October 11, 1999


One actress with an appetite is up in arms over Hollywood’s ever-shrinking standard of female beauty. Worried about the message Calista Flockhart, Helen Hunt, Jennifer Aniston, and Lara Flynn Boyle are sending to young women, Drew Barrymore has found a novel way to fight back. The healthy-looking actress, who is co-producing and starring in the upcoming movie version of Charlie’s Angels, is directing screenwriters to show the angels engaged in such unfashionable activities as eating in the movie. “They’re trying to promote this film to teenage girls,” reports one Hollywood insider. So Barrymore has decreed “that she wants scenes of the girls eating – and eating heartily – to combat those unhealthy images.” Maybe she could send Ally McBeal a piece of that angel food cake.


Carolyn Murphy is obviously one of those girls who believe it’s good luck to have it rain on your wedding day. The supermodel was submerged in a Costa Rican rain forest last weekend tying the knot with her mysterious beau in a private villa. Murphy kept the ceremony clandestine, inviting only an intimate circle of friends and family. But among the guests were her and her husband’s dogs, fittingly dressed to the nines – hers in a bow tie, his draped in baby’s breath. “Emotional healer” Aleta St. James, whom Murphy befriended while swimming with dolphins in Mexico and who served as spiritual mentor during the making of the mannequin’s upcoming film Liberty Heights, performed the nuptials. Murphy went tropical chic for the big day, barefoot in an Alberta Ferreti beaded white gown, while her husband was clad in a cobalt-blue crushed-velvet suit by Paul Smith – “to match his eyes,” explains St. James. But what about the rain? “It was fine. The whole thing was very romantic and bohemian,” says St. James. “We knew it was the rainy season. We just didn’t think it would rain so hard. It hadn’t rained that hard in 70 years!


Joe Papp, the late theatrical impresario, would have gotten a kick out of the creative way a documentary about his life is being financed – even if the innovative plan isn’t working out quite yet. Seeking funding, the producers of Joe Papp in Six Acts reached out to the Hollywood Squares television game show through its center square and executive producer, Whoopi Goldberg, a longtime Papp devotee. The show’s producers and Goldberg struck an unorthodox deal: If the Papp people could deliver four A-list celebrities from the Public Theater’s star-studded stable to serve as future X’s and O’s, Hollywood Squares would cut a check to help underwrite the movie’s production costs.”This is the first time a game show has funded a documentary,” admits Tracie Holder, who is co-producing the film with American Masters. She reports that just under $200,000 is required to complete the project, set to air in June 2001 on PBS. Problem is, John Goodman’s the only Public Theater star to evince any interest in the deal – and even he has yet to sign on the dotted line. Other Pappists like Kelsey Grammer, Danny DeVito, and Sigourney Weaver haven’t responded. “There’s a nervous urgency around here,” confesses Holder. “Hopefully, it will work.”


Even cruising the frigid waters of Alaska, bad-boy columnist Christopher Hitchens manages to wind up in hot water. Hitchens was recently a featured speaker on a Nation-sponsored cruise that included Lani Guinier, E.L. Doctorow, Betty Friedan, and Al Franken. But his joke about the late Princess Di – “She has in common with a minefield the following: relatively easy to lay but extremely difficult, expensive, and dangerous to get rid of” – didn’t go over well with many of the women in the audience. Hitchens says the line was first used by an unwitting BBC commentator who “couldn’t understand why everybody laughed” at his description of Angola’s minefields during a visit there by the princess. One audience member reports that Hitchens’s joke seemed to be fueled by the bottle of scotch he brought to the panel and swigged throughout. An outraged group of about 60 women subsequently decided to mount “a revolt,” according to one observer, that was stemmed only when Nation publisher Victor Navasky agreed to their demands to open up the panel discussions. “There was a protest from some of the feminists,” allows an unrepentant Hitch, who insists his joke had nothing to do with the scotch. “No one I met thought it was anything but quite funny. I must say I think it is.”


