May 10, 1999

Idle Hands is taking on a life of its own at Sony. The tawdry teen-horror flick, about a murderous high-school student who can’t control his right hand, was released last Friday. But objections were raised after the Columbine High School tragedy – particularly by cranky conservative film critic Michael Medved. “Sony Pictures ought to be ashamed,” Medved told Larry King last Tuesday night. “They shouldn’t release … a movie about a demonically possessed high-school killer that’s supposed to be a comedy … this Friday.” Publicly, Sony stood firm. But about the same time that Medved was sounding off to King, a huge ad for the movie on top of Stage 6 on the studio lot was taken down and replaced with a promo for – who could make this up? – The Donny and Marie Show. The Osmonds’ syndicated talk show was created by a Sony television division, and a studio spokesman insists that the ads were switched in favor of the smiling Mormons “because it’s May sweeps. We still have a gigantic movie poster of Idle Hands at the entrance to the lot.” But Hollywood insiders can’t remember when a TV show edged the latest movie out of the prime billboard spot.

New Orleans’s four-star International House hotel has more than just first-rate accommodations and an occasional voodoo ceremony in the lobby – now it’s featuring rock-star skivvies too. Lucifer’s favorite musician, Marilyn Manson, left a pair of Calvin Kleins (for men) behind after checking out of the penthouse suite with fiancée Rose McGowan. When housekeeping alerted the front desk to the situation, about fifteen curious staff members arrived to view the satanic undergarment. “We thought they’d be leather or something skimpy, but they weren’t,” reports one disappointed if slightly grossed-out employee. The skivvies were in fact a modest three-quarter-length open-fly style. After some deliberation, the hotel crew decided not to throw out the underwear but to secure them in the lost-and-found – hygenically sealed in a clear plastic bag. Manson did not comment as to whether he’d be swinging by to retrieve his shorts, but a spokesperson for the cadaverlike rocker says, “It’s hard to keep track of his underwear.”

No wonder some lawyers get upwards of $550 an hour: A simple meeting between pit-bull litigator Stanley Arkin and Édouard Stern, the son-in-law of Lazard Frères’s Michel David-Weill, has been enough to create a constant buzz on Wall Street. The Paris-based Stern met with the lawyer on a Sunday in New York a few months ago, say two informed sources. “I can’t confirm I’ve been retained – nor am I even acknowledging that I met with Édouard Stern,” says Arkin. Stern and his father-in-law are partners in an investment fund worth just under half a billion dollars – Stern’s booby prize after David-Weill forced him out of Lazard Frères in 1997. “Two years ago, when they really had differences, they settled them without going to court,” says one Parisian close to Stern. “I think it’s the threat of Stanley Arkin, not the reality,” adds a New York businessman. Stern has not yet filed a lawsuit against his father-in-law, but he’s said to be furious at him, and David-Weill, in turn, is allegedly upset by the tensions as well. But Stern’s no stranger to nasty family battles: He first made his mark in international finance as a 22-year-old by forcing his own father out of their family bank.

There are second acts in America these days – at least if you get there in Time. Immortalized in Lawrence Schiller’s best-selling Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, Jeffrey Shapiro was the definitive sleazy tabloid reporter on the JonBenét Ramsey story. The Globe stringer even went undercover to sit near John Ramsey in a Boulder church. But since falling out with his employers in February, the 25-year-old writer has morphed into a fervid anti-tabloid crusader. “I thought there would be some amusing … slightly unethical tactics,” Shapiro told 48 HRS. “But I never fathomed that I would ever be part of anything that could be construed as remotely criminal.” Shapiro said his Globe editors encouraged him to blackmail potential sources, and he played snatches of his editors’ calls on tape to prove his point. Now Shapiro is back, this time as a stringer for the eminently respectable Time magazine. “Of course, there was some trepidation,” says Shapiro’s new editor at Time, Howard Chua-Eoan. “But last week he proved himself to be a very good reporter. He’s a young guy, and he’s had this misadventure. I said we’d give him a try.” Globe editor Tony Frost isn’t so sure. “Everybody who works for Time better watch their backs,” he says. “Anyone who tape-records their colleagues and bosses cannot be trusted.”

