January 29, 2001

Helen Hunt Demands a Lap Dance
Helen Hunt knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to ask for it. The Oscar-winning frump, whose alleged fling with Kevin Spacey just fizzled, was at the new L.A. club Deep when she became mesmerized by one of the evening’s exotic male dancers. Her fascination wasn’t ephemeral. She phoned the club’s owner, Ivan Kane, the next day, requesting that he ship the ripped stud to another one of his clubs across town, where she’d be attending Über-publicist Stephen Huvane’s birthday bash later in the week. Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Sandra Bullock all showed for the big event – as did Hunt, who enjoyed a private dance with her hunk in full view of her peers. Good to know she’s still mad about something.

Actor Upstaged by Own Underwear
Actor Jared Harris now understands that the key to sublime theater isn’t so much in the performance as in the performer’s underwear. The British import tells us he was at his wit’s end trying to figure out why a scene in his new show, More Lies About Jerzy – which opened this week at the Vineyard Theatre – made preview audiences howl some nights while evoking not a peep on others. After carefully eliminating all other factors, the thespian – who appears onstage nightly in his skivvies – discovered that “what was fucking up the scene was the underwear. Leopard-print underpants are comedy death. I just couldn’t land the punch lines when I wore them.” Now, after exhaustive undie investigation, Harris has finally zeroed in on the perfect pair: “Purple paisleys work well.” You didn’t have to tell us.

The Toughest Velvet Rope in Town
If you think you’re getting into Studio 54 just because your son happens to be throwing the party, think again. Yes, Noel Ashman’s very own mommy, psychologist Robin Ashman, arrived at the revitalized nightspot recently only to be kept in the cold for nearly an hour. Club owner Ashman explains the familial snub thus: “I’ve had this running joke with the people at the door for years. I always tell them, ‘Go by the list no matter what. I don’t care if it’s my own mother.’ ” So when Mrs. Ashman actually did show up unannounced with some girlfriends, the duty-bound doorman would not allow her entry until the younger Ashman could be located to personally approve it – 45 minutes later. “She was not the most pleased mother,” says Ashman. Shoshanna Lonstein, meanwhile, fared better. Upon her arrival, Ashman instructed a hostess to remove Sean Lennon and his playpals from a table to make way for the Seinfeld ex. But just as the shocked Lennon was being asked to clear out, Ashman rescinded the order, having realized that Sean is the son of John and not a club promoter with the same last name. Note to Noel: The cool Lennon son is still Julian.

Dean Winters: Rollin’ With the Homies
Any old celebrity can hang around in his trailer, but only Oz star Dean Winters can do it with a couple of reefer-toking homeless guys. After an evening filming his upcoming hip-hop flick, Snipes, Winters tells us, he returned to his “honey wagon” on the mean streets of Philadelphia only to find a pair of uninvited guests. “These two homeless guys were sitting in my trailer smoking pot and drinking forties,” Winters recalls. “They were just like, ‘Hope you don’t mind.’ ” Of course, the known party boy didn’t bat a lid. “I told them, ‘Hey, no problem,’ and ended up hanging out with these guys for, like, two hours.” Snipes also gave Winters the opportunity to chill with rap sensation Nelly as well as past master Schooly D, his two co-stars. While Winters enjoyed working with the hip-hoppers, there was one problem: “You know these fucking rappers,” he says. “They’re always late. We’d be having lunch, and I’d say, ‘Yo, Schooly, we’ve got to get back to the set.’ But when we’d get back late, everyone would yell at me.” Guess the white guy always has to take the rap.

NBC’s Irritating Paper Cuts
NBC is taking steps to increase profitability, and among the first things to go are the morning papers. An inside source at the network tells us that Peacock staff members are jonesing for the feel of newsprint and the smell of ink since they’ve been told to cancel newspaper subscriptions and hit the Internet for their current events. The cutback saves only $50,000 a year, says the source, and the move is more “a spiritual and psychological effort to get the company paperless.” Though employees are adjusting, they miss their daily fix. “It takes so long to read the columns of ten newspapers online that we don’t have time for the gossip,” one employee groans. We also hear the New York Post is such a hot commodity that it gets passed around the table at morning meetings. NBC’s spokesman denies these reports, telling us that employees “were asked to get their news online when appropriate and to cancel unnecessary and duplicate subscriptions.” But ties with old media haven’t been completely severed: Employees still receive hard copies of the Wall Street Journal, since the network has an affiliation with the paper. Of course, it’s also true that if you want to read the Journal online, you have to pay for it.

