May 14, 2001

We Usually Try a Simple Exorcism
We hear House & Garden editor-in-chief Dominique Browning is so haunted by an ex-employee that she’s appealed for help from a higher power. A source tells us that after a recent editorial exodus following deserting editor Suzy Slesin, Browning called upon a feng shui expert. So was it to fix any foul chi Slesin may have left in the office? “I believe in feng shui,” confirms Browning. “It’s like having your car tuned, and you need regular checkups.” However, one H&G insider snickers that, given her recent staffing problems, “the feng shui isn’t doing her a whole lot of good.” Browning insists that performing the ritual “had nothing to do with Suzy leaving – were she all that powerful.” After all, with all those decorating divas, there should be plenty of catty energy to exterminate.

Let It Be or Leather-Free?
Okay, so you’re an animal-rights activist and you don’t want to wear leather or fur. But does that mean everyone else around you has to wear canvas, too? At a recent Canadian Television taping with Paul McCartney, crew members were instructed by the show’s director not to don anything that used to have a pulse. “We couldn’t wear any kind of leather: shoes, belts, bags,” says one dress-code complier, who rather open-mindedly adds, “but I can see where McCartney’s coming from.” While the no-skins mandate came straight from McCartney’s record-label publicist, the show’s director was still a good sport. “Paul’s such an active member of PETA, and we thought we would respect that,” she says.

The Most Bad-Ass Extras in Hollywood
The film industry has finally discovered a sure-fire way to solve its manpower woes – forced labor. The upcoming fight flick Undisputed stars Wesley Snipes, Michael Rooker, Ving Rhames, and about 350 convicts. Although much of the action was shot inside Nevada’s High Desert State Prison, Rooker tells us the movie’s producers didn’t decide to use the inmates until a casting call for a few hundred “tough-looking” extras ended in disaster. “It’s like the casting agents picked these people up off the street,” Rooker reports. “You had rival gangs showing up and getting into fights on the cafeteria line. People were stealing from the crew and making catcalls at the women.” After one day working with the faux-prisoners, the real deal was brought in. “They were very well behaved,” says Rooker. “Of course, they were under the thumb.” Indeed. Prison officials had warned their burgeoning thespians that any misbehavior on-set would be rewarded with 30 days added onto the offender’s sentence – in solitary confinement. Rooker himself got a taste of confinement when guards detained him for four hours because he had misplaced his I.D. card. “They finally let me go when I promised them a photo and an autograph,” he says. We usually use cash.

Prognosis Negative for AIDS Mag
The country’s preeminent magazine devoted to covering the AIDS crisis is in trouble. POZ publisher Brad Peebles and editor-in-chief Walter Armstrong are holding a meeting this week with the mag’s supporters in hopes of salvaging the financially challenged operation. In a memo sent out last week, Armstrong told friends of POZ that drug-industry cutbacks have resulted in a dramatic loss of ad sales over the past year and a half. As a result, editorial pages have dropped to just 48 for the June 2001 issue; the four previous June editions ranged from 80 to 96 pages. Several editors have also been laid off in the scramble to survive. According to the memo – which invites community members to make donations toward the publication’s future – Peebles and Armstrong intend to keep publishing a monthly of about 32 pages and are considering turning POZ into a nonprofit. “This is a strategy meeting,” Armstrong writes, “not a wake.”

When Waiters Go Hollywood
Writer-director Ben Younger is also about to become a producer, and it’s partly to return a favor. Four years ago, the Boiler Room auteur was tending the tables at Steak Frites when patron and HBO Hardcore TV co-creator Steve Kerper gave the waiter his big break. After Younger told Kerper about his script concerning a group of illicit Wall Street traders, Kerper encouraged him to send it to his agent, Adriana Alberghetti. The encounter eventually led to the production of Younger’s hit movie with Ben Affleck, and now the hotshot director wants to give a little back. “I’m going to produce a short written by Steve, called Notes for Cezanne,” says Younger, “and part of the deal is I’m going to get some pretty big people to play the parts.” By the way, can you also get us a large bottle of Pellegrino?

