March 12, 2001

Van Damme Co-star Refuses Strip Search
Having starred in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Michael Rooker has been in some of the darkest scenes in pop-cinema history – but even he draws the line when asked to share the spotlight with a buck-naked Jean-Claude Van Damme. While shooting the sci-fi thriller Replicant, Rooker was called upon to give Van Damme’s character a full strip search. After some consideration, however, Rooker decided it was for the best to go against the script and make the bulging Belgian keep his undies on. “It was great working with him,” Rooker tells us, “but as far as a strip search goes, I was – and remain – unwilling to share the screen with Jean-Claude Van Damme Junior. There aren’t many screens in the U.S. that can handle the magnitude of both Jean-Claude and his Junior.” Let the nightmares begin.

Calvin Klein’s Mystifying Moves
Calvin Klein received rave reviews for his most recent runway show, but immediately afterward much of the design team responsible for the Calvin Klein Collection seemed no longer to be employed by his company. After hearing whispers from fashion-world insiders, we confirmed with a source at Calvin Klein that the design team is “pretty much gone.” While reps for Klein did not respond to requests for comment, rumors have been swirling that the fashion house is preparing to move shop. Following a 1999 attempt to sell his business to Tommy Hilfiger, insiders are speculating that Klein may have finally struck a deal with an Italian company, given recent reports that he’s been looking at Milanese real estate, and that he’s been in discussions with at least one Italian conglomerate, his current men’s-license-holder, HdP. Time to say arrivederci?

Dr. Duke Strikes Again
When Hunter S. Thompson wants something, do it. Stars such as Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Brad Pitt, and John Cusack were treated to one of Thompson’s classic rants when he faxed them copies of a fiery missive he was sending to the Shooting Gallery’s Holly Sorensen. “I’m in a mood to chop your fucking hands off,” he writes, displeased with the studio’s progress in making the film version of his novel The Rum Diaries, which Depp is starring in and producing. “Nobody needs to hear any of that Gibberish about yr. New Mercedes & yr. Ski Trips & how Hopelessly Broke the Shooting Gallery is,” the author states. A source close to the studio explains, “He’s upset because she didn’t return his call right away. But he calls her at home at three in the morning.” We’re also told that Thompson and Depp turned down bigger offers in order to secure the kind of artistic control the Shooting Gallery offered, but that now Thompson is miffed at how long it’s taking to find the right screenwriter at the right price. “Ever since I broke off our torrid affair,” Sorensen jokes, “Hunter’s been resorting to adolescent tactics to get my attention.” We’re familiar with the style.

O-Town’s Liquid Dreams Come True
Nothing brings us joy like seeing warmth blossoming between a couple of rising pop treats. According to a source, the bubble gum was snapping when Clive Davis’s boy-band O-Town met Sean “Puffy” Combs’s girl-group Dream in Washington recently to watch the NBA All-Star game. The tipster tells us that O-Town’s Trevor Penick, a rugged 21, and teeny-popper Melissa Schuman, a comely 16-year-old, were “making out” at a party. Dream’s agent Kenny Burns insists that it never happened, adding, “I don’t even think they like them that way.” A rep for O-Town admits that the two groups had adjoining hotel rooms on the weekend in question, but insists that the boys and girls never hooked up. “O-Town would have hung out with Dream,” says the rep, “if they could have gotten them away from their parents and chaperones.” Wonder if Britney Spears will ever get Justin Timberlake away from his parents?

One Bad Mama vs. the IRS
The IRS is going after its biggest real-estate target since Leona Helmsley. Four years after the death of real-estate magnate Robert Koeppel, widow Roberta’s battle with son Bill over the family assets has piqued the interest of Uncle Sam. We have obtained a notice of deficiency that the IRS sent to Roberta in January, asking her to kindly remit $21 million in unpaid gifts and estate taxes. And while the IRS wants her to cough up the dough, she may have some trouble liquidating her assets, because a judge’s decision in Koeppel v. Koeppel – a case first reported here three years ago – is forcing mommy dearest to give junior his due. Not only is Bill getting the family’s $3.5 million Westchester home, but he will also take over a $5 million condo in Palm Beach and a 37-foot sailboat named … Gatsby. How appropriate.

