February 15, 1999

Some members of the Vertical Club are trying to work out their frustrations. The Sports Club Company, which bought the high-class gym from Hilton in April, has shut it down for an $18 million makeover that won’t be completed before January 2000. Disgruntled fitness buffs say club management kept selling long-term contracts though aware of the impending shutdown. One says he bought a three-year membership in June and that Sports Club will give him only 15 months at the new facilities, though he still has 30 on his contract. “We are bending over backwards for these people,” says a Sports Club spokesperson, pointing out that members can get refunds on unused time or a preferred dues rate at the revamped space, plus a waiver of the new club’s $1,200 initiation fee. Another Sports Club rep admits that memberships should not have been sold after the buyout, but adds that if they were, “we didn’t know.” Bally’s Total Fitness, which had been managing Vertical, is to blame for any late sales, says a Sports Club spokesperson. But a Bally’s VP claims that “Sports Club has made all the decisions. If memberships were being sold, we were being directed to sell them.” Sports Club P.R. vehemently denies this: Until Bally’s stopped managing the club in December, says a rep, “we couldn’t run the club the way we wanted to.” Now they can, and uptowners have an excuse to give up exercise for the rest of the century.

Grunge queen turned glamour girl Courtney Love wasn’t her notoriously demure self after she saw her fur-bearing likeness on the Website Furs.com. Insisting she wouldn’t even wear fake fur, let alone the real deal, Love faxed a furious note to the site’s editor, Lisa Marcinek. “I do not wear fur,” read the missive. “I never have, and I never will.” Marcinek says she took the photo from a Harper’s Bazaar spread showcasing celebrities in luxurious hides. Was Love’s real? “It better be,” says Dennis Golonka, the magazine’s associate art editor. “The photograph was fact-checked.” But Love’s spokesperson says the photo is “at least two years old,” and that it was definitely a fake owned by the singer’s stylist. Love, a PETA booster, described fur wearers in her letter as “really stupid, selfish and nasty.” Proof that Courtney’s fur must have been phony.

ANONYMOUS WRITES AGAIN: He’s shot some sultry layouts, but after Paolo Roversi sat for an interview with fellow photographer Andrea Blanch for her book Italian Men: Love&Sex (Universe Publishing), he wouldn’t let her publish it. So she removed his name, leaving such Roversi quotables as “They have to wait for the erection. This is feminine” credited to the ever-popular “Anonymous.”

It’s hard to be a Buddhist in the city, even for Richard Gere. While engaged in the worldly task of renovating his new townhouse, the Dalai Lama devotee is running into some very Western-style red tape. Gere has built a wood-shingled meditation hut on top of his home in one of Greenwich Village’s landmarked enclaves. The hut wasn’t supposed to be visible from the street, according to the application Gere’s architect, Kate Gormley, filed with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. But it is – prompting a letter from the commission to Gere, an on-site visit from the commissioners and Gormley, and a few contentious neighborhood meetings. “We would prefer a uniform roof line,” explains one longtime owner, calling Gere’s hut “an unfortunate precedent.” A row of holly bushes behind the actor’s home was replaced with higher evergreen trees, presumably to provide some privacy in the neighborhood’s common garden. “If your prime concern is privacy, you can buy on East Sixtysomething Street or on West 12th Street. Those aren’t communities, but this is one,” adds another angry neighbor. Still, a block association rep says, “We welcome Richard Gere to the garden, and he’s in compliance with our rules.” Meanwhile, the Landmarks Commission is waiting for Gere’s application to modify the offending condition, says a department spokeswoman. The plan evidently calls for the roof to be moved back to make the hut invisible from the street. Gere, through a spokeswoman, maintained an appropriately Zen-like silence.

After stewarding such testosterone-driven magazines as Bikini and Ray Gun, publisher Marvin Jarrett has decided to launch a women’s title – and he’s brought someone with a superfeminine touch onboard. Helena Christensen (left) will be the creative director of Nylon, second in command under Jarrett, who is editor-in-chief. Debuting in April with Liv Tyler as cover girl, Nylon will target women in their twenties. “Helena has a tremendous aesthetic,” says Jarrett. The fiery Dane shot the Tyler cover and conducted the corresponding interview. “I tortured her for two days,” Christensen laughs. “I paid back everything that I suffered for ten years. It’s so much more exhilarating than being on the other side of the camera.” Suppose Christensen has trouble adjusting to a non-model work schedule? “I’m not going to dock her pay if she doesn’t show up at precisely 9:30,” says Jarrett.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.

February 15, 1999