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June 19, 2000

Jeff Koons, Nathan Lane, Lauren Bacall, George A. Pataki, Dean Winters, Kate Betts, Paul Rudd, and more . . .

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Doggone Loser in Citymeals Event
One of the star chefs of Citymeals-on-Wheels' Barbecue Challenge fund-raiser was forced to abandon his grand cooking plans near Jeff Koons's giant Puppy sculpture after Rockefeller Center officials expressed fear that flames might torch the prized pooch. For Monday's event, barbecue maven Rich Davis had hoped to import his massive cooking cart to a designated location underneath the puppy and spit-roast his Pig Pickin' Pork, but organizers pulled the pork for a dish that could be prepared on a smaller cooking surface -- and away from the petunia-peppered pup. The cookout benefit, part of the annual Tribute to James Beard, is slated to feature dozens of noted chefs, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Eric Ripert, Larry Forgione, Anne Rosenzweig, and Michelin three-star chef Michel Troisgros. Rock Center spokesperson Steven Rubenstein says it's better to be safe than sorry: "A large rig with a propane tank near the sculpture is not the safest thing. We'd like the puppy to last through August." Either way, Koons doesn't seem too worried about his floral creation combusting. "It's irrigated, so hopefully there won't be a problem," he says.

Papp: Perchance to Dream
Legendary producer Joseph Papp may have been passionate about Shakespeare, but that didn't stop him from napping during rehearsals. Love's Labour's Lost star Nathan Lane told us about Papp's peculiar approach at a bash for the new Miramax flick last week. "I was doing Measure for Measure in the park in 1985, and you'd see him sleeping during scenes," Lane said. "He'd told us not to smoke or read during rehearsals, so I walked onstage smoking a cigar and reading the newspaper just to see if he'd notice." Turns out Papp was conscious during Lane's little prank: "He found it terribly amusing." Lane also fondly recalled a pre-Papp Shakespearean experience, a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with John Goodman "in the late seventies, before John drank all the beer in the tri-state area." Also in attendance at the Miramax event was a very svelte Alicia Silverstone, who said she found doing Shakespeare "actually almost easier than acting in mainstream movies once you uncover what they're really saying. It just trickles off your tongue -- I feel like I'm in ecstasy."

Bacall's Big Blowout
Did Lauren Bacall recently leave a women's theater group in a hairy situation? The carefully coiffed actress agreed to be honored at last week's gala benefit for Women's Project & Productions, but at the last minute, says one event insider, the group was surprised to learn of a startling demand -- Bacall needed $2,000 for hair and makeup. The not-for-profit's organizers had no choice but to pony up. "The whole thing was in motion, so they paid it," says the source. "But they were upset -- $2,000 is a pretty big chunk." Women of Achievement awards went to Bacall and to actress Ruby Dee, writer Joan Didion, and Lifetime Entertainment honcho Carole Black during the Tavern on the Green gala. Women's Project founder and artistic director Julia Miles insists any expense to make their special guests comfortable was well worth it: "These stars are not paid, but they have to show up and act charming. We depend on them to help us raise money. So paying for them to get their hair and makeup done or ride in a limo is a small thing for us to do."

Pataki Kid Wooed by Broadway Judas
One Broadway star is making some very friendly political connections. Jesus Christ Superstar's Tony Vincent was a big hit with his performance as Judas at the Tony awards recently, especially with Governor George A. Pataki's daughter, Emily. According to a source, Vincent, 26, and the comely 21-year-old Yale junior were practically inseparable at the awards ceremony's after-party at the Marriott Marquis. "They spent most of the evening together," says the source. "There was a lot of mutual flirting." The two have been exchanging e-mails ever since and are planning to go out on a date, says the tipster. A spokesman for the governor admits the e-mails, but labels the relationship "just friends." He also advised us that "there is no date in the works." Perhaps Dad wants her to hold out for dinner with Jesus.

