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September 20, 1999

Kevin Costner, Salman Rushdie, Walter Cronkite, Michael Crichton, Georgette Mosbacher, Lynn Nesbit, Amy Sohn and more . . .

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COSTNER'S NOT-SO-UNIVERSAL APPEAL
Kevin Costner threw the first curveball, but the last laugh belongs to Universal. The star took aim at the studio in Newsweek over the final cut of his PG-13 baseball movie For Love of the Game, noting that one of his particularly revealing shower scenes was among those edited out. "Universal wasn't even willing to try to fight the ratings board," Costner moaned. Moreover, added the actor with a laugh, the studio was "hurting" audiences by denying them the opportunity to view him in the altogether. But high-level sources at Universal insist that the scene wasn't cut just to appease the ratings board and that the decision was made after a June test screening at the UA Pavilions in Scottsdale, Arizona. "The audience giggled at Kevin's penis," explains one exec. "Then, in focus groups, they said, 'Do we really need to see Kevin Costner's penis?' " Contractually, Costner was supposed to hand in a two-hour-and-ten-minute movie with a PG-13 rating; instead, he delivered one with an R rating, the insider continues. So the studio took over the editing -- and cut what failed to impress Scottsdale.

AMY WON'T PLAY BALL WITH COLLEAGUES
When the Post editors hired former New York Press sex columnist Amy Sohn, they expected her to ruffle some feathers; they just didn't anticipate that the offended parties would be within their own ranks. According to newspaper insiders, the young scribe's printed vow to lick her hand after shaking Derek Jeter's and her musing about Joe Girardi's "firm, rounded buns'' caused a headache for the Post's two female sportswriters. Says one, Monica Lewis: "Every time someone figures out where I'm from, they start up about the article. Hopefully, this will all die down. I'm going to cover the Jets game, but I'm not too worried. I'm going to guess that the Jets have more to do than to read Amy Sohn's little piece.'' Sohn also alienated associate editor and editorial-page editor John Podhoretz by disparaging his physical appearance in an interview with the coffeehouse giveaway Cups. She then held forth on other cups, condemning all the coverage of Kathie Lee Gifford's unleashed breasts. "I'm sick of all this hullabaloo about her braless style,'' wrote Sohn in the Post on September 7. Problem is, most of the coverage was in that same paper, which has run five items on the subject, including one the day before Sohn's column. "It's a piss-on-your-own-paper kind of thing,'' says one Post employee.

MATZOH AND MAYONNAISE
Saint Bartholomew's Church has a new religious leader . . . a rabbi. Perhaps best known as the Episcopalian house of worship that Jackie O. fought to get landmark protection for, the Park Avenue church has brought in Rabbi Leonard A. Schoolman to run its new nondenominational Center for Religious Inquiry. "This is a place for intellectually curious people to get hard answers to hard questions about issues like life and death," says Rabbi Schoolman, who was recruited by St. Bart's rector William McD. Tully from Houston, where the rabbi ran a similar interreligious program. Walter Cronkite -- joined by New York Times national religion correspondent Gustav Niebuhr and Wall Street Journal religion writer Lisa Miller -- will host a kickoff event, "Religion in the Public Square," at the church on September 28. Mazel tov.

GEORGETTE'S MISHAP ON THE JET SKI
Georgette Mosbacher is not known for being a retiring redhead, and the voluble fund-raiser was in fine fettle last Wednesday night, co-hosting Senator John McCain's book party with Michael Bloomberg and Henry Kissinger. But it turns out that just days earlier she'd had to cancel her scheduled appearance at the conservative confab David Horowitz was hosting in Colorado Springs over Labor Day weekend. The word from that weekend was that Mosbacher had hurt her back in a Jet Ski accident, according to one inside source. So what was the story with that Jet Ski accident, Georgette? "I went out too long and too far and had to be rescued," replied the dynamo. Who rescued her? Her host, she answered, inching away. And who was that? Mosbacher uncharacteristically ducked the question, refusing to say where she was and whom she was with. But she couldn't resist answering one more question while she was on the run across the room. Was anyone on that Jet Ski with her? "If that had been the case," she answered with a laugh, "my back wouldn't be hurting now."

