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April 9, 2001

Johnny Depp, Barbra Streisand, Liz Smith, Julian Schnabel, Tom Hanks, and more . . .

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What's Johnny Depp Sticking Up His Nose?
The rumors are true: Johnny Depp snorts baby laxative. Actually, the actor merely experimented with the powdered infant-drainer, which was mixed with vitamin B to produce a faux cocaine for his smuggler epic Blow, co-starring Penélope Cruz. "It's really horrible," says the flick's director, Ted Demme (left), who personally sampled the chalky concoction before inflicting it on his stars. "It makes you completely stuffed up and want to puke," he tells us. "Kind of like real coke." While Demme had to try it only once, Depp was not so fortunate. "Johnny has one scene that's pretty brutal," says Demme, who's hosting a party for the New Line film at The Park's Red Room in Chelsea this Tuesday. "We tried not to do too many takes. It was like we'd do one or two shots and then give Johnny massive amounts of tissues and towels to clear his head." While Blow hasn't opened yet, it did receive raves from one very critical viewer -- George Jung, the imprisoned smuggler whose life story the movie is based on. "When I first visited him in prison, he said he would let the movie get made if it could perhaps deter people from getting into the lifestyle," Demme says. "Now that he's seen it, he's very excited because his goal has been met." Jung will be eligible for parole in 2014. Needless to say, he wasn't smuggling baby laxative.

Barbra, Tina, and Liz -- A Diva War Suffers One Casualty
If Barbra Streisand makes you want to scream, you are not alone. Veteran gossip writer Denis Ferrara was moved to quit his job with Liz Smith last week after a particularly pernicious run-in with the retired diva. According to several sources, Ferrara -- who had been in Smith's employ for twenty years before leaving his post -- had politely introduced himself to Streisand at Miramax's annual pre-Oscar "Max Awards" party when the songstress proceeded to tear into him. One witness tells us that Babs, seated with hard-eyed hubby James Brolin and Talk's Tina Brown, took issue with the coverage she'd recently received in Smith's column. Ferrara then expressed his position that the column had been too kind to her for years, says the witness, and followed it up by letting Streisand know he had had just about enough of her. The two went at it for about ten minutes, "very heatedly, with a lot of finger-pointing," says a tipster, until Brown played peacemaker, scurrying Ferrara away, while Brolin practiced his usual simmering stoicism. When Ferrara reported the incident to Smith, yet another conflagration ensued, after which Ferrara announced his immediate resignation with a brief mass e-mail. While Smith admits that she and Ferrara did "quarrel" over the Streisand battle, the venerable columnist insists her charge departed for other reasons. "It was about Dennis's ambition," she tells us, "his need to leave the mother ship." Ferrara did not return calls.

The Artist Formerly Known as Invited
Generally, when you diss an actor in the paper, you don't want to see him the same night (trust us). But that's just what happened to artist-auteur Julian Schnabel on Oscar Sunday, when his mug appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. In the issue, he lambastes Tom Hanks's latest box-office juggernaut, calling it "dumb" and saying, "I watch a movie like Cast Away and I want to, like, commit hara-kiri." That evening, the painter joined his friend Dennis Hopper at the ultra-exclusive fête thrown by Dani Janssen -- the widow of original Fugitive David Janssen -- in her Century City penthouse. Among the 75 guests at the bash: Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones . . . and Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson. As partygoers held their breath, preparing to witness a blowout, a friend of Hanks's wife approached Schnabel and chastised him, saying, "It wasn't very nice for you to say what you did about her husband's movie." According to those who overheard the conversation, Schnabel was unapologetic: "If I worried about every person who thought my paintings weren't any good, I would be in a loony bin by now," he reportedly said. When the artist and the actor found themselves face-to-face, Hanks gently and in a gentlemanly fashion shrugged him off, then left the party quickly after. Schnabel -- who, according to our source, later called Janssen to apologize for the hoo-hah -- could not be reached for comment, and Wilson's rep denies that an altercation ensued, saying that the trio had a "nice conversation."

A Brush With Dr. Death
Just in time for Easter, art lovers can feast their eyes on the gory,
anti-religious, and quite colorful paintings of imprisoned euthanasiast Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian. Starting April 15, the new Danielson Art Museum in Danielson, Connecticut, will feature six of the good doctor's morbid creations as its premiere exhibition. As a painter, Kevorkian -- currently serving 10 to 25 years in a Michigan prison for his second-degree-murder conviction in 1999 -- tackles such themes as death, war, and mortality. In an essay that accompanies The Gourmet (War) (pictured), Kevorkian wonders, "How long will we persist in this lethal nonsense?" But Dr. Death doesn't really hit his stride until he grapples with the topic of religion. For He Is Raised, a work in which three rabbits pull Christ from an Easter egg, illustrates "the annual resurrection by dumb bunnies of a pathetic, despairing, almost scorned image of purported divinity." The show's curator, man-about-town Baird Jones, admits, "It really is kind of creepy that he's so obsessed by this stuff." Happy hunting.

