The most coveted invite of the month wasn’t to watch Naomi Campbell shave HER privates for her ‘Playboy’ spread-that never happened; check it out for yourself-it was for the higher-brow, as it were, Carnegie Recital Hall concert version of Noël Coward’s cruise ship tuner ‘Sail Away.’ The alternately fluffy and acid-tinged musical came off like Coward’s lost ‘Love Boat’ episode, but more delightfully esoteric than that sounds. Though parts of this bizarre bonbon were dated even for ’61, other aspects-like the jokes about slashing children’s throats and giving junkies a fix-are too advanced for “today’s Broadway fare. Whatever the show is, the deadpan darling “Elaine Stritch and grandiose diva “Marian Seldes sailed away with it, and I left wishing Coward had written a Fantasy Island too.”
On today’s Broadway, they’ve just caught up with the ’50s, reviving The Rainmaker—not that trashy “Matt Damon movie, but the cornbelt saga of the old maid and the new hunk, set against a landscape in need of all kinds of wetness. As the money-
grubbing dreamer who has to sway the townsfolk-and the critics-with his blather, “Woody Harrelson‘s magnetic in his seduction scene, but not a natural born thriller in the others, though the so-so production is less annoying than the talky, artificial movie version (with Burt Lancaster, not Matt Damon).
Fortunately, though Woody plays Bill Starbuck, he doesn’t make it rain decaf frapuccinos.”
Liev Schreiber has to make it drizzle rosebuds as Orson Welles in HBO’s RKO 281, a role he told me was much harder to tackle than Hamlet (which he’s currently trying to be-or not to be-at the Public). “Everyone knows Welles and they think I’m gonna be him,” lovable Liev moaned at the premiere. “What were they thinking, hiring a Jewish guy from New York? And now his friends and family are all here!” So were Schreiber’s; he tried not to tell them about the event, “but there were so many goddamn posters up, they found out about it!””
No one found out about me buying Cover Girl products at the nearby Duane Reade afterward, but as I did so, it was hard not to notice that acting great “Hume Cronyn was being rudely stopped and searched at the exit! Rather than throw a “Diana Ross—style fit and start grabbing breasts, Cronyn calmly proved that he had indeed bought those eyedrops, as the guards looked as clueless as the Toys “R” Us help were last week when I asked for an Audrey Hepburn doll and they sent me to the “Spice Girls aisle. ”
A doll named “Darren Hayes—from the frighteningly popular Aussie twosome “Savage Garden—was feted at the Russian Tea Room, and suddenly uptown glitz met dreamy-eyed, octave-jumping, androgynous, international teenie pop. Somehow it worked. I told the falsetto fiend Hayes that I used to throw my panties at the TV screen and squeal during his dramatic pause in “Truly Madly Deeply,” and he deadpanned, “It’s very spontaneous” (meaning the pause, not my disrobing). Trotting out Naomi Campbell’s panty-free spread, I asked the singer-songwriter for comment on her savage garden. All Hayes would say is, “I met her once and tried to make small talk, but dribbled green Gatorade down my chin.” Not to be too “Tiger Beat?ish or anything, but what other really” famous biggies would he like to meet? “I’m over the whole meeting-celebrity thing,” Hayes said. “I’ve had a limited experience in meeting our fans and feeling their expectations. There’s one millisecond where I’m having a bad day and that becomes their impression of me for their whole life. So while I would have liked to meet “Michael Jackson, now I’d rather not. I still want to feel like a little kid.” So does Michael Jackson. At this point, the string quartet on the balcony weirdly went into “Billie Jean,” and Hayes said, “Before I heard “this version, I’d told someone this was the best pop song ever.””
It might not be the best movie criticism moment ever-“Russell Crowe was brilliant in The Insider?
“Excuse me?-but Anywhere but Here does provide a bounty of Oscar buzz, joining that other wacky-mom/long-suffering-daughter road movie, Tumble“weeds,”in making this the year of the multi-generational denial queens. “Anywhere has more “depth and pathos, and as the mom who likes to shout, “Let’s go look at the sunrise!” “Susan Sarandon sparkles, with “Natalie Portman magnificently mournful
as her disillusioned offspring. Alas, the after-party was so crowded that I left, thinking, “Anywhere but here.” ”
American Movie‘s”gotten some raves, but there’s a mild scent of fraudulence in the scene where the film’s subject-the anxious auteur “Mark Borchardt-seems to be mouthing along with his uncle’s comments as he says them. Could this real-life slice have been just a little bit rehearsed? In more spontaneous mouthing action, the Civil War drama Ride With the Devil has jaunty “Jewel popping open her corset and vividly breastfeeding her baby. Got milk? Great. Got poetry? Yuck!”
Gotta milk a gay crisis? The esteemed “Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry, Velvet Goldmine)”is producing the movie about the clubland murder of ’96. But there’s only one retro scandal flick that really matters these days-the “Jim Carrey vehicle Man on the Moon-and since the hoopla about late kamikaze comic Andy Kaufman will soon overtake your life, it’s time to admit that I once had a bizarre encounter with Kaufman. I interviewed the nutjob in his hotel suite some years ago, and to this day don’t know if his various schizophrenic freakouts were a put-on or a sign of true sickness. At one point, Kaufman got on the phone to room service and lapsed into a weird British accent, but when I asked him about it afterward, he claimed he had no idea he’d been talking any differently than usual. Later, when his writing partner, “Bob Zmuda, came into the room, Kaufman dutifully told him about the accent incident, insisting, “But I wasn’t going into a character.” Zmuda threw the comic a withering look and Kaufman murmured, “OK, I did it.” “Of course you did,” Zmuda screamed. “Who else did it-the man in the moon? Don’t start that. You don’t need that. This is old news. This is not happening again. Don’t even play with that in your mind!” ”
A tense silence ensued, and I started wishing for the accent again or even Kaufman’s earlier superstitious plays for attention. (Anytime someone had to go to the bathroom, which was past the bedroom, the comic would panic and say, “Wait! I have to be the first one to go into the bedroom!”) “Don’t you want to tell him how sometimes you have to pull me offstage?” whimpered Kaufman to his mentor. “It happened one time,” Zmuda admitted, “but Andy doesn’t do that anymore.” “People who put me onstage are real scared that I’m gonna flip out in the middle of a performance,” said Kaufman, all googly-eyed. “You’re “not gonna flip out,” threatened Zmuda.” “But you said that I flipped out a few times!” countered Kaufman. “But you’re not flipping out anymore,” yelled Zmuda, flipping out. Whether this was a gigantic PR stunt or a genuine audition for a straitjacket, I slipped out and ran right back home.”
Now let’s go look at the sunrise!