November 22, 1999


If Hillary Clinton finally does toss her Yankees cap into the race for Senate next year, she’ll be facing more than just politics as usual. The campaigning First Lady will also be up against The Ottoman Empire. That’s the name of the outrageous comedy script for which Sony just shelled out $1 million, by writer-director Andrew (The Freshman) Bergman. The screenplay – or at least, the early version that New York read – features a philandering husband as president, a humiliated First Lady out for revenge, plus a fictional ex-porn star named Johnny Long, born again as a straitlaced, married furniture salesman on Route 22 in Union, New Jersey. Bergman bristles at the notion that his Primary Colors-meets-Boogie Nights plot is based on the Clintons. “It’s not really them, you know,” he says – even though he’s got a line (“Desperate times call for desperate measures”) that echoes Salon’s defense of its scoop about Henry Hyde’s 30-year-ago affair (“Ugly times call for ugly measures”). Bergman says he’s aiming to shoot next spring – so New Yorkers just might be able to see the movie right after voting next November.


Guess who’s giving advice to kids these days. Carrie Fisher – screenplay fixer, ex-addict, Star Wars icon – has just signed on with Digital Entertainment Network, the Website catering to Generation Y. Starting next month, Fisher will be known online as DENMother – sort of a “Dear Abby” for the digital set. DEN president David A. Neuman is thrilled, saying, “For these kids, Star Wars replaced the Bible. I guess that makes Carrie Moses.” Via e-mail, Fisher will give advice about everything from sex and drugs to health and spirituality. Updating the title of her memoir, Postcards From the Edge, she will write a regular column called “Postcards From the Net,” in which she will reflect on various Internet trends like e-shopping and e-finance. At 43, Fisher is no angsty teen, but that doesn’t mean she can’t relate. “I pride myself on being incredibly immature, having just recently recovered from drug addiction. I have all the same problems teenagers do with skin, parents, career, dating, or not dating,” she said through a spokeswoman. “Of course, when my mother Debbie Reynolds reads this, she’ll ground me.” As for her famously bitter father, Eddie, Fisher says, “Hopefully, I will not hear from him ever again.”


Puff Daddy’s surprise 30th-birthday party at Oriont provided enough pomp and circumstance for the revelers, but the bigger surprise came when Jennifer Lopez – stuck in Los Angeles shooting her latest movie, The Cell, with co-star Vince Vaughn – mimicked Marilyn Monroe in a filmed birthday greeting for her man. In the mini-movie, partygoers say, Puff’s lady, resplendent in a blonde wig and low-cut, booty-hugging gown, breathlessly sang a sultry “Happy Birthday, Mr. Puff Daddy” – goofing on Monroe’s famously flirty performance for President Kennedy. After the Hype Williams-directed short was played, a cake decorated with the seal of the commander-in-chief was wheeled out to the Bad Boy Records prez. Sources say Puffy seemed at first amused, then moved, by his girlfriend’s tribute, and announced to the crowd that Jennifer was the kind of woman he could spend the rest of his life with. Then he issued a liberal presidential decree: Bad Boy employees would get the next day off. The Jeffrey Jah function, hosted by Andre Harrell and Lopez manager Benny Medina, lured more star power than a Bill Bradley fund-raiser, with Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and Mary J. Blige helping the guest of honor celebrate his big day.


Leonard Stern’s impending sale of The Village Voice may land him a windfall, but it comes at the expense of one very important perk: the NYPD license plates on his BMW. “When I sell it, they go,” admits Stern. Neither New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch nor New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has press plates on his personal car, according to their respective spokespeople, while the New York Observer’s Arthur Carter did not return calls on the question. The $150 million to $200 million that is expected to go into Stern’s coffers for his alternative-press empire should cover a parking space, even at Upper East Side rates. But the Hartz Mountain man has a plan up his sleeve. “Maybe after I sell it, I can write for the Voice,” he muses. “I’m going to call Don Forst, the paper’s editor and see if he needs a freelancer. The benefits are great. They don’t edit opinions, and God knows, I’m a man of opinions.”


