October 22, 2001

Photo: AP

Rudy’s Rainbow Coalition
If there were any remaining doubts that Mayor Giuliani will do whatever it takes to help New York, this should put them to rest. Rudy has agreed to appear on Showtime’s gay series, Queer as Folk, in drag. The catch? The Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide gay lobbying group, must raise $100,000 for disaster-relief funds. That’s in addition to the $100,000 that ten of its members raised during the group’s recent tenth annual dinner and auction, which this year honored Giuliani, Governor Pataki, and a dozen or so out-of-the-closet police, fire, and EMT workers. “I was riding in the elevator with the mayor before his speech, and I said, ‘We’ve already raised $100,000 for your walk-on part,’ ” Pride Agenda co-chair Jeff Soref tells us. “I think Howard Koeppel” – the gay pal who has hosted Giuliani since he decamped from Gracie Mansion – “said something about him doing it in drag for more money. And I said to the mayor, ‘Would you be willing to do it?’ and he said, ‘If it means more money for relief funds, sure.’ ” This wouldn’t be Giuliani’s first gender-bending performance. He donned a blond wig and pink dress while spoofing Victor/Victoria for the 1997 Inner Circle dinner and followed up with more cross-dressing antics later that year on Saturday Night Live. Soref said QAF producers have agreed to write the mayor a part that takes place in New York so he won’t have to travel to the show’s set in Toronto.

Penny Marshall’s Bumpy Cars Ride
Penny Marshall doesn’t seem very happy with the way her movie adaptation of Beverly Donofrio’s best-selling memoir, Riding in Cars With Boys, has turned out. Marshall, director of hits like Big and Awakenings, feels that Columbia Pictures didn’t give her enough time to fine-tune the film. “They kept putting us under such pressure,” Marshall moaned to us on the phone from Los Angeles just days before heading to New York to promote the film, which stars Drew Barrymore as Donofrio. She cryptically added, “Someone was in my way of fixing it … We were so out of order when filming that I never saw the movie together, and then when I saw it, I went, ‘Shit, what can I do?’ We had to get it out.” As for the movie skipping over major parts of Donofrio’s life, Marshall griped, “What can I say? I didn’t write it. I just did the best I could.” When we asked Marshall if she still enjoys directing, the former Laverne & Shirley star cracked, “Oh, please – I’d rather act.”

Two ESPN Stars in the Running
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are almost ready to begin shooting The Runner, the reality show they are producing for ABC in which a contestant – the “runner” – vies for $1 million-plus by completing several missions across the U.S. while being chased by three “agents.” A source tells us that ESPN reporter and Monday Night Football sideline commentator Melissa Stark and ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott were in Los Angeles last week auditioning as co-hosts. Our source says Scott and Stark have been in discussions with execs at Affleck and Damon’s company, LivePlanet, since the summer: “They are the only ones who’ve been asked to screen-test.” Stark and Scott declined to comment.

Laughing Through the Tears
Seann William Scott,the hunky star of sophomoric comedies like Road Trip, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and American Pie, was introduced to the girlfriend of a man missing in the World Trade Center disaster during his appearance on MTV’s TRL on October 1. Backstage, she gushed that one of the only things getting her through this horrible time was watching Road Trip. So the actor made sure that the fan got two tickets to Saturday Night Live, which he was hosting later that week. Scott further boosted morale by wearing a T-shirt that said america rules – designed by New York actress Drea de Matteo and her boyfriend, Mike Sportes (owners of Filth Mart) – during his opening monologue.

HAPPY HOUR Forget wine and cheese – when it comes to his drinking, octogenarian Walter Cronkite is strictly old-school. Cronkite, 84, requested Johnnie Walker Black and two glasses of ice for himself and his wife, Betsy, at his book signing last week at Lenox Hill Bookstore to promote his new book, Around America: A Tour of Our Magnificent Coastline. Cronkite’s rep confirms that Johnnie Walker Black is the newsman’s drink of choice, “but you never know – sometimes he likes to mix things up and have a frozen piña colada.”

With Catherine Townsend and Aric Chen.

October 22, 2001