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December 18-25, 2000

John Cusack, Nan Kempner, Eminem, Michael Alig, Ian Ziering, and more . . .

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New Yorker's Weird Welcome to the Net
If a venerable institution like The New Yorker wants to burst onto the Internet, it had better be ready for computer-age high jinks. As soon as the gang at modernhumorist.com heard that the old-school magazine intended to launch a Website, they bought up the domain name Newyorkermag.com -- and promptly transformed it into a special New Yorker "preview." The spoof site -- which launches this week -- promises fiction by Nicholson Baker titled "Britney Spears Nude XXX Pics *Free*" as well as "Nick Hornby on the classic pop purity of midi files." Art Spiegelman fans might be interested in a series of "Doodie Flash animations," listed on the page, including "Maus Droppings" and "The Wild Farty." Newyorkermag.com also offers a software program that "scans newspapers from two weeks ago and generates stilted but basically readable 700-word satires . . . the next best thing to Christopher Buckley!" While The New Yorker's real site, Newyorker.com, has yet to launch, Modern Humorist senior editor Daniel Radosh muses, "The New Yorker is wonderful and the Web is wonderful, but it's hard to see what either would gain from combining." We'd have asked the magazine what it thinks of all this, but we didn't want to spoil the surprise.

John Cusack Out; Breaking Stuff In
At the newly reopened Studio 54, when the boss is away all hell breaks loose. Since owner Noel Ashman traveled to Las Vegas for pitcher David Wells's bachelor party recently, many of his key staffers decided to take that Saturday night off, which made for quite an evening. First, John Cusack in baseball cap and trench coat went unrecognized by the replacement doorman and was barred for fifteen minutes. Also taking a powder that night was Ashman's sound technician, which proved unfortunate when D.J. Mark Ronson's turntable broke. The Ronson clan's No. 1 son was only able to play CDs, thereby depriving the crowd of his usual mix stylings. And while such celebs as James King, Jesse Martin, and Angie Harmon coolly enjoyed the music, others in attendance broke three banquettes by dancing on them -- and one young lady broke her ankle. A fourth banquette was cleared out when the couple occupying it were removed from the nightclub for getting too much of a groove on. What, you're not supposed to do that anymore?

Mag Stressed Over Spin Control
That recent Spin magazine cover with Eminem done up like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange is pretty cool -- but it would have been even cooler if Spin had actually created it. The idea came from hip-hop publisher Alain Maridueña, whose magazine Stress used the exact same photo on its cover more than two years ago. "It was our concept," says Maridueña. "It was our photo shoot." Spin editor-in-chief Alan Light says he used the old shot for the feature -- which names Eminem Artist of the Year -- because of the rapper's sudden and uncharacteristic bout of press shyness. "He wouldn't do a photo shoot," Light told us, "so we tried to pull the best, strongest image we could find, and this was it." Light gave props to the smaller mag, saying, "I'll give Stress the credit for a good shoot. Eminem was willing to play around a little more back then." Maridueña, however, wasn't feeling the love: "Stuff like this happens to us all the time. I'm used to us being the farm team of ideas for that magazine."

Strange On-Set Traffic Patterns
Filming the drug-war epic Traffic proved to be as paranoia-inducing as the narcotics trade itself. Cast member Yul Vazquez tells us one of the most frightening moments came when he and fellow Hispanic actor Clifton Collins were stopped by U.S. border agents while crossing back into Arizona after a day of filming in Mexico. "They asked Collins where he was born and he just froze," says Vazquez. "He couldn't remember. I said, 'Dude! Don't hesitate!' It was kind of terrifying." For inspiring a real freak-out, though, the authorities were no match for Benicio Del Toro, who constantly carried a mysterious black case. "Everyone was dying to know what was in it," Vazquez relates. "But he would never tell us. Every single day we'd say, 'Hey, Benny, what's in the box?' and he'd say, 'Stuff.' He loved it." Vazquez -- whose fellow cast mates include newlyweds Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones -- provided a pretty surreal moment for himself when he got to fire a sniper rifle from California governor Gray Davis's San Diego office: "They had to send out memos to workers in the area saying do not be alarmed," says Vazquez. "Even though you know you're firing blanks, when you're looking through the sight the power you feel is really crazy." Didn't Charlton Heston say that first?