NEW SCHOOL TAKES A CHANCE-LLOR
CUNY isn't the only local institution of higher learning with a new chancellor. Phil Scaturro, a former trustee of the city's Mannes College of Music and a managing director at Allen & Company -- the investment bank that once had a stake in Columbia Pictures and currently does in Coca-Cola -- is moonlighting as de facto head of New School University until a successor can be found to replace Jonathan Fanton. (Fanton left the Greenwich Village institution on August 31 to become president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago.) Hmmm, maybe Rudy Crew would be interested.

LIFE'S A BITCH FOR JEFFREY JAH
Jeffrey Jah, the well-connected event producer who helped turn Life into a model-saturated mecca of cool, has just been informed that his services there are no longer needed. Life's owner, Roy Stillman, complained that Jah "seemed to have his eye on other things" -- Jah's company helped orchestrate the Venice Biennale and threw Puff Daddy's Parisian record-release bash -- but insists he's still on "warm and hospitable" terms with Jah, who "will always be red-carpet at Life." Though Stillman denies it and Jah won't comment, nightlife insiders say the club had to give Jah a financial settlement. "I was a bit furious," says Jah, "but my company has grown." The 30-year-old is now in the process of opening his own supper club-lounge on West 14th Street, with Will Regan and David Rabin. Says Jah, "I'm on to bigger and better things."

SALMAN RUSHDIE: ALTERNATE EGO
In England, Kathy Lette is a big deal. Really. Her novel, Altar Ego, hit No. 1 there (and in Australia), and she's a huge draw. But when she came to read at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble last Tuesday evening, the crowds were . . . smaller. "There was nobody at this reading," reports one friend who did attend. Lette gamely went on with the show, dishing out her particular brand of humor (sample: "Men think monogamy is something you make dining-room tables out of"). But one of the two dozen or so people lolling around made up for the low numbers: Salman Rushdie. "Everyone was coming up to him and asking for autographs and completely ignoring her," reports a source who was there. Says Lette with a laugh, "It was sort of ego interruptus. Charisma interruptus or something. Now I owe him. So next time he has a reading, I'm going to turn up in a leopard-skin nipple-window bra and G-string. As revenge."

CHEMISTS' LOSS; CRICHTON'S CROSS
GLASSY-EYED HOTELIER: It appears everyone wants a piece of the boutique-hotel boom -- sort of. One of the factors that drove Morris Moinian to transform the historic Chemists' Club on East 41st Street into dylan (yes, lowercase), a posh hostelry due to open this November, was the grandiose Priestley Room's vaulted ceilings and intricate stained-glass windows. But after a promotional photo shoot in the unique private quarters, Moinian was shocked to find that a circular panel of the 67-year-old stained glass had gone awol. "When I saw it, all I could do was stare in disappointment," sighs Moinian. "I couldn't move for an hour." Although a police report is being filed and a "handsome" reward offered, Moinian remains pessimistic. "It is absolutely priceless. We'll doubtfully see it again and can never achieve what was stolen."

LYNN'S MEMORY LAPSE: Superagent Lynn Nesbit was so eager to put a positive spin on the news that her longtime author Michael Crichton switched Hollywood agents that she seems to have forgotten a bit of her own history. Crichton left CAA's Robert Bookman for Michael Ovitz's Artists Management Group last week. "Michael Ovitz really signed Michael Crichton at CAA," explained Nesbit. "They had a long-term relationship that preceded Bob Bookman's even going to CAA." Well, sort of. Ovitz did sign Crichton to CAA in the late seventies -- but only after Bookman, who had handled Crichton's film work when both he and Nesbit were at ICM, left the business to become a studio executive. Of course, in the years Ovitz represented Crichton, the author concentrated on writing scripts instead of blockbusters to sell to Hollywood. When Bookman became an agent again, he joined CAA, and reteamed with Crichton. Nevertheless, Nesbit insists that Crichton and Ovitz "have a very special personal friendship" that counts more than chronology.

With Ken Frydman

Additional reporting by David Amsden.


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