September 27, 1999

It’s a good thing Leelee Sobieski is having such success as an actress, because a career in design might not have been as illustrious. When Leelee, an Emmy nominee for her performance as Joan of Arc, was searching for the perfect gown to wear on the big night, she visited a number of couture houses, including Valentino, but couldn’t find anything she liked, so she decided to sketch the dress herself. According to a fashion-world insider, the Eyes Wide Shut sensation then contacted designers and asked if a dress could be created from her sketch. Unfortunately, the proposed frock was bright blue with a scalloped neck, orange pleating, and finger extensions, not the sort of thing Giorgio Armani might want to put his label on. Says the insider, “It looked like a Syracuse University cheering outfit cut too long.” A spokesman for the actress confirms that she did attempt to create her own design: “Ms. Sobieski is also an artist. Randolph Duke was interested in making the dress, but she was in production in Minnesota and was not available for fittings, so he didn’t have sufficient time to assemble the gown.” Sobieski wound up wearing a dress by Christina Perrin to the ceremony. And, according to the spokesman, Perrin “has offered to collaborate on a gown with Ms. Sobieski should she have a reason to attend a black-tie event in the future, which, with the Golden Globes around the corner, seems like a distinct possibility.”

The ball came abruptly to an end for Lenny Kravitz when the clock struck twelve during his concert at Madison Square Garden last Wednesday night. Because of a union-imposed time limit, performers must finish in four hours or pay heavy overtime fees. Kravitz was too electrified by 18,000 screaming fans to think of anything as mundane as time. But as he belted out “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” techies appeared onstage and began dismantling the set behind him. Says one observer, “I thought it was some kind of joke. Finally, a tour manager came onstage and put a towel around his head.” Kravitz walked off the stage in a huff. “We wanted to congratulate Lenny,” confides a backstage insider, “but he was so upset he stayed in his dressing room for over an hour.” Also backstage were such famous fans as Renée Zellweger, Stephen Dorff, and Laurence Fishburne, all of whom went on to the after-party at Oriont. A spokeswoman insists that Kravitz remained in his dressing room so long because he was “vocalizing” with his coach. But she admitted, “When you get pulled away from something you love more than anything, you’re bound to get a little upset.”

A ton of caviar valued at a million dollars has been sitting in a Long Island City warehouse spoiling since November 1998, in a bizarre genetic tale that only Barry Scheck could relate to. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized four shipments of the precious black eggs from Caviarteria, the nation’s leading caviar importer, after DNA testing determined that, unaccountably, Caviarteria was underrating its own product: What it called Osetra was actually the higher-quality beluga; its Sevruga was the superior ship sturgeon; and two other shipments of Osetra were instead the more costly Siberian sturgeon. Says Caviarteria owner Eric Sobol, “That means our Russian suppliers have given us merchandise worth double what they charged us. What are the chances of that? You can’t even go into Gristede’s and get something worth double what you pay.” In an attempt to recoup their losses, Eric and his brother and partner, Bruce Sobol, had a new round of DNA testing performed at the American Museum of Natural History. The new results were in keeping with Caviarteria’s original labeling of the caviar’s origin. They’ve introduced those findings into evidence in Brooklyn Federal Court, and they’re suing the service for $100 million. Eric Sobol anticipates that the case will go to trial within the next 120 days. Says Sobol, “Our experts guarantee we’re going to make the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists the laughingstock of the scientific community.” Representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not return calls. Why hasn’t the rotten caviar been tossed out after a year? “We don’t want to destroy the evidence,” says Sobol.

It looks like Puff Daddy is going to have some competition for the pugilistic championship of the hip-hop world. Rappers Jay-Z, Q-Tip, and Heavy D, along with celebrity D.J. Mark Ronson and Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella business partner Damon Dash, have put together an impromptu morning boxing session at Chelsea Piers with professional trainer Keith Dos Reis. “It’s a lot of fun,” he says. “I train them as if they were pros. They like the fight game. They want all the rituals.” Yes, this includes thrashing each other: “Q-Tip and Dash were sparring the other day, and ‘Tip threw a pretty good hook – really got him. But Dash countered with a strong one-two. They were really going at each other.” And, according to Dos Reis, record executive Steven Stoute, who was on the wrong end of Puffy’s fists-of-fury episode last April, has called about getting in on the action.

Puffy Combs and Jennifer Lopez have brought their romance into the public eye in recent weeks, going so far as to cuddle at the MTV awards. But rather than putting an end to the gossip, all of this togetherness has spurred a new round of speculation. Some said Puffy has bought her an engagement ring, and last week a rumor swept hip-hop circles that they’d been secretly married. So when friends were told by the couple to save New Year’s Eve 1999 for an event to be held in Las Vegas, they naturally assumed that the loving pair had set the date for a formal wedding. But others close to the two say they’re just planning a large joint New Year’s Eve bash. Whatever the case, best of luck to both of them … finding a caterer.

Having some experience with the fast track herself, Madonna wants the same for her daughter. The Material Mom recently tried to persuade the Bank Street College School for Children to bend its policy of accepting children only after they’ve turned 3 to admit her 2-year-old daughter, Lourdes. Bank Street offered to defer Lourdes’s admission to the next year, but Madonna was in no mood to wait. Instead, Lourdes is on the waiting list for England’s exclusive Lycée Français Charles De Gaulle. Though Bank Street releases “no information about applicants,” Madonna’s spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, did have something to say: “When Lourdes cuts her first platinum album with Warner Bros., I’ll be happy to tell you when she takes a shit.” Sorry we asked.

Roseanne may not be as big a star as she used to be, but she still can throw her weight around. During a recent cabala class at the offices of Showroom Seven, a company representing multiple designers, the talk-show host pulled Ghost designer Tanya Sarne aside to critique Ghost’s sleeker new designs. According to one fashionista, Roseanne complained that she couldn’t fit into the new line. “Your motto is ‘Real Clothes for Real Women,’ ” snipped Roseanne. “Well, I’m a real woman, and I can’t wear Ghost.” The insider also explains that Roseanne has slimmed down to the point where she was expecting to slide easily into a medium. Soon afterward, Sarne was in Ghost’s London showroom pulling large-size items, and later personally delivered them to Roseanne on a swing through Los Angeles. We hope, for Sarne’s sake, they fit.

Law and order is shaping up as the key issue in the 2001 mayoral sweepstakes, and several leading candidates are in discussions with former police commissioner William Bratton and his onetime first deputy John Timoney, now Philadelphia’s top cop, about one or the other coming back to to serve as police commissioner in an Alan Hevesi, Mark Green, or Peter Vallone administration. “It’s premature, but flattering, to be considered as a future police commissioner,” says Bratton, now president of carco, a Long Island background-check specialist. He hints, though, that he wouldn’t mind finishing what he started. “My frustration has always been that we only got to halftime,” he says. Are you listening, Ramon Cortines?

Even the kind words of Emmy winner Dennis Franz of NYPD Blue weren’t enough to assuage the hurt feelings of the pre-event favorite, James Gandolfini, after the Sopranos star lost out for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series. When an excited fan approached Gandolfini at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium, the red-faced actor reverted to character. “I don’t want to talk to you now,” the onscreen mobster spat, and turned away. Sopranos executive producer David Chase kiddingly suggested that Gandolfini had been set up: “We suspect this fan may have been a covert-action agent for another network.” She’s lucky Tony Soprano didn’t shoot her.

With Ken Frydman
Deborah Mitchell is on vacation.

Additional reporting by David Amsden.

September 27, 1999