Already unnerved by the terrifying bands of teenyboppers who rally every afternoon in front of MTV’s Times Square studios, residents and business owners in the area aren’t too happy about the hordes of camera-packing tourists who recently began crowding outside ABC every morning. Manhattan borough president C. Virginia Fields is scheduling meetings to discuss complaints about Diane Sawyer’s Good Morning America, which received permission from the city last year to build a street-level studio in Times Square, diagonally across from MTV’s Viacom headquarters. But locals are now grousing that ABC isn’t adhering to its agreement with the community. Two neighborhood activists say that ABC had promised not to tape on the street, both at a Community Board 5 meeting and at another meeting in the office of then-council member Tom Duane. But the sources say that ABC cameras have been on the sidewalk, causing “serious congestion” on side streets. Another source present at the meetings insists that ABC never got specific about where their cameras would or wouldn’t be, promising only to work with the police and the community board to keep the traffic flowing. A spokeswoman for Times Square Studios insists that ABC is living up to its agreement, adding that the network is currently setting up a meeting “to reassure” the community board. Fields sent two staffers to observe GMA’s taping last Tuesday – where they watched Sawyer sit on a camel – and the beep said she would continue to monitor the dispute. “We think that the issues can be resolved,” says her spokeswoman.


There really is someone for everyone. Turns out that Dr. Michael Swango, the subject of James Stewart’s new best-seller, Blind Eye: How the Medical Establishment Let a Doctor Get Away With Murder, made a new best friend while he was in prison: Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the subject of Joe McGinniss’s best-selling Fatal Vision, who was convicted of murdering his family in 1979. Until recently, Swango – sentenced to 42 months for making false statements – was assigned to the medium-security federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, where he was confined in MacDonald’s housing unit. But Swango, who is reportedly the subject of an ongoing F.B.I. investigation into the mysterious deaths of several patients, was recently transferred and is expected to wind up in a more secure federal facility in Florence, Colorado. Prison officials declined to comment on the fast friendship between the two doctors in dutch. “Did I see them hanging out together?” asks the public information officer at Sheridan. “No, I didn’t. But there are 1,800 inmates at the complex.”


THE NAME GAME: Talk about the pot, the kettle, and the color black. Newsweek’s chief political correspondent Howard Fineman was on Don Imus’s show last Tuesday morning, berating candidate Hillary Clinton for not knowing enough about New York politics. Then Fineman made a blooper himself, assuming that the chairman of the board of the beleaguered Brooklyn Museum, Robert Rubin, is the same Robert Rubin who headed up Clinton’s Treasury Department. Unfortunately for him, they’re two different people. “Yes, it’s embarrassingly true,” admits Fineman. “And I apologize to all seven Robert Rubins in the Manhattan phone book and all the uncounted Robert Rubins in Brooklyn and elsewhere.” He begs us to remember that “it was 7:23 in the morning.”

HUFF AND PUFF: Sean “Puffy” Combs was the keynote speaker at the Digital Hollywood conference last week, but until recently the rapper didn’t own the rights to his own cyber-moniker. The URL “puffdaddy.com.” was purchased a few years ago by a savvy Internet entrepeneur for just $75. Determined to start his own web site, Combs had to ante up thousands to buy it back. Meanwhile, panelist Chuck D, who announced plans for a hip-hop site called Rapstation.com, was aggrieved because he wasn’t asked to keynote the Digital Holllywood conference. “Puffy’s fine,” he said, “but I’ve made substantial inroads in this industry.”

GYM DANDY: Now that Liza Minnelli’s voice is back, she’s focusing on her body. With her new musical, Minnelli on Minnelli, set to debut in December, Liza is feeling the aesthetic pressures of show business. The onetime party girl has been popping up at Equinox, the tony Manhattan health club chain, where she aerobicizes before an appreciative audience. But the celebrity-packed sweat shop has some muscular new competition these days. Rich Barretta, until recently the popular head trainer of Equinox, recently defected along with a few other star trainers to open his own 23,000 foot gym, Duomo, overlooking Madison Square Park, where he now trains clients like Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Jennifer Grey and yes, Puffy Combs. Tracy Pollan is hosting an “opening brunch” for the gym on October 12. Fat free, no doubt.

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Eric Trump.

October 11, 1999