May 7, 2001

The Producer Who Didn’t Get The Producers
Because we find no story more thrilling than The One That Got Away, here goes: Anyone could have foreseen that Mel Brooks’s musical version of The Producers would be a Broadway smash, right? Not everyone. Last April, Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld – whose company owns such heavyweight theaters as the Shubert, the Majestic, and the Winter Garden – attended a backers’ audition for the 2,000 Year Old Man’s big show. According to a source close to the production, Schoenfeld listened to the pitch, heard a few numbers, and pronounced the musical “too inside baseball.” Less critical – and a whole lot luckier – was Jujamcyn Theaters honcho Rocco Landesman, who by intermission had offered Brooks & Co. the St. James Theater, where The Producers is the monster hit of the season. Schoenfeld denies making the statement and says, “I don’t recall telling Mel Brooks anything at the audition.” This fall, though, Schoenfeld is likely to have a sensation of his very own: Mamma Mia! – the Abba musical knocking them dead in London – will open at the Winter Garden (where Cats once purred). Just when we thought we were through with that band for good.

At Least He Didn’t Call Him Ringo
Like so many of us, Charlie Rose has a hard time telling one Brit from another. The talk-show host was interviewing Paul McCartney after his sold-out poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y last week when he called the former Beatle “John.” The still-living legend helpfully informed Rose, “I’m Paul, Charlie.” McCartney assured Rose that he wasn’t the only confused Beatles fan around, and that to this day people ask him if he’s John Lennon. “I always tell them, ‘Think about it,’ ” McCartney related. The reading itself provided a few awkward moments as well. Although the crooner received a standing ovation when he took the stage to read from Blackbird Singing – the collection of his lyrics and poetry – the audience seemed to have trouble figuring out when McCartney had finished reading each poem. “They wouldn’t clap,” says an observer. “He had to tell them when it was over. He kept saying, ‘That’s it.’ ” As McCartney continued trying to get in sync with the crowd, he joked, “This might be the last time I do this.” Well, as the old McCartney poem goes, “Fish in a sunbeam/ Eggshell/ Finish.”

Comedy Is Easy, Lesbian Comedy Is Hard
Most comics would kill to find themselves sandwiched between two lesbians. But not Jerry Seinfeld. Last week, the freshly tanned and freshly minted father hit the yuks circuit to test out new material at the Gotham Comedy Club, which happened to be hosting an event for women sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. On a bill among eight sapphic chuckle-meisters, Seinfeld was smack in the middle. The emcee introduced him to the estrogen-heavy crowd, calling him “a great supporter of our community.” According to one spectator, it was an awkward moment – “We didn’t know whether or not that was a joke.” No sooner had the Master of His Domain taken the stage than one woman yelled, “Do you have Julia’s number?” – a reference to his former co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Oblivious, or indifferent to the scene, Seinfeld launched into his new routine, which was well received by the crowd but included a bit about weddings that seemed to eat more time than an Indigo Girls double disc. “He went on for a full five minutes – which is a long time in stand-up,” says the observer. “The whole time, he never acknowledged the fact that gays can’t get married.” Finally, after the frustrated crowd had endured enough on the subject, one woman shouted out, “We can’t get married, you know.” Maybe he should have tried material about turkey basters and mullets.

Hangover Tuesday at the Post
Though last Monday was a rather black one at the New York Post with the exit of top editor Xana Antunes, there was a happy occasion earlier in the day. Three generations of ink-stained wretches showed up at Post hangout Langan’s on West 47th Street to toast hard-drinking newshound Steve Dunleavy as the restaurant unveiled a portrait of the columnist etched in glass. With his image permanently installed at the end of the bar that has served him so very many drinks, Dunleavy joined the ranks of Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris, and Maureen O’Hara. “I am flabbergasted, flattered, and fucked,” Dunleavy told the crowd alliteratively. When manager Desmond O’Brien stepped up to deliver a speech (written by Dunleavy’s old friend and former A Current Affair producer Jerry Burke), one scribe yelled in horror, “Oh shucks, he’s calling in our bar bills!” The stirring tribute honored Dunleavy as “a man whose own newspaper once called him ‘the pompadoured prince of darkness’ … a man who once asked Mike Tyson if he was gay.” Upon seeing his fellow columnist’s portrait, Neal Travis cracked, “It looks even younger than his darned column photo!” Asked to explain the connection between drinking and writing, Dunleavy mused, “I’ve discovered that I cannot write when I drink, and I’ve discovered that I cannot write when I don’t drink.” It’s that elusive middle zone.