New Workload For Wizard of Oz
Just when the cast members of Oz thought they were out, HBO pulls them back in. We've been seeing the actors on the hit series enjoying themselves at just about every party in town for the past few weeks, since they recently wrapped production for the season. So it was odd to catch Dean Winters attempting to flee last week's Nautica Jeans shindig at Luahn just when things were starting to get good. "I have to be at work at eight in the morning," said the usually hard-charging Winters. "We have to shoot eight more episodes over the summer." The show's creator, Tom Fontana, wasn't at all put out by the news. Fontana joked that Sopranos producer and creator David Chase would never have taken the bait and worked over the summer: "David won't just churn stuff out -- he's an artist." The gregarious Fontana said that when he got the call for another batch of episodes, "they said, 'Could you -- ' and I screamed, 'Yes!' They didn't even finish the sentence. David Chase is Tiffany's and I'm Wal-Mart. Just bring the truck around and I'll load it up." Didn't Faulkner say that?

All Betts Off at Michael's
When it's mealtime for Kate Betts, do not stand in her way. According to a source, the Harper's Bazaar chief was notably flustered when the folks at Michael's had the nerve to make her wait about fifteen minutes for a table at a recent luncheon. Although the restaurant probably sees more media-insider power lunches than any other spot in the city, the editrix still "threw a hissy fit," says the source. "She was visibly upset, and she angrily upbraided the staff." Betts was anxiously pacing back and forth, watching the diners enjoy their meals, when none other than Vogue fashion guru and editor-at-large André Leon Talley saved her from an eternity of hunger, gallantly giving up his spot on the wait list for his worthy competitor. Talley declined to comment. Betts's rep, Nadine Johnson, said her client was traveling in Europe and could not be reached for comment, but added, "That sounds completely out of character." Utterly so.

Cipriani: CNN's Newest Dish?
CNN may soon be adding some famed European blood to its team of foreign correspondents. Giovanna Cipriani, the daughter of expansive restaurateur and Cipriani family patriarch Arrigo "Harry" Cipriani, has been in talks with Ted Turner's news network about signing on. "I've met with them five times, and I have been very impressed with what they do over there in Atlanta," Cipriani tells us from Paris, where she's already doing some freelance work for CNN. But if the deal goes through, don't chalk this up to just another corporate scheme geared toward spicing up the nonstop flow of news with a big name. Giovanna points out that she is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and her native Italian, and has for eleven years been with Italy's RAI Television (the network every New Yorker has seen flashing behind the bar in some joint on Mulberry Street), where she made a name for herself covering the Middle East and the war in Kosovo. "I haven't signed a contract yet," the thirtyish journalist admits, "but I wish very much to do so." And in case Ted is wondering: She's been married for years.

Paul Rudd's News; Guess? Girl Moves
NO RUT FOR RUDD: After appearing with veteran Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules, up-and-comer Paul Rudd seems to be gunning for Caine's title of Hardest Working Man in Show Business. Rudd has just been cast to star with Janeane Garofalo in the independent comedy Wet Hot American Summer, which also features Frasier's David Hyde Pierce. Rudd should get his lighthearted laughs while he can, because he's also negotiating for a role in director Robin Phillips's production of Long Day's Journey Into Night opposite Jessica Lange in London's West End, which is slated to run from November 2000 through January 2001. But you can catch him closer to home next month, when Rudd shares the stage with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in Ancestral Voices at the Westport Country Playhouse in a limited run July 17 to 22.

GUESS? GIRL GETS NEW ID: In our continuing effort to keep you posted on everything every model ever does, this just in: Guess? Jeans cover girl Kim Smith has dumped the Marilyn modeling agency in favor of ID Models. The native Texan has become a favorite of fashion photog Patrick Demarchelier and appears in videos for boy band 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" and "It's Gonna Be Me." Aging clubsters and nefarious "producers" about town should note that Smith is a mere 17 years old. ID president Paolo Zampolli predicts, "She has the qualities to become the symbol of the return to real beauty." And not a moment too soon.

Additional reporting by Brooke Gosin and Suny Sehgal.

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