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November 27, 2000

Armand Assante, Chelsea Clinton, Britney Spears, Paris and Nikki Hilton, Diane Sawyer, and more . . .

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Literature 101 With Armand Assante
For a good story idea, the best place to look is still among the dead. Hemingway fans can get ready to see another one of his tales hit the screen soon, with Armand Assante and Benjamin Bratt starring in After the Storm, based on a short story of the same name. "I've studied Hemingway all my life," Assante told us at Planet Hollywood's opening-night party in Times Square. "He foretold the twentieth century. He was probably the first writer who really wrote subtext, which all of Hollywood film is based on." We wondered what Hemingway was trying to say, so we took this opportunity to have it explained: "We have totally sacrificed and thrown out our spirituality for materialism," said Assante. And what brought about that final act in Ketchum, Idaho? "He started out as an innocent whose soul became corrupted in the world," said Assante. "I believe he essentially became incredibly disillusioned." Assante himself, however, shows no signs of disenchantment. In fact, his latest life-embracing project is a small organic-beef business he plans to launch from his farm in the Hudson Valley. Because meat is always the answer.

First Daughter's Voting Blunder
It's interesting to note that the state of Florida is not the only one riddled with confused and flustered voters. We have them right here in New York -- and some of them should really have known better. A Clinton-camp insider tells us that at an Election Night celebration in a suite at the Hyatt in Manhattan, an embarrassed Chelsea Clinton was overheard recounting her voting mishap in Chappaqua. Unable to close the curtain of her booth, the First Daughter began to draw stares and eventually had to seek the aid of drape-savvy pollsters. Why was she so insistent on privacy? After all, there should be no question about whom she was voting for. Unfortunately, the White House Press Office could not reach Chelsea for comment.

Pedal-philia for Britney Spears Fans
Having Britney Spears straddle something may not make it priceless -- but it's still pretty darn expensive. Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond discovered that recently when his daughter Simone tried to get him to buy the teen idol's bicycle for her at the World t.e.a.m. Sports celebrity bike auction at the Sports Club/L.A. Greg did his best to acquire the precious piece for his daughter. According to a witness, he jokingly pleaded with fellow attendees to stop bidding so that he could afford it, even calling out, "It's just a Schwinn! Aren't they out of business? It's not even a LeMond." The competition was unmoved, however, and Britney's ride eventually went to someone else for $4,000. Even more valuable than Spears's bike were those of Robin Williams (a Griffen) and Christopher Reeve (a Cannondale), which left the block at $5,000 apiece. Those sales, in turn, were blotted out by the Trek bike Lance Armstrong trained on to win this year's Tour de France -- it went for ten grand.

Targeting Wild Heiresses
Just when you thought Paris and Nikki Hilton had reached maximum exposure, do we have news for you. The socialite siblings renowned for their wild ways and over-the-top ensembles may be on the verge of becoming professional narcissists. A source close to the hotel clan tells us that the pair was asked to participate in an upcoming ad campaign for Target stores. When mom Kathy Hilton was asked about the rumor that they will be lending their faces to the nationwide chain of discount stores, she said, "Someone did call us, but right now we haven't confirmed anything. Nikki is in school, and she's just crazed getting college applications together." And we all know what Paris is up to.

Cops Caught With Hands in Cookie Jar
It seems "special" cookies just may be edging out doughnuts as the pastry of choice for police officers. On November 8, officers raided a weekly meeting of the New York Medical Marijuana Patients Cooperative, taking members into custody for pot possession. A source close to the case tells us that at the time of the bust, the officers asked the men and women they had arrested if the baked goods on the scene contained marijuana and were told they did. Arthur Peeples, attorney for one of those arrested, says that since the arrests, an internal investigation has been launched into the whereabouts of the missing evidence. His client claims the officers divided up the cookies and were seen later with bloodshot eyes and other telltale signs of marijuana use. He adds, "This has taken on a life of its own." A police-department spokesman confirmed there is an ongoing investigation, but declined to comment further. Talk about a bad case of the munchies.

