October 9, 2000

Balazs Fumes Over Sexy Smoke Screen

The writers of Sex and the City abandoned their famous dedication to realism when sketching out the show’s recent Los Angeles-based episodes, filmed largely at André Balazs’s Standard Hotel. In an attempt to send up L.A.’s obnoxious obsession with political correctness, the writers decided to turn the Standard into a no-smoking hotel, forcing Sarah Jessica Parker to sneak cigarettes outside. This did not sit well with the hotel management, who worried that the story line would alienate the chain-smoking hipsters who frequent the place. Balazs – who had script approval over what was shot in his hotel – demanded that the producers rewrite a scene in which Parker was told to stop smoking on her balcony. “We didn’t want it to seem like the Standard was overly moralistic,” he explains. “Other than what’s required by state law, we don’t have any no-smoking policy whatsoever.” Although Balazs says he was told that the offending scene would be dropped, it ended up running. But fear not. Balazs tells us, “Guests can smoke on the balconies, the pool deck – and, of course, whatever you choose to do in your own room is entirely fine with us.” Candace Bushnell can breathe easy.

Jon Bon Jovi: Don’t Say “Cheese”

We’ll say it one last time: Jon Bon Jovi is not cheesy. At least that’s the message given to crew members on the set of a commercial the rocker recently shot for ESPN’s Sports Center. The ad features a whimsical homage to Bon Jovi’s native New Jersey, complete with Carrot Top, a bunch of cheerleaders, a man dressed as Thomas Edison, and a guy wearing a suit made of baby corn. Fearing the inevitable, a production bigwig warned workers on-set not to utter the adjective that most aptly described the scene. “They told us not to say ‘cheesy’ when we were talking about the New Jersey set if Bon Jovi was around,” a spy reports. “He’s trying to change his image.” Still, the memory of Bon Jovi from his spandex-clad “I’m a cowboy” days must have stirred a few heartstrings among the sporty types at the ESPN office. According to the source, the crew was also instructed not to say the pop star’s name aloud outside the studio, because “they didn’t want everybody in the building to start flocking over looking for him.”

Slim Chance of Seeing Fatboy

If you want to attend a Fatboy Slim concert, you’d best study up. Fans eager to see Fatboy’s recent gig at Centro-Fly were tested on their Slim knowledge before being allowed to buy one of 550 available tickets. Prospective spectators were asked to come up with Fatboy’s real name – Norman Cook – as well as album titles. And those were just the easy questions. Some hopeful interviewees had to tell a rep from Slim’s Astralwerks record label where they’d seen the musician perform previously, what bands he used to be in, and what instruments he played. Astralwerks’ Errol Kolosine explains, “This wasn’t designed to make anyone feel excluded or not cool enough to go. It was a very small venue, and we were very passionate about making sure the people who went were true fans.” The real concern, it seems, was avoiding a preponderance of nightlife hooligans. “Unfortunately,” says Kolosine, “people show up whose main agenda is to ruin everyone else’s good time. If they’re just coming because they hear this is the place to be, this show wasn’t for them.” We were busy that night anyway.

Paris is Burning, Again

Paris Hilton is ready for her close-up. The new millennium’s answer to Bijou Phillips has landed a cameo role in Ben Stiller’s latest directorial effort, Zoolander. The hotel heiress should feel right at home on the set, since many of her fellow nightlife fixtures are also getting face time in Stiller’s modeling-industry send-up. David Bowie, actor Billy Zane, model-actor Tyson Beckford, and gallery owner Tony Shafrazi all had walk-ons as well. Things may be pretty rosy at the Zoolander camp now, but the project got under way about as smoothly as a PETA rally during Fashion Week. Before shooting even began, a production designer and a costume designer were promptly axed. During production, an assistant director was also invited to find other employment. It’s a shame – the poor guys were close to meeting a Hilton girl and a male model.

The Enquirer’s Photo Faux Pas

All those out there who turn to The National Enquirer for thoroughly reported, completely objective news will be shocked to learn of a bizarre error that appeared in last week’s story about John F. Kennedy Jr. The typically tasteful tale – which detailed how Carolyn Bessette witnessed her husband’s tragic death before her own – featured a picture of a brown-haired woman identified as Lisa Bessette, the identical-twin sister of Lauren, who also died in the plane crash. However, it turns out the woman in the picture is not Bessette but RoseMarie Terenzio, longtime assistant to JFK Jr., who happens to have worked at George under David Pecker, now owner of the Enquirer. “I don’t know if David oversees the photos or not,” Terenzio told us, “but I did work with him for four years, so I assume he knows what I look like.” A spokesman for Pecker said, “David always oversees the story line when it comes to John, but not the photos.”

