March 26, 2001

Pulp Fiction: Episode One
If you want to know what happens to the characters in Pulp Fiction after the movie ends, too bad. But Quentin Tarantino is planning to reveal the story preceding the 1994 groundbreaker in a prequel tentatively titled The Vega Brothers, which will star John Travolta and Michael Madsen. Fans will recall that Vincent Vega – played by Travolta in a career-reviving role – is the heroin-addicted hit man who’s machine-gunned to death by Bruce Willis while sitting on the toilet. Some may also recall that Madsen played a torture-lovin’ character named Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs. The actor has been kicking himself for years for turning down Travolta’s Pulp role to work on the Kevin Costner snooze-a-thon Wyatt Earp, but Tarantino’s recently been telling the actor he’ll have his second Vega moment yet. A rep for Madsen confirmed that Tarantino is indeed writing the script for Madsen and Travolta, adding that production is expected to begin after the director finishes shooting his World War II flick Glorious Bastards in France, also starring Madsen. Still no word about what was in that damn briefcase.

Meg Ryan Ain’t Too Proud to Beg
Note to journalists: Meg Ryan wants you to be gentle with her. Ryan – who made headlines for dumping hubby Dennis Quaid for Russell Crowe, who in turn sent her curbward – recently passed through the halls of US Weekly with publisher Jann Wenner and met the editorial staff during one of their Monday meetings. After a brief introduction, America’s former sweetheart eyed the journalists and said, “Please be nice to me.” Attempting to ease the tension, editor Charles Leerhsen gallantly suggested that she’d be pleased to know a year-end issue featuring her prominently on the cover was among the best-selling of 2000. Ryan merely smiled while writers snickered: The issue in question, “100 Unforgettable Stories of 2000,” rehashed all the messy details of Ryan’s bed-hopping. Meanwhile, another kerfuffle has US-ers grumbling. Wenner – who recently sold a percentage of the mag to Disney – informed the ink-stained kvetches that, due to budget cuts, US staffers would no longer be reimbursed for tips exceeding 15 percent when expensing business meals. “If you thought things would get better after Disney,” notes a source close to US, “think again.” We hope outside of the office the generous Wenner continues to tip New York’s standard 20 percent.

It’s a Revenge-Fueled World After All
In the upcoming DreamWorks/PDI flick Shrek, exec Jeffrey Katzenberg takes a nice, big swipe at Disney overlord Michael Eisner. The animated comedy – in which a gnomish creature with the voice of Mike Myers saves fairy-tale characters from an evil prince – reaches its climax in a strangely familiar setting. One viewer describes the wicked prince’s castle as “Albert Speer’s version of Disneyland – a fascist nightmare.” Tellingly, Katzenberg – who was once called a midget by Eisner – creates a Disneyland completely devoid of people. Though the gift shops and rides are all empty, Shrek must navigate an absurdly elaborate system of ropes. At one point, musical robots reminiscent of those in Disneyland’s attraction “It’s a Small World” sing to Shrek about the many, many rules that must be obeyed in the prince’s dystopia. “The audience was howling but they were completely stunned – it was so petty,” reports one source who saw a screening of clips from the film introduced by Katzenberg at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. “Katzenberg just stood there with an ear-to-ear grin, smiling like the cat who just ate the canary. He looked very, very pleased.” A rep for DreamWorks – which is hosting a screening for New York’s power players with Myers next week – would say only, “Jeffrey wanted to pay homage to the theme-park experience.” Yeah, but what would he know – isn’t he too short to go on the good rides?

You’ve Got Martha’s Nasty Mail
We seem to have ruffled the feathers of Martha Stewart, who is learning the hard way that you just can’t control everyone. Earlier this year, we published complaints by chatty Martha Stewart Omnimedia staff members about inadequate window treatments in the design diva’s Starrett-Lehigh Building offices. Now, as printed in a recent issue of Inside magazine, someone is leaking internal e-mails from the big mama herself, including one that states: “If anyone has a problem about the lack of appropriate shades … it would be much more appropriate to contact me … than to complain to the press.” Noticing that she specifically described our revelations as being “rather scathing and catty,” we would like to refer to a missive of her own that she recently e-mailed to her staff: “In case anyone is interested, and I think all of you should be, the correct spelling of STARRETT LEHIGH is S-T-A-R-R-E-T-T-L-E-H-I-G-H. Please learn this spelling now.” What’s her problem?

