September 18, 2000

Kinnear Nurses Surreal Confusion

Nurse Betty star Greg Kinnear is just like the rest of us: The French really freak him out. At the flick’s premiere party last week, we asked the actor – who plays a soap star tracked down by an obsessed fan (Renée Zellweger) who thinks his character is real – whether he’s ever had trouble discerning life from fiction. “When we took the movie to Cannes,” he told us, “aside from the whole seedy underbelly of selling movies, there’s also the experience of being put in a velvety little bubble and watching the movie in front of all these French film lovers. It was very surreal. I blurred a lot of lines that night.” The actor told us he hasn’t personally had trouble with hypervigilant fans: “I think that happens more to talk-show hosts, people who come into your living room every night. I can understand why David Letterman has to double-lock his door.”

That’s Some Fixer-Upper

He owns the most expensive apartment in Manhattan, and Stephen Schwarzman plans to eliminate any evidence that fallen tycoon Saul Steinberg ever lived there. As New York reported in June, Schwarzman paid a record $37 million for Steinberg’s three-story, 34-room penthouse at 740 Park Avenue. Now the Blackstone Group president and CEO has signed a two-year lease on an apartment at the Waldorf Towers, signalling that it could be quite a while before he moves into his high-priced spread. According to a highly placed broker, Schwarzman plans to camp out in his rental pad while he has his palatial residence completely gutted and renovated. The source, who’s seen the Park Avenue Shangri-la, insists there’s no need for a makeover: “It’s elaborate and mint, and anybody would be delighted to live there. Except him, apparently.” Schwarzman did not return calls.

Esposito And Plummer: Craven Some Blood

One young actress in the upcoming Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 probably wished she had a coffin to crawl into after meeting fellow cast member Christopher Plummer early in the production. “We were all pretty intimidated at first, because here is this legend and here we are,” the flick’s star, Jennifer Esposito tells us. “We didn’t really know what to say, and one girl, just trying to make small talk, said, ‘So, have you ever done a musical?’ ” Plummer, renowned for his role as the head of the Von Trapp clan in The Sound of Music, “looked at us like, ‘These poor little children,’ ” Esposito relates. Initial stiffness aside, Esposito assures us that Plummer “was absolutely hysterical.” Dracula, which opens in December, couldn’t be more different from Plummer’s famous nun-loving musical. “It’s not a slasher movie, but a very crisp and sensual, sexy kind of film,” says Esposito. “There are fangs, people getting their throats ripped out… . I drank more sugary blood than I care to admit.” But the gore did have its good side. “I got to throw people through windows and jump off balconies. When do you ever get to do that?” Not nearly often enough anymore.

F.Y.I. Fashion a Source of Contention

F.Y.I. Fashion Source – the Zagat-like guide for shopaholics favored by Julia Roberts, Julianna Margulies, and Amanda Peet – is clashing with some retailers. Editor-in-chief Tara Lowenberg tells us she’s been in little tiffs with two Madison Avenue mainstays, Barneys and Michael’s consignment store, and the hipper-than-thou downtown boutique A Détacher. Lowenberg says Barneys informed her that it would no longer be selling the guide upon reading that its staff was “at best aloof,” and Michael’s, deemed in the guide the “Soup Nazi of consignment,” asked to be removed from future editions. (Barneys has a different take, claiming it never intended to distribute the guide; Michael’s had no comment.) The most extreme case comes with A Détacher, which was referred to in the guide as “meant to look a little rough around the edges.” The owners, Lowenberg says, “called me up and said they would appreciate it if I never set foot in their store again.” The folks at A Détacher, meanwhile, confirm that they were “unhappy,” but call Lowenberg’s claim about being blacklisted “ludicrous.”

Johnnie Walker: Not Black Enough?

It may be hard to imagine, but a Hamptons bash became grounds for a unique racial protest over Labor Day weekend. A Johnnie Walker Black-sponsored party at the Synergy Spa last Friday momentarily hit a sober note because it was packed with too many white people. When execs at the liquor’s advertising firm, Vigilante Integrated, showed up midway into the festivities, they became enraged that so few African-American revelers were present – and began packing up the bottles of whiskey on the spot and carting them out to a waiting truck. One of the Vigilante reps told us that they had supplied the liquor with the understanding that the event would target their new demographic: black women. But Ralph Gibli, president of Horizon Entertainment, which handled the deal between Johnnie Walker and the Synergy Spa, says the protest was misguided. “They never told us about any such demographic,” he said. “We showed them the guest list, which included people like Taye Diggs, Jennifer Lopez, Busta Rhymes, and Faith Evans, so maybe they assumed it would be a mainly black event. But come on – it’s the Hamptons. What did they expect?”

Sweet Smell of Russell Simmons

Not content with only music, media, and clothing empires, Russell Simmons is branching out into new territory: perfume. Simmons recently signed on with Stern Fragrances – the company responsible for the scents of such fashionable outfits as Oscar de la Renta and Valentino – to launch a perfume and cologne to complement his Phat Farm clothing line. Though the deal is in the early stages, the still-unnamed line will be ready for distribution within the next year.

Jerry O’Connell: Lord of the Dance

One final Puffy-in-the-Hamptons story for the year 2000: When the White Party finally ended at Mr. Combs’s stately digs, the crowd headed to Conscience Point, where actor Taye Diggs had such a good time he neglected to retrieve his credit card from the bar at the end of the night and had to drag himself back the next day to collect it. While Diggs forgot his plastic, actor Jerry O’Connell forgot his pride. According to a witness, Jerry and his brother Charlie stupefied onlookers when they took to the dance floor and proceeded to invent a decidedly bizarre new move. “One would start running in place as fast as he could while the other held him there by grabbing onto the back of his pants,” says the source. “It looked like something out of A Night at the Roxbury.” The tipster tells us that stunned spectators thought the dance had to be a joke, but “they were totally serious. It went on for a good ten minutes.” Well, at least the dancing duo got themselves a good workout.

Director’s Dad ‘Whacks’ Burstyn

Give your parents an inch and they ham it up all over your movie. When acclaimed Pi director Darren Aronofsky was shooting his second feature, Requiem for a Dream – based on the Hubert Selby Jr. novel – in his hometown of Brooklyn, he gave his father, Abraham, a bit part. Though the elder Aronofsky was supposed to sit quietly reading the paper during a subway scene, he decided to ad-lib a line of his own, shouting at Ellen Burstyn, who plays a woman hopped-up on diet pills, “You’re a whack!” The good son allowed it, telling us, “My dad now has his first speaking role in a motion picture.” Requiem – which opens next month – isn’t Aronofsky’s first misadventure related to the work of Selby. The director tells us he was studying for his freshman finals at the Harvard library when he noticed a book titled Last Exit to Brooklyn. “When you’re from Brooklyn and you see anything related to Brooklyn, you’re immediately interested,” he says. “I had no clue what I was about to open. From sentence one, I was done, and so were my finals: I blew them off and I read.” Eventually, he did manage to graduate.

Kennedy Not Vip? Hanson on a Spree

KENNEDY UNDERCOVER: Keeping a low profile doesn’t always work to the benefit of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. A source at the Hamptons Classic Horse Show reports that Kennedy turned down numerous invitations to hang out under the VIP tent, opting instead to watch the action with her children in the bleachers with the rest of the teeming masses. After the horses had done their prancing, Kennedy decided to drop under the tent to say hello to a pal – but at that point, getting back there wasn’t so easy. She was rebuffed by a surly security guard who, not recognizing Kennedy, coolly informed her that an armband was required for entrance. Luckily, after an awkward minute or so, someone recognized her and helped her join the rest of the elite.
HANSON WORLD: Steve Hanson continues his quest for domination of the New York restaurant scene. In March, the restaurateur behind Ruby Foo’s and Blue Water Grill will open two more spots: a bilevel high-end regional-Italian restaurant in a building he has just purchased at 206 Spring Street and a subterranean sushi-and-jazz room in the Triangle Building at 675 Hudson, which he leased last spring. Plans are also under way for a trattoria at the Hudson Street locale. And that would make ten in Manhattan.
GET YOUR 212: Here’s entrepreneurship for you: ME. net, a new Website that provides users with a single number to access their phone, voice mail, e-mail, and fax, is trying to capitalize on the Manhattan-based craze to keep within the 212 area code by offering up numbers with the holy digits to the first customers to sign on. New Yorkers whose social status has already been smeared by the dreaded 646 can use a feature that would forward the 212 number to their home. But be warned: They’ve only got 500 of the coveted prefixes on offer.

Additional reporting by David Amsden, Carl Swanson, and Abbey Goodman.

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September 18, 2000