Howard Stern Gets Roasted at Friar’s
Old-time comic Pat Cooper just can’t stop talking about Howard Stern. We happened to be sitting near him at the Friar’s Club luncheon last week as Cooper dissed the radio personality to fellow diners Joy Behar, Patty Hearst, and Jerry Orbach. Cooper boasted loudly of taking on Stern after a controversy in which the shock jock put a gag order on Opie and Anthony, a Howard-esque radio act who work for the same company as Stern, Infinity Broadcasting. “I said, ‘Who are you to tell people what to say?’ ” Cooper fumed about the incident, in which Opie and Anthony were instructed not to utter Stern’s name on-air. “How dare you?” The aged funnyman then attacked Opie and Anthony, saying, “When Infinity told them to back off, they turned into pussies.” When Behar attempted to ask a question, Cooper yelped, “What is this, Jeopardy?” Behar explained, “We’re just trying to follow you.” A bit later, the funnyman’s tablemates once again missed some point, forcing Cooper to ask, “Don’t you read the fucking papers?” Finally, Cooper offered these words of wisdom to his luncheon crew: “I’m a man’s man. I’m a man when I’m out with men. Now don’t piss me off.” Oh, but we must.

Jew: Not a Verb
When was the last time a dictionary made your skin crawl? The American Jewish Committee was recently alerted to an entry in the World Book dictionary: The definition for the word “jew,” which, when lowercase and used as a verb, means, “(Slang.) to bargain with overkeenly; beat (down) in price (used in an unfriendly way).” The A.J.C. couldn’t find a similar definition in any other lexicon and wrote to World Book to express its disappointment with the dictionary for not indicating that the word, when used in this manner, is offensive. The letter won a profuse apology agreeing with the assessment and thanking the A.J.C. World Book is omitting the entry from their database and searching for other potentially offensive definitions. So can we also expect Webster’s to remove its lower-case definition of “welsh”?

Editing Themselves Out of Gotham
Checking the masthead on the debut issue of Gotham magazine isn’t the best way to find out who’s working there. After the first issue was completed, but before it hit newsstands, the mag’s small staff saw some of its top dogs jump ship. The departed include executive editor Guy Flatley, design director Francesca Richer, and photo editor Matthew Rosenzweig. Why the hasty farewells? Flatley – Gotham’s former number-two man, who brought in at least 25 pages of the first issue’s editorial content, including a profile of Faith Prince by Glenn Collins and a humor piece by Joe Queenan – cites an exceptionally high chaos factor. “I don’t think it’s necessary to work until 3:30 in the morning every day,” he says. But the final blow, Flatley adds, came while the staff began to plan the second issue. According to Flatley, he presented editor-in-chief Joseph Steuer with about a dozen ideas for marrying high-profile writers to articles, but almost two weeks later, Steuer still hadn’t given them the once-over. “I told him it can’t work that way,” he says. “You can’t call up Frank McCourt and say, ‘Hey, can you give me a story about Irish playwrights by next week?’ ” Says Steuer: “It’s a shame things did not work out. I wish them all the luck in the world.”

Sting’s New Buzz
With all those kids, it was bound to happen. One of Sting’s sons, Joe Sumner, is following in his father’s musical footsteps. The junior Sting, who we hear bears a striking resemblance to his father back in the Police days, took the stage at Mercury Lounge last week with the band Santa’s Boyfriend. The London-based group just wrapped up a tour of small venues on both coasts – in fact, papa Sting graced the stage at a gig in L.A. According to a rep for Santa’s Boyfriend, the band is now shopping for a record deal. Something tells us they won’t be looking very long.

Hamptons Hoo-Ha
Is this Manhattan’s version of prefab housing? Beginning this summer, Über-architect Richard Meier will be serving as creative adviser for 32 houses by 32 architects on 100 acres of land in Sagaponack. Meier will design one of the homes himself, with such hotshots as Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, and Steven Holl drafting the rest. The Brown Companies is backing the project, which stands on sites ranging in size from one and a half to three acres. Sun-scorched funsters are expected to snatch up the 1,800- to 3,500-square-foot homes for between $700,000 and $2.2 million. Sorry, we left our checkbook in our other slacks.

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Paige Herman.

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March 12, 2001