Up in Smoke
The days are numbered for the city’s smokers. Restaurant sources indicate that City Council Speaker Peter Vallone will successfully pass legislation effectively banning smoking in all of New York’s eateries. While current anti-smoking law allows diners to light up in the bar areas of larger restaurants while letting the smaller spots make their own policy, Vallone’s amendment would eliminate those exemptions as well as ban smoking from those lovely sidewalk tables. According to a source, Rudy Giuliani recently indicated that he would veto any change to the current laws, but it now looks like he doesn’t have enough ammo for a showdown against the council. Our tipster tells us that Vallone is sending word to the United Restaurant & Liquor Dealers Association, by way of general counsel Richard Weinberg, that he’s already got 30 council votes locked up – just 5 away from a veto-killer. URLDA president Jack Cooke says simply, “Our position is that smoking policy is the option of the restaurateur,” while a rep for Vallone declined to comment on votes. The showdown will take place later this year.

Charlie Sheen’s Next Nightmare
Onetime Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss – out of custody for more than a year now – is writing a book. But chances are it’ll be a far cry from the one recently published by her pediatrician father, Paul, Sweet Dreams: A Pediatrician’s Secrets for Baby’s Good Night’s Sleep, the elder Fleiss’s considerably more wholesome guide to getting cozy in bed. “I’m not planning on having a kid, but I read it and it’s really informative,” Heidi says supportively. When asked about her own project, the former matchmaker reveals, “It’s going to be a different kind of book, about how Heidi came to be Heidi. No one’s going to be disappointed.” Wasn’t that the motto of your last business venture?

Auntie, Get Your Gun
When Bernadette Peters is your aunt and your mom is casting director Donna DeSeta, you’ve got a good start in showbiz. Tian DeSeta is just so lucky, becoming the latest performer to drop his last name for his debut album, Tian, launched at the bar 13 last week. The young musician has been making his way through New York’s club scene, finding a loyal groupie in Aunt Bernadette: “She pretty much attends everything he does,” says Peters’s rep. It must be a change of pace for the Broadway star. Her nephew’s music, described as “groove-infused funk and soul,” is a far cry from Stephen Sondheim.

Food, Glorious Food
Let the stomach-growling begin. First, Nobu’s Drew Nieporent was attached to the upcoming W Times Square restaurant. Then, say our real-estate sources, Olives NY’s Todd English rallied for the space. But in the end, Steve Hanson – who owns oodles of Manhattan eateries, including Ruby Foo’s and Blue Water Grill – inked the deal. “We are partners with the W,” explains Nieporent, “but they decided to lease this to an outside operator, and the rent was too steep for us.” English denies he bid on the space, and Hanson was out of the country and could not be reached for comment… . In May, the Blue Ribbon team will open a branch in Park Slope – cannily named Blue Ribbon Brooklyn – which, like their SoHo classic, serves raw bar until 4 a.m… . Eddie Dean and Steve Steckel, owners of Hush, debut a yet-unnamed tiki bar, restaurant, and lounge next month at 4 West 22nd Street… . The BondSt crew brings Thom’s Bar to the hotel 60 Thompson at the end of the month… . Roger Verge – the most anticipated chef since Alain Ducasse – brings his long-awaited Mediterranean-inspired Medi to midtown on June 15.

Bad Hair Comeback
Unlike the economy, the eighties live on. After signing with Clive Davis’s J. Records, club-owner Marcus Linial sold the Cocktail Room, turned the day-to-day operations of Shine over to his brother, and immediately got in touch with pop old-schooler Howard Jones, who’s most famous for the hit “Things Can Only Get Better.” Jones joined Marcus – who’s dropping his last name along with the nightlife biz – in the studio last week to record a new version of the mid-eighties single “Like to Get to Know You Well.” But that won’t be the only musical reminiscing on Marcus’s debut album: He’s already revamped the old straw-and-mirrors anthem “Pop Muzik.” Another blast from the past joining Marcus is the early-nineties hip-hop duo P.M. Dawn, who will produce the album. Kajagoogoo, you’re next.

Sour Beans
The sweet collaboration between John “Jellybean” Benitez and songwriter Brinsley Evans seems to have gone sour. Evans’s attorney, Wallace Collins, tells us that he is filing a lawsuit against the producer and D.J. to the tune of $10 million. The suit alleges that Benitez – who was Madonna’s producer and boyfriend back in the “Like a Virgin” days – has failed to pay Evans millions in songwriting royalties since the two joined forces in 1995. Collins says he has attempted to collect on behalf of his client since 1999 to no avail, so now he’s turning to the New York State Supreme Court for help. In addition to the $1 million in back royalties and $10 million in punitive damages, Evans is seeking the return of his song copyrights. The case is expected to go to trial later this year. Benitez could not be reached for comment. Will disco ever be the same?

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Paige Herman.

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March 26, 2001