Christina Aguilera may be one of pop music's dirtiest divas, but even she has her standards. On a recent night at John Street Bar in the Financial District, Gregg Allman, the grizzled seventies sex symbol, was seen approaching a table where the Staten Island native -- sporting pink hot pants, knee-high boots, and fishnets -- was cavorting with six female friends. "They all looked horrified," says one onlooker. "I mean, here was [Allman] with his shoulder-length scraggly hair, cowboy hat and vest, and wraparound sunglasses, and they had no idea who he was." Perhaps trying to help out, the D.J. promptly put on Allman's 1986 song "I'm No Angel." The 54-year-old Allman, former Cher beau and father of the singer's son Elijah Blue, pointed to the speakers and explained who he was. "You could tell they were all trying to be polite," our spy says about the now-clued-in women, "but pretty soon they ran out of stuff to say." Allman's rep insists it must have been a case of mistaken identity.
Caroline Rhea's Cups Runneth Over
Buzz coming from the set of Caroline Rhea's new talk show is that there's been some tension between the host and her executives. Sources tells us that Rhea was chewed out by Hilary Estey McLoughlin, general manager of Telepictures -- which produces the show -- because Rhea wore a low-cut top showing lots of cleavage when she did a taped interview with Pierce Brosnan to air on November 25. Rhea apparently thought it would be funny to do her best Bond Girl routine for the Die Another Day star, but Telepictures felt she went a bit too far for a family-friendly program. "Hilary told Caroline that advertisers think breasts on the show is a no-no," one insider tells us. Rhea insists she and McLoughlin never argued about her top shelf. "The only thing that might have happened is that Hilary's jealous because I'm a D-cup and she's a C-cup," Rhea joked when she called to refute our story. Another rumor making the rounds at the show is that consulting producer Mary Connelly is leaving to executive-produce another Telepictures project, the upcoming Ellen DeGeneres talk show, and that Rhea gets mad at the mere mention of Ellen's name. Again, Rhea insists that's not so. "I don't mind hearing about Ellen or Sharon Osbourne's new show," she said. "But I don't like hearing about David Hasselhoff, but I don't want to get into that."
Aaron Eckhart: Bad Company?
Sounds like Aaron Eckhart could use some help with anger management. The actor -- best known for playing Julia Roberts's boyfriend in Erin Brockovich and a chauvinist pig in In the Company of Men -- was last seen being escorted out of Demi Moore's 40th-birthday bash at Guy's bar in West Hollywood at about 3:30 a.m. on November 10. "One of the security guards was pushing him up against the wall," reports our spy, adding that the stumbling Eckhart "looked really bad." The guard tried to reason with him, says our source, explaining that "they were doing this for his own good," at which point Eckhart apparently told the guard that he was "going to call his lawyer and fuck him up." Guy's manager confirmed to us that Eckhart was there that night but denied that he caused any trouble. It wouldn't be the first time Eckhart has been less than charming in public. During the Cannes Film Festival in 2001, he got into a tussle with a man who thought Eckhart was getting a little too chummy with his girlfriend. The fight ended in hysterics after Eckhart pulled off the guy's toupee. Around the same time, he got into a war of words with a young woman at another party who told him he looked familiar. "If you don't know who the fuck I am, you don't have the right to ask me." He then snapped, "I hate all you publicist whores."
Seen and Heard Around Town
PETA poster-children Joaquin Phoenix and Natalie Portman avoiding the foie gras, tuna, quail, beef tenderloin, lamb chops, and filet mignon being served at celebutante designer Zac Posen's recent 22nd-birthday bash at the Old Homestead steakhouse and opting for veggie quesadillas and various non-meat finger food instead. . . . The next night, Julian Schnabel was in and said he'd like to paint a portrait of Annabelle the Cow -- the bovine statue perched atop the restaurant -- for a possible Atlantic City Homestead. . . . Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott waiting in SUVs outside Lotus for 40 minutes as their bodyguards checked out the O-Town record-release party. Jackson, Elliott, and their posses eventually took over the downstairs lounge, where they celebrated Elliott's new CD, joined by O-Town members Ashley Parker Angel and Trevor Penick, until the wee hours. . . . ABC News anchor Peter Jennings at Taperia Madrid on the Upper East Side throwing red roses to La Maha, a flamenco dancer better known in media circles as Dan Rather's spokesperson, Kim Akhtar. . . . Martha Stewart's embattled stockbroker Peter Bacanovic telling a friend at Gold's Gym on West 54th Street that he'll probably spend New Year's in Palm Beach.
