April 24, 2000

Mrs. Clinton’s Neighborhood

Hillary Clinton has quietly built a kitchen cabinet of working-class New Yorkers, turning to them for feedback on her Senate campaign. Political insiders say the candidate has used her informal brain trust to soak up some unspun opinions on issues like the rash of NYPD shootings, or to learn whether they think a planned assault on opponent Rudolph Giuliani might backfire. Bronx baker Peter Madonia is one of the sounding boards. “She’s pretty good at asking about things you confront in your day-to-day life,” Madonia muses. He first met the missus years ago, when she was working the Bronx campaigning for hubby Bill Clinton to get the Democratic nomination for president. While the baker denies serving up any ideas at organized kitchen-cabinet meetings, he admits he’s dropped by a few of Hillary’s public appearances, meeting with an attentive First Lady for up to twenty minutes, and sometimes consults with her camp. Though Madonia won’t reveal what topics he and Hill have discussed, he does say he thinks a hands-on Hillary is good policy. “People in the community have their ear to the ground, and sometimes find out a lot more than a candidate can,” he advises.

P.R. Firm Not So Jolly About Jolie

The usual story is that a starlet fires her publicist, but when it comes to Angelina Jolie, expect the unexpected. Jolie – the goth heroine whose erratic behavior and interestingly close relationship with her brother have garnered her a lot of press lately – was recently dropped by the venerable P.R. house Baker Winokur Ryder. Why on earth would anyone want to end a working relationship with the beautiful Oscar winner? No one at BWR would tell us. But an insider says one major issue was that “she shows up on her own time, and doesn’t clue people in to what she’s doing.” That’s for sure: Right after BWR gave her her walking papers, Jolie arrived for a scheduled appearance on the Conan O’Brien show having surprisingly dyed her hair purple. Jolie’s former rep at BWR, Cari Ross, would say only, “It wasn’t working for me, so I told Jolie’s manager Geyer Kosinski that I needed to back out.” Of course, Kosinski’s company, Industry Entertainment, says it isn’t so. “Angelina decided she just didn’t need a publicist,” says Industry’s Anne Woodward, who is, bizarrely, temporarily working as Jolie’s … publicist. It’s a good thing – we can’t think of anyone who needs a publicist more at this moment.

Author Questions Nichols’s WitS

Every theater aficionado from here to L.A. was thrilled to hear that director Mike Nichols would be making Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wit into a movie for HBO. That is, everybody except Edson. “She couldn’t care less,” Edson’s agent, Carolyn French, told us at the recent pen literary gala at the New York State Theater. “She never wanted it made into a movie in the first place.” But wait a minute – how can Edson be so blasé about the project, especially since it will star Emma Thompson? “She doesn’t believe in film,” said French, adding quickly, “She doesn’t believe that a play can be made into a movie.” Well, we asked, what about A Streetcar Named Desire? “I mean a truly theatrical production,” said French. Finally, we wondered if there was any hope for the HBO flick, to which French responded, “They’ll try their best.” And that’s all that really counts in Hollywood.

Morton Downey Jr. Gets Defanged

A lot of people have wanted to knock Morton Downey Jr.’s teeth out, but now he’s saved them the trouble. Downey – a bona fide cultural icon back in the eighties, when his talk show regularly featured racists and radicals of all description beating one another silly – tells us he recently had seven teeth removed to play a grizzled miner in an independent film tentatively called The Californians. “That’s what we needed to pull off the effect,” he says, “and it better work or I’ll be one mighty pissed-off old crank.” Downey isn’t too troubled by the loss, though. “Psychologically, it’s great. It was going to happen anyway, so I did it myself. I’d already lost a few teeth from opening my mouth at the wrong time, which I’ve been known to do.” But why go to such extremes for a little movie? “It started out as a Liam Neeson film. He wrote it. I did it for the opportunity to work with him.” Unfortunately, a rep for Neeson says the Irish actor has no involvement in the project whatsoever. “Well,” says Downey, “after a while you learn to be a good sport about these creepy things.”

