What a difference a decade makes. Back in the early nineties, when he was a superagent, Michael Ovitz boasted that he never talked to the press. Recently, however, Howard Rubenstein has quietly been arranging small schmoozy luncheons putting Ovitz, now a start-up Hollywood talent manager, together with New York gossip columnists and business writers. Typical was a recent get-together at the University Club, where Rubenstein and Ovitz broke bread with a select group of Daily News reporters. After about fifteen awkward minutes, one of the scribes got down to brass tacks, asking, "Why are you doing this with us?" After hemming and hawing, Ovitz replied that he initially didn't want to go to the luncheon and then began bragging about how helpful he could be to the reporters when they wrote about Hollywood. Then he proceeded to describe what a "close, close" friend he was with their boss, Mort Zuckerman. "I've even avoided going over to his house in Aspen because I feel like it's a conflict of interest," Ovitz assured them. Rubenstein made it a point to remind the journalists that the entire luncheon was off the record.
Rupert's Other Next Best Thing
Did Madonna feel dissed at her own movie premiere? According to witnesses at Sauci, where last week's after-party for The Next Best Thing was held, the pop queen was a bit peeved at good friend and co-star Rupert Everett for directing so much attention toward his former co-star Julia Roberts, who was there with her sweetheart and fellow Best Thing star Benjamin Bratt. Madonna's rep, Liz Rosenberg, denies any sore feelings, saying, "They are still madly in love with each other." Which is a good thing, considering that once Madonna and current squeeze Guy Ritchie called it a night, Everett jetted downtown to "Beige," B Bar's weekly gay night, to rendezvous with Bratt and Roberts for a nighttime nibble. When asked, Roberts said she had no intention of stealing the star's spotlight. "Madonna and I met for the first time that night," Roberts says. "Rupert and I just met at 'Beige' for a bite to eat."
As critics nationwide were trouncing Ben Affleck's new movie, Reindeer Games, the film's star was busy using the Internet to give it a little boost. During a movieline.com back-and-forth with Reindeer producer Chris Moore, fans were happily shocked when Affleck unexpectedly popped in, welcoming questions about the flick. Yet as the chat progressed, Affleck began offering up some juicy tidbits to the digerati. Perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow wouldn't have loved hearing her pseudo-beau explain how fame "has made my sex life much easier," adding later that his ideal place to live would be "in Chris Moore's bed with his lady." But Affleck displayed more than his Howard Stern side, taking time to flaunt his "discriminating" film choices. When asked if he would take a Star Wars role, Affleck replied, "I would want to read the script, like any other movie." But Yoda-lovers, fear not -- after all, Affleck did appear in last year's less-than-stellar Forces of Nature.
Le Cirque Tips Diners Big
Bargain-hunter alert: For some, meals at four-star Le Cirque 2000 just got 25 percent cheaper. Sirio Maccioni's world-famous Madison Avenue dining mecca has signed a deal with the Times and IGT (In Good Taste), a discount dining club whose members enjoy 25 percent savings on their food bills at a host of less-illustrious restaurants like Korea Palace, Paper Moon, and the Palm Court (no, not the one in the Plaza Hotel, the one in Eisenhower Park, New York). Starting in April, cardholders will enjoy the deep discount at Le Cirque's lunch and dinner from Sunday to Thursday (it doesn't come out of Le Cirque's pocket). Sacrebleu! It's difficult to picture the ladies who lunch whipping out their discount cards after finishing their crème brûlées. "Why not?" sniffs Le Cirque general manager Benito Sevarin, whose restaurant will be reimbursed in full by IGT. "If not enough people use the card, we'll discontinue it." (And even with the discount, Le Cirque is not what most New Yorkers would call a bargain.)
Safir: On Planet Hollywood?
Last year, with the city convulsed over the Diallo shooting, Police Commissioner Howard Safir was sharply criticized when he flew off in a chartered jet to attend the Academy Awards with plans to blow off a high-profile City Council meeting on the embattled Street Crimes Unit (the freebie is still under review by the Conflicts of Interest Board). So where was the top cop while the city waited anxiously for a verdict? He was being wined and dined at the posh premiere party for Mike Nichols's new movie, What Planet Are You From? (This time, at least he was in town.) Nichols's star-studded event was held at Cipriani 42nd Street, and the top cop enjoyed the company of Garry Shandling, Jerry Seinfeld, Linda Fiorentino, Steve Martin, and Mike Myers. The next day, when the "not guilty" verdicts were announced, Safir did put in an appearance at Rudy Giuliani's press conference at City Hall.
