February 19, 2001

Celebs Attempt to Outdo Hannibal Horrors
While the brain-eating scene in Hannibal may strike fear in the timid, we prefer tales of real-life gore. “I actually saw a catheter inserted into a man’s penis in an emergency room,” the film’s star Julianne Moore told us at the premiere last week. “It was pretty horrific. The catheter was, like, five feet long.” The flame-haired actress had witnessed the incident while researching her M.D. role in The Fugitive. “But the guy didn’t seem to notice – he was pretty drunk. I’d say it kind of stuck with me.” Topping that was actor Rob Morrow, who recounted a visit to the morgue to identify the corpse of a friend. “It was fascinating,” he recalls. “I mean, rigor mortis, it’s just – there are no words, because we’re used to seeing humans animated.” After a moment, Morrow regained his speaking ability: ” ‘Stiff’ would be a good way to describe it.” Gabriel Byrne told us he saw a “horrendous” auto accident as a child, then suggested that the real car wreck of the evening was Hannibal’s ethereal score. “The idea that there’s a conflict between this heavenly kind of music and these devilish, dastardly deeds – I found that to be well past its sell-by date by the second scene.” Oh, that’s what was bugging us.

Watercooler Heads Prevail
It’s time again to wonder how long Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson will be sticking it out at Good Morning America. According to a source at ABC, the offices at GMA are abuzz with the word that the anchor duo will be ditching the hot a.m. commodity – this time after the May sweeps. According to the tipster, the latest round of intrigue was born inside GMA when someone at the show suggested the possibility of an open anchor’s chair as a means to lure Claire Shipman to the network. ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider takes issue with the very existence of the tale, saying, “This seems to be the story of a rumor about the existence of another rumor, which is both categorically false and demonstrably illogical. I think the headline here is that low-level watercooler gossips just aren’t what they used to be.” Oh, Jeff, they are everything they ever were and more.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape at Sundance
What with all the mischievous celebs who descended on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago, it’s no surprise Synergy Spa kicked up a little controversy. First seen in the Hamptons last summer, the Synergy Spa firm rents houses in which it throws upscale soirées to promote its sponsors, which include films, furniture designers, and beauty products. So you wouldn’t think the house would get trashed, right? Wrong. A festival insider tells us that neighbors of Marvin Traub – the former head of Bloomingdale’s who rented his house to the Synergy team – have footage of the week’s parties in full swing, including a close-up of a sexual encounter through one of the second-floor windows. “The rooms were filthy, and it looked like people just had sex in the beds,” reports one insider who was involved in the planning of one of the many bashes thrown during the week. And that was just the beginning. Actor Cary Elwes, according to the source, planned on staying at the house, only to be booted when staff members decided to make a celebrity upgrade … to Jeff Goldblum. The former fly enjoyed his stay along with Patrick Swayze and ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass, while Elwes spent the remainder of the festival at a Radisson. At least there his activities remained private.

Bolton: Not Sure What’s Going On
After six years, the courts have finally declared once and for all that Michael Bolton did indeed lift “Love Is a Wonderful Thing” from the Isley Brothers’ Ron Isley. But that comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the case. During Bolton’s final court appeal, the aging crooner attempted to prove that he had created the ditty independently by producing an audiotape of himself and partner Andrew Goldmark composing the tune. Unfortunately for Bolton, his piece of evidence contained a moment in which the singer wonders aloud whether “his” song in progress is actually Marvin Gaye’s “Some Kind of Wonderful.” Coincidentally, if Bolton ever does decide to borrow a Gaye number, he’ll be paying the same man who’s profiting from the multi-million-dollar Isley decision. Financier David Pullman – who last year fronted the Isleys $7 million against the future earnings of their catalogue plus any money won in their case against Bolton – is now closing a similar deal with Gaye’s estate.

Bush Goes After NYC Welfare Warden
It looks like Christie Whitman isn’t the only local official heading off to Dubya’s D.C. A political insider tells us Jason Turner, New York City’s Human Resources Administration commissioner, has been tapped by his old boss Tommy Thompson to join Bush. Thompson, Wisconsin’s former governor, was recently confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services. Turner worked for him, purging the Dairy State’s welfare rolls, before joining the Giuliani administration in 1998 to perform the same task. Asked whether Turner was planning to exchange the Hudson for the Potomac, an HRA spokeswoman insisted that “there’s nothing currently on the table.”