Nothing Comes Between Meat and My Calvins
Can somebody please tell us what Calvin Klein is doing on a benefit committee for Save Gansevoort Market? The group, which is dedicated to securing landmark status for and fighting development in the meatpacking district, lists the designer as a supporter for an upcoming fund-raiser at the studio of Diane von Furstenberg. Which seems odd since Klein recently purchased a top-floor penthouse in a high-rise under construction just blocks from the endangered neighborhood. “Sure, there’s an irony here,” says committee co-chair and longtime area restaurateur Florent Morellet, “but in our lives, we are full of ironies.” Another committee member responds, “Oh, that is weird.” But the undie-maker will be in good company, as other neighborhood gentrifiers – including major crowd magnets like Pastis and Chinghalle – are lending their names to preserve the area’s “distinctive character and texture.” Ah, well, in our lives, we are full of ironies.

Denis Leary: Just as Rude Offscreen
Being outrageously foul-mouthed in movies and on television just isn’t enough for Denis Leary, so he’s taking it to the Web. Leary’s using his unique sensibilities to offer up a line of illustrated cyber greeting cards at “It just fell into my lap,” Leary tells us, explaining that the idea started with his hockey buddy, Steve Hochmuth. “There’s a real dearth in the market for greeting cards that are actually funny.” Surfers logging onto the site can e-mail kind words for just about any occasion. AFTER ALL THESE YEARS I CAN HONESTLY SAY … reads the front of an anniversary card … YOU SUCK IN BED. One wedding card begins with the usual congratulations, followed by, I GUESS THIS MEANS YOU’LL HAVE TO STOP BEING SUCH A SLUT. Although such sweet nothings are currently available only on the Net, Leary hopes to make his cards available to retail sometime next year. As far as his work at ABC’s The Job is concerned, Leary says he knows who to reach out to if there’s a sag strike: “If we strike, I’m calling Tom Hanks personally. He’s Tom Hanks – he should be fixing it.” Well, maybe he’s too busy fixing the Oscars.

Welcome to CEO Island
He served as head honcho at HBO even while heading Warner Music, after which he joined the Web rush and launched several dot-coms. But now Michael Fuchs is setting his sights on calmer waters. Just over a month after – a venture he reportedly floated with a whopping $500,000 per month – filed for Chapter 11, the generous investor tells us he’s retreating to Hawaii … as a real-estate developer. “It’s amazing,” he said when we ran into him with anchorwoman Amanda Grove at the Met’s Jackie O. Costume Institute gala. “I’m finding myself in these businesses I know nothing about.” Amid throngs of paparazzi chanting his name (an envious Grove lamented, “I’m the CBS news anchor, but everyone’s calling out his name”), the self-proclaimed dabbler informed us of the 40-to-50 homes he’s developing on 100 acres on the Big Island. “I’m basically doing this because I want a compound there for myself,” he revealed. Yeah, but why have a Hawaiian mansion when you could refinance

A Backstreet Girl’s Lost Innosense
J Records’ latest addition, Amanda Latona, is just breaking into the biz, but chances are your teenage daughters already know who she is. The 22-year-old has already had several Websites dedicated to besmirching her name. Her crime? She lived with Backstreet Boy A. J. McLean for two years. Jealous young girls weren’t the only ones troubled by Latona’s romance with McLean, which ended six months ago. The singer was touring Europe in the Lou Pearlman-created girl band Innosense when her Teutonic record execs at Logic Records in Germany pressured her to dump her fellow teeny-popper, fearing the relationship would alienate drooling 12-year-olds as well as her Innosense bandmates. “I couldn’t believe they would even go there,” Latona tells us. “I just said, ‘No way.’ ” Rather than abandon her personal Backstreeter, Latona left the band. And Pearlman did the same – though not necessarily of his own accord. Latona tells us that after being put together by Pearlman, the girls of Innosense refused to sign a contract that would make him the “sixth member” of the band. It’s a clause Pearlman has used before – and it turned into a legal firefight with ‘N Sync. “Justin Timberlake’s mom was our manager,” Latona explains. “She warned us not to sign it.” Did she also warn you not to use Justin’s makeup?

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Sarah Hinchliff.

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May 7, 2001