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July 27, 1998

Randolph Duke, Ginger Spice, Alexandra Lind, Tony Sabin Prince, Anne Heche, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Pittman, Lily Tomlin, Arthur Kopit, and more . . .

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GETTING A BEAD ON HALSTON DESIGNERS

The comings and goings are so fast and furious at Halston these days that a designer who left acrimoniously in February is back in charge today. Last Tuesday, Kevan Hall was hired to oversee the company's Signature eveningwear line, taking on some of the responsibilities of former head designer Randolph Duke. But back in February, Hall, then one of Duke's assistant designers, was fired "because he was not performing creatively," says Carmine Porcelli, who was the company's managing director at the time. Hall insists he quit because he couldn't work with Duke, but even he admits that on June 12 the company's lawyer sent him a letter threatening a lawsuit unless he returned some missing samples immediately. Hall replied that he'd already returned the samples directly to the manufacturers. Then he took the offensive, suggesting that the lawyers might want to look into whether the company behaved unethically with its beading manufacturers. But today, the company and the designer sound positively lovey-dovey. Hall says his letter referred to problems with Halston's "previous owners," which were recently resolved. Halston's spokeswoman says the June letter was sent by "an overzealous lawyer." A former Halston employee says that Hall's ascendancy is a sign of "how desperate these new people were to get someone in." But the company spokeswoman says Halston is "thrilled" to have Hall back.

THE PRINCE WHO WAS CALLED A QUEEN

They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but one semi-closeted Hollywood actor is betting it's worth even more. Tony Sabin Prince recently filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Out magazine for what the actor is calling "one of the most egregious examples of irresponsible journalism by the gay press." At the heart of Prince's suit is an article by New York Times scribe Jesse McKinley in the May issue of Out entitled "Dirty Dancing" -- an exposé on the proliferation of roving "circuit parties" where recreational drug use is rampant. Accompanying the article is a double-paged photo of the buff Prince dancing in a sexually provocative pose with another man. Prince says the pictures, which were shot and published without his permission, revealed for the first time to many people that he is gay, and that others began asking him if he took part in group sex and drugs, as detailed in the article. In fact, the photo wasn't taken at a New York circuit party but at a private Los Angeles dance club where cameras were not permitted. "I don't even take drugs," exclaims Prince. "The night they photographed me, I was the designated driver!" The magazine clarified the facts in this month's issue, but the suit against Out's publisher, editor, and photographer has not been dropped. A spokesperson for the magazine declined to comment.

TWYLA GOES FREE; BABY MAKES THREE

ONE-MAN TANGO: Leon Wieseltier isn't mourning only the loss of a parent. Just as galleys of Kaddish, Wieseltier's 600-page meditation on his father's death, are making the rounds, word is circulating that the writer has split from his longtime girlfriend, choreographer Twyla Tharp. Friends of the writer (who is also The New Republic's literary editor) say that it's a sensitive issue for him, although the former lovers are still said to be great friends. Neither Wieseltier nor Tharp's manager would comment on their relationship.

TEA AND SYMPATHY: Actress-comedian Lily Tomlin could be walking on shaky ground in her next film. Socialite-archaeologist Iris Love recently traveled to Italy to lend her friend some authenticity in her role in Franco Zeffirelli's new film Tea With Mussolini. Tomlin, who stars with Joan Plowright, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Cher, plays an American archaeologist living abroad just before World War II. "I wasn't crazy about her hat," says Love. "Then I looked at her leather shoes and said, 'Lily, no archaeologist would wear those shoes. You'd slip on the rocks." At Tomlin's request, Love repeated her comments to the film's costume designer, Oscar winner Jenny Beavan, who costumed A Room With a View. "I'm sure Jenny knows what she's doing," laughs a publicist for the film. Says Love, "Jenny was very gracious, and she thanked me for my suggestions." At least one Love touch will make it into the film: "I gave Lily an amulet to wear that I always had with me on digs," Love reports. "I used it to ward off the evil eye."

BOB'S NEW BABE: Friends of Bob Pittman are whispering about the fact that the America Online president and his wife, Veronique Choa, are expecting. Pittman has a teenage son, Bo, with his ex-wife, Sandy Hill. Choa has no children, but she does have an ex-husband: David Breashears, who directed the IMAX Everest movie and has been on several climbs with Hill. Pittman's spokeswoman at AOL refused to discuss any personal matters.