Manhattan File Files Vs. Manhattan Style
It's been at least a few weeks since publisher Joseph DeCristofaro hit a bump in the road toward getting Manhattan Style magazine off the ground, so here's something: DeCristofaro and his company, Faro Media, Inc., are being sued by Manhattan File magazine's publisher, Magazine Holding, Inc., for trademark infringement. According to the complaint, filed recently in U.S. District Court, DeCristofaro's choice of name is likely to baffle the upper-crusty readers and advertisers who are File's bread and butter. The complaint alleges that having both Manhattan File and Manhattan Style around is "likely to cause confusion," which could result in locals' surmising Cristina Greeven's six-year-old magazine is connected to the frisky newcomer. This is not DeCristofaro's first title fiasco. He reportedly chose the current name after Hamptons Country owner Marvin Shanken -- DeCristofaro's former boss -- dissuaded him from calling the project Manhattan Country. "We do not comment on any possible or pending legal proceedings," DeCristofaro told us through a spokeswoman. "If indeed there are to be any legal proceedings, they will be conducted in a court of law, not in the press." Well, that'll fix us.

Diane Sawyer: No Free Lunch
While such fabulous females as Ellen Barkin, Kim Cattrall, Donna Hanover, Paula Zahn, and Miss Universe Lara Dutta turned out for Citymeals-on-Wheels' annual Women's Power Lunch at the Pierre last week, the event's honorary co-chair Diane Sawyer was surprisingly missing. In fact, it wasn't until Sawyer, who had confirmed her attendance, was being introduced with the words "the busier people are, the more time they have for causes they believe in" that the newswoman's absence was noticed. It seems the post-election turbulence was to blame; according to a spokesperson for ABC News, "Diane would have loved to have been there, but due to breaking news on the election story, she had to stay in the studio to update Good Morning America for our West Coast viewers." The generous Sawyer did have the time to send in a check -- for $10,000.

Shelf-Space Oddity for Angie Bowie
Someday they will throw a book signing and no books will show up. Actually, that just happened to Angela Bowie. The Thin White Duke's former wife tells us she appeared at Tower Books in the Village recently all set to autograph copies of the studio paperback edition of her tell-all Backstage Passes, but there wasn't a copy in the house. "Someone had forgotten to order the books for the signing," she explains. "A lot of people were very upset. I felt so bad, because, well, here I was, so what was the problem?" An unfazed Bowie -- who currently resides in Tucson and has been dating an electrician for seven years -- still managed to get the most out of her trip to New York, playing a gig at Don Hill's to promote her new CD, Moon Goddess. "It would be so nice if Tower would stock my album," she says. "It would be a nice way to say they're sorry about the book." Instead, Tower is paying for Angie to fly back in December for another signing. Bowie did find one other diversion to pass her time here: "I'm running out to see Almost Famous," she said. "This kid we used to run around with, Cameron Crowe, did it." Rings a bell.

A Dark Grey Zone for Natasha Lyonne
Natasha Lyonne has just completed that critical rite for any serious actor: the Holocaust Movie. In preparing for her role in The Grey Zone -- a film about Jews working in the crematoriums of Auschwitz II (also known as Birkenau), co-starring Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino -- Lyonne got some advice from a source close to home. "Both of my grandparents on my mother's side are Holocaust survivors," Lyonne told us at the opening of the Hogan store in SoHo last week. "My grandmother was actually in Auschwitz II, so I called her from Bulgaria where the film was shot for support. She said, 'This was 50 years ago. You don't have to go back here. It is very good now for the Jews.' " Although Lyonne told us that working on The Grey Zone was her favorite acting experience so far, the subject matter made it an extremely demanding project. "You almost get into Holocaust overload," she said. "You start to feel like a phony for reading so much material. You're cramming so much stuff in that you can become desensitized."

Additional reporting by Abbey Goodman and Paige Herman.

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