Alec Baldwin’s False Intentions
Alec Baldwin’s marriage isn’t his only alliance that has fallen apart in recent months. An East End source tells us that after stating that he wanted to shoot his directorial debut, The Devil and Daniel Webster, at Pinewood West Studios in Wainscott, the actor left the 18,000-square-foot facility in the lurch. Baldwin hosted the studio’s ribbon-cutting ceremony last May and announced his desire to shoot at the location during his speech. According to a Pinewood rep, at least two other meetings followed – and in one, Baldwin proclaimed, “I have four films coming up and I want to shoot them all here.” But Baldwin’s cast and crew have been no-shows; they opted instead to film at the old Grumman airplane factory in Bethpage after striking a deal with Nassau County. The Pinewood rep says that although Baldwin never signed a contract, the actor was “hot to trot” about working close to his Amagansett home. And even though the eldest Baldwin hasn’t yet come through, Pinewood employees are still holding out hope: “We’re ready and waiting. It could be wishful thinking, but he could call up tomorrow,” says the studio’s rep. Baldwin’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

George Plimpton Demoted to XFL
Everyone’s favorite NFL veteran, George Plimpton, is in for another bone-crunching encounter. But this time it’s not at the hands of football players. Instead, the literary lion has found himself on the sharp end of a spoof by three Saturday Night Live writers that appears on the satirical Website modernhumorist.com. All may not be lost for Plimpton, though. The piece – written, one might say, in a style not dissimilar to that of the author himself – may mark the dawn of a second sporting career. As Michael Colton, co-founder of Modern Humorist, says: “He may be old, but this man can throw. Any team in the XFL would be lucky to have him.” So is it time to dust off the old boots again?

CNN Anchor Says Good-bye – to Cash
In an attempt to spare her ego, CNN personality Perri Peltz (pictured) may have cost herself a large chunk of change. Although the former anchor of NewsStand and CNNdotCOM left the cable network by her own free will when cutbacks were announced, a media insider tells us that she may have missed out on a major windfall by jumping ship before it ran aground. A few weeks after Peltz’s departure, CNN decided to buy out the remaining time on its employees’ contracts, but Peltz appears to have disqualified herself because of her early exit. Neither CNN nor Peltz’s rep would answer questions regarding her contract, but her spokesperson forwarded us a statement released by Peltz. The missive notes that, although she “appreciates the attention and encouragement” she received from CNN, “I do not feel there is a ‘good fit’ for my talent and strengths.” She must have thought of a good place for her foot to fit after hearing about the payout.

Pressman Presses On
It’s been two years since Gene Pressman’s contract with Barneys ended after a Chapter 11 was filed, and the fashion world is still awaiting his next move. Now the boyish entrepreneur – who transformed the store from a men’s discount house into a famously luxe eighties fashion mecca – has quietly opened his own creative consulting firm. Vera Wang has already signed on, and you can expect more clients, from designers and photographers to stores and hotels. “We’re targeting a wide range of businesses,” says Pressman, who will be collaborating occasionally with Peter Arnell of AG. “Everything looks so formulaic now – there needs to be a new twist.”

Gehry Goes Japanese
Don’t have access to the Condé Nast cafeteria? Don’t worry. You’ll have a chance to experience the work of Frank Gehry this fall, now that Japanese fashion giant Issey Miyake has teamed up with the world’s most-wanted architect to open a three-story TriBeCa showcase for the designer’s men’s and women’s collections. The building will also house Miyake’s U.S. headquarters and carry plenty of duds that have been previously unavailable Stateside. And you won’t have to worry about sitting next to Anna Wintour.

Nightclub Babies
Motherhood has run Ingrid Casares right out of the hot-spot business. Four months after giving birth to her son, Nicholas, Casares has sold out her share of the Miami hangout Joia to partner Nicola Siervo, intending to concentrate more of her attention on the baby. Her rep, Lizzie Grubman, says Joia is still Casares’s fave restaurant and that she’s signed a non-compete deal with Siervo – who’s also opening a new lounge in Miami called Mynt. Of course, despite her mothering duties, Casares will still find a moment here or there to concentrate on the marketing and consulting company she’s launching with Grubman.

Additional reporting by Paige Herman.

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February 19, 2001