John Podhoretz Finds Free Love
For years, ultraconservative columnist John Podhoretz has used his writing skill to try to win hearts and minds for his brand of red-meat Republicanism. Now it's won him and his new bride, Saturday Night Live associate producer Ayala Cohen, a free honeymoon in Hawaii. By registering for their wedding at Bloomingdale's, the lucky lovebirds -- who met two years ago on matchmaker.com -- became automatically eligible for the store's Enchanted Moment writing contest. Competition was stiff -- around 2,000 couples submitted short essays on the moment they knew it was forever. In his winning write-up, the hard-nosed journalist gets misty-eyed over a trip to Cape Cod in which the couple got lost and found their way back. "Ayala's ease and calm had already gifted me with a wondrously new sense of comfort in my own skin. As we wandered about the Cape in a green VW bug on a night so dark no stars showed themselves, we made our own light. And when we turned round the Orleans rotary and knew the way home at last, I knew I had found my way home for the remainder of my days." After their October 13 wedding, Podhoretz's essay win garnered them an eleven-day, ten-night trip to Hawaii. They flew business class and were put up at the Westin Maui. Mazel tov, John and Ayala!
Lizzie's Friends on the Outside
If jailbird Lizzie Grubman is chowing down on Devil Dogs, Oreos, and Snickers bars from the Suffolk County Jail commissary, it's because she has no other options. We're told that the fallen power girl's favorite East End bagelry, Twice Upon a Bagel in Wainscott, recently tried -- and failed -- to send her a care package. "She likes a lot of the things we do here -- cinnamon crumb sticks, sliced salmon, egg salad, some tofu spreads," says shop owner Steve Vaccaro, who still displays a Lizzie-signed cover blowup of the August 1999 New York "Hamptons" issue, in which Grubman declared her weakness for his fare. "I offered to send her some food. The family looked into it but told me I couldn't." And as for the autographed poster? "I'm still not taking it down," Vaccaro says firmly. "Every once in a while, someone will turn around and say something, depending on what side of the fence they're on, you know, friend or foe."
Levin Scales Back
Retired AOL Time Warner chief Gerald Levin is downsizing. We hear that Levin and his wife, Barbara, are selling their Manhattan home of ten years -- a three-bedroom triplex maisonette at the exclusive River House on Sutton Place. The apartment, designed and decorated by Barbara herself and featured in Architectural Digest just six months ago, boasts everything from an oval office with Thai-silk-covered walls to an entryway where their names are stenciled in Celtic lettering. But they won't be moving far. They'll live in a neighboring Moroccan-themed two-bedroom they bought two years ago.
Pico chef John Villa is among a group of culinary Casanovas who are about to take the full-frontal plunge. The 32-year-old New Jersey native tells us that he's posing in the raw next week for an "article" on young chefs slated for the April issue of Playgirl. "It started out being partially nude, but now it's showing everything," he says. The spread will feature one other New York chef and one from Las Vegas, each in his restaurant kitchen. "Some might pose a little more strategically with kitchen utensils," the mag's editor-in-chief, Michele Zipp, concedes. But Villa hopes to persuade his colleagues to drop their aprons altogether. "I think I'm the first to say yes" to complete nudity, he says, "so I figure the rest will have to go along, too." Zipp declined to name the other chefs.
Ally Sheedy has signed on to play one of the inmates in The Exonerated, the play Bob Balaban is directing at the 45 Bleecker Theater about six people on death row who were eventually found innocent. But while Marlo Thomas and Richard Dreyfuss have already done their stints on the rotating cast, Balaban's had to wait for Sheedy, who will join the cast from December 10 to 15. She received the script last summer while filming The Interrogation of Michael Crowe, a Court TV film based on the true story of a 14-year-old boy who was coerced by the police into falsely confessing to the murder of his sister. "It was really painful," she tells us of her role as the boy's mother, "and it was so similar in subject matter that I told Bob I needed a break."
Sources say Quentin Tarantino was so enamored of a bar that was built for his upcoming movie, Kill Bill, that he's had the entire glass-and-light setup, including the stools and the liquor-display cabinet, shipped from the Tokyo set and installed at his Los Angeles house.
With Aric Chen.