Safir: The Invisible Man
The invitees at Rudy Giuliani’s recent state-of-the-city address were an A-list of city pols and sidekicks. But now that the media’s fawning coverage is complete, there’s one member of the mayor’s inner circle who’s hot under the collar. According to a political insider, ex-police commissioner Howard Safir is miffed because his name didn’t make the New York Times’ list of front-row attendees, which included past and present aides such as Cristyne Lategano-Nicholas and Bruce Teitelbaum. To make matters worse, the mayor’s “close friend” Judy Nathan received an honorable mention for making it to the second row. “There were a lot of people in the front row I didn’t mention,” says Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, who omitted some names merely to save space. Safir could not be reached for comment.

Vanity Fair’s Ultimate Excess
If you can’t get to Carolina Herrera’s living room, the room will come to you – that is, if you’re one of the fabulous babes sought for the cover of Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood issue. The cover shot Graydon Carter’s design team concocted features such dishes as Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Catherine Deneuve posing together for Annie Leibovitz in Herrera’s swank New York sitting room. The dream shoot, however, proved impossible, what with the gals’ busy schedules and locations around the globe. Solution? Cash. The glossy reached into its considerable pockets to create a portable mock-up of Herrera’s posh parlor that could be disassembled and shipped worldwide, thereby allowing the starlets to pose separately. And we’ll bet no one missed small-talking with Gwynnie.

The Blair Witch Lawsuit
Since nothing could be more joyous than a protracted legal battle in the dead of winter, this just in. Manhattan video and TV producer Ernie Schultz tells us he intends to sue Blair Witch studio Artisan Entertainment for federal copyright infringement. According to Schultz – who’s produced workout videos for Cindy Crawford and Richard Simmons – his production company has been using the Artisan Entertainment name since 1997, about a year before the feature-film folks changed their company name from Live Entertainment. While a spokesman for the larger Artisan declined to comment, Schultz says his attempts at mediating a solution have ended badly: “They basically stared me in the eye and said, ‘Look, sue us. It’ll take two years, cost you $150,000, and we might change our name eventually anyway.’ It was as if they wanted to goad me into suing them.” And so, according to Schultz, the fun will begin shortly. “They accused me of being a producer of industrial films,” he fumes. “Tell that to Cindy Crawford.” What, you think she listens to us?

Martha Stewart’s Blinding Vision
It seems Martha Stewart got more than she bargained for when she moved some of her Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia staff from their midtown digs to her prized new space in Chelsea. A company insider tells us that Stewart was originally drawn to the former Starrett Lehigh building because of its huge, dramatic windows. But a source tells us that employees can’t work because the blinding glare prevents them from seeing their computer screens. Shades were purchased to filter the light, but apparently the doyenne of domesticity’s choice of blinds was more Kmart than Westport, and the bottom-of-the-line treatments have succeeded only in covering the striking windows, not alleviating the problem. Stewart’s rep told us she knew nothing about the glare and refused to comment further. What’s the matter, Martha, can’t control the sun?

Eating With Ivana
After creating the Ivana Haute Couture line of jewelry and clothes and attempting to build a seaside resort in Croatia, Ivana Trump has hatched another business scheme. The blonde, who apparently was a model last century, has teamed up with Oz Garcia – a nutritionist who has treated Robert De Niro and Winona Ryder – to create the Oz Garcia Celebrity 5 Day Diet System. The pair just returned from Ivana’s estate in Palm Beach, where they filmed an infomercial for the weight-loss program. Our guess is that watching it should be enough of an appetite suppressant.

Additional reporting by Paige Herman.

January 29, 2001