ivy League. In August, Fabrikant is taking a leave from the paper for a Knight-Bagehot fellowship, which gives her a year of graduate work in economics and business at Columbia University. "I love my job, but this is a terrific opportunity," says Fabrikant. "It's just nine months, and I think it will make me a better reporter."

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.


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