Boiler Room For Improvement
Another real-life person has come out of the Boiler Room to say he isn't happy with the film's name-dropping. Economist John Marlin, writer-director Ben Younger's former boss, recently settled his $24 million defamation suit against New Line Cinema after claiming the filmmaker poached his name, and now financial reporter Dan Dorfman says the critically acclaimed movie has poorly cast him as a stock picker, a role the journalist wants to make clear he's never played. Dorfman is cited in the flick by Giovanni Ribisi's character when the actor is pitching a lousy biotech stock to a client, insisting "Dan Dorfman on CNBC" strongly recommended it. (In fact, Dorfman hasn't worked at the business channel for nearly four years.) Younger says he didn't want to hurt Dorfman's reputation -- quite the opposite: "I chose Dorfman because he's a legitimate and respected figure in the financial world. That's the joke. If the client knew anything about Dorfman, they'd know he doesn't promote stocks." Though Dollar Dan isn't planning any lawsuit, he does point out that he's savvier than the movie gives him credit for: "I recently quoted an analyst saying most biotechs are overpriced," he quipped.
GQ Sweats the Details
GQ writer Elizabeth Gilbert recently got a reported six figures for the film rights to an article she wrote for the magazine's March issue, about an independent film producer unwittingly hired by an undercover FBI agent to "make" a movie called Car Tunes as part of a Mafia sting operation. The problem is that writer Steve Fishman did a feature on the Car Tunes sting for Details in February 1996 -- and he'd also sold the film rights, to Walt Disney Pictures. "I was really surprised to hear that GQ had done the story," says Fishman, who wrote his story without the cooperation of the producer, George Moffly ("He claimed he had a career to protect"). Instead, his article was based on the co-directors and writers of Car Tunes, neither of whom Gilbert interviewed. GQ editor Art Cooper says he didn't know that Details had run an article on the same sting operation -- evidently, he doesn't read his sibling publication. Gilbert wasn't available for comment, though her agent at the Wylie Agency said it is her understanding that Fishman's project was "on the rocks." Fishman's producer, David Permut, begged to differ, saying that the project is "finally on the fast track" at Disney. "We own the rights to the story," he said. "Disney will enforce those rights." A spokesperson for Centropolis Entertainment, which bought the Gilbert tale, says, "The story we were interested in was George's story. Sometimes there are two movies made on the same subject -- like those two comet movies. These things happen."
Shut Out On South Beach: What do the mayor of Miami and Michael Musto have in common? Both were stiff-armed by the velvet-rope police as they fought to enter Ocean Drive's anniversary party at the Loews hotel in South Beach. Revelers report that among the fabulous faces cooling their heels while security tried to locate Ocean Drive's clipboard queen were teen tennis temptress Anna Kournikova and her hockey-hubby-to-be, Pavel Bure. Bure was originally nixed for having no jacket, as was Mayor Joe Carollo. Village Voice gossiper Musto managed to slip in to join the likes of Gabriel Byrne, Steven Seagal, and every leggy mannequin in town, but not without leaving former Voice editor Karen Durbin and the rest of his posse at the door. But, an hour later, the intrepid Musto reappeared with help, and his posse was finally ushered in.
Nightclub Confidential: New York nightlife may seem a bit slow at the moment, but that's about to change. André Balazs is prepping Submercer, a private lounge under Balazs's Mercer hotel. . . . Event planners Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker, who have teamed up with restaurateurs David Rabin and Will Regan, will open the supper club Lotus on West 14th Street during the first week of April. They've hired Mercer Kitchen's chef de cuisine, Richard Farnabe, for the 90-seat dining room. . . . Roxy owner Gene Di Nino is close to opening a restaurant-club, No. 27, on West 24th Street. Those attending the Razorfish RSUB.com network party Tuesday will get a preview.
Additional reporting by David Amsden and Suny Sehgal.
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