Contract Hit on the Ross School
The folks at the Ross School are about to get a lesson in litigation. The ultra-exclusive East Hampton private school founded by Courtney Sale Ross is being sued by the contractors hired to execute the school's controversial large-scale expansion. Telemark Construction, which was brought on to complete the school's massive 48-building addition, has filed a lawsuit for "several millions," according to the company's lawyer Fred Cohen. Cohen declines to discuss the details of the case before it has been resolved, but insists that the job Telemark was hired to do was in fact completed, "beautifully," adding, "You should go see it." A Ross School spokesman plays down the case, saying, "It's a garden-variety dispute between a builder and a client. The matter is in litigation." This is not the first high-profile payment squabble that Telemark has been involved in. In 1994, legendary 60 Minutes executive producer Don Hewitt hired Telemark to renovate his Hamptons home, only to fire the construction company on the grounds that the workmanship was shoddy. Telemark then sued Hewitt after he withheld final payment, and Hewitt filed a $1 million countersuit. As far as those previous suits go, all involved declined to comment aside from saying the case had been resolved.

New Kid Stands Up to 007
Every once in a while a teen star comes along who went into acting for the right reason: not fame or fortune but cellular service. Brooklynite Rob Brown, the 16-year-old leading man of Gus Van Sant's Finding Forrester, co-starring Sean Connery and Anna Paquin, tells us he'd never had so much as an acting lesson when Van Sant cast him. "I needed a bit of extra cash to pay my cell-phone bill," says Brown, explaining why he showed up at an open-audition call posted at his high school. "I thought maybe I'd be cast as an extra." Van Sant, who cast Brown as a genius basketball player, expressed a touch more enthusiasm. "As soon as he read, we felt it at once," the director tells us. "So we asked him to come back the next day and read with Sean Connery. We were astonished to see that Rob could stand up to him, even match him." Connery also gushed: "Rob was a real pro. He's a very intelligent kid with very, very good instincts." The film opens December 19.

Darker Days for Michael Alig
The tale of murderous club kid Michael Alig keeps getting seedier. After nearly three years without incident in prison, Alig was recently busted twice for drugs. According to a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Correctional Services, Alig was found guilty of possession and smuggling drugs in the Clinton Correctional Facility back in July, which resulted in his losing three months of good-behavior time and being sentenced to 360 days in the special-housing unit, where he was confined to his cell 23 hours a day. Despite his isolation, the Corrections rep says Alig used drugs in September. With the second bust, Alig lost another three months' good behavior and was transferred to the Southport facility, where, according to the spokeswoman, "we tend to send the long-term disciplinary guys." Alig has been stripped of such privileges as eating in the cafeteria and receiving packages. "Word on the club circuit is that Michael thinks he was the victim of entrapment," says Alig's former employee, nightlife promoter Baird Jones. Alig believes he's been set up, says Jones, "but he knows there's no way he can ever prove it."

Ian Ziering: How to Make It in Hollywood
There comes a time in every actor's life when he must become actor-director-producer. Thus, the latest gambit by former Beverly Hills 90210 star Ian Ziering. "I've got a project that I've optioned that I've been shopping around," he told us recently at the fashion industry's Michael Awards. While Ziering said he'd rather not say what the story was, he did favor us with a description: "It's a risqué kind of comedy -- definitely cable in nature." Ziering said that he's had "a lot of great meetings" but that, so far, no one's committed. The heartthrob's old boss Aaron Spelling liked the project, Ziering said, but had to take a pass. "Let's just say the subject matter was not right for his company," Ziering explained. "We're trying to find the right synergy now. Cross-pollination is hard to come by." We so know what you mean.

Kempner Explains Anti-Fat Folk Line
If Nan Kempner has a distaste for the bulging masses, she has her reasons. The pencil-shaped socialite caught no end of grief in the letters section of the December issue of W in response to her being quoted in the magazine saying, "I loathe fat people." But Kempner explained herself to a friend at a luncheon hosted by Michael Kors at the Ace Gallery last week. According to a witness, Kempner told friends that her staunch anti-cellulite stance stems from a weight problem she herself suffered as a child. "She said, 'I was fat as a kid, and it's always affected me,' " the source relates. Kempner then assured her pal, "I don't hate anybody." When we called Kempner, she confirmed the tale to us, adding that she regrets the quote -- taken from an article about her new cookbook, RSVP, proceeds of which are going to benefit cancer research -- got so much attention. "I'm a marshmallow," she said. "I've been in tears for weeks. Sometimes things that sound funny when you say them don't read funny."

Additional reporting by Paige Herman and Abbey Goodman.

Contact the Intelligencer here.


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