"I'm frankly not too big on opera," Jane Fonda confided at the opening of the Metropolitan Opera's season last night. "I don't like the inevitable tragic-ness of it." Indeed, Lucia di Lammermoor was a major downer, although an entertaining one: Natalie Dessay, in the title role, brought down the house with a hair-raising mad scene. Has Jane ever lost it like that? "In a scene in a movie, but never in life," she said. "My mother did that for me. I didn't have to go there again." Uh, okay, dead mother, we're super-uncomfortable now. Oh, hey, it's Barbara Walters!
Event planners for last night's "VH1: Save the Music" benefit were so accustomed to diva Mariah Carey's lateness that they built in an hour's delay into their schedule. As a result, the songstress arrived right just in time, joining stars like Conan O'Brien, John Mayer, James Blunt, Jon Bon Jovi, Mya, and Quincy Jones. Hillary Clinton was supposed to be there but sent her husband instead. "“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m doing tonight what I hope I’ll be doing for all of us for the next several years," Clinton told the crowd. "I’m just sort of standing here for Hillary.” Read more about what the stars said in our complete "Save the Music" Party Lines.
Sex follows some women everywhere, even the New York Philharmonic. Tuesday evening, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, 79 years of age and four-foot-seven in height, stood in the aisle waiting for Yo-Yo Ma’s opening-night performance. “Mort Zuckerman just came up and kissed me and said that I’m the best woman around,” she told New York. “And he had a date! She just stood there and smiled. What could she do?” She beamed. “It’s wonderful to be Dr. Ruth!” Westheimer had had a busy day. A study had just been released, showing that 55 percent of divorced women aren’t having sex, and everyone wanted her advice. “If she’s divorced and doesn’t have a partner, it makes sense,” she said. “But I hope that she keeps her libido, her desire for sex, alive. That she goes out, that she looks around if there are any eligible people, and if not, I do say that until she finds a partner, I want her to masturbate."
Last night, comedian and cupcake maker Amy Sedaris hosted a party for Ikea Home and told New York all about her own domestic life. "I have Pergo floors you can only get at Ikea," she explained, adding that she didn’t install them herself. "My friend Todd Oldham, who is a designer, put them in. I laid on the couch and smoked pot and was like, 'That one looks crooked.'" Likewise, she admits, when she got a Weber Grill, she made her brother (humorist David Sedaris) put it together for her. "He put the wheels on backward and literally had a pile of leftover screws. I said, 'What is that?' and he said, 'Well, that's, you know, the leftover screws they give you,'" the Strangers With Candy star said. "It literally didn't even roll around." On household pests, Sedaris is a true expert. "There's never just a mouse. You have to find the hole! I'm telling you! I had a cheese-ball business in my apartment, and I had a huge mouse problem," she says. "I have cockroaches too! I kill those with my hand." No doubt everyone who buys Sedaris's famous homemade cupcakes will be delighted to hear it. —Jocelyn Guest
Sean "Diddy" Combs probably wasn't even aware that the air at the party for his perfume, Unforgivable Woman, smelled bad. The combination of the packed crowd and oddly rank steam machine on the fourth floor overpowered efforts by guests to have any scent of their own, unforgivable or otherwise — but Diddy was up above the clouds on the fifth floor, with Ashton Kutcher. Stuck waiting at the foot of the stairs for two hours, we asked passing celebrities what they imagined they themselves smelled like. "Oh, I smell incredibly beautiful," Jay-Z told New York. "I smell like you just got out of the shower, you have on the towel and you just got your sheets on your bed and you're laying and you wrap yourself up. I smell like that." We tried to follow up with Beyoncé, but she only had the time to say that she was "hot," which we had an easier time believing. "If a man falls in love with me, I would rather he fall in love with me than the perfume," Eartha Kitt mused. "But if you need the perfume to help you, then that's why I'm here. Because I want to see if Sean's perfume is beautiful for somebody that I would like to have." When we were finally allowed up to see His Diddyness, he deigned to answer a couple of simple questions. So what does Unforgivable smell like? "Confident, seductive, understated," he told us. After two hours at the foot of the stairs, we begged to differ. —Amy Odell
Parties for movies about human sex trafficking are a bummer. We guess we should have known that when we trekked over to the U.N. for the premiere of Trade, where we spent most of the night trying not to catch a case of self-righteousness from Mira Sorvino, Sigourney Weaver, Gloria Steinem, or the movie's director, Kevin Kline. Happily, Rufus Wainwright was there. He had a song in the movie. “It’s by far my favorite placement of one of my songs in any films to date," he said. "There's nothing like having a song of yours play while somebody’s jumping off a cliff!” Rufus has a sense of humor! He also eats red meat. Jorn, his current German boyfriend, often cooks him Wiener schnitzel. “And every night for dessert,” he added, “we have sausage.” —Bennett Marcus
We’ve always kind of thought this, but now we know for sure: Mel Brooks’ entire life is like a slapstick comedy. We spotted him at last night’s New Yorkers for Children Annual Fall Gala, fresh from rehearsals from his Young Frankenstein, which opens on Broadway in November. “One day I brought in some pickled herring, a jar of pickled herring, for the dancers — a gift!” the director-producer-comedian told us gleefully. “But I spilled, and three dancers slipped and fell. But! The way they fell gave Susan Stroman [the choreographer] a great idea for a slide.” “So you’re a choreographer now, too?” New York asked. “No, no,” he demurred. “I just help with the slides. —Elizabeth Brown
Is America finally becoming celebrity fatigued? Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrived nice and early at the premiere of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and benevolently went directly to greet fans lined up across from the Ziegfeld Theatre. We expected a zoo — this is Brangelina, the apex of celebrity — but there were only a few fans behind the (barely necessary) barricades. So fortunately for us waiting with recorders, the autograph signing and cell-phone-picture-taking took only about five minutes, and then the golden ones were on the red carpet, beaming, smiling, and looking very much in love. We asked Angelina (who was looking lovely and remarkably un-praying-mantis-like) if her son Maddox is into cowboys and Indians. She rewarded us with a laugh, saying he wasn't really, but "he liked his spurs when he had them." And Maddox won't be seeing Jesse James, she said. "It's Daddy being really violent!" Daddy himself wasn't feeling contemplative as he walked the carpet, instead seeming a little bored with it all. When a perky MTV producer threw him the standard softball, "What did you learn from doing this movie?" Pitt didn't swing for it. "I didn't learn shit, really," he said. Is it possible even Brad Pitt is tired of himself? —Bennett Marcus
See more pictures and quotes from the premiere in Party Lines.
At the Gossip Girl premiere party last night, things were running late. The bash started at 7, but by 9:30, cast member Blake Lively was still a no-show. Über-publicist Leslie Sloane-Zelnick loitered behind the red carpet, waiting. "I'm with Blake," she told a reporter. Of course the biggest star in the show would work with Zelnick, who reps Jennifer Lopez and Anne Hathaway, and helped Britney and Lindsay back in their glory days. "Hey, all these kids are stars!" Zelnick insisted, but that's not what it looked like. The rest of the show's cast lingered upstairs at Tenjune, waiting until Lively turned up at 9:45 to enter the hellishly crowded party. The youngest talent, 17-year-old Connor Paolo (OMG! he played a young Colin Farrell in Alexander!) and 14-year-old Taylor Momsen (OMG! she played Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!!) dawdled in a corner doing what else – gossiping. "The reporters asked me what 'gossip' is, and if I could tell them a rumor about someone one set," said Momsen. "What did they ask you?" "They asked me if I had a crush on anyone in Hollywood, who would it be?" said Paolo. "They asked me for gossip, too. I said I wanted to punch Zac Efron in the face." Wait, what? "Don't you think everyone wants to see him get punched?" he asked. Wow, if possible, we love this show even more.
Earlier'Gossip Girl' Just as Tawdry, New Yorkey as We'd Hoped
In Feast of Love Morgan Freeman plays a professor taking a leave of absence to sort out his "issues." In his time off he guides younger characters, including one played by Greg Kinnear, through their love lives in a close-knit Portland neighborhood. We caught him on the red carpet before the screening and asked him about his worst date ever — but he seemed more interested in ballroom dancing with New York's party reporter than answering questions.
Freeman: [Taking New York in his arms, to dance] How do you do?
New York: [Pause, to be dipped by Freeman] Wonderful. Now you always have these wise roles.
Freeman: Yeah, I'm a wise kind of man — look at me.
New York: Now since this is a movie about love relationships — [interrupted by another ballroom dip] — Umm
Freeman: Sorry. Greg [Kinnear] didn't do that, did he?
Viggo Mortensen goes full frontal in a knife fight scene in new David Cronenberg Russian Mob flick Eastern Promises. At the premiere, Cronenberg told New York that Mortensen suggested the nudity himself when they choreographed the scene, which takes place in a bathhouse. "He said, 'You know, it's obvious I'm going to have to do this naked.' And I said, 'Great.' That was pretty much the discussion," Cronenberg said at a screening after-party at the Soho Grand. "If he had had this towel wrapped around him that never moved, you would've noticed that. But this was so real." [Ed. note: Then where did he hide his knife??]
The chaotic, shutterbug-infested scene at Zac Posen's show meant that celebrities from Demi on down to Ivanka Trump were unavailable for us to chat up. And so Serena Williams, sitting just outside the fray, provided the rote quotes.
Kim Gordon has always represented unstudied badassness to us, so when we spotted her in three front rows — 3.1 Phillip Lim, Anna Sui, and Marc Jacobs — we were determined to ask just how she pulls it off. The answer: H&M.
We’ve been spotting Vincent Gallo all over the place — that is, when we can see past the facial hair — and our curiosity finally got the better of us. Why has he been going to so many shows? Does he really know anything about fashion? Would he even deign to talk to us?