Spa Secrets
Two leading practitioners of holistic medicine have landed a healthy dose of cash for their upcoming book. The project, tentatively titled The Myths of Modern Medicine, by Canyon Ranch health-resort doctors Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis, is set to be published by Pocket Books and Scribner, who’ve joined forces to scrape up the rumored mid-six figures they’re shelling out for the tome. “That’s sort of right,” says a Scribner rep about the figure. Well, we’re sort of jealous.

What Part of “You Suck!” Don’t You Get?
While Sheryl Crow might be amused by the antics of her could-be boyfriend Kid Rock, her fans are not. Crow was playing an informal gig for her grown-up devotees at Shine last week when the frat-house favorite bounded onstage to join in. One witness says Rock “actually did a good job on the first number – if only he’d left the stage after that.” Instead, the junkyard popster lingered, and while Crow took a break, he mumbled his way through a rendition of his song “If I Were President.” Almost immediately, the performance inspired audience members to scream, “You suck!” and “Get off the stage!” When Crow returned, she attempted to blame the audience for Rock’s performance, accusing the spectators of having a problem with their collective “mojo.” One fan replied, “It’s not us! Kid Rock sucks!” Crow, looking less enthusiastic with each passing minute, suggested, “We should get somebody else up here maybe,” at which point Keith Richards heeded the call. Unwilling to give it up to the older, talented musician, Rock suddenly burst into song, and Crow could be seen rolling her eyes at Richards as they were forced to follow the precocious youngster. As Rock finally departed to calls of “You’re still a pimp!” and the ever-popular “You suck!,” Crow immediately launched into “Love Hurts.” So, Sheryl, now are you ready to give Pam Anderson her shot?

Gere Fan Too Close for Comfort
There can be no question that Richard Gere is among the Hollywood elite: He has his very own stalker. According to a source, a waifish, dark-haired German woman who appears to be in her mid-forties has shown up at the downtown offices of the Richard Gere Foundation at least twenty times in recent weeks, intent on making contact with the Zen master. “She’s getting very desperate,” says the tipster. The situation has gotten serious enough for an NYPD detective to be put on the case, but the source notes that “it doesn’t appear that the woman could use any kind of physical force.” While Gere – whose rep declined to comment – has never met his confused admirer, it is believed she saw him in India while he was chilling out with his personal avatar, the Dalai Lama.

How to Ruin a Male Model’s Night
As usual, when there’s something good to be had in New York, it goes to some little pretty-boy. Model Mark Vanderloo’s life became even more charmed recently when he sauntered into Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List party at the Chambers Hotel, only to win the door prize. The Dutch treat happened to grab one of two goody bags containing gift certificates for all-expense-paid vacations to hotels that made Traveler’s yearly list of the world’s hottest getaways. The former flame of Esther Canadas could hardly contain his glee on discovering that he’d be going to the ultra-exclusive Las Ventanas al Paraíso in Mexico. He gave the precious loot – valued at $6,000 – to an event organizer to hold while he sashayed about the room with the equally lovely Matthew (grandson of Richard) Avedon and the fetching Marcus Schenkenberg. When the dust of the mannequin dance settled, however, some heartless scoundrel had made off with Vanderloo’s complimentary booty. But hold your tears. The prizes must be claimed by phone, and Condé Nast is already prepared to snag the thief should he or she call. Punishment? We suggest a week with a male model.

On Film, a Dweeb; in Real Life, a Bigger One
What happens when high-school twerps grow up? The audience for a comedy gig at East Village lounge B3 recently found out the hard way. During the opening monologue by comedienne Becky Donahue, strange noises erupted from the crowd. “Someone or something was making all these incoherent sounds,” recalls Donahue, who was also emceeing the show that night. “They were coming from this guy … and it turned out to be Anthony Michael Hall.” Upon locating the source of the annoyance, the peeved host shouted, “You’re Anthony Michael Hall and you’re heckling?” But, according to Donahue, that wasn’t enough to silence the actor, who’s currently appearing in the HBO movie 61*. As the night wore on, so did his antics. “He was basically egging the comedians on,” says one observer. “If anything, it helped the show.” A rep for the Weird Science star denies he was even at the event, but Donahue disagrees. “He actually came in a second time,” she counters, “and we spoke in a more civilized manner.” We’re just glad he didn’t let Judd Nelson tag along.

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Seth A. Gladstone

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May 14, 2001