The Poor Have a Place at the Times

To celebrate the relaunch of its Website newyorktoday.com, a service-oriented spin-off of its main site, the paper of record threw a party at a lavish West Side loft themed “Everything New York.” But the entertainment was mystifying to some partygoers. Party planners pulled out all the stops to re-create a filthy, graffiti-covered bus shelter and hired an actor to play a homeless man. Says one attendee, “Here we were at this swanky party, and there’s this unbelievably sad and decrepit-looking homeless guy with big fake buckteeth. Everyone felt so bad, people were even giving him money.” Tension continued to mount when the ersatz bum began sneaking food from the serving trays and was tackled to the ground and pummeled by a nightstick-wielding cop – who, of course, turned out to be a fellow thespian. At first, revelers were alarmed, but upon realizing it was a joke, some erupted in laughter while others found the whole ordeal tasteless. “Ha ha, police brutality,” snips our source. “What’s next, the Auschwitz party?” When asked to comment, Jason Krebs, vice-president of the site, said, “I talked to about a hundred guests at the party, and I didn’t hear any complaints. If people were disturbed, they could have left.”

An Old Routine at the New Studio 54

Even without Andy Warhol, outfits by Halston, and Bianca Jagger on a white mare, one thing about the new weekend party at Studio 54 was the same as ever – the sex. When Noel Ashman and Josh Hadar reopened the legendary club recently for their “Upstairs at Studio 54” fête, they turned the kitchen into an ad hoc VIP area. Something about all the counter space had a strange effect on a few of the revelers, though. While such nightlife entities as Chris Noth, Matt Dillon, Kylie Bax, and Russell Simmons enjoyed a slightly more wholesome outing, three different couples had to be ejected from the club after they were caught getting it on in the kitchen. Actually, only two of the intrepid pairs were engaged in old-fashioned sex; the third couple went for something more Clintonian.

Into the Woods; Benihana’s Bounty

James’s Version: James Woods will be taking a rare break from playing slitty-eyed psychotics in his next project. The hyper-intense actor has just signed on to play Drew Barrymore’s father opposite Lorraine Bracco in the Penny Marshall comedy Riding in Cars With Boys. Bracco was overheard giving the news to Dan Aykroyd last week at Christopher Reeves’s birthday party, where such notables as Paul Newman, Michael Douglas, Barbara Walters, and Lauren Bacall had gathered to honor Reeves’s Paralysis Foundation. When Aykroyd heard that Woods had landed the part, he offered, “He’s very good.” After a moment, Bracco piped in, “I begged them and begged them to use you.” Keeping a stiff upper lip, Aykroyd told the actress, “Well, we’ll just have to do something else then, now won’t we?” One attendee who didn’t have much career news to report was the always-fetching Phoebe Cates, who stopped acting a few years ago to be at home with her and husband Kevin Kline’s two children. But she’s still getting stopped on the street by someone’s fans. “People keep coming up to me and saying, ‘Aren’t you the woman from Lois and Clark?’ ” she told us, “and I have to tell them that I’m not Teri Hatcher.”

Deep Thinking: Brett Ratner’s new movie will give him a chance to show the world just how literate he really is. The diminutive director has just signed on to be the lensman for Be Cool, a film based on the novel by Elmore Leonard and billed as the sequel to the hit Get Shorty. Though no stars have yet been picked, Jersey Films will be producing the picture, while Universal and MGM will team up to finance it. Ratner, whose last venture was Jackie Chan’s slapstick action flick Rush Hour, assures us the book is right up his alley. “It’s about my favorite things, gangsters and music,” he says.

Rocky III: Since two Haru locations can’t possibly be enough for one city, three more are on the way. Benihana founder Rocky Aoki is planning to open another outpost of his Japanese eateries at 1501 Broadway in October, followed by a Third Avenue spot in November and a Park Avenue flagship restaurant, designed by Chris Smith, just in time for New Year’s Eve. Smith is currently putting together the new Planet Hollywood in Times Square and designed Nobu under David Rockwell. For something really memorable, Aoki is importing mechanical fish, lobster, and jellyfish from Japan to swim in an enormous aquarium – especially fascinating after a few rounds of sake.

Additional reporting by David Amsden.

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October 9, 2000