Intelligencer: February 21-28, 2005

It Happens This Week
Crunch time for New York sports: Olympic delegation tours the city (with Paris, London, and Madrid still ahead in 2012 race);
NBA trading deadline offers Isiah last chance to make a move this season (with every team in the division still ahead of the Knicks).
Yoko Ono expected at gala opening of “The Art Show” dealers’ exhibition.
And the usual New York suspects (Miramax, Scorsese) vie for Oscars—cheered on by the usual attendees at Elaine’s.

Photo: Karwai Tang/Globe Photos

Salman Rushdie Defends His Padma
Don’t make him get out his baseball bat!
On February 8, Guy Trebay wrote about Salman Rushdie’s wife, Padma Lakshmi, in the Times. In the “Hindu pantheon,” he observed, “Lakshmi is the domestic deity representing wealth and the embodiment of beauty, grace, and charm … In the current fashion pantheon, Ms. Lakshmi similarly stands for a love of money and commodity. A burgeoning brand married to a global brand, she has no problem making public an inventory of brands she chooses to wear.” Understandably, her husband was not amused. Witnesses say Rushdie walked up to Trebay at a National Arts Club event three days later and said, “If you ever write mean things about my wife again, I’ll come after you with a baseball bat.” Shaken, Trebay, who was on his way out, left. Of course, many found it ironic that Rushdie was threatening a writer with bodily harm for something he’d published. He didn’t return messages, and Trebay refused to comment. But a fellow attendee would: “She’s an ambitious person with a lot of hustle. I would think by celebrity standards she’s fair game. Have you seen her Website?”
—Jacob Bernstein

Photo: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Tom Cruise Wantsto Assist
With on-set Scientology.
In the upcoming Steven Spielberg remake of War of the Worlds, one family fights for survival when Earth is invaded by Martian war machines. But on the set of the movie, there’s been an invasion of another sort: Scientologists! Tom Cruise, the film’s star and the religion’s most well-known adherent, has set up a Scientology tent with a volunteer minister. “It’s a gift from Tom to the crew,” says Lee Anne De Vette, Cruise’s sister and spokeswoman. “You can receive what’s called an assist there,” a Scientologist practice that, as she describes it, seems to be a glorified mini-massage. “If someone has an injury in a certain part of their body, if their back is killing them, they can come in and get an assist. It’s something that helps the body get in better communication with itself.” Actual Scientology literature is available, too, in case “someone walks in looking for a solution.” All of which has caused a certain amount of grumbling. Scientology watchdog Rick Ross says that he’s received e-mails from crew members wondering, “Where are the booths for the Catholics and the Jews?”

Spitzer’s Next Probe
Bad medicine in Staten Island?
After slapping around Wall Street, Eliot Spitzer’s office has hopped on the Staten Island Ferry. Team Spitzer is investigating Staten Island University Hospital—best known as the home, until recently, of George Harrison’s embattled cancer doctor—for millions in Medicaid fraud dating back to the nineties. According to hospital sources, the attorney general has been playing hardball, seeking board changes. But Spitzer hasn’t yet used one of his favorite tactics: the press conference. Perhaps because there’s still hope for a more amicable announcement. Sources say Michael Dowling, CEO of North Shore–Long Island Jewish Health System, which operates the hospital, recently visited Spitzer to try to resolve the situation. “I’m aware of a Medicaid inquiry, but we are hopeful of a resolution,’’ says Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp. A hospital mouthpiece confirms that “discussions are ongoing.’’
—Beth Landman

Sad-Sack Writers’ Nightat Happy Ending Finishes Up Quietly
Literature’s professionally morose gathered at the bar Happy Ending for “Depression Night” on February 16 to read and to praise St. John’s Wort tea (which Arthur Phillips said “has absolutely no effects—side, sexual, or otherwise”). Andrew Solomon recited his favorite poem from fifth grade, Emily Dickinson’s “I Felt a Funeral in My Brain.” Daphne Merkin admitted she’d written just fourteen pages of her “forthcoming, never-to-be-published book on depression,” for which she’d received a half-million dollars four years ago. And Amanda Stern announced, “In honor of ‘Depression Night,’ I have not showered and plan on sleeping in these clothes.”
—Jada Yuan

Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images

You’re Conceptually Fired!
Reality TV for the M.F.A. set.
The art world will soon get its very own Project Runway with Jeffrey Deitch’s ARTSTAR, a reality series holding open calls next week for a pilot that’s being developed for Cablevision’s Voom network. Abby Terkuhle (who executive-produced Celebrity Deathmatch) will produce. Artists are being asked to show up at Deitch’s Soho gallery with five samples of their work (and, presumably, a high tolerance for criticism). Instead of an American Idol–style recording contract, they’ll compete for a solo show, which is just as well, since Deitch’s last foray into neo-Warholian pop-culture conceptualism was his sponsorship of the lip-synching electro-fashion band Fischerspooner, which didn’t exactly hit the top 40 (though its second album is out soon, with actual singing this time). But will the show wow Chelsea? “In the context of the art world, a reality show is kind of uncool,” admits Deitch.
—Karen Rosenberg

Fekkai in Soho!
Dispatches restless stylist to start downtown hair colony.
With a client roster that reads like the front-row seating chart at a Zac Posen show, Frederic Fekkai’s top stylist, Fabrice Gili, has outgrown his station at the Madison Avenue temple to the flawless social blowout. And in a move to preempt his inevitable desertion (and to hold on to clients like Heidi Klum and Scarlett Johansson, to whom Gili once gave a tasteful mullet), Fekkai is going into business with him, but in Soho. Which means that instead of the three floors of corporate-sleek uptown, there’s going to be a D.J. and Internet connections at every station (so clients can Google the celebs they want to look like).
—Tara Mandy


Intelligencer: February 21-28, 2005