Will Bill O'Reilly Go to Hell?
Even among his fellow conservatives, Fox News talker Bill O'Reilly manages to offend. At an eve of Saint Patrick's Day dinner hosted by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick -- a fraternal organization that has been around since the eighteenth century -- George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, and Cardinal Edward Egan looked on from the dais as O'Reilly yet again told an audience how "the elitists" were out to get him because of his working-class roots. That was all well and good, says a witness, until O'Reilly -- the Everyman who recently renewed his contract with Fox for a reported $24 million -- let slip the phrase "goddamn" in front of His Eminence. "We're not prudes," says the tipster, "but you don't blaspheme in front of the cardinal. I'm a fan of O'Reilly's, so it was very disappointing. The guy's just so full of himself." O'Reilly insisted through a rep that he was merely quoting a scene in Braveheart in which the king of England mutters, "Those goddamn Irish!" Ah, Bill, we hardly knew you were so literary.

Oscar Night: Behind the Fashion
Sure, everyone knows what celebs wore to the Oscars, but what about the dish behind the scenes? Renée Zellweger was so enamored of a pricey Chanel diamond-and-pearl cuff that she insisted on wearing two, one of which the fashion house specially flew from Paris to New York and then couriered to L.A. Less lucky was Angelina Jolie, whose request for a pair of custom thick-soled, square-toed boots was unable to be met by Jimmy Choo. Some stars, however, were less sure of their sartorial picks. Jennifer Lopez couldn't decide what to wear until the day of the big event. Neither could Ellen Burstyn, who wavered between a Randolph Duke dress and a Catherine Bacon number, finally opting for the latter because it went better with her $600,000 diamond, yellow sapphire, and garnet Dior necklace. Speaking of weighty rocks, Michelle Yeoh's Barney Cheng-designed gown was so heavy on Swarovski crystal beads -- 180,000, to be exact -- it weighed more than 30 pounds. Try doing a karate chop in that.

Chevy Chase's Hotel Tinkle
If you haven't seen much of Chevy Chase on the big screen recently, it may be because he's been too busy practicing the piano. The comedian and actor was recently spotted three nights in a row at the bar at the Four Seasons in L.A., seated behind the grand and playing a surprisingly accomplished set of blues and jazz. Since the former SNL-er donned sunglasses and a baseball cap, we thought he might be doing the incognito thing while preparing for a role. But it turns out "it's just a hobby," says his rep. "He's been playing all his life." So can any old actor just waltz into the Four Seasons and pound the keyboard in his spare time? "If the piano is unlocked, we certainly welcome guests to sit down and play," says the hotel's spokesperson. "Of course," she delicately adds, "we prefer they know how to play."

Trashing Busta's Bling-Bling
Here's a tip: Your diamond earrings are too big if you have to take them out in order to eat. Just ask Busta Rhymes, who had a little trouble with his bling-bling at L'Ermitage in Beverly Hills two weeks ago. A West Coast source tells us that the rapper -- who just signed with Clive Davis's J Records -- was enjoying lunch at the hotel and decided to remove his earrings and place them in a napkin. Unfortunately, a fastidious waiter removed the refuse -- and his rocks -- and accidentally threw them in the trash. In an effort to retrieve the missing studs, both the waiter and Mr. Rhymes donned rubber gloves to sort through the restaurant's rubbish. The hip-hop star's rep did not return calls for comment, and a spokesperson for L'Ermitage refused to discuss the private activities of guests. Note to Busta: Put your earrings where your eyes can see.

CLINTON INHALES: Believe it or not, Bill Clinton still hasn't given up his taste for cigars. Our latest sighting of the ex-prez found him at the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal. He was spotted smoking a Macanudo Vintage No. 6 in the company of an unidentified man and woman (yes, we're positive it wasn't Marc and Denise Rich), while sipping a cocktail aptly named the Robber Baron.

KILBORN SWITCHES GEAR: Gear editor-in-chief Bob Guccione Jr. tells us he's hired funnyman Craig Kilborn to guest-edit his third-anniversary issue. The Late Late Show host's lofty plans include recruiting celeb pals like Bob Costas, Jon Favreau, Ben Stein, and Vince Vaughn to write for the mag. "This issue," he promises, "will change the world."

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Paige Herman.

Contact the Intelligencer here.


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