January 1, 2001

Tom Cruise’s Shutterbug Shutout
Tom Cruise wants to keep his look for the upcoming movie Vanilla Sky under wraps. Literally. The star has taken to dramatically swathing his entire head in a hood when he goes on the set to ensure that no photographers can snap a shot of his face, snarled and scarred for a scene in which he’s been in a car accident. Sources claim the production company has also hired an army of security officers to seal off an entire city block, further restricting access. “It’s police obstruction of the press, and that’s very unconstitutional,” complains one shutterbug. “It’s a gross abuse of police power – bully tactics.” The city strenuously denies the allegation. “At no time did they completely close the street,” insists a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. But Lou Palumbo, director of Elite Group Ltd. – the company hired to secure the set – warns journalists not to stop by Jay Street without calling first. “The press has to be invited onto a set. They don’t have the prerogative to just walk on unless that invitation has been extended.”

Countess Rejects Lowbrow Suitors
Some actresses will go only so far for publicity. Jennifer Woodward – who plays the wife of troubled Victorian social theorist John Ruskin in the long-running Off Broadway drama The Countess – agreed to be fixed up for a date by a Queens matchmaker as part of a P.R. stunt, but hastily backed out when she got a load of the bachelors. The man who hatched the scheme, Beck Lee, tells us Woodward was supposed to choose from three potential suitors in front of the audience as part of an ongoing post-performance talk called “Victorian Nights.” After Woodward and audience members were shown photos of a dentist, a hotel supplier, and a therapist, the thespian suddenly announced she was “running away with the butler” and hightailed it offstage. “I was appalled,” says Lee, adding that he’d hoped to get the date covered by Joan Rivers or CBS’s Amy Stone. “The men were good-looking, they had good jobs – I mean, she could have played along a little more.” Woodward tells us she never promised to do anything more than look at pictures of hopeful paramours: “Trust me – none of these guys were appealing, and I’m really not into dating men that I don’t even know.” Now she tells us.

Enough Said at Collegiate
Not only is author Edward Said involved in the Middle East turmoil, but he’s at the center of a war zone right here in New York. The controversial Palestinian-descended Columbia University professor, who was recently photographed throwing rocks at an Israeli guard house, was selected by Collegiate’s new headmaster, Kerry P. Brennan, to deliver the prep school’s Henry Adams speech earlier this month. But according to an insider at Collegiate (alma mater of JFK Jr. and David Duchovny), some of the alums went ballistic when they learned of Brennan’s choice. “Parents were also upset. It was like a battlefield,” claims the source, who says many lodged protests with the principal. Said claims he’s unaware of any brouhaha. “Nobody mentioned it to me. How am I supposed to know anything about it?” he asks. Brennan is equally in the dark: “I don’t know of any controversy. Edward Said is one of the leading literary lights in the city. His throwing of a stone was symbolic, and it had nothing to do with the choice of Said as a speaker.”

They Know What Girls Like – Sort Of
At the premiere party for Mel Gibson’s What Women Want, we had a chance to ask a few veteran macho men if they’ve learned anything about the opposite sex in all these years. Still swaggering at 53, James Woods told us the worst communication breakdown he’s ever had with a woman occurred “when I said ‘I do’ to my second wife.” Still, he has learned something: “You start to realize that they aren’t crazy,” says Woods, who in 1987 dismissed the persistent advances of Sean Young after she reportedly had a butchered doll delivered to his home. “You just have to speak their language.” Gibson himself has been wed for twenty years and says he started understanding his wife after a mere “ten, twelve, fifteen years – you get a little epiphany every couple of years.” The only male in the pack who had a surefire philosophy was Henry Winkler, who explained the success of his 23-year marriage by saying, “All I know is you always say yes, because women are smarter and stronger.” Good God, Fonzie, what’s happened to you?

GERBER’S BABY: Rande Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s model husband and owner of the Whiskey Bar, will partner with Todd English to open a lounge below Olives in the Union Square W hotel, tentatively named Underbar.

MUSCLE MERGER: Equinox is being sold. North Castle Partners, which owns Elizabeth Arden spas, is anteing up millions for the tony, family-owned fitness club, with its eleven gyms and vitamin and clothing lines.

Additional reporting by Abbey Goodman.

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January 1, 2001