Milla and Mick: Singing a Duet

Is the versatile Milla Jovovich moving from movies to music in her personal life? The model-actress-rocker, who ended her marriage with fortyish French filmmaker Luc Besson after the two collaborated on last year’s stake-and-bake Joan of Arc bomb The Messenger, has quashed her latest romance, with actor Jeremy Davies. Hollywood insiders say that her newest leading man is none other than lippy Lothario Mick Jagger. Jagger reportedly paid a surprise visit to a Lower East Side bar last November to watch the 24-year-old rock on with her unsigned band. Since then, a source close to Jovovich says, the two have been constantly seeing each other on the sly. Jovovich’s spokesperson denies any budding harmonic convergence. “It’s not true,” he says succinctly. Maybe they’re just making music together.

Peirce Staying True to Her Roots

Director Kimberly Peirce just can’t get enough of true crime. At the premiere party for Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides at Commune, Peirce told us that – like her breakthrough hit Boys Don’t Cry – her next project will be based on a real-life tragedy. We mentioned a few of the decade’s most infamous headlines, but Peirce only shook her head, saying, “You’ll never guess what it is.” She did say that either New Line or Universal will get the flick in a one-picture deal. So now that she’s gone from indie maverick to industry VIP, can we expect her next film to be a giant Hollywood monster? Perhaps. “Everyone keeps telling me, ‘You have to do a big movie now with big stars,’ ” she says, “and I can do that. But I can do my movie too.”

How Michael Alig Passes His Time

Even in prison, club-kid-gone-wrong Michael Alig knows how to entertain himself. Alig – who is serving ten to twenty years on a 1997 manslaughter conviction – is taking a curious approach to his anger-and-stress-management class at the Clinton Correctional Facility upstate. In a letter to a friend, Alig describes the program, in which inmates are asked to write up potentially stressful scenarios for their fellow cons to act out. And what dangerous social faux pas did Alig drop in the suggestion box? “My ‘typical’ situation was a new inmate arriving and trying to pick up my man,” he writes. “Whoever picks my scenario will have to go in front of everyone and act it out. I can’t wait!” Waiting is apparently something he’s getting good at, since he spends 22 hours a day in his cell. At least some of that time is spent thinking about the movie based on his life that is being produced by Killer Films, the company behind such feel-good flicks as Happiness and Boys Don’t Cry. After reading reports that producers were talking to Farrah Fawcett about playing his mother, Alig wrote, “Personally, I think Sally Struthers is a much better choice.”

Salma Soon to be Red-Hot Mama?

Salma Hayek has been showing off her motherly side lately. First there’s the mysterious case of the daisy-print Liz Lange dress that Hayek’s assistant picked out for a Latin Style magazine cover shoot – yes, that’s Liz Lange the maternity-wear designer, who has guided many a pregnant celeb through her dressing dilemmas. Hayek’s rep insists that the petite beauty is not with child, even saying that such a shoot never existed. Which is a bit odd, considering that Lange herself clearly remembers shipping three versions of the dress off to Latin Style on April 4 specifically for Salma. “The last I heard was that they were all thrilled with the dress,” says the designer. Then there was the recent post-premiere party at Studio 450 for beau Edward Norton’s new flick, Keeping the Faith, where Hayek was more interested in playing with the kids than in socializing with such grown-ups as Harvey Weinstein, Ben Stiller, and Diane von Furstenberg. While the bigwigs mingled, Hayek was busy giving 12-year-old Michael Charles Roman, who plays a mini-Norton in the film, a private salsa-dancing lesson. But she may not be mom material yet: Anyone knows the kid should have been in bed.

Julia and Ben’s Co-op Connection

Julia Roberts is smitten enough with Benjamin Bratt to finally commit to a legal bond, though it’s not quite nuptial bliss. Real-estate sources say that Roberts and her beau jointly purchased the new Greenwich Village pad that Roberts has been living in since fleeing her digs at Gramercy Park. Though not as sure a sign as a Tiffany diamond, the move does suggest that the runaway bride isn’t planning one of her signature exits anytime soon. While Roberts’s rep denies the downtown cohabitation, pointing out that Bratt still keeps his Manhattan residence, one close source says he’s moved in lock, stock, and toothbrush.

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Suny Sehgal.

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April 24, 2000