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September 28, 1998

Oprah Winfrey, Amber Valletta, Donovan Leitch, Nello Balan, Alan Dershowitz, Ron Delsener, Marla Maples, Dreena DeNiro, Julia Roberts, Warren Beatty, Sam Donaldson, and more . . .

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BUT CAN OPRAH FIT INTO ALAIA?

Can we no longer relate to supermodels? Fashion magazines have been shying away from professional mannequins and opting for more-than-models like Calista Flockhart (Harper's Bazaar) and Minnie Driver (Cosmopolitan). Vogue featured Renée Zellweger on its September cover (traditionally the most important issue of the year), and in October, the over-40 and far from waiflike Oprah will grace the magazine's glossiest page -- Vogue's fifth celebrity-fronted issue this year. "This doesn't mark any direction for Vogue to no longer feature models,'' assures the fashion bible's spokesman, Patrick O'Connell. But they do sell. "Very, very well," according to Elizabeth Crow, the editor-in-chief of Mademoiselle, which has featured nine celebrity cover girls since its first, Julia Roberts, in July 1997. "Supermodels are dead," declares Steve Howley, a booking agent for celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Ashley Judd at Elite modeling agency. "People relate to celebrities more because they've seen their struggles and know that they're not a five-ten, stick-thin waif who's paid to wear clothes." Says one fashion insider, "There's a trickle-down effect. If you don't get the covers, it affects your career. The designers and top editors got sick of putting up with models' demands, so they are not building the supermodels like they used to.'' Adds a fashion source, "These girls also brought it on themselves. They walk around in jeans and T-shirts, thinking it's cool to look slobby and unattractive. Linda and Naomi would never have put up with this. They would have revolted and said, 'How dare you put an actress on a September cover.' ''

UPTOWN NOT DOWN AND OUT

Upper East Side café society is in crisis. So many uptowners now head downtown for nightly fun that Fredericks recently served its last martini, Two Rooms is down to none, Mortimer's is shuttered, and Le Relais is about to close its lovely French doors for good. But all is not lost. Gertrude's has just added a lively room open till late, and Madison Avenue's Nello will undergo a nightly 11 p.m. metamorphosis from restaurant to late-night supper lounge. Not that Nello Balan is a total uptown loyalist -- in November, he opens a new restaurant with Guy Reuge in TriBeCa.

RON DELSENER RESENTS: CIPRIANI

There's nothing Ron Delsener likes better than a fabulous show with the highest-caliber stars -- unless, of course, someone else is booking it. While admitting that the upcoming concert series at Cipriani's 55 Wall Street ballroom could be "huge," the king of New York concert promoters adds quickly, "I don't think it'll be long-lived." Giuseppe Cipriani, 34-year-old son of Harry, has already booked Rod Stewart, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Aretha Franklin for the run of intimate performances (only 800 guests per show). "He got Celine Dion?" asks Delsener. "That's confirmed?" Indeed it is. Companies from American Express to Mercedes Benz have been shelling out $100,000 to $150,000 per table for the ten-concert series, which will also serve guests gourmet champagne dinners among the marble columns and vaulted ceilings. "There are going to be a lot of echo problems with all those hard surfaces," predicts Delsener. (A spokesperson for Cipriani's says the same state-of-the-art V-DOS sound system as at Radio City Music Hall will be used.) Delsener says he wishes Cipriani's the best of luck, promising, "I'm not going to be opening any restaurants."

HAMLET, THE MELANCHOLY DUDE

Once you've cast Ethan Hawke in literature's most challenging role, what can you possibly do to top yourself? Get Sam Shepard to star alongside him. Shepard is set to play Hamlet's ghostly father in the upcoming Double-A Films production. Also along for the ride will be Bill Murray as Polonius, deadpan comic Steven Wright as the wisecracking grave digger, and Julie Styles as Ophelia. Leading this crew will be Trance director Michael Almereyda. And you thought Leo's Romeo was weird.

SIGHTINGS: There were more than just models and designers in town for fashion week. Julia Roberts and Law and Order star Benjamin Bratt were seen Tuesday night in a vestibule at Le Madri in the midst of a heavy make-out session. . . . Warren Beatty and Sean Penn broke chopsticks together at the BondSt restaurant (what could they possibly have in common to discuss?), and Bobby's daughter Dreena De Niro went over to greet them. But everyone wondered about the two women who joined Beatty and Penn -- one in a dark, distinctly Annette Bening-style coif. Turned out to be hairdresser-to-the-stars Sally Herschberger and a friend, and Beatty's interest was purely tonsorial. . . . Sam Donaldson, covering the president's talk last Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations, was relegated to the press pool with the other working journalists -- while council members Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Tom Brokaw, and Joe Klein had assigned seats. The difference in status did not go unremarked upon by Donaldson, who heckled the seated ones from his standing perch at the back of the room. "I was teasing some of my buddies before the president got in the room," the ferocious reporter admits with a laugh, adding that hebehaved "perfectly respectably" once Bill Clinton arrived. "Occasionally, believe it or not, I get invited to some swell affair, and then I pass my colleagues who are behind the ropes," says Donaldson.

BEATS STUDYING MILLARD FILLMORE

The history being taught in school today is nowhere near as distant as it used to be. Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a self-proclaimed "outside supporter" of Bill Clinton who has been voluble regarding the presidential inquiries, has just begun a class called "Investigating the President: Legal and Ethical Issues." With a curriculum that changes as the news comes over CNN, the course constitutes "a case study of mistakes," says Dershowitz. This week's topic is the (William) Ginsberg Problem, "when you should turn down a case because you're not qualified." Then comes the (Robert) Bennett Problem, "when it's better to lose than to win -- why it would have been better for the president to default the Paula Jones case rather than testify." And, inevitably, the Starr Problem, "what happens when a prosecutor becomes so enraged at his target that he loses his sense of judgment." A book with Dershowitz's analysis of the investigation is, of course, forthcoming. Until then, according to the professor, the class continues to dissect how much blame the lawyers deserve and how much blame the politicians deserve. Adds one person in the class (okay, it's Dershowitz): "We're having a lot of fun."

WALKING ALL OVER THE COMPETITION

Supermodel and Prada face Amber Valletta was hoist by her own petard, so to speak, when Nancy Boy lead singer Donovan Leitch tripped over a Prada (yes) bag in an elevator at the recent Saks Fifth Avenue "British Invasion" event, crashing into the model and sending her to the hospital. It turns out he had smashed Valetta's toenail so hard that it had to be removed in the emergency room. An accident, of course. Or was it? Leitch dates model Kirsty Hume, and with London Fashion Week about to start and competition stiff for the catwalks, cynics and conspiracy theorists have expressed . . . certain doubts. Leitch's spokesperson denied any knowledge of the incident and refused to comment. Interesting. But maybe Leitch's clumsy elevator move just gives new meaning to "nailing the competition."

LIMO DRIVES TINY TRUMP TO TEARS

Being Daddy's little golden girl isn't always all it's trumped up to be. Tiffany Maples Trump, the 4-year-old spawn of Donald and Marla, arrived at La Guardia last week along with her mother, back in New York for the opening of her restaurant, Peaches. (Marla and child now live in L.A.) Tiffany waited expectantly alongside her mom for Trump to turn up. When the girl burst into tears, and airline attendants tried to comfort her, she pouted, "My daddy promised he'd come, and maybe with my big sister." Eventually a limo pulled up, but alas, not the right one. "Daddy's is black," Tiffany pointed out. Trump, whose spokesperson maintains it was never arranged for him to travel out to the airport, and that he did send a car for his daughter, was apparently at Moomba at the time. Maybe he was trying to forget his housing woes. The mogul's triplex penthouse is currently sectioned off, and Marla uses a third of it as her New York residence. But since real-estate sources say Trump is considering turning part of his newly acquired GM Building into co-ops, he may have an easy solution.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER FOR CASTELLI

At his 90th-birthday party last year, Leo Castelli got a lavish present from his son, Jean-Christophe: a portfolio of nine prints made specifically for the occasion by artists including Robert Rauschenberg, the late Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns (who used the astrological constellation Leo Minor in his print). Jean-Christophe announced that he was making a limited edition of 90 prints, giving the first and last to his father and donating the rest to museums around the world. A year later, Castelli had yet to get a copy of the portfolio. "Leo just celebrated his 91st birthday, and he still hasn't gotten his present from his 90th," said one source close to the revered art dealer. Yet this past spring, one portfolio was sold in Chicago for $25,000 by Karen McCready, the printer's wife; it was from an additional set of ten given to the printer to defray costs, explains a print-world insider. Jean-Christophe insisted that his father's gift -- upgraded since last year's party from two sets to three -- was on its way. "He should get them today, I think," Jean-Christophe said last Thursday, explaining that "technical difficulties" had delayed the project. Hours later, Castelli had his copies; Jean-Christophe says he will begin distributing the remaining 87 to museums "in the next couple of weeks."

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman and Elana Zeide.


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