Now that she’s decided to move her namesake restaurant, Barbara “B” Smith is realizing just what a hot commodity she has become. According to Dan Gasby, Smith’s husband and partner, when her landlord and co-owner on West 47th Street, Michael Weinstein, learned she was packing up, he decided not to let her go easily. For example, when Smith wanted to take down the sign in order to hang it outside her new location on Restaurant Row, which is opening November 22, Weinstein – who owns eateries Lutèce and Bryant Park Grill – said she could take the neon but not the casing. “It’s pathetic,” fumes Gasby, who has been consulting lawyers. “It’s like giving someone water without the cup.” And Gasby adds that when Smith inquired about taking out the stainless-steel bar, Weinstein said she could have the bar, but he was keeping the bar rail. “He can’t come up with any original ideas,” Gasby snipes. “So he’s trying to make the space we’ve vacated look as much like B. Smith’s as possible.” Weinstein has a different take on the debacle, explaining that he owns the B. Smith trademark until the contract is up on December 5. “I’m happy to give them the sign then,” he says. “I’m simply not ready. I live by contracts, and Gasby is without question in breach of his. If he chose to negotiate properly, maybe none of this would have happened.”


Political insiders weren’t the only ones surprised by the news that one of Al Gore’s media advisers, Carter Eskew, got married on November 6. Even some of his guests were floored to find they had been invited to a wedding. The 45-year-old media guru, long known as one of Washington’s happiest bachelors, had summoned a few friends to his farm in Virginia to see him off before he decamped to Nashville for the Gore campaign, according to one Democratic insider. When they got there, they discovered that he was in fact pledging his troth to landscape architect Faith Shaffer. The small wedding party was made up mostly of family, with just about ten or so friends, including political adviser Mike Donilon, who’s one of Bob Shrum’s partners. The bridegroom, who is too busy with the presidential campaign to take a honeymoon now, was evidently also too consumed with matters of electoral importance to return calls.


Having a celebrity mug isn’t always an E-ZPass to Manhattan events – as Julia Roberts and Camryn Manheim learned recently. According to insiders, Roberts had been invited to be an honorary guest at the New York Marathon, but when she arrived with two girlfriends at the Tavern on the Green’s race-side event, the doorman had apparently not seen Notting Hill. When Roberts’s signature smile failed to gain her entry, and she could produce no credentials, she left, vowing never to return. Although Roberts denies the incident, sources claim “she was pretty annoyed, and the Roadrunners Club people were really embarrassed.” Days later, The Practice star Manheim got a similar cold shoulder at Joe’s Pub, where she tried to sneak through a back door at the party for Juicy Jeans, where Simon Le Bon and John Taylor of the eighties supergroup Duran Duran were performing. “Manheim had been at the Public seeing a play, and she noticed all the activity next door,” reveals an insider. “The party was already over the Fire Department limit – but she was pleading to get in. The security guards had no idea who she was, and they turned her away.” Maybe she should have been carrying her Emmy.


VENETIAN BIND: After suffering through the seven-figure payout to Richard Beckman’s former ad saleswoman and the sudden departure of Cathy Vascardi Johnson, S. I. Newhouse’s Condé Nast empire is finally back doing what it does best: promoting the high life. Jonathan Newhouse is planning a glittering company retreat in Venice next March. Two years ago, the heir apparent held his “international meeting” (as his spokeswoman designated the biennial event) in Berlin. This year, the managing directors and “a number” of lucky editors will get to ride gondolas. Meanwhile, Johnson, who was reportedly dismissed by S.I. himself, has hired an attorney: R. Scott Greathead. Is there a seven-figure payout in her future? When called, her attorney had a simple response: “I’m not going to say anything.”

NO-NAME PLACE: Though Métrazur’s arrival at Grand Central has been delayed, perhaps permanently, restaurateur Matthew Kenney’s latest culinary venture is picking up speed. The owner of SoHo hot spot Canteen has just signed a lease on the space formerly occupied by Cena, a recently shuttered Gramercy Park eatery. Kenney is planning a 150-seat wine bar and tavern, slated to open in spring 2000. While he says he loves the space on East 22nd Street, he admits he’s stumped for a name. “If you think of a good one, give me a call,” he says.

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Suny Sehgal.

November 22, 1999