September 25, 2000

Robert De Niro’s Animal Magnetism

The chemistry between Robert De Niro (pictured) and Ben Stiller in Universal Pictures’ Meet the Parents is nothing compared to the electrifying action between the great actor and a cat known as “Mr. Jinx.” At the film’s premiere party at the TriBeCa Grand last week, director Jay Roach described the animal attraction: “When we started working, De Niro told me about a relationship he’d had with a woman who had a cat, where he became so connected to the cat that it was almost as important as the woman.” The legendary thespian even got involved in casting just the right feline, Roach told us, and the lucky kitty who landed the job was rewarded by becoming one of De Niro’s dearest friends. “He kept insisting that it be part of the scene. He’d say, ‘Where’s the cat?’ He developed such a relationship with that cat that he’d have whole conversations with it while we were filming.” But, Roach adds, don’t look for all that friendly furry footage in the final product. “It started to make him look insane, so we couldn’t use it.”

Opponent Thinks Silver is Wasted

State Assembly hopeful Raymond Dowd thinks something stinks in the portfolio of Speaker Sheldon Silver (pictured). Dowd – the Green Party’s candidate for Silver’s 62nd District seat – believes he’s found a hot issue in the fact that Silver owns stock in Waste Management, Inc. After Silver led the charge to have the Fresh Kills landfill closed by 2002, WMI bagged approximately $200 million worth of city contracts as part of the interim disposal plan to transport our trash out of state. “It’s an outrage that Silver is speculating in this stock while the city has no viable disposal plan,” says Dowd. Defending Silver is former nypirg advocate Larry Shapiro, who helped draft the 1996 bill ordering the Fresh Kills shutdown: “To attack Silver on solid-waste issues is the height of idiocy.” Though Silver was lauded for sealing the fate of Fresh Kills, the city’s interim waste-disposal plan has been riddled with problems: State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against the city for violating a state law requiring an environmental-impact review, and WMI is under investigation in Connecticut on allegations of price fixing and collusion. Silver’s rep brushes Dowd aside, saying, “It’s a very sad commentary that a third-party candidate is using any means necessary to get his name in the paper.”

PETA’s Pipers: Prince, Bernhard

Fashion Week is upon us, which means lots of twiggy models, tiffs between designers, and over-the-top antics from the folks at peta. While the animal-rights group wouldn’t tell us if they planned on repeating last season’s pie-throwing stunts, they did reveal how they intend to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Alongside Todd Oldham, Sandra Bernhard (pictured) will be hosting an “Antidote to Fashion Week” bash at Spa on Thursday, where she will perform the tune “Undressed,” an ode to shedding one’s high-end garments in favor of life in the buff. Bernhard tells us she imagines the party will be “much subtler than the standard peta fare, unless Anna Wintour storms in and heaves a bucket of paint at someone’s rubber shoes.” Fashionistas invited will get a sneak preview of Bernhard’s song when they receive the invitation, which comes with a CD featuring her ditty, along with a tune Prince wrote for the occasion titled “Animal Kingdom.” In his song, Prince dispenses such invaluable counsel as “We’re all members of the animal kingdom / Leave your brothers and sisters in the sea.” Sounds like good advice to us.

International Body in Topless Bar

Some of the dignitaries in town for the U.N.’s Millennium Summit certainly agreed on one thing: They like half-naked women. According to a source, the East Side flesh temple Scores had a summit of its own when diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, and various former members of the Soviet Union showed up. “It was like International Week,” says the tipster. “Security guys were casing the joint, with little white earpieces. It looked like an electronics convention.” According to the spy, the peacemakers all found their way to the famed “Champagne Room,” where they took in the entertainment alongside the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Ice-T. While the Saudi Arabian contingent spent the most money – “easily a few thousand,” says the source – Trinidad and Tobago might have supplied the highest-ranking official, someone the other dignitaries kept referring to as “prime minister.” We called Trinidad’s mission to the U.N. and asked if Basdeo Panday had in fact put in an appearance at the pleasure palace, and were told that he was not at Scores but, rather, “fully engaged in matters of state.” Saudi Arabia’s mission didn’t return calls. As for Australia, a rep categorically denied that any members of the Millennium delegation set foot in Scores, theorizing, “It could have been members of the Australian media – who have spoken fondly of Scores in the past.”