THE MAIDSTONE: NO QUESTS ALLOWED

Socialite-clothing designer Alexandra Lind may be out of fashion at the exclusive Maidstone Club. Lind appears on the cover of the July-August Quest magazine, smiling in front of her family's cabana at the club, and again in an inside shot, where she's pictured sipping champagne with friends. Now Lind may no longer be looking so carefree. According to club insiders, members were none too pleased that Lind turned their ultra-discreet Wasp enclave into the backdrop for the flashy spread with captions plugging Lind's dresses. "They were very upset; now Alex will have to eat humble pie,'' notes one insider, who says a watchman caught the crew taking the pictures. Quest editor Kristina Stewart insists she had approval from the club: "These clubs feel comfortable with our magazine because our readers are club members. We're not writing about 'them' -- we're writing about 'us.' '' But a member confides that Lind will be asked to write a letter apologizing to the Maidstone. "It's against the rules of the club to have photos taken for commercial use," says the source, explaining they hadn't realized the captions would reveal the location of the shoot. Responds Lind: "Goodness, I don't know anything about this. I was advised by the magazine that they had prior approval from the club."

GIRL POWER PLAY AT MARIE CLAIRE

She may have dropped out of the spotlight since blowing off the Spice Girls, but Geri Halliwell -- a.k.a. Ginger Spice -- still has people fighting over her. Halliwell currently appears on the cover of the British edition of Marie Claire magazine. The location of the photo shoot was kept a secret, but by chance, someone from Marie Claire's U.S. offices showed up at the location halfway through the shoot. Though the cover was supposed to be exclusive to the British magazine, "the people from the American magazine asked if we'd do a second cover, with a new wardrobe and new makeup, for them," says the shoot's makeup artist, Vincent Longo. A second cover was shot, but according to an industry insider, the British magazine now resents that its legwork has resulted in a huge coup for its Stateside sister. "Look, the British side put it together, and then the U.S. side just waltzed right into it. There was tension about the way it went down," says the insider. Now Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of the U.S. Marie Claire, will say only, "There are no plans to run a Ginger Spice cover on American Marie Claire at this time." Calls placed to British Marie Claire were not returned by press time.

ELLEN & ANNE: IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR

Six Days, Seven Nights star Anne Heche has said she and her mother have been estranged for several years, but that doesn't mean mother and daughter have nothing in common. At the recent OutFest film convention in Los Angeles, viewers at a screening of The Real Ellen Story, a documentary on the life of Ellen DeGeneres, got an unexpected glimpse of Heche's family life. While taking questions from the crowd of 500, Heche comforted one teary-eyed girl with family problems by confessing that she herself had recently attempted to reconcile with her mother, inviting her to visit in Los Angeles. Heche told the audience that at one point during the visit, her mother had revealed, "I've been with a woman myself, but that doesn't make it right." When a stunned Heche pried for details, she told the group, her mother replied simply, "Well, it was just touching and kissing and trying to achieve orgasm. . . . It might have lasted 30 or 40 minutes . . . it was a very long time ago." Afraid that the story might see the light of day, Heche's mother apparently told her daughter to "tell everyone that I'm a very successful therapist." Quipped DeGeneres to the OutFest gathering, "A very successful therapist -- who practices without a license or a degree." A Heche spokesperson, who was present at the event, would say only, "Anne and her mom have agreed to disagree about Anne's lifestyle."

ANYTHING GOES? NOT IN HIGH SOCIETY

Perhaps it's no surprise that the producers of the audience-hungry High Society would be willing to sacrifice a little artistic (or at least showbiz) integrity to fill the house. Two weeks ago, a New York city school arranged two special matinees -- on July 16 and 21 -- for incoming ninth-graders. According to one cast member, the school required that they meet two requests: Cover the genitalia on a classical statue that appears in the final scene -- a naked man with his arm around the shoulders of a naked woman -- and drop a suggestive lyric. For days, the actors speculated what the suggestive line might be ("They tell us Trojan Helen's lips / Made every man her slavey," perhaps?). "No agency, and certainly no government agency, should have the right to censor a show," the cast member fumes. Sharon Dunn, the Board of Education's special assistant for the arts, insisted that no such demand would have come from her office but added it was possible that "someone from a local board decided to do some censorship on their own." Susanne Tighe, a spokeswoman for the show, confirmed the changes but wouldn't say who demanded them; Tighe also says the producers, led by Dodger Endemol Theatricals, would not comment on the changes. In the end, the statue was removed for the two performances, and though no lyrics were changed, a funny line directed at the marble lovers was dropped. "When you hear something no fiction writer could possibly dream up," says Arthur Kopit, who wrote the book for the show, "you know it's probably true."


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