Artful dodging

Getting Read, Fed, and Dancing it Off

New Year, same ol’ story.

The parties continue, celebs say stuff, and we want swag.

No swag, not even “Swan Lake,” but we caught at least some modern ballet onscreen at the premiere of Robert Altman’s “The Company” at the Paris Theater. The nearly story/dialogue-free film about dancers at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet Co. preparing for a big show is ending up on critical fave lists all over.

We pirouetted to the after-party at Elaine’s, where Elaine kaufman herself was impressed by the turnout in Altman’s honor. Guests were packed in like schvitzing sardines. Richard Gere, with wife Carey Lowell in tow, chatted with Bob Balaban. Legendary flak Bobby Zarem overheard talk about Gere dancing in a movie and, thinking it was a scoop, dashed around to pass the info on. Apparently, Zarem forgot about Gere’s fancy footwork in “Chicago,” so we reminded him. “Oh Jesus fucking Christ, and ‘The Cotton Club’––that I worked on for two years!” he responded, slapping his forehead like a V-8 commercial.

Speaking of Chicago, it was a rough place to shoot “The Company,” according to Sony Classics Tom Bernard. It seems things kept getting purloined from the exterior locations. “Gosford Park”’s hunky Clive Owen made an appearance, with an unfortunate “just for men”-style do that he needs to lose. (Spread THAT around, Zarem!) Owen sat at Altman’s side, nursing a beer, for the remainder of the evening as PMK publicists stood guard like marble gargoyles.

“The Player”’s Tim Robbins dropped in and producer Christine Vachon, dressed in seasonal plaid, kept a corner seat warm. Amazonian Bungalow 8/Lot 61 club proprietor Amy Sacco teetered in on her stilettos. Had she ever donned pointe shoes? “Yes, and I should have sued for height and age discrimination. I was eleven and 5’8” and the kids in the three- to five-year group made fun of me.” Seems she was traumatized. “That’s why I’m a bar owner.” She’s definitely had the last laugh.

Director Patty Jenkins’ movie about Aileen Wuornos’ serial killing spree has won wide critical acclaim, as has Charlize Theron’s tremendous performance as the frumpy, unhinged lady. Theron told us that she hopes audiences will see past the whole beauty-to-ugly-duckling angle––and allegations that it was done in hopes of an Oscar bid––to the emotional truth of her performance. “I think [anybody] can put on makeup and gain weight,” she insisted. “But I’ll tell you one thing that I really do hope happens now for a lot of people. Hollywood is all about make believe, but for some reason you have to walk into the room and be the person already. Nobody has any fucking clue how to imagine what somebody could look like if they went through a transformation, and a lot of people won’t [consider you for a role] because they saw you at the Oscars two years ago wearing an orange dress––‘Oh no, you can’t, definitely not right.’ I hope people will take chances the way Patty did and say ‘I see something else, not just the woman walking the red carpet in the gown.’”

Life imitated art at “Cause Celeb!” a weekly series at Fez during which folks we love read from celeb memoirs. At the crowded premiere, themed “Viva Las Divas,” Charles Busch read from Ginger Rogers, “I Am My Own Wife”’s Doug Wright channeled Joan Collins, and Michael Musto did Esther Williams.

“I picked Esther because I knew nothing could be more hilarious than the chapter in which she finds her he-man lover, Jeff Chandler, in a gown and high heels,” Musto told us. “The peak of absurdity comes when, after falling apart crying, Esther insists on giving him a fashion tip before leaving him forever. ‘Jeff,’ she wails, ‘you’re too big for polka dots!’ She wasn’t that petite herself.”

As for great eating, we went on an upperbrow culinary rampage after all the junky holiday food. The power (lunch) was surging at Lever House (390 Park Avenue). Society/fashion set, Marc Newson’s 60s airport lounge design, and must-try lobster tempura. Sumile (154 W. 13th Street) was a gorgeous example of presentation done right: the cozy interior suggests a space age church while Josh DeChellis’ nouveau Japanese-with-a-dash-of-French cuisine––at $14 a plate––is artfully composed. Don’t miss the shrimp in a chilled horseradish consommé.

And The Biltmore Room (290 8th Avenue) spoiled us for life with Chef Gary Robins’ sumptuous global fusion fare: the seared tuna with cucumber-ginger sorbet is a must appetizer. Mr. Zagat himself sat across from us, looking very satisfied. Great bar/lounge scene and house cocktails. Book your Valentine’s Day reservations at these places now. You’ll get lucky for sure.

On an up note, life is beautiful at Pretty. The monthly event at Suba on Ludlow Street was so full of strikingly attractive 20-somethings––and not just white muscleboy varieties––it was hard to keep from thinking of them as pieces of meat (and God knows we tried). After chatting with a few of the boys one surmises these guys have jobs, maybe even careers, and on top of it brains. There is a dress code––the promoters will only say ‘no rules, just put a little thought into it’––so don an orange dress and check out this lovely fiesta.

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