Miramax Axes its Way to the Future

The cozy homespun approach that made Miramax unique will soon be studio history. According to one insider, the House of Harvey Weinstein will be laying off about 100 staff members in an ongoing plan to outsource as much pre- and postproduction work as possible. Just fired was the studio’s entire in-house creative-advertising department, including its veteran head, John Fahy – whose long stint had earned him the nickname “Mayor of Miramax.” Also gone is Chip Farnham, the longest-serving editor in the studio’s history. The tipster tells us that 20 to 25 people on staff have already fallen by the wayside, and that most of them couldn’t afford the blow. “They fired a lot of people who it made no sense to fire,” says the tipster, “people making $20,000 or $30,000 a year, living paycheck to paycheck. It’s pretty screwed up that Scary Movie just broke all these records and these people are getting canned.” John Fahy declined to comment on the situation, while Farnham said simply, “It was an inevitable progression of events, and it was interesting to watch it happen.” A rep for Miramax did not return calls.

Another Piece of Her Heart For Sale

If you want to read the innermost thoughts of a pre-famous Janis Joplin, get your checkbook ready. This week on eBay, the ex-wife of Peter DeBlanc, one of Joplin’s ex-lovers, will auction off 64 letters the singer wrote him in 1965. The missives, which offer insight into the last few semi-normal moments of Joplin’s life, were written over a six-month period while she was living with her parents in her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, and attending school at Lamar Tech – where, the letters reveal, she scored a 99 for an essay on social problems. Joplin also related such suburban scenes as decorating her sister’s car for homecoming and watching the Royal Ballet with her mother. But Joplin already had the makings of a rock-and-roll tragedy: She writes of using everything from pot and booze to meth and LSD, even describing the tracks on her arms. Music aficionados will be interested in those passages where Joplin details her powerful obsession with blues and rock, and her conviction that she possessed a unique gift. And since drugs and rock are nothing without sex, Joplin’s letters also touch on her experiments with lesbianism. The correspondence is expected to net as much as $300,000.

’N Sync Suit: it’s Gotta Be Him

’N Sync’s tour manager has been using his boy band’s success to throw his weight around – or has he? When Abraham Duarte recently phoned the P.R. house of Harrison and Shriftman asking that he and the band be put on the list for Jane Magazine’s MTV Music Awards after-party, the publicists happily complied. The kids, however, failed to arrive, and Duarte didn’t show, either. But a strange man claiming Duarte had put him on the list appeared at the door, and he was politely directed toward the curb. The next morning, a fellow identifying himself as Duarte left a message with Harrison and Shriftman saying, in part, “You fucked up big time last night! You also fucked with Jane Pratt, because she wanted an autographed picture of the band, and now she’s not gonna get one. I don’t even want to hear from you people!” A Jive Records rep claims that the entire episode was perpetrated by a Duarte impersonator. The publicists counter that they had spoken to the real Duarte at the award-show rehearsal and at Trump International by dialing numbers the so-called imposter had given them. When we asked the Jive flack if we could speak to Duarte and judge for ourselves, we were told, “He’s a pretty busy guy. He doesn’t even speak to the press.” Breaks our hearts.

Schrager Expands; ChucK D. Goes D.C.

DELANO DELUXE: News from Miami: Ian Schrager is racing to get his Delano ready to take on the competition from the soon-to-be-opened Shore Club and the upscale Setai hotel. Schrager has purchased the National Hotel next door and will convert the forties Art Deco building into a Delano annex, with 160 new Philippe Starck­designed rooms plus an expanded spa, twice the oceanfront area, and a second pool. The plans also include fifteen apartments, restaurants, and a nightclub.

FIGHT THE POWER? You know times have changed when the staunch chaps at the Wall Street Journal turn to a Public Enemy to better understand policy in the cyber age. For their Technology Summit 2000, a New Economy conference set for October, the paper invited fiercely liberal rapper Chuck D to spend a day at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to discuss the music industry’s view of the Internet. So now Chuck D – whose raps have long documented his loathing for the white-collar Establishment – will be followed to the podium by one of the country’s more established white collars: Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers.

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Abbey Goodman.

September 25, 2000