Apparently the league that brought you the likes of Dennis Rodman and Chris Webber doesn’t want to be associated with bad behavior anymore. The NBA has filed a lawsuit against Untertainment, which is distributed by Sony’s Epic Records, over a billboard for rap artist Cam-Ron that features an apparent rip-off of the NBA logo. The ad, which was posted directly across from a boys’ high school in Harlem, replaced the acronym NBA with the more sinister SDE (sex, drugs, and entertainment). Cam-Ron himself appeared with a basketball and a gun. The ad was removed amid pressure from the NBA and from district councilman Bill Perkins, fresh from his successful February crusade to remove malt-liquor billboards from the same neighborhood. “I was outraged that they would dare promote gun violence, sex, and drugs as something so positive for young people as basketball,” says the councilman. Jacob York, president of Untertainment, is also contrite: “We apologize if we caused any harm,” he says. “We were just trying to get an image colorful enough to describe Cam-Ron’s new album, one that would impact the kids.”

East Siders may be about to see the most exciting drug yet hit their streets. Last week, urologist Jed Kaminetsky discovered that his office had been broken into and that, aside from taking some petty cash, the perp had made off with some 200 sample tablets of Viagra from his desk drawer. At one erection per pill, gasps Dr. Kaminetsky, “there’s a hardened criminal on the loose.” But Kaminetsky theorizes that the culprit intends to sell the potent tablets, which go for a mere $10 a pop by prescription but are “much more expensive in other countries where Viagra’s not allowed. I’ve also heard it’s very popular in prison.” Female prisoners, however, are out of luck: The thief/thieves apparently failed to recognize packages of Sildenafil cream as the much rarer, more expensive women’s version of Viagra, and left the doctor’s stock untouched. “Thank goodness they didn’t take those,” giggles his office manager, Marti. “We would’ve cried!”

The most notable thing about the list of 129 luminaries hosting Rudy Giuliani’s $1,000-a-plate benefit on May 25 is who’s missing from it: mayoral buddy Ray Harding. While Harding’s law partners Richard Fishbein and Jonathan Ballan joined the likes of Georgette Mosbacher, Donald Trump, Linda Wachner, and Nicole Miller on the committee that snared Florida governor Jeb Bush as the keynote speaker, the Liberal Party’s big boss is conspicuously absent. “Inasmuch as this fund-raiser is for Giuliani’s federal campaign, I thought it would be appropriate that my name not be on the list,” explains Harding, whose party has yet to endorse a candidate for the Senate race. But though the party boss makes it sound like his decision, political insiders speculate that Giuliani is finally bowing to Conservative Party boss Mike Long, who insists that his party won’t endorse anyone also on the Liberal line. “The issue has never come up at the frequent dinners that the mayor and I have,” replies Harding frostily. That doesn’t mean that the well-fed non-host intends to skip the May 25 dinner. “Oh, I’ll be there,” Harding insists.

RYAN’S HOPE: Add another celeb to the list of VIPs who’ll be summering in the Hamptons. Meg Ryan’s just rented an oceanfront house in East Hampton, but her aim isn’t to hobnob with such neighbors as Steven Spielberg, Billy Joel, and Martha Stewart. A source close to Ryan says she took the place to spend some quality time with her son, Jack Henry.

BASIL INSTINCT: This summer, Madison Avenue’s Chanel swimmers may be coaxed downstream when one of uptown’s lone trendy restaurants throws open its doors at 399 Lafayette Street. Serafina Fabulous, with branches at 61st and 79th Streets, is opening a new outpost in July. The downtown space, notable for its cast-iron columns and vintage brick ceilings, wasn’t easy to nail. “I hounded the poor landlord for three years,” says co-owner Vittorio Assaf, “calling him every other day to ask him, ‘How are you? How’s your wife?’ “

THE BLAINE TRUTH: The uncanny powers of mentalist and general freak-out artist David Blaine may defy all logic, but they’re no match for his agent’s sense of humor. During Blaine’s alleged week-long interment in a plastic coffin beneath two tons of water, the magician conserved energy by largely ignoring 85,000 curious New Yorkers, even the nubile young women lifting their shirts. Never one to give up easily, however, superagent prankster Jonny Podell wrote up a sign the day before Blaine was to be unearthed, reading i’ve extended the stunt for two days. hope that’s o.k. with you. Blaine broke out laughing, despite the fact that he had allegedly lost twenty pounds, was suffering from hallucinations, and often thought he was going to die